Ackee and Saltfish with Johnny Cakes and Steamed Callaloo Recipe

The Jamaican national dish complemented by 2 classic sides is a well-balanced breakfast and perfect way to start the day.
Photo by Farideh Sadeghin

Servings: 4
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 1 ½ hours


for the Johnny cakes:
2 ½ cups|330 grams all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tablespoons|40 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 ounces|87 ml whole milk
vegetable oil, for deep frying

for the ackee and saltfish:
¾ cup|120 grams salted and deboned codfish, soaked overnight
¼ cup|60 ml vegetable oil
1 small white onion, diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves reserved, stems discarded
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper
1 (13-ounce|370-gram) can ackee, drained
1 small tomato, seeds removed and discarded, remainder diced
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


for the steamed callaloo:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
¾ cup|60 grams white onion, thinly sliced
¾ cup|60 grams (half of a large) carrot, julienned
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces|230 grams fresh callaloo or spinach, stems removed, leaves thinly
2 tablespoons|1 ounce|30 grams unsalted butter

to serve:
1 ripe plantain, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick diagonally
vegetable oil, for frying


  1. Make the Johnny cake batter: In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and mix well. Add the butter and use a fork or your fingers to break it into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add ⅓ cup|79 ml of water to the milk, then slowly pour over the flour mixture until a smooth and soft dough forms, being careful not to overwork the dough. Add 1 or 2 extra tablespoons of water, if needed, to achieve the right texture. Place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.
  2. Make the ackee and saltfish: Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and add the salted cod. Cook until the flesh is tender and most of the salt is removed, about 20 minutes, pouring off water and adding fresh to assist in the process. Once cooked, break into bite-sized pieces, taking care to remove any bones.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and cook until just soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the scallions and cook 1 minute more, then flake in the fish. Cook 2 minutes, then add the thyme. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, then stir in the garlic and Scotch bonnet. Cook 1 minute, then add the ackee into the center of the skillet. Add the tomato around the ackee and season everything with black pepper. Fold everything in around and over the ackee, careful not to agitate it too much. Let it sit and cook until, warmed through, about 3 minutes more. Keep warm.
  4. Make the steamed callaloo: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Add the onion and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the carrot, bell pepper, and thyme and cook until soft, 4 minutes more. Stir in the callaloo and season with salt and pepper. Cook until just wilted, then stir in the butter. Cover and cook until steamed, 4 to 5 minutes. Cook until the callaloo is tender, 1 minutes more.
  5. Fry the Johnny cakes: Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 300°F. Roll the Johnny cake dough into 10 balls and press down on the top gently to slightly flatten. Working on batches, fry until golden, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Keep warm.
  6. To serve, heat ½-inch oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add the plantains and cook, flipping once, until golden and caramelized, 3 ½ minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt. Divide the ackee and callaloo among plates with some Johnny cakes and fried plantains.

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