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Ackee and Saltfish

Enjoy a glorious taste of Jamaica with this simple Ackee and Saltfish recipe. It makes a savory and delicious Paleo, Whole30, and Keto-friendly breakfast.

Ackee and Saltfish |Paleo|Whole30|Keto

One complaint that tends to get thrown around by people following a Paleo/Keto/Whole30 diet is that they grow tired of eggs for breakfast.

I implore such people to take off the blinders and re-think the possibilities for breakfast. Breaking one’s fast can encompass so much more than fried eggs, pancakes, and Lucky Charms (which, last I checked, aren’t Paleo).

While most of us here in the U.S. have grown up on sugary, carbohydrate-loaded breakfasts, a lot of other places in the world enjoy savory, protein-rich morning meals. These other countries present a great place to draw inspiration for new brekkie ideas.

Take for instance the national dish of Jamaica: Ackee and Saltfish. It is a delectably savory dish of salt-preserved fish (usually cod) combined in a simple sauté of onions, peppers, tomatoes, and—of course—ackee.

What is Ackee?

Ackee is part of the soapberry family, which also includes lychee. If you’ve never tasted it before, ackee has a pleasant, mellow flavor with a creamy texture somewhere between scrambled eggs and custard.

Image of fresh ackee growing on a tree

One tiny caveat about ackee, though, is that only the yellow portion of the fruit is edible, while the rest– especially the shiny dark seed–is toxic to humans.

I always do love it when there is a present sense of danger in a dish.

Close up of a can of ackee.

Thanks to that whole toxicity thing, the FDA doesn’t allow the sale of fresh ackee in the States. So, unless you’ve got a Jamaican connection, unfortunately you’ll be getting your ackee from a can. You should be able to find it at any decent international market or you can order it on Amazon.

Along with the ackee, I also get the saltfish for this recipe from an international market.

close up of a bag of salted codfish on a wooden background.

If you have trouble finding it, you can substitute with regular cod filets and add some salt to the skillet later (just be aware that this is borderline sacrilegious in Jamaica).

How to Make Ackee and Saltfish

Start by draining the canned ackee well and give it a good rinse.

image of canned ackee being rinsed in a colander.

Next, rinse the saltfish extremely well, then add it to a pot and cover with cold water. Boil the fish for at least 20 minutes.

Overhead shot of salted codfish being boiled in a saucepan.

Drain and rinse the cod again, then flake it into small bits.

Close up of salted codfish being flaked with a fork.

Heat some coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, then add sliced onions, bell peppers, Scotch bonnet pepper, green onion, garlic and fresh thyme.

Image of sliced onions, bell peppers, Scotch bonnet pepper, green onion, garlic and fresh thyme being sautéed in a castiron skillet.

Sauté until the onions and peppers are tender, about 5-6 minutes.

Image of adding saltfish and tomatoes to a castiorn skillet

Add the flaked saltfish and a diced tomato to the skillet. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Image of adding ackee to a skillet with saltfish and vegetables.

Finally stir in the ackee and some freshly cracked black pepper. Cook until the ackee is just heated through, about 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the ackee to ensure it doesn’t turn to mush.

Image of ackee and saltfish on a plete with roasted breadfruit on a slate background.

Serve your Ackee and Saltfish with some roasted breadfruit and/or fried plantains. Enjoy at delicious taste of Jamaica!

ackee and saltfish
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4.5 from 2 votes

Ackee and Saltfish

Cuisine Jamaican
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 pound boneless salted cod*
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • 1/2 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper seeded and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 scallions sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 large tomato seeded and chopped
  • 1 (20 ounce) can ackee drained and rinsed
  • black pepper


  • Rinse the saltfish well, then add it to a pot and cover with a few inches of cold water. Boil for 20 minutes, then drain and rinse the fish again and flake with a fork.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, peppers, garlic, scallions, and thyme. Saute until the onions and peppers are tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the saltfish and tomato to the skillet. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the ackee along with some black pepper to taste. Cook until the ackee is heat through, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Serve with roasted breadfruit and fried plantains. Enjoy!
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*If you can’t find salted cod, just substitute with regular boneless cod filets. Poach the fillets in water for 8-10 minutes until they flake easily with a fork, then proceed as directed, adding 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt at step 3.

The ingredient or equipment sections above may contain affiliate links to products that I personally use or recommend!

This post was originally published on September 16, 2018 and last updated September 1, 2020.

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Recipe Rating

Coach Lorraine

Tuesday 19th of January 2021

No one eats the seed and it's important to mention that the poison is in the red connective tissue that must be removed after harvesting the tree opened ackee pod. Forcing the pod open is poisonous and consuming the connective tissue can cause vomiting