Salt Cod Fritters (Accras de morue)


“Accras/Acras de morue” (pronounced “akh-ra de morew“), probably the most famous Carribbean dish from French West Indies, are small fritters made with salted cod (“morue” in French; fresh cod is “cabillaud”), flour and seasonings. These snacks are utterly addictive and easy to prepare (though time consuming); if carefully prepared, they will be crisp outside, soft inside and not greasy. Similar preparations exist in Portugal and Spain (and maybe in other countries), but I know the Caribbean version, popular in mainland France where it is often served at parties.

If you have never tasted salted cod (to be precise it was salted and dried), it might be slightly off-putting for some when raw because of its strong smell, which weakens a lot once the fish is cooked (and which for me isn’t unpleasant, anyway). Salting and drying allows a longer fish preservation and this is the original aim of this process, but there is also a collateral benefit: the normally bland and common cod  (at least in my opinion…) acquires interesting and complex flavours. There are many ways to eat salted cod (especially in Portuguese cuisine, from what I’ve heard), but whenever I see this product, I always think of acras de morue.

This fish preserving technique has a very long history. Apparently Basques were the first in Europe to trade internationally the salted cod already before the year 1000. If you want to read a fascinating cod trade history, I strongly advise the extraordinary “Cod. A biography of the Fish that Changed the World” by Mark Kurlansky.

The below recipe (modified) comes from Festins Créoles (English version is entitled “Creole” by Babette de Rozières, a French chef from Guadeloupe. I’ve modified it, so if you want to read the original, check this fascinating cookery book.

TIPS: As I have mentioned, salted cod might be convenient as emergency food, since keeps for ages in the fridge, but unfortunately, whatever you plan, you have to desalt it first and it is time-consuming. There are two main methods. The first is the most popular and consists in soaking the fish for 24 hours, changing the water at least three times. The second consists in boiling the fish in several changed water batches until it is desalted. I prefer the former, which is much easier, though takes more time.

Make sure the batter is at room temperature (leave it – covered – for several hours in the kitchen): it will cook quicker inside and you will avoid burning the outside.

Some people manage to obtain smooth oval accras, but I have no idea how they do it… mine are always “shaggy” and each has a slightly different form (most homemade accras look this way anyway, so I don’t worry too much).

Whenever I deep-fry several batches of any food consumed hot, I always put a baking dish in the oven heated at 100°C, lined with paper towels. I fry one batch, drain it on paper towels and then put into the baking dish, so that it remains warm until the last batch (and the paper lining adds an additional fat draining step). This way, most food – apart from tempura – can also wait at least 30 minutes before being served or can be served in two times.

These fritters are delicious served with garlic mayonnaise, hot mango sauce, apricot and chili jelly or with any slightly tangy dip/sauce. I always serve them also with Pickled Sweet Pepper or Pickled Hot Pepper and recently  with Moomins Cucumber Salad.

Last more tip: if you ever go to mainland France, beware : there is a big chance you will be served a subpar version. Unless you are in a good Caribbean restaurant or taste a homemade version, your acras will probably be soggy, oily, with low fish content and heavy batter. I must say I’ve had acras dozens of times and only homemade ones were good.

Preparation time: about 1h (+ 24h desalting+ at least 2-3 hours)

Ingredients (makes a starter for 4-6 people or a main dish for 3-4, if served with a big salad):

250g (about 0.55 lb) salted cod fillet (without skin or 300 g if it’s with skin)

150g (about 1 cup) flour

150 ml (about 5 oz) milk + water (see the explanations below)

1/2 package baking powder (or enough baking powder for 250g/0.55 lb flour; usually the packages I buy are each for 500g flour, it’s usually written at the back of the package; my half-package weighs 8 grams/0.28 oz)


2 small hot fresh chilies, finely chopped (medium hot, such as jalapeños are best in my opinion)

1 small onion or big shallot, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed or grated (take one if you are not a huge garlic fan, like me)

2-3 tablespoons of chopped parsley

oil for deep-frying

Cover the salted cod with cold water and put into the fridge for 24 hours.

Change the water 3-4 times during that period, rinsing it every time you change the water.

Once desalted, put the cod into a pan with cold water.

Bring the water to boil and let the cod simmer (at low heat) for 10 more minutes.

When the cod has cooled down, shred it discarding the bones (I advise shredding the flesh so that the bones are easier to spot).

In a big bowl shred finely the flesh with a fork and mix well with the chilies, the onion, the parsley, the garlic, the baking powder and the milk. (You can mix everything in a food processor, but I prefer to feel the texture of shredded cod bits, so I always mix everything by hand).

Taste the mixture before adding the flour (it’s doesn’t taste great with flour added…) and if it’s not salty at all (this depends on how well you have desalted the cod), start with 1/2 teaspoon salt, adding maximum 1 flat teaspoon. Afterwards, the saltiness will increase with the flour’s addition, so don’t exaggerate : you will adjust it at worst while frying the the first fritter.

Now add the flour and, if necessary, enough water to create a very thick batter (it should ressemble a Greek yogurt).

Put the batter into the fridge for 12 hours or leave it (covered) at room temperature for 2-3 hours. If you are really in a hurry, you can even fry the fritters after 30 minutes at room temperature, but the flavours from parsley, garlic, chillies and onion might not be as strong as after several hours. The batter might also not raise very well…in short, I cannot guarantee the result if you fry them straight away.

Take it out several hours before frying to avoid burning during the frying process and to accelerate it.

Heat the oven to 100°C. Place a baking dish into the oven and line it with paper towel. This will allow you to keep warm all the batches while you fry the following ones (see the TIPS).

Heat the oil in a pan. Make a test: if you throw a small bit of batter and it stays on the surface, creating bubbles and puffs, then the oil is usually hot enough.

Take the batter’s portions with a teaspoon (a heaped teaspoon makes a perfectly-sized fritter) and fry them until golden.

You might have to check the first fritter if it’s well cooked inside and adjust the heat, the frying time or the number of fritters fried at the same time. Remember also to check the saltiness of the first fritter, in case you must add more salt to the batter.

Drain the fritters on paper towels and place into the baking dish in the oven to keep every batch warm.

Serve hot.

46 Replies to “Salt Cod Fritters (Accras de morue)”

  1. This looks and sounds awesome. I’ve never seen or tasted anything like this, its bit similar to onion fritters but with fish. I see why you don’t make them often, requires long planning. It says “1/2 package baking powder”

    1. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies. I must say it’s excellent, especially home-made. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother with the several-days planning… (Do you mean I should precise the grams of the baking powder?)

          1. OK, now I follow. Its just that I usually see yeast described in packets and baking powder described in spoons since there is no standard package size I think, or maybe there is.

                1. Mr. Three-Cookies, I am very happy you have noticed it and I am always happy when people point out errors, omissions or inaccuracies in my posts or recipes. The recipes are not to show off, but (hopefully) to explain how to make a dish. It only proves you have big experience and cooking imagination. I am very grateful for your remark and you don’t give me trouble at all. (Maybe unconsciously you plan making it? 😉 )

                  1. Thats probably true, subconsciously I probably was already planning. I haven’t seen salted cod fillet here but lutefisk should work well too. I think I will try but a shortcut version. Actually I kept thinking about this dish yesterday and today, it reminded me of onion fritters aand fried fish and I love both.

                    1. Mr. Three-Cookies, I have just looked up on wikipedia and lutefisk is often made from cod (or a fish called “ling”, but I have no idea what it is) and from what I saw on the photos it looks like salt cod! Maybe the method is slightly different, but I have never bought cod salted in France. It’s usually imported from Norway (so maybe we get lutefisk???) or Iceland (the best one I can get is from Iceland, from sustainable fishing).
                      Try the shorter method (bringing to boil, throwing the water and putting in new water). You simply have to start tasting after the third changed water and if it’s no longer salted, it means it’s ok. Good luck!

    1. Thank you, Jeno! Popcorn Chicken? I have never heard about it! This dish is not complicated at all. The main difficulty is it has to be planned 3 days ahead.

      1. Popcorn chicken is really just tiny pieces of fried chicken, I find them too greasy and not agreeable with my digestive system now a days, but remember they tasted pretty darn good when I was younger with stronger stomach!

  2. Doesn’t this look so much nicer than English “fish and chips”. It’s nice but I find it can be so greasy and fatty, and the portions are so big. These look just wonderful – perfect, as you said, with some garlic mayonnaise… mmm, my mouth is actually starting to water thinking about the little crispy balls of awesomeness.

    I guess that’s what the fish in huge piles is in my local store… Giant fillets of white fish encrusted in salt?! I’m going to pluck up the courage to buy some one day (the fresh fish counter is a little scary to me!) and then make these soon. Beautiful – can’t wait 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Charles! You are right: all the small-portioned dishes look cuter 🙂
      Giant fillets encrusted in salt are what you would be looking for if you wanted to make acras de morue. Do buy a fillet (choose the thickest one, it will be easier to discard the bones and the taste is better). Salt cod keeps for months (if not years) in the fridge, so you don’t have to it them at once. Also, once the dough is made it can stay several days in the fridge (no eggs, so it keeps at least a week). I have now about 30% of my last week’s dough waiting to be fried. Don’t be put off by the smell! It doesn’t smell in the fridge.

  3. I’ve never had salted fish before … at least I don’t think I have. I mean, since you described as having to desalt them and then cook and serve them, I’d probably not even know I’m eating salted fish in the first place unless specified. The salted fish we have in our country is reaaaally salted and dried and usually fried to a crisp and eaten as a condiment or added into dishes in small amounts to add flavor. This sounds very interesting indeed.

    1. Thank you, Ping. I see it’s not the same kind of salted and dried fish. This one has to be kept in the fridge, so it retains lots of moisture. I think you would know if you had salt cod (I mean salted this way)… I would love to taste the salt dried fish you have in your country! It sounds deliciously exotic.

  4. Ooh, reading about the sauces got me all excited! Love sauces with this kind of food. Our family recently enjoyed clam fritters in Maine and we were all over them — yum!! I’ve not worked with salted cod before; this sounds – and looks – really delicious. You’re not kidding when you say simply addictive, I could see myself popping these babies down endlessly… yikes! Thanks Sissi – really yummy recipe.

    1. Thank you, Kelly. I can well imagine clam fritters (I made several times scallop fritters, they were amazing).

  5. The spanish have the same dish, very delicious as tapa. Just my dish… I once read a funny story of a guy which mother used to soak the salted fish in the bathtube for days. When it was fish week no bathing allowed for the whole family 🙂
    In japanese this fish is called himono and a woman who gets older and older and gets no man and doesn’t care about is called himono onna: dried fish woman (just learned in a japanese series). My mother used to cook a ragout with this fish in a white roux. I hated it. She always did terrible things to fish (cooking) and she doesn’t like to eat fish at all.

    1. I have heard about the Spanish ones, although I am sure the spices are a bit different. I shall test the Spanish recipe next time I decide to cook salt cod. The bath tub story is hilarious! I suppose the fish must have been really heavily salted and dried… Thanks for the lesson of Japanese 🙂 I will remember it when I go to a restaurant (and finally to Japan!). I find spoiling fish in the kitchen is much easier than meat… Every new fish variety is always a challenge for me.

  6. Tasty! I’ve never had salted cod before, but anything fried is pretty much always good! Are these fritters like fish and chips, where you could serve them with some vinegar?

    1. Thank you, Stefanie. You could serve them with some vinegar (great idea!), although they are not like fish and chips… I mean they are less greasy and there is no coating. They have more flavours too!

  7. Oh Sissi, I want to eat this with garlic mayonnaise! Sounds and looks so good… I realized I get excited over deep fried stuff too easily. But I guess most people are the same way. I love fish being deep fried a lot. Your photos are too tempting. I like the little spiky balls. 🙂 Leaving the dough for 12-24 hours, no problem. Just prepare previous night. The anticipation time will kill me though. Haha. Hope you have a wonderful day! またね! (can you read it?).

    1. Thank you, Nami! I also get excited over deep fried stuff very easily (too easily!). Now, reading your comment I want some aji tempura! Yes, I also leave it overnight or I do this in the morning to prepare then at night for the dinner. This dish is great when you plan having friends and you know they will come several days before. Wow, I can read it!!! I have finished hiragana and am very proud to be able to read most of it! (Some signs are a bit more difficult to remember). Matane!

  8. Ohhhh, I love the color scheme you used on this shot, Sissi. The green, white and brown fritters — perfect compliments to each other. Lighting is perfect, it made the front/side almost invisible white. Great job!

    1. Ray, thank you for such a flattering comment! I am really honoured, since it comes from an excellent food photographer! Thank you again!

    1. Thank you, Martyna. It takes time, but you don’t have to do much really in the meantime… It just requires patience 😉 The best is to plan them for a weekend.

  9. Lutefisk is often made from cod but I think its quite a bit different from salt cod (I haven’t seen salt cod but I am guessing its different!!!). Lutefisk is soaked in a solution for days and when you buy it, its ‘very wet’, not dry at all.

  10. Filipinos and Spanish calls salt cod Bachalau, thats my favoruite seafood and too bad I am highly allergic to it. But even thats the case I still eat them I just have an antihistamine on the side.

    1. I am sorry to hear that. You must really love it, but I would probably do the same as you. Salt cod is simply too good.

  11. I remember visiting Norway and learning about the history of cod oil in the city of Bergen. Really amazing. (Also, life was tough in medieval Bergen! They couldn’t even really have a fire to keep warm outside the kitchen because there were too many instances of the whole city catching fires). Loved eating Bacalao in Spain.

    1. I was forced to drink cod oil at school (apparently it was very healthy) and actually I remember being the only child who liked it! I have never been to Norway, your trip mus have been interesting.

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