Ackee and Saltfish

Jamaica’s National Dish

Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee and saltfish - The plant is said to have originated from West Africa and, it is believed, was introduced to Jamaica by the European explores of the past.  It is also found and used in other Caribbean islands under different descriptions.

Jamaica's National Dish - Ackee n SaltfishJamaica's National Dish - Ackee n Saltfish

In Jamaica ackee and saltfish dish graces many a dining tables, whether at breakfast lunch or dinner.

Ackees are also canned in Jamaica and forms a part of Jamaica’s food export industry.

Can also be served with rice, yams, green bananas, roast breadfruits and more..

Ackee and Saltfish

The ackee fruit is sort of pear shaped and when it ripens the outer reddish/orange skin opens to reveal the yellowish fruit and its large black seeds are visible beneath the outer skin. 

The ackee is Jamaica’s national fruit and when combined with salted codfish cook in Jamaican style seasonings, ackee and salfish is Jamaica’s national dish.

In Jamaica ackee-n-salt fish can be served at breakfast with boiled green bananas and veg; at lunch with white rice or at dinner with rice and peas, but not necessarily in that order.  

Ackee and saltfish is a very flexible dish, it can be served in different ways whether as a snack or as part of a full meal.

Jamaica's National Fruit - The AckeeNational Fruit - The Ackee

If eaten before it’s fully ripened it can cause very serious stomach upsets.  

In Jamaica, fresh ackee is mostly sold whole (within its open pouch with the fruit still attached and visible and are usually sold by the dozen.  

You will then remove the fruit from its casing and prepare it for cooking. Remove the seed and any pink remnants from within the fruit itself.

Ackee and Saltfish

Raw ackee prepared for cookingRaw ackee prepared for cooking

The ackee is a very delicate fruit which cooks very quickly and if overcooked it will look like soft scrambled eggs.

I prefer some texture in my cooked ackee so I ensure they are removed from the boiling water after cooking for 5/7 mins. 

A further 5 mins cooking time on low heat is added when combined with seasonings and salt fish. 

If you prefer spicy, then add additional seasonings to taste cover pan on low heat and leave to simmer for about 10 mins.  

Jamaicans serve this dish with boiled green bananas, plain rice, fried roast breadfruit or with steamed callaloo and fried dumplings.    

Here I served it with potatoes, but however you serve it, it’s filling and quite delicious.

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Ackee and Salt Fish Recipe

  • 2 dozen fresh Ackees (or 1 tin)
  • 8 oz (230g) salt fish
  • 1 large onion – more if you want
  • 2 medium size sweet peppers (red/green for colour)
  • 1 small Jamaican green scotch bonnet pepper (extremely hot - for flavour - use whole)
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) of coconut oil (or oil of preference)
  • 2 cloves of garlic – crushes or chopped

Scotch Bonnet Hot Peppers

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Scotch Bonnet - Jamaican Hot Peppers

Ackee and Salt Fish - Method

  • Remove excess salt by soaking salted fish in water overnight if poss.
  • Drain, place in fresh water water,bring to boil; cook for about 15 mins.   Drain and leave to stand in cold water. 

  • Prepare and wash the ackee as mentioned above - use a medium sized pan with water to cover the fruit. 
  • Cook ackees for 5/7 mins and drain.  
  • Prepare seasonings in a saucepan and stir fry with a little oil (oil of choice is fine).
  • Remove scales and bones from fish and cut/break into small pieces and add fish to pan with seasonings.
  • Place pan with chopped seasonings, fish and oil on low heat and allow the content to sauté for 2/3mins.
  • Add drained ackee to pan and fold in ingredients. Cover and leave to simmer on low heat for a further 5.
  • Serve hot or cold.
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NB.  The Jamaican country pepper ( also known as scotch bonnet) is very hot so use it whole; this way you will get the full flavour but not the fire in the mouth taste - remove from pan before serving.

If hot and spicy is your personal taste, remove seeds and chop the pepper in small pieces and add to pan. 

Scotch Bonnet Hot Peppers

Scotch Bonnet Hot Peppers

Using Tinned Ackee

Depending on where you are in the world you may only be able to get tinned ackee, which is pre-cooked, so open the tin, drain off the water then add contents to pan with sautéed seasonings and cover for about 3 mins – just enough time for the ackee to heat up.  

Avoid excess stirring – it may become soup!  If you cannot get a fresh Jamaican scotch bonnet pepper, check out your local supermarket, you are likely to find it in pepper sauce format.  Chilli peppers are a good alternative.

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My preference is fresh ackee as I am able to control how firm or mushy I want it to be.  Fortunately I currently live in Jamaica and am able to get fresh in-season ackee.  

So, if you are only able to get tinned ackee where you are, I feel sure your dish will be just as delicious. Remember tinned ackee is already cooked, just drain and add to your salt fish and seasonings.  

Tip:  Curried ackee is pretty tasty also -  salt fish can be optional.

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