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Cocochas al pil pil

Cocochas al pil pil

Cocochas al pil pil

The pil pil is undoubtedly of Basque origin, a classic in its cuisine. I had never cooked it before and a Basque, very fond of cooking, has taught me how to make this great dish; In addition, he had brought from Bilbao two kilos of cocochas from the Ribera market, the very best. The truth is that I have always wanted to learn how to make this prestigious recipe, but my reverential respect for the pil pil had always put me back; There is an authentic mystique around this recipe, since it has become par excellence one of the most prestigious in Basque cuisine, exported internationally to half the world because tThey have a very juicy and gelatinous meat that has given rise to this exquisite dish.

Well, maybe some of you don’t know that cod (or hake) cocochas are the fleshy parts found in the lower jaw of fish, something like the double chin. If the cod kitchen has been between us for five or six centuries, the cocochas seem to begin to be known much later, since for years they were thrown away or given away. It is said that that appear in San Sebastián in 1929, and its culinary formula is Ignacio Domenéch who in 1935 included this recipe in his book “Laurak-bat”. I have been told a very nice story about the origin of this recipe: the fishermen who were frying the cod in oil on their boat, suddenly had to leave what they were cooking because a great surge arose; Thus they left the cod casserole to attend to other more pressing tasks, and when they returned they found that with the movement of the boat produced by the storm surge, they had emulsified the oil in a sauce very similar to mayonnaise, due to the gelatin of this fish. . The name of the pil pil comes from the onomatopoeic sound produced during the cod confit, when some of the albumin bubbles released by the fish burst “pil”.

There are several ways to make the pil pil, in this first recipe, I am going to prepare the “authentic”, where the wiggling, or circular movement emulsifies the oil; so there was almost only the wind left for the ship to sway; And besides, in my kitchen there were so many people watching the magical preparation that it really could be considered a complete crew. In the following recipe, I will prepare the cod pil pil but now with another simpler formula.


The pil pil only requires four ingredients: cod or cocochas, oil, garlic and chilli.

You can make this recipe with different amounts, according to the comments; there were ten of us, and we needed a large quantity of cocochas (2 kilos) that also conditioned the proportion of the other condiments. The oil that you add will also depend on the sauce that you want to get, from the pil pil it is said: “the more oil the more sauce”.

  • 2 k. frozen, fresh or salted cocochas
  • half a liter of virgin oil but with a mild flavor (about 150 cc. for every 200 g. of cocochas)
  • 8 or 9 whole garlics for this quantity; garlic can be filleted but to get candied garlic, undoubtedly whole is much better
  • the recipe has chili pepper in pieces but in my house we never put it, due to digestive problems.


1. The cocochas can be salted, frozen, or made from fresh cod, they all work well if the quality is good. It is very important to find the point of salt as in all cod recipes, because they are in danger of being salty or bland (which I do not know is worse). Mine were bought frozen from the Ribera de Bilbao market; but the frozen ones of the “Iceland” brand are great for their quality and price, and you can desalt them at home, they usually have enough salt and I would advise you to leave them to soak for 24 hours, changing the water 3 times, and thus you will get a very fair taste of salt.

2. The first thing is to clean the “beards” and the occasional membrane of the cococha, although there are people who prefer not to touch them. In the photo below, you can see the grayish “beard” and if there is any other membranite you also cut it.

3. Once clean, you are putting them on a cloth to dry well:

4. While you confit the garlic, this term is equivalent to cooking the garlic in the oil rather than frying them, so the fat should not be very hot and after about 10 minutes you will see that they acquire a slightly golden color. It seems that garlic also contributes to the emulsion of the sauce. They were put whole (but you can make them in sheets), then they were separated and left until the plate was served. They should be soft on the inside and lightly browned on the outside, since if the temperature is strong the opposite will happen and the garlic will become bitter:

5. Now and at a fire of 160º, you can start pouring the cocochas, if the fire was very hot they would snatch, shrink and lose the flavor of their meat. They should be covered with the oil and resting on the bottom.

6. Little by little, they begin to expel the gelatin and the white bubbles that burst appear and are the ones that give the name onomatopoeicco of “pil pil”. Then you will turn them around; A controversy that remains between the cooks is, not with the cocochas but only with the cod, if when you put them you put them with the skin up or down; my chef did it down and it seemed more reasonable to me because the skin has more jelly but not everyone thinks so.

7. Once turned, continue to cook for about 10 minutes and there are more and more bubbles in the oil. When it is like the photo below, you can now proceed to emulsify the oil with the gelatine that has been released. Put them out of the burner and, taking care that the oil does not reach more than 40º or 50º, you start to move the pan in circular movements. As we move it, we put it and remove it from the fire. We will see how little by little the sauce is linking. These movements must be done as many times as you need until the emulsion is produced, or the oil is bonded with the gelatin and coverted into a kind of mayonnaise.

To see how this dance and circle movement is done, I would advise you to go to this YOUTUBE website, where you will see perfectly what I mean by this movement. It is essential to see it naturally because in this case the photograph will never give you a complete idea.

8. Here you have them with a perfect greenish-yellow sauce and well linked. The last time you put it back on the fire, it is when you must serve them because, like mayonnaise, they risk being cut. Another procedure is to leave them on top of a saucepan with almost boiling water so that they go hot to the table.

9. When serving on the plates, you can already put the garlic on each plate according to the taste of the diners:

It is truly one of the dishes where the alchemy of the kitchen is truly appreciated.


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