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A Taste of Jamaica: Exploring Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee with Salted Fish - CaribbeanGreenLiving.com

Ackee and Saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish and a beloved breakfast dish throughout the Caribbean. It’s a vibrant and flavorful combination of ackee, a fruit native to Jamaica, and saltfish, cured codfish. The ackee adds a creamy texture, while the saltfish provides a salty and savory contrast.

This recipe is a great introduction to this classic Jamaican dish. It’s simple to follow and packed with flavor. Let’s get cooking!

What is Ackee?

Ackee is a fruit native to West Africa that arrived in Jamaica aboard slave ships during the 18th century. It is a key ingredient in the Jamaican national dish ackee and saltfish. Ackee is described as delicate and requires gentle handling. It can be found in most West Indian and Caribbean markets.

How is Ackee sold, and where can you buy it?

Ackee is a delicate fruit and can be found in two main forms:

  • Fresh: This is the traditional way to find ackee, but it’s not as widely available. Look for ackee in West Indian or Caribbean markets. Choose ackee that is bright yellow and blemish-free [1]. Since ackee is delicate, be sure to handle it with care.
  • Canned: Canned ackee is a more widely available option and a good alternative to fresh ackee. You can find canned ackee in the international aisle of some grocery stores or online retailers.
Ackee Draining
Ackee Drained

A Taste of Tradition:

This recipe offered options for garlic and bacon, reflecting the delightful variations within Jamaican households. I embraced the garlic for a touch of extra depth, and a squeeze of lemon juice perfectly balanced the saltfish.

More Than a Meal:

Ackee and saltfish isn’t just breakfast; it’s a cornerstone of Jamaican Christmas tradition. Think about it – a Christmas feast demands a lighter pre-game meal, and ackee and saltfish often fill that role, sometimes enjoyed before or after midnight church service, depending on family customs.

An Invitation to Explore:

Curious to try this delectable dish? Look for ackee in West Indian or Caribbean markets. Prices may vary, so choose a brand that suits your budget. Remember, ackee is delicate, so handle it with care. Embrace the process of creating this flavorful and culturally significant dish.

Ackee and saltfish
Ackee with Salted Cod Fish

A Legacy on a Plate:

Ackee and saltfish transcend mere food; it’s woven into the fabric of Jamaican heritage. The dish is believed to have originated in the 18th century when enslaved Africans were brought to Jamaica to work on plantations. Ackee was readily available, and saltfish offered a cheap and convenient way to preserve protein. Over time, ackee and saltfish became a symbol of Jamaican resilience and resourcefulness. Simple ingredients come together to create a dish bursting with flavor and tradition.

A Culinary Adventure Awaits:

Ready to embark on a flavor odyssey? Here’s a roadmap to creating this Jamaican masterpiece:


  • Desalting: Soak the salt cod overnight in cold water to remove excess salt for perfect balance.
  • Cooking the Ackee: Boil the ackee fruit until tender, or use canned ackee for convenience.
  • Chopping and Prepping: Finely chop onions, tomatoes, and any extras like Scotch Bonnet peppers.


  • Sautéing: Heat oil and sauté chopped onions until translucent.
  • Building Flavor: Introduce the desalted salt cod and cook until it flakes easily.
  • Introducing the Ackee: Gently fold in the boiled or canned ackee, preserving the pieces.
  • Spice it Up: Season with black pepper and pimiento for a touch of Jamaican warmth.
  • Tomato Delight: Add chopped tomatoes for a burst of freshness.

Finishing Touches:

  • Garnishes (Optional): Elevate your dish with bacon and additional chopped tomatoes for a savory and vibrant touch.
  • Serving Suggestions: Enjoy ackee and saltfish as a hearty breakfast or dinner alongside traditional accompaniments like breadfruit, hard dough bread, dumplings, fried plantains, or boiled green bananas.

Here’s a breakdown of the ingredients for Ackee and Saltfish:

  • Salt Cod: The star of the show! This is cured codfish, typically sold skinless and boneless for convenience. It comes in a “pack” and needs to be desalted before using.
  • Ackee: The other half of the power couple. Ackee is a fruit native to Jamaica, but can be found canned in most grocery stores. Be sure to buy canned ackee and rinse and drain it before using. Fresh ackee is available in some West Indian or Caribbean markets, but it’s delicate and requires careful handling.
  • Aromatics: Olive oil is used for sauteing the vegetables. You’ll also need chopped onion, garlic cloves, and scallion (white part only) to add fragrance and depth of flavor.
  • Vegetables: The recipe calls for a combination of chopped red and green bell peppers, and chopped tomato (fresh or canned) for sweetness and color.
  • Spice: Scotch bonnet pepper is a key ingredient for a kick of heat. If you can’t find Scotch bonnet peppers, you can substitute it with chili pepper or chili powder. Fresh or dried thyme adds an earthy element.
  • Seasoning: Ground black pepper is used to taste. The recipe mentions optional fresh squeezed lemon juice and bacon for additional flavor.

More Than Just a Meal:

This culinary adventure is more than just delicious food. It’s a celebration of Jamaican heritage, a testament to the creativity and resilience that shaped this unique dish.

Bonus Tips:

  • Handle ackee gently – remember, it’s delicate!
  • Adjust the Scotch Bonnet peppers based on your spice preference.
  • Personalize your ackee and saltfish with your favorite vegetables and spices.
  • This dish can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Traditionally served with rice, peas, and plantains.

Why We Love Ackee and Saltfish:

  • Unique and Delicious Flavor Combination
  • Simple to Prepare
  • Affordable
  • A Symbol of Jamaican Heritage

Additional Tips:

  • Look for bright yellow, blemish-free ackee when buying.
  • Soak saltfish for several hours to remove some of the salt.
  • Explore ackee and saltfish variations like fritters or soup.
  • Next time you seek a new and exciting dish, give ackee and saltfish a try. You won’t regret it!

Ackee and saltfish are more than just breakfast dishes; they are a journey through Jamaican history and culture on a plate. From its humble origins as a resourceful meal for enslaved people to its current status as a national treasure, this dish embodies resilience and creativity. So next time you have a chance, explore the world of ackee and saltfish. You might just discover your new favorite dish and gain a deeper appreciation for Jamaican heritage.

Ackee with Salted Fish - CaribbeanGreenLiving.com

Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee and Saltfish, a delicious dish from Jamaica usually served as breakfast or dinner alongside breadfruit, hard dough bread,dumplings, fried plantain, or boiled green bananas.
Prep Time 12 hours
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 12 hours 40 minutes
Course Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine Caribbean
Servings 4
Calories 87 kcal


  • Pack of dried salt cod skinless and boneless about 12 ounces
  • 1 can ackee rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoon of Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 to mato chopped or use one small tinned tomato
  • 1/2 red and 1/2 green bell pepper deseeded and chopped
  • 1/4 Scotch bonnet or 1/2 chilli stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped or 1/8 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 scallion thinly sliced white part only
  • A few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice optional, my version
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • Bacon – 4-6 rashes optional


  • Cover the saltfish in cold water and let it soak overnight changing the water several times (this removes most of the salt).
    Codfish Soaking
  • Bring a pan of cold water to the boil and gently simmer the fish for approximately 20 minutes (until the fish is tender and the salt has been removed. Any salt left should purely be for taste.
  • Remove the saltfish from the water and flake into pieces in a bowl.
    Shredded codfish
  • Open the tin of ackee and drain in a colander. As an additional precautionary measure pour tepid salted water over the ackee to ensure it is thoroughly clean.
  • Heat the oil of your choice in a frying pan.
  • Sautee the onion and scallion on medium until transparent (not golden)
  • Add the bell peppers and tomatoes to the pan before seasoning with thyme, garlic and the scotch bonnet.
  • Continue to stir fry the vegetables, rotating the pan then add the flaked salt fish and a few drops of lemon juice.
  • Add the Ackee to the frying pan with the saltfish and vegetables. Allow the ackee to heat through before removing from the stove (ensure to stir gently to avoid breaking-up the Ackee)
  • Garnish the ackee and saltfish with black pepper and remaining scallions if preferred.
    Ackee and saltfish


Saltfish or Bacalao or Salt Codfish must be desalted several hours and preferably overnight before making Ackee with Saltfish. The water must be changed at least 3 – 4 times.
If you have desalted the fish too much, when cooking the ackee with saltfish, add a very small amount or salt or fish seasoning.


Serving: 1gramsCalories: 87kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 1gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gSodium: 5mgPotassium: 163mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 768IUVitamin C: 27mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 1mg

Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.

Keyword ackee and saltfish, Caribbean Dish, caribbean food
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Nutrition info is automatically generated and provided as a courtesy and as an estimate only.

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Corn Allergy:

Always choose ingredients without corn or corn derivatives.

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