What is pil-pil?

We've got the Basques to thank for this clever, big flavoured sauce. Traditionally it's made by cooking skin-on fillets of salt cod (bacalao) in garlic-infused oil. Once the fish is removed, the milky white protein traces left behind are whisked into a sauce to emulsify them with the garlic oil.

It's a perfect fit with the no-waste philosophy of chef Alejandro Cancino of Brisbane's The Euro, who uses a couple of spoons of pil-pil to boost the likes of barramundi and snapper, and then puts the salt cod flesh to work in croquetas. The Argentinian born chef learnt how to make pil-pil at Spain's Mugaritz, and says the name comes from the "pil-pil" sound the oil makes as it bubbles up to the surface.

"You have to boil the oil very slowly until you see the bubbles and hear the sound." Cancino uses the Mugaritz method to prepare pil-pil fresh each service, and also adds three drops of habanero oil to lift the flavour further. "It's not traditional to add habanero oil, and people who have it may not notice it, but it makes a difference."


Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

Latest news
David Chang’s Ugly Delicious is about to make you very hungry
Lee Tran Lam on her obsession with podcasts
Australia’s top-ranked cheeses announced
SBS to screen four top food documentaries in February
Josh Niland to open a seafood shop in Sydney
Sydney Fish Market: now delivering
The Gourmet Traveller podcast

Each fortnight we round up the most interesting characters from the food world for your listening pleasure. We chat to chefs, cooks, authors, bar tenders and baristas - anyone who has something new and interesting to say about the way we like to eat and drink.

Recipe collections

Looking for fresh dinner ideas? Not sure how to make the most out of seasonal produce? Or do you need to plan the perfect party menu? Our recipe collections have you covered.

See more

You might also like...

How to prepare sea urchin at home

I love sea urchin in restaurants, but I’m a bit daunted by t...

How to pack seafood for short trips

How can I pack seafood to take to the beach house this Easte...

Winter seafood essentials

Even though most of us associate seafood with summer, it’s a...

How to eat caviar

"Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth," the quee...

What to look for when buying seafood

Why does fish in restaurants so often taste better than what...

Fast seafood recipes

Barramundi en papillote, grilled scallops in the shell, and ...

10 fish recipes for Good Friday

Good Friday is for fish. So, from beetroot-cured ocean trout...

Cooking with wine

Not that we need an excuse to crack open a bottle, but these...

Recipes with scallops

Here are 14 fresh takes on these small saltwater clams, from...

What are mantis prawns?

A rare catch at Sydney's fish markets, mantis prawns have de...

Dan Hong's salt and pepper calamari with lime aioli

The executive chef shares his salt and pepper squid recipe, ...

How to fillet a fish

The best fillets are those you cut yourself. Here, seafood s...

How to shuck an oyster

Follow these tips from seafood expert John Susman and you’ll...

The Producers: Ferguson Australia

The game-changing South Australian company with a fresh take...

Preserved tuna

Quality canned or jarred tuna can turn a fast pasta dish or ...