This saltfish and callaloo recipe is the perfect way to embrace a traditional Jamaican breakfast made with onion, scallion, thyme, tomato, black pepper and fiery scotch bonnet.
If you've never been to the Caribbean before or don't know much about the Islands then this dish will go over your head. The Caribbean islands are quite partial to consuming fish for breakfast, contrary to the Western Hemisphere. Saltfish in particular is a favourite among the islands.
This Jamaican dish is very very simple to make and you only need a few ingredients to create this masterpiece.
What is callaloo?
In case you're not in the know, callaloo is a dark leafy green vegetable that derives from the Spinach family. This vegetable was originally brought to the Caribbean islands from West Africa.
In Trinidad, Grenada and Dominica they refer to dasheen/taro leaves as callaloo so it is not the same thing and not to be confused for the latter. A good example of it's use is this Caribbean Callaloo Soup
Nevertheless you can make some amazing things with this leafy green including soups, stew, fritters, side dishes or to simply serve as part of a main meal.
Growing up my mother and grandmother would soak and boil off the excess salt from the saltfish. Then saute some other vegetables and mix in the callaloo. For some reason, it felt like a feast and there was always leftovers for the next day because they cooked soooo much callaloo.
Like most leafy greens callaloo is a great source of iron and immune boosting properties.
How to make saltfish and callaloo
Saltfish and callaloo is probably one of the easiest recipes to make. In fact, it's probably one of the first dishes I'd recommend as an introduction to Jamaican cuisines.
Canned vs fresh callaloo - If possible use fresh callaloo to make this dish. Unfortunately, if you live outside of the Caribbean you may face difficulties with getting hold of the fresh stuff. I am fortunate enough to have a "callaloo hook up" where I obtain what I need, depending on the time of year/availability.
If you have to depend on canned callaloo, just make sure it's completely drained of the water. Rinse or better yet soak it before running it through a colander as it's usually stored in brine.
Saltfish - I'm not a huge fan of conventional "saltfish" which is why I have made a post on how to make salt fish using fish fillets and unrefined salt. It's a lot healthier then what's sold in the stores and the only way I consume any recipe that features this fish.
Sauteing the ingredients - The first ingredients are the base of the dish - onion, scallion, garlic. They need to be sauted until they turn translucent. This should take roughly 1-2 minutes before proceeding with adding the salt fish and tomato. Just stir them so they heat through with the rest of the ingredients.
Pepper black and scotch bonnet - if you like some heat in your dish, add some scotch bonnet. How much heat is up to the individually, I chop about ½ a pepper into the recipe and sprinkle in ½ teaspoon of black pepper.
Steaming the callaloo - The last ingredient to add to the skillet should be the callaloo. Add ¼ cup of water to the pan, cover with a lid and let it steam for 10 minutes.
Is there a substitute for callaloo if I can't find it?
Yes, you can use spinach, that's the next best thing. Kale also works too!!
Green banana - you can't go wrong with some boiled banana on the side.
Breadfruit - Try my double roast breadfruit recipe which is healthier than frying.
Bammy - this flatbread made from grated cassava is wholesome and filling
Rinse the callaloo (fresh and canned) in a colander several times then proceed to saute the onion, garlic and scallion
Add the saltfish to the pan along with the tomatoes, thyme and scotch bonnet
Season with black pepper and fold everything together
Finally add the callaloo with the water and steam for 10 minutes
Other saltfish recipes to try
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Saltfish and callaloo
- 2 cups of flaked saltfish see post for recipe
- 4 cups of fresh callaloo chopped and tightly packed or 1 can of callaloo
- 1 large tomato chopped
- 1 small onion chopped
- 3 small scallion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves chopped finely
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- ¼ cup of warm water
- ½ or ¼ of a scotch bonnet optional, depending on if you like heat
- 2 tablespoon of coconut oil
- If using regular salt fish, soak overnight then boil off the excess salt the next day, cool and flake - skip this step if you are following my unrefined saltfish method.
- Melt the coconut oil in a large non stick skillet on medium heat.
- Proceed to saute the onion, scallion and garlic until soft and translucent.
- Stir in the chopped tomatoes and saltfish and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the scotch bonnet, and season with black pepper and stir and combine everything together.
- Finally add the callaloo then pour in the warm water, fold the callaloo in with the rest of the ingredients.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover with lid and steam for 10 minutes.
- Serve according - discard the thyme stems