Ackee and Saltfish is Jamaica’s national dish. The Ackee fruit grows in a red pod that opens once the fruit is mature. There are usually 3-4 Ackee “seeds” in each pod.
It is not recommended that Ackee is consumed until the pod naturally opens on its own. The fruit is said to be poisonous if forced to open so waiting it out is important.
Its name is derived from the West African Akye fufo. The tree is not endemic to the West Indies but was introduced from West Africa during the 18th century.
This dish is usually had for breakfast but can be eaten for lunch or dinner as well. It is cooked with onions, tomatoes and hot scotch bonnet peppers. Cooks also add green bell peppers, scallions, thyme and garlic to especially vegan versions of the dish. I like to cook Ackee very simply so that the taste of the fruit is elevated and not marred by too many different flavors. This recipe is cooked with salted codfish and coconut oil for a bolder flavor.
Fresh Ackee is not sold in the United States. Here we rely on the canned counterpart. Spur Tree Foods canned Ackee is my choice.
For Jamaican Ackee and Saltfish you will need:
- Large Skillet
- Flat spoon or spatula
- Medium Saucepan
- Cutting board
- Sharp Knife
- Dinner Fork
- 2 Cans of Ackee (drained)
- 1 lb of salted codfish
- 1 medium white onion
- 1 plum tomato
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper
- Cracked pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- Rinse saltfish under running water. Add saltfish to a saucepan with 4 cups of tap water. Set saltfish to boil on high heat.
- Once the pan comes to a boil, discard water from the fish and add another 4 cups of water. Bring the pan to a second boil.
- Once the fish comes to a second boil, drain and discard hot water.
- Place fish in a small bowl and use a fork to slightly break the fish apart. Keep fish in good sized chunks. Do not break apart too small.
- Heat skillet on medium to high heat.
- Add coconut oil to the pan and allow the oil to get hot.
- Add onions and allow them to get translucent, about 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes and hot pepper and allow them to cook until the peppers are fragrant.
- Add in salted fish pieces. Add about ½ tsp black pepper and give the pan a good stir to combine fish and veggies well.
10.Add in drained Ackee and another ½ tsp of cracked pepper. Gently use a spatula to lift and fold the Ackee into the fish and veggies. Allow Ackee and veggies to cook for about a minute and a half.
11.Garnish with fresh chives and serve hot with dumplings, rice, bread, breadfruit or plantains.
- Salted fish is very salty. If the fish is too salty after a second boil, you may break it apart with a fork and add 2 cups of tap water to it. Discard the water just before adding it to the veggie sauté. The cold-water bath will help to eliminate any excess salt in the fish.
- Ackee is very fragile after it is cooked. It will easily break apart if not handled gently. Be sure to use a spatula and the “lift and fold” method.
- Ackee and saltfish pairs really well with avocados. If they are in season where you are, add some and enjoy!