You will agree that combined callaloo with saltfish is just delicious after trying this authentic Jamaican recipe. Both callaloo and saltfish are stapled foods in Jamaica and make the perfect marriage when cooked together. This savoury dish is easy to make with some simple ingredients.
What type of vegetable is Jamaican callaloo
Callaloo, or Slender Amaranth, is a leafy vegetable that grows in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. It is an annual plant that grows up to 20 inches in height, with green leaves that can be up to 6 inches in size. The plant’s slender veiny stem is either deep red or green, which becomes harder to cook as the callaloo matures.
Callaloo is also the name given to the taro leaf in Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada. The taro plant is entirely different from the amaranth callaloo grown in Jamaica. While the amaranth callaloo is similar to collard green, kale and spinach, the taro leaf is from the plant of a root vegetable. Even though Jamaicans eat the root vegetable of the taro plant, the leaves aren’t. Make sure to distinguish Jamaican callaloo from the callaloo of Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada. They are two different plants, the cooking method is also different, and the taste and texture will also differ.
Is callaloo the same as spinach
Even though callaloo and spinach are from the same plant family, the Amaranthaceae, their subfamily is different. Callalo is of the Amaranthus spices, and spinach is of the Spinacia. Both plants have different appearances. Spinach has smaller leaves than the callaloo. The callaloo stems are much thicker and harder than that of the spinach. Callaloo has a much more potent “green” taste than spinach. Spinach cooks quicker than callaloo, and the texture of the leaves is different when cooked. Research suggests that callaloo contains higher protein, iron and calcium than spinach.
Jamaican callaloo recipe
Callaloo is a staple in Jamaica, mainly eaten for breakfast. Jamaicans mostly cook callaloo with saltfish, but it can also cook without. The recipe uses Jamaican callaloo (remember there is another plant called callaloo in other parts of the Caribbean), common vegetables such as onion and garlic, and saltfish to make a healthy savoury dish.
The saltfish is hydrated by soaking it overnight, then boiling it for 10 to 15 minutes, which also helps remove the excess salt—removing the bones and skin once the saltfish cooks are much easier. Using boneless and skinless saltfish may be the better choice if you have never cooked saltfish before and if you are cooking for children. It will reduce the time it takes to prepare the saltfish, and you don’t have to worry about fish bones when eating.
Callaloo with saltfish ingredients
The Jamaican callaloo recipe includes the following list of ingredients:
- Callaloo: For the most part, in Jamaican, we use fresh callaloo because it is readily available when in season. And when not in season, we look for other things to cook, so you don’t find Jamaicans in Jamaican cooking canned callaloo. I am using a fresh bunch of callaloo, but you can use canned callaloo if that’s not available.
- Saltfish: Use skinless, boneless saltfish if you want less time preparing this callaloo recipe. But I went with the traditional choice of saltfish with its bone and scale, so I had to spend more time preparing the fish to remove the salt. I washed and then soaked the saltfish overnight. Then I boiled the saltfish and gave it another wash before shredding it. You won’t need to do all the above to remove salt from boneless/skinless fish.
- Thyme: Most Jamaican cuisines include thyme, and when it does, don’t leave it out! Thyme is essential to Jamaican cooking.
- Onion: I use yellow onion. Red onion won’t suit this recipe because it will overpower the callaloo.
- Scallion: Scallion (green/spring onion) is also essential to Jamaican cook, so don’t leave it out.
- Bell pepper: You can use any bell pepper, even though red bell pepper is used more often, not because of the taste but because of the colour. Red and green go well together.
- Garlic: You won’t need much garlic for this callaloo recipe. One to two cloves are good enough.
- Tomato: Tomato is an essential flavour to the callaloo and saltfish, so be sure to include it.
- Scotch bonnet pepper: Use scotch bonnet pepper for the authentic Jamaican taste. You will only need a little if you like spicy food.
- Black pepper: To season
How to prepare callaloo with saltfish
The steps below assume that you have already prepared the saltfish – washed, boiled, deboned, and shredded it.
- Callaloo: If you are using fresh brunches of callaloo like me, remove any rotten leaves, seeds and part of the stems you don’t want. Give the callaloo a thorough wash. Drain away the water before chopping the callaloo into small pieces.
- Green seasoning: Chop and dice the onion, scallion, garlic, tomato, bell pepper and scotch bonnet pepper. Remove the seed and membrane from the scotch bonnet pepper if you don’t want your callaloo spicy.
- Sauté: On medium heat, start by sauteeing the onion, garlic, thyme and scotch bonnet pepper so that all those flavours infuse in the oil. Add the bell pepper, tomato, scallion and sauté for a few minutes before adding the shredded saltfish.
- Steam: Add the chopped callaloo and give it a good stir to incorporate all the ingredients. At this point, turn the heat down to low, cover the saucepan and let it steam. Callaloo is like spinach; it doesn’t take long to cook.
- Flavour: You usually don’t add salt when cooking with saltfish because the salt from the fish adds flavour to the dish. Unless you soak, wash, boil, rewash and boil again, it’s unlikely that you would remove all the salt from the saltfish. If you do, you will have to add salt and black pepper. I’m just adding black pepper.
What to serve this dish with
What Jamaicans serve with callaloo depends on the meal and the time of day. Callaloo is usually eaten for breakfast and is served with fried dumplings, fried breadfruit, fried plantain and sometimes, ground provisions (hard food).
At lunch, callaloo is served with roasted breadfruit, ground provision or fried dumpling. When eating callaloo at dinner, it’s usually eaten with rice.
Jamaican Callaloo Recipe With Saltfish
- 688 g (1.52 lb) Callaloo 2 bunches
- 445 g (0.98 lb) Saltfish (Cod) You may use boneless/skinless saltfish instead
- ¾ Small red bell pepper Diced
- 1 Small onion Chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves Crushed
- 2 Scallion Chopped
- 4 Sprig of thyme
- 1 Small tomato Diced
- ¼ Scotch bonnet pepper Seeds remove and finely chopped
- ¼ tsp Black pepper
- 3 tbsp Cooking oil
- Salt Optional
- Wash away as much of the salt from the saltfish, then boil it in a pot with fresh water for 15 to 20 minutes. (To remove more salt from the saltfish and dehydrate it quicker, soak it for at least two hours, preferably overnight).
- Wash the saltfish in cold water to cool it. If you are not using boneless/skinless fish, remove the fish scale, de-bone it, and then shred and set it aside.
- Add the cooking oil to a saucepan and put to heat on medium fire.
- Add the thyme, onion, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, bell pepper, tomato, and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until the vegetable softens.
- Add the shredded saltfish and cook for another three minutes or so.
- Stir in the chopped callaloo. Cover the pot, turn the heat low, and let it steam for about 10 minutes or until the callaloo cooks.
- Add the black pepper and salt if your using any. Serve immediately.
- Canned callaloo can use for this recipe also.
- You can use boneless saltfish or remove it altogether if you wish to.
- Salt is optional because the saltfish should add salt to the dish. However, if you wash away all the salt from the saltfish, you may have to add salt.
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