Saltfish "Run Down" Recipe

A tasty stew salt fish dish in some creamy coconut milk sauce

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

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

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 various 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 fish stewed down in some coconut milk.

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

Salt fish soaking and chipped

This is another recipe that highlights the use of coconut milk. I did say it was an integral part of our Caribbean cooking. You can definitely use tin ones here. I must say you can see a difference in the gravy and the taste when you use tin versus freshly made. Fresh coconut milk the sauce is thicker and there is a little deeper taste for the gravy. If you want to make your own coconut milk, definitely do that if you can.

So let's get into this dish. It's important to soak the salt fish to get out the excess salt they put to keep it cured. You can soak overnight or soak and discard and repeat the process about 3 times until the fish isn't very salty. Some people also boil it, but I find that makes it tough to chew. Once the fish is soaked out, then you chip it up into small pieces and set aside.

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. But 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

Now your dish is done and ready to dive in. 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 to not make that hot pepper burst, if it does get ready for an explosion of spiciness. 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. I love to add a lot of gravy. Piece of 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.

yield: Serves 4print recipe

Saltfish Run Down

A stewed dish popular in the Caribbean made with 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 MINScook time: 35 MINStotal time: 75 mins


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

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

Jamaican Saltfish Run Down

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