Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bake and Saltfish: A classic Caribbean breakfast

This recipe has been updated. The original recipe for the more dense-type bake can be found at the end of this post. 

Is there any breakfast more iconic to Caribbean food culture than a delicious bake and saltfish? Every country of the Caribbean has their own way of making this dish. My Lucian friend makes her bakes quite small and dense; my Guyanese uncle makes his into triangular/rectangular shapes; while my Trinidadian in-laws make these quite large and round.  Growing up, my mom used to make this for us on the weekends. It was a treat. I always loved the smell of the bakes frying; I knew something good was about to go down. Over the years this has become a dish I serve whenever we have visitors. It's always a winner. The combination is classic and always makes my guests feel like they're at home. 
Some make these bakes so they have a huge air pocket in the center, which allows them to be stuffed, while others make them a little more dense. I like them both ways. My mom used to make the kind with an air pocket, but whenever I felt for the more dense version, I always bought it from Sybil's - a popular bakery in Queens, NY.

Dad on the other hand makes really good saltfish. It's flavorful and not unduly salty. With dried preserved fish like this one, if not properly washed and boiled, it can have a very rank taste to me. The key is to boil it twice to remove the heavy salt coating. 

Life after leaving my parents' home was a bake and saltfish tragedy. So many people measure their status in life based on how much money they make or how big their house is. If I got my bakes to swell with a big hole in the middle then it meant I made it in life. 

Any good Caribbean cook will tell you that there are a handful of things we tend to lose sleep over. Your roti isn't round, or it's hard. You burnt the sugar too much for stew chicken, or didn't burn it enough. The dhal in your dhal puri burst through the dough as you were cooking it, or you didn't put enough dhal. Your bakes fried up nice and brown, but they didn't swell in the least. These are the real life issues of a passionate cook. I would stand over the stove waiting for the bakes to swell and puff up. I waited. And waited. But that was the past. I have since become a better woman. A smarter woman. 

3 1/2 cups of flour + 4 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt. 

There it is. It's been years since I have been following this ratio and my bakes come out perfectly puffed. Every. Time. Sorry it took me so many years to share this updated recipe with you. Better late than never. This measurement makes about 12-14 medium sized bakes which is enough for 5-6 people. Hopefully this will help some of you finally get it right or give you the courage to try your hand at this!   

Bake & Saltfish

12-14 medium bakes


  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 1/2 cup more for kneading
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp melted butter, unsalted
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • Oil for frying
  • 20oz boneless, skinless, salted white fish such as pollock or cod
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 wiri wiri pepper or scotch bonnet
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, finely diced
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1 cup fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs scallions
  • Salt to taste, if desired
  • 6 tbsp oil for cooking


  1. For bakes: Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. Add melted butter to water. Add water mixture to flour and knead to form a stiff and smooth dough ball. Add 1/2 cup flour as needed to bring dough together.
  2. Pinch off golf ball -sized pieces of dough and roll in palms of hand to make smooth. Place in a greased plate. Cover with a damp paper towel. Allow to sit for one hour minimum. 
  3. Heat oil for frying. Flour surface and roll each dough ball to 1/4 inch thickness. Fry dough, flipping once or twice to brown on both sides. 
  4. For saltfish: Fill pot with enough water to cover saltfish. Boil for 5-6 minutes. Drain and fill with clean water. Boil another 5-6 minutes. Drain and flake fish with fork. Set aside. 
  5. Heat frying pan with oil. Add onion, garlic, hot pepper, green pepper to pan. Cook until onions are translucent. Add saltfish and seasonings. Cook a couple of minutes then add chopped tomatoes. Let cook 5-6 minutes until tomatoes have melted into fish. 
  6. Add tomato paste and scallions. Mix well. Adjust salt to taste. 

Recipe below is for the more dense type of bake.

 (makes 10-12 bakes)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (substitute 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for a healthier option)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 tbsp vegetable shortening or cold butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water


  1. Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together. Add shortening or butter. Cut in with a fork. Add water to knead dough. Add more or less water and flour as needed to bring the dough together. Roll into small dough balls and place on a greased plate. Cover with damp paper towel to avoid crust from forming. Let dough rest for one hour minimum. 
  2. Heat enough oil for frying.
  3. Flour surface and roll each dough ball to 1/4 inch thickness.
  4. Fry until bake is golden brown on each side.


  1. Hey! I found your blog while trying to find a recipe for "zucchini curry". I'm Guyanese living in the Chicago area and really miss my mom's cooking. Thanks for posting so many classic Guyanese recipes—but most of all posting them with great photos & instructions! (I appreciate good web content as I work as a web designer!)

    Weird fact: My mom's never made bake with might be because us kids are picky eaters, but I always remember having bake with either scrambled (fry) eggs or baigan choka (roasted eggplant). I'm a vegetarian, but if I ate fish I would LOVE to eat it with the bake you made!

    Keep your post coming! :)


  2. Hey! I made this and it turned out awesome!!!!!

  3. Hi Bibi,

    Thanks so much for visiting! My mom s a vegetarian as well and she usually eats her bake wh baigan choka or some other type of vegetable. If there are every any recipes youre interested in getting just email me :)

    Nikki: Thats great! What a great breakfast huh?

  4. lovely photos - I like the crispy airy kind of bake, although I have noticed the sweeter denser kind here in Guyana since I came here.
    I know buljol as the dish made with saltfish, peppers, onions etc rather than the name for saltfish in Trinidad - it comes from the French Patois "Brûlê Gueule," or "burn mouth," because of the heat of the peppers traditionally used in the dish.

  5. I have enjoyed your recipe, I did not know how to cook at all, my mother always prepared our meals, recently married, I have found your recipes to be very simple and easy to understand.

    Do you have one for curry duck, curry lamb and curry goat?

    Keep up the good work, your a great help to your community and women like me.

  6. This Bake looks amazing I must try!! By the way I added your blog to my foodie Arsenal List on my blog!!!

  7. hey than you for ur recipe for the Bake i make it and it was so so amazing i always try but it never came out good lol

  8. Wow... where have you been all my life? Well, at least your blog...

    Your recipes are spot on (just like mom and pop used to make). The vibrant pictures look like they belong in an art show and add to the simplicity of the recipe process.

    Thank you so much! (from a Guyanese guy who struggles to cook as well as his mother and father).

  9. can i use lard instead of crisco?

  10. Thank you so much. Going cricket tomorrow and wanted to make this for a snack and my aunt could not remember her own recipe to give me lol so thanks.

  11. I only made the bake from this recipe because saltfish is a dish I know how to make, and each house has their way (although it did not vary from what I usually do).

    The bake was great and sharing it with my mother, she also like the recipe (she made it for Father's Day). I am use to the bake you make in the pot over low heat, the really thick heavy ones but this was lite, soft and very easy to make.

  12. Great!! But guyanese do make coconut bake but its called prom prom. And we also does make pot bake which is prepared in a pot...

  13. Hello fellow Guyanese blogger :)-Just found your blog--love it. I just started photographing all of my Guyanese dishes to post. Including making pepper sauce! Keep up the great work. Trish (

  14. Hi everyone! I've actually never seen Crisco before, but my mom makes a wicked bake. Is there a substitute for the Crisco? Or could I just not use it?


    1. Hi Donna!

      You can use butter in place. You need some type of fat in the dough. Try using unsalted or salted butter. I've used it many times and it works great!

    2. How is the recipe altered to make an airy and less dense bake?

  15. Have you ever tried using egg in your bakes? I usually use 1 egg per 2 cups of flour, love saltfish and bakes....making that for breakfast on Good Friday :)

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I have never tried that. I will throw and egg in there when I make it again this Sunday, I'll let you know how I like it :). Thanks for your suggestions!

  16. How do you make the make the other way you mention which is more airy and more lighter with pockets inside? What do you change in the recipe?

  17. I am all but drooling because of your site. My husband is from Guyana and his mother taught me a bunch of these recipes.... I cannot wait to try your versions :) Thank you!

  18. How do you make the bake airy with the large air pocket instead of dense? What do I have to change in the recipe?

  19. OMG, looks simply heavenly!! Great pics and they taste great as well , thanks so much for sharing. I lost my touch and couldnt remember how to make these havent done so since i was a little kid!

  20. Hi,

    I'm from the UK, do I use plain flour or self raising flour?

    Thanks Jesse

  21. wow! This is great post.I like this post. Many many thanks for this post. I was not aware of this cooking method. I love the food at all difficult to handle temptation. Thank's for sharing.

  22. Thanks for sharing this recipe: Bake and Saltfish - A classic Caribbean breakfast! A good shortcut would be to have some salted & dried codfish on hand. Vaught

  23. I am a big fan. love your recipes, I have tried most of them on your list. this bake and salt fish is awesome.

  24. Nice recipe, Trinis call this Fried Bake or Johnny Bake. The other larger in size is a roast bake/coconut bake. We also cook saltfish the same way and we eat it with dumplin and provision or just with bake as you made here, Bujol is just another way we eat saltfish.