Jamaican ackee and saltfish is the quintessential Jamaican dish that will broaden your breakfast horizons and give you a delightfully unique tastebud sensation. It’s made with a few ingredients you may not be familiar with, but believe me when I say that this breakfast is fit for a queen (or king 😉).
Ackee is not very popular here in the States, but it is a legendary fruit in Jamaica – that’s right, it’s a fruit.
Ackee is related to the lychee family, and it is creamy and buttery and has a really delicate texture. At first glance, it almost looks like soft scrambled eggs, right?
What is Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish?
Ackee and saltfish is one of Jamaica’s National Dishes. Ackee is grown throughout the country, even though this West African fruit is not indigenous to Jamaica.
Depending on your neighborhood, it can be found in many Caribbean and international markets. If you can’t find it, it’s just a click away on Amazon. 📦
Ackee and Saltfish Ingredients
- Salted Codfish – Codfish dried and salted will need rehydrating before you cook it up.
- Bacon – Salt-cured pork adds flavor and salt to a dish. Yum!
- Vegetable Oil – This kitchen staple is perfect for frying and sauteing. And it can take high heat, so it won’t distract from your dish’s other flavors.
- Onion – Sharp and tangy, onion adds a special layer of flavor to recipes and pairs great with garlic.
- Garlic – An aromatic, flavorful plant that adds a ton of flavor to any recipe and is one of my pantry staples.
- Thyme – You can incorporate this aromatic herb in your cooking whether it’s fresh or dried; it has an earthy, almost minty flavor.
- Scallions or Green Onions – A variety of young onions, sometimes called spring onions or green onions.
- Tomato – Tomatoes are actually a fruit, but I wouldn’t put them in a fruit salad. But they go great in savory dishes and salads.
- Scotch Bonnet – A very hot pepper that can be extremely intense. You can add it whole or remove the seeds before cooking to turn down the heat from the seeds and pith.
- White Pepper – A household staple that adds a little more heat than black pepper but not as much flavor.
- Bell Pepper – A non-spicy pepper with a touch of sweetness that adds character and depth to a dish.
- Paprika – Pungent and with a subtle sweetness, paprika is another ingredient with pepper origins.
- Ackee – This incredible fruit is related to the more well-known lychee and longan. It’s so good in this fabulicious Jamaican ackee and saltfish, and, of course, it’s from my native West Africa.
- Salted Codfish – If you can’t find salted codfish for this recipe, you can use cooked tilapia or cod instead. Just make sure you add salt to the dish if you are substituting.
- Vegetable Oil – If regular old vegetable oil isn’t on your list of healthy foods, you can use your cooking oil of choice. I think avocado oil or grapeseed oil would work great with this dish.
- Scotch Bonnet Pepper – This spicy chili pepper is HOT, 🥵 so if you aren’t a fan of spicy dishes, replace it with a milder chili pepper or leave it out altogether.
Tips and Tricks
- Be careful when cooking ackee since it’s delicate. Try not to overcook it because it melts easily. Add the ackee towards the end when you only have about 3-5 minutes left, and avoid continuous stirring.
- Salted codfish is, well, salty. You’ll want to soak it in water overnight before preparing this dish, and if you find the level of saltiness excessive, you can boil it to get rid of excess salt. And definitely don’t add any extra salt to this recipe.
- Take advantage of those bacon drippings 🥓 left in the pan after cooking it. Remove some but leave about 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan to sauté the other ingredients for an extra flavor boost.
Ackee and saltfish are best served immediately, but you can make it the day before if you’d like. Follow recipe instructions and then store the dish in an airtight container in the fridge. Heat it up over medium heat on your stovetop when you are ready to eat it.
A better way to whip up this dish in no time is to chop your veggies and prepare your saltfish the day before.
Store your ackee and saltfish ingredients in airtight containers in the fridge. Then you can throw this exquisite dish together in just a few minutes.
Serving and Storage Instructions
I prefer to serve Jamaican ackee and saltfish piping hot. Plate it up straight out of the pan as soon as it finishes cooking and serve it alongside other traditional Jamaican dishes, like fried plantains.
You can store leftover ackee and saltfish in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-3 days.
PRO TIP: I don’t recommend freezing ackee and saltfish since it affects the original textures of the ingredients.
To reheat Jamaican ackee and saltfish, heat it in a skillet on your stovetop over medium heat. Stir the dish occasionally but not too much; otherwise, the ackee will lose its delicate texture.
Most definitely. Ackee is super rich in nutrients, including vitamin A and zinc. It’s also a great source of protein. 💪
Ackee has a unique texture and flavor you have to experience to understand. The best way to describe it is soft and creamy, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. The taste is actually very mild and not at all sweet as you might expect from a fruit.
Unripe ackee has high levels of a toxin called hypoglycin A, which can be poisonous to humans. The FDA banned importing raw ackee in 1973 because of that–a ban still in place today. However, when ackee is ripe, it doesn’t pose a threat to humans and is a real delicacy. Rest assured, the ackee you can find in the U.S. is usually canned, and the FDA has investigated it thoroughly and considered cooked ripe ackee totally safe. 😅
What Goes with Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish?
Ackee and saltfish are delicious with Caribbean Dumplings, boiled green bananas, Callaloo, and fried plantains. You could also opt for baked plantains if you prefer. All of these Jamaican delicacies are customarily served with ackee and saltfish and make for a scrumptious breakfast. 😋
More Jamaican Recipes to Try
How to Make Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish
Prepare the Saltfish
- The Night Before – Soak salt codfish in water overnight in a covered container.
- Sauté the Fresh Ingredients
- Fry the Bacon – In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté bacon until brown and crisp. This may take about 3-5 minutes. Remove your bacon from the skillet and transfer it to a plate.
- Drain the Fat – Remove most of the bacon drippings from your skillet but leave about 1-2 tablespoons in the pan.
- Add the Oil – Add about 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan. (Or you could use the bacon drippings😉)
- The Herbs – Next, add the onions, garlic, thyme, and green onions, and sauté for about a minute, occasionally stirring to prevent burning.
- Throw in the Tomatoes – Now add the tomatoes and continue cooking for about 3 minutes.
- Spice it Up – Add the Scotch bonnet pepper and freshly ground pepper and mix until ingredients have been thoroughly combined. Cook another 5 more minutes or so, adding water if the pan gets too dry.
The Saltfish and Ackee
- Finally the Saltfish – Throw in the saltfish and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Now the Ackee – Add ackee and cook for another 3 minutes or so.
- Season – Adjust the seasoning to taste.
- Serve – Remove from the heat, serve, and enjoy your Jamaican ackee and saltfish!
Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish
- ½ pound (226 g) boneless salted codfish
- 4-6 slices bacon, chopped
- ¼ cup (62 ml) vegetable oil, or more
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) garlic, minced
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 small bell pepper, sliced
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) paprika, optional
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, sub about ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 18-ounce ackee, drained
- Soak salt cod in water overnight. Boil it if you don't want excess salt. Then set it aside.
- Sauté your bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp; this may take about 3-5 minutes.
- Then transfer the bacon from the skillet to a plate.
- You will have some bacon drippings left in the pan; remove them and leave 1-2 tablespoons of bacon.
- Then add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil to the pan, and add the onions, garlic, thyme, and green onions.
- Sauté for about a minute, occasionally stirring to prevent it from burning.
- Add the tomatoes, continue cooking for about 3 minutes, then add the hot pepper and white pepper. Mix until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Cook for about 5 minutes or more, adding water as needed.
- Finally, throw in the saltfish, cook for a few minutes, add the ackee and cook for 3 more minutes or more – adjust the seasoning to taste. Remove your ackee and saltfish from the heat and let it cool. You may prepare this a day in advance.