Cod cheeks Pil-Pil style

Cod cheeks pil pil recipe |
If you love cooking, you’ll love making this Pil-Pil. If you love eating, you’ll love tasting it. Whatever it is you love, we’re confident you’ll love this recipe.

The Pil-Pil sauce is an emulsion made from the gelatine that is released from the fish when cooked in hot olive oil that has been aromatized with garlic and cayenne pepper.

Together with the Vizcaina sauce and the Green sauce, the Pil-Pil is one of the great sauces from the Basque cuisine. A sort of cultural institution that beyond feeding stomachs, fires up debates amongst the locals on who makes the tastier version or has the best recipe.

The Pil-Pil is usually made with either cod or hake. Different parts of the fish can be used to elaborate it, although there are two which I clearly prefer… either a good piece of loin or my absolute favourite, the barbers.

And that’s where it gets tricky outside Spain… For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to find cod or hake barbers in London. In fact, whenever I’ve asked to some local fishmongers the reaction has been of either surprise or disbelief, which I find interesting since British waters are very generous in providing both species and I personally think the barbers are the most delicate and precious piece of either fish. But anyway, cod cheeks are a fantastic alternative which can throw equally delicious results.

Both Lara and I absolutely love this recipe. But remember… watch out if you’re on a diet though! This is quite a hypercaloric meal which should be more of a special treat than your regular daily lunch box. But still… who doesn’t love a treat, right?


Cod cheeks Pil-Pil
Serves: people Print recipe
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Passive time: -
Difficulty: Medium



  1. Wash all the vegetables. Then finely chop the onions and the peppers, slice the garlic cloves and dice the potatoes in small cubes.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a shallow casserole and gently sweat the onions, garlic, peppers and potatoes for around 10 minutes until they’re soft. Make sure they stay translucent and don’t go brown.
  3. Once the veggies are done, slice the fresh cayenne pepper and add it to the casserole.
  4. Add the rest of the olive oil. Let it reach a high temperature and then gently place the cod cheeks on top, spread all over the casserole. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. To make the pil-pil, first transfer the oil from the shallow casserole into a cold recipient. Then pour it back into the casserole very slowly, little by little, whilst we make continuous circular movements with the casserole to bind the sauce. The pil-pil should end looking like a light density yellow emulsion.
  6. Finish with some sprinkled chopped spring onion and serve immediately.