How to dry-salt fish for when SHTF

There are various food preparation methods that can benefit preppers, and one of them is drying and salting. Unlike home canning, dried and salted food is easier to make since it only requires basic ingredients and equipment.

If you want to supplement your stockpile of canned food, you can start by learning how to make salt cod. (h/t to

What is bacalao?

Bacalao, or salt fish, refers to cod fish that has been cured via a dry-salting method. Today, bacalao is used to create dishes like brandade, a creamy spread that uses salt cod and olive oil. Brandade is served with bread or potatoes.

In English-speaking regions, bacalao is called salt cod. However, bacalao can be made from other non-oily white fish like haddock, flounder, pollock, snapper, or whiting. “Salt cod” is often used as a generic term to describe dried and salted fish even if it isn’t made with cod.

Bacalao is easy to make, but the process is rather time-consuming. If you can bear the two-week wait, learning how to make bacalao gives you access to fish with a long shelf life. When stored properly, bacalao can last for as long as three years.

Making salt cod: Part 1

The recipe will use cod, but you can also opt for a different kind of fish. Part one will focus on preparing the fish.


  • Fish fillets
  • Kosher or sea salt (medium to coarse grain)
  • Paper towels/clean dish towel
  • Glass or stainless-steel container


  1. Rinse the fish fillets thoroughly with cold water, then pat them dry with paper towels or a dish towel.
  2. Pour a ½-inch layer of kosher or sea salt into the bottom of the container. Put a single layer of fish on top of the salt, and make sure the pieces are not touching each other or the sides of the container. Check if each piece is completely surrounded by salt.
  3. Pour a second ½-inch layer of salt on and around the fish. Make sure that each fillet is covered in salt.
  4. If you have more than one layer of fish, repeat the steps above. You can make several layers of fish, as long as each piece is covered in salt.
  5. Cover the fish and store it in your refrigerator for 48 hours. Make sure the fish doesn’t freeze.

Making salt cod: Part 2

Part two will focus on drying the fish after it has been salted.

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  1. Wipe off all excess salt from the fillets using paper towels or a dish towel.
  2. Wrap the fillets in cheesecloth. Tuck the sides in as you roll the fish up.
  3. Put the wrapped fish on an overturned baking dish or rack on a plate, then put it back into the refrigerator. There’s no need to cover the wrapped fish.
  4. Let the wrapped fish dry out in the refrigerator for one to two weeks.

When SHTF and you can’t use your fridge, you can let the salt cod dry in the sun and wind. Screen the fish with fine mesh to prevent flies from contaminating the fillets. Your bacalao is ready once it’s dry and stiff. (Related: How to preserve food without canning.)

Tips for storing and cooking bacalao

You can wrap bacalao in paper or fine cloth once it’s ready. It’s best to store bacalao in wooden boxes so the fish stays nice and dry. Whatever container you use, store the bacalao in a dry place. Properly dried and salted bacalao will last for at least two to three years even without refrigeration.

To use bacalao, soak the fish in water for two to three days. Change the water at least twice a day. The water will rehydrate the fillets and remove most of the salt. Once the fish has been rehydrated, you can use it to make various fish-based dishes.

You can learn more about bacalao, dry-salt curing, and other food preservation methods at

Sources include:

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