Ackee and Saltfish Recipe from HER THREE LIVES

This meal is Jamaica’s national dish and is often served for breakfast. Jade, Greg’s Jamaican American girlfriend, serves it to him in the book HER THREE LIVES. It features ackee, a fruit of West African origin with a red, waxy outer skin that opens up to reveal large black seeds, yellow fruit, and a bit of red fibrous material in the center.

NOTE: Ackee, sadly, cannot typically be obtained fresh in the United States as it gives off a poison that can make you sick if it is opened before it is ready. It is available canned at most West Indian and some Asian grocery stores. Author Cate Holahan gets hers in Englewood, NJ. In Jamaica and other tropical countries, you can get it fresh.


1 Canned, Parboiled Ackee

½ pound boneless salted codfish

½ cup neutral oil (vegetable, grapeseed, canola, sunflower, etc.)

5 cloves garlic

1 spring thyme

4 green onions (scallions)

1 red bell pepper

1 orange bell pepper

1 handful of cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, sliced in half.

¼ Scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed

A pinch of ground black pepper



  1. Wash the salt off the salted cod and then soak it for 1 hour in hot water. Drain that and then soak again in another pot of hot water for another hour. Two hours total. If you don’t do this, the cod will be inedible.
  2. As the fish is soaking, chop the garlic, green onions, and bell peppers. Carefully chop the Scotch bonnet, making sure not to touch anywhere near your face while you’re working with it. Wash your hands thoroughly after. It’s a hot pepper.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic for thirty seconds. Then add the thyme for another thirty. Finally, add all the peppers and tomatoes, then continue to sauté for about five minutes.
  4. Add the codfish for another five minutes, stirring as needed.
  5. Add the canned the canned ackee, cook for another couple minutes.
  6. Stir in a pinch of pepper.

This meal can be served with a starch such as fried breadfruit, Jamaican Festivals (fried dough), or fried dumplings.