Saltfish "Run Down" Recipe

August 21, 2016
The typical saltfish and dumpling dish. A tasty stew salt fish dish in some creamy coconut milk sauce. A perfect Caribbean dinner.

Saltfish Run Down Recipe

Are you ready for a sweet hand dish?

A dish that you know while you're eating you want to suck all your fingers and put the plate to your head to drink all the sauce up? This is what Run Down is to me.

It is the kinda food that's just sweet to taste (and not meaning sugar) and you're smiling eating as you put the spoon down into the plate.

The salted cod fish cooked down in a runny sauce of coconut milk seasoned up with hot pepper and tomatoes. It is that dish that excites you to cook because you know you're going to have so much fun and joy eating it after.

Why is this called "Run Down"?

You're probably wondering why oh why is this thing called "run down". I honestly cannot say. I asked around and various reasons were given with none making any sense. Lol.

The method for this varies across the islands. In fact though Jamaicans call this "run down", some islands just refer to it as "stew down" or I've heard it's also called "dip and fall back".

Regardless of all the names, it's salt fish stewed down in some coconut milk. And most time eaten with dumplings

This recipe requires a little work but I think it is so worth the effort. I used salt fish (salted cod) but mackerel is an easy alternative. But salt fish is muuuch better.

They both do require getting the salt out by soaking either over night or by "washing", soaking and discarding of the salt water.

How to remove salt from salted fish?

Salt fish soaking and chipped

There are multiple ways that people remove salt from saltfish. We are not trying to get all the salt out of the fish, but to remove the excess.

There are a few methods I avoid a few for reasons I would mention below.

Overnight Soak Method

I do this occasionally if I decide the night before I would want to make some saltfish the next day. You simply put the saltfish in water (to cover it) and let it sit covered over night.

The next morning, throw the water off and go ahead and pick the bones out of the fish (if you used ones with bones). Taste a piece of the fish to ensure it is still not excessively salty.

I do this method occasionally, but it is not my first choice.

Boiling Method

Place the fish in a pot of hot water, making sure that the water covers the fish, and bring to a high boil. Let it boil for about 25 minutes.

Throw off water and let it cool a little, taste for saltiness, before chipping up. If still salty repeat process.

I avoid this method like a plague. Most times it produces a rubbery textured saltfish. Nobody wants that.

Soak out Method
Add the saltfish to a bowl of water, making sure it is covered in water. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Throw off water from fish and test for saltiness. Repeat if needed.

I usually have to repeat this twice to get to the salt level I want. This is my preferred method of removing salt from my saltfish. It also doesn't require me pre planning dinner the night before.

Wash out method

Chip up the saltfish prior to soaking, removing all bones in the process. Put in a colander and run the tap with cold water through the saltfish in the colander. Squeeze the fish taking out excess water and then letting fresh water run through. Run through until salt is cut down.

This is my mother's only way of removing salt from salt fish. It's the shortest method and fastest method.

This recipe highlights again how much we use coconut milk. I did say it was an integral part of our Caribbean cooking. If you want to you can use the canned milk here (preferably one from an Caribbean brand like Grace, Goya or Jamaica's choice).

I avoid Asian brands with coconut milk because they have a consistency that is different from what we get with fresh coconut milk. You can definitely see and taste when you use tin versus freshly made coconut milk. If you want to make your own coconut milk, definitely do that if you can.

Now let's get this sauce making.

We want to add some oil to the pan and saute the garlic and curry powder to bring out the flavor of the curry into the dish.

Then we add the coconut milk and we need to bring that to a boil. The milk needs to boil to the point it starts to get thick. While it's boiling I liked to add the hot pepper, and thyme, onions, and the things that will season up the milk for taste.

When it starts to get thick I add in my tomatoes and ochro if using. Then we add the salt fish to the thickened milk and we leave it to simmer.

Saltfish Run Down Method

At this point, you are able to taste and make adjustments as needed. Want more gravy? Add a little water to the dish.

By now this should just be simmering down to make sure the fish is cooked. Like all other seafoods this doesn't need to be cooked for very, very long.

Salt fish Run Down Recipe

 I like to leave it to sit in the juices for a little while so that the fish continues to soak into the sauces and the seasonings.

I try my very best not make that hot pepper burst, if it does it's going to be very spicy. If you like pepper then be sure to either pop the pepper later down in the cooking or you can add another scotch bonnet to the mix.

Traditionally this is served with ground provisions (boiled yam, plantains, green bananas, sweet potato, yuca) and some boiled dumplings.

I love, love, love run down with dumplings. Dumplings packed with fish and soaked down in gravy. And my corn meal dumplings were a winner with it.

Saltfish Run Down

I honestly tell you I was eating this and smiling from ear to ear. A big spoon and a bowl of this is heaven to me. I love to add a lot of gravy.

Piece ah dumpling, with sauce and saltfish full of peppers and tomatoes and a piece of ochro. Yum!! sweetness for sure.

I love when food just makes you happy. When making it gives you joy and eating it brings you joy. Ha!!

Caribbean Saltfish Run Down

I'm sorry for the excitement. But this was really good.

And it's one of those dishes that tastes amazing the next day too. If there is any leftovers.

Seafood is always so good in coconut milk. Check out my other fish in coconut curry sauce:

Saltfish 'Run Down'
Entree, Breakfast
Yield: 4
Author: Renz @ HomeMadeZagat
Saltfish 'Run Down'

Saltfish 'Run Down'

A stewed dish popular in the Caribbean made with salted fish cooked down in coconut milk accompanied by tomatoes, and green peppers. Also popularly known as "run down" or "dip and fall back".
Prep time: 40 MCook time: 35 MTotal time: 75 M


  • 1 lb salt fish chunks (salted cod. You can also use mackerel)
  • Water to soak fish
  • 2 cups coconut milk (make your own using this recipe)
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 sprig thyme
  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 6 pimento seeds
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped


  1. Soak salt fish in a bowl of water for about 20 mins
  2. Discard water and soak salt fish again for 20 mins
  3. Discard water and taste salt fish for salt level
  4. If still extremely salty, soak for another 15 minutes and discard
  5. Chip saltfish up into small pieces, removing/discarding bones if found and set aside
  6. In a heavy bottom pan, on medium heat, add oil and saute garlic and curry (be careful not to burn)
  7. Add coconut milk and bring to a boil
  8. Add scallion, thyme, garlic, pepper and onions
  9. Add pimento seeds, bell peppers, and black pepper and simmer till sauce thicken
  10. Add tomatoes to sauce and mix
  11. Add salt fish and leave to simmer for 10 minutes
  12. Taste for salt and tenderness of fish.
  13. Add a little water if needed if the sauce has evaporated.
  14. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes
  15. Serve with cornmeal dumplings and a side of plantains
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Jamaican Saltfish Run Down

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Renz HomeMadeZagat
Renz HomeMadeZagat

Hi guys, I’m Renz. I am the chief cook and bottle washer here at HomeMadeZagat. I am here sharing Caribbean recipes that I grew up eating and new ones I’ve fallen in love with over the years. I just want to showcase the amazing diversity of Caribbean food and that everyone can recreate these dishes.