Bagna Cauda – Northern Italian for “Garlic Fondue”

This warm dip of anchovies, garlic and olive oil is not for the timid. It is a dish that features a trunkful of garlic. But it conjures romantic images of vineyard workers at the end of a long, cold and cloudy winter day spent trimming vines ina vineyard of Northern Italy. As they warm themselves by the fire of the Bagna Cauda, their stiff hands begin to bend more easily, and they soon find their fingers curling around the first of many glasses of red wine.

In its native Piemonte, that red wine would likely be Barbera, but Bagna Cauda (literally “hot bath”) compliments any medium-bodied red with rustic tendencies. The delivery system for this little bit of heaven includes bread (or breadsticks), vegetables, and very enjoyably (though not traditionally) cubes of beeg, cooked as one would a fondue.

Bagna Cauda Ingredients

½ Cup (plus 2 Tbsp) good olive oil

4-5 cloves garlic, grated or minced well

12 Anchovies preserved in salt or oil, drained, backbones removed if not already done (buy the good ones from an Italian or Greek market. Most of what is readily available comes from inferior producers, and it makes a difference!)

½ Cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Dipping Ingredients:

Assorted Raw vegetables (fennel bulb is traditional, as is broccoli, cauliflower, Belgian endive, sweet peppers and zucchini)

Meat (for the non-traditionalist) such as steak, cut into ½ inch cubes


In a stock pot, warm just enough of the olive oil to coat the anchovies well. Add the anchovies to the warm oil and mash with the back of a spoon until dissolved. Add the remaining oil and garlic and heat over low, stirring, until everything begins to come together. Whisk in the butter and remove the pot from the burner as soon as it is melted. Beat for a few more seconds. Transfer to the table in a flame-proof container (or fondue pot or chafing dish or coffee cup warmer) and keep warm over Sterno or votive candle.

Start dipping.  Pour some wine.  Enjoy!

29 Replies to “Bagna Cauda – Northern Italian for “Garlic Fondue””

  1. Thanks so much for this. This might sound a little strange, but I spent the first few years of my life in Italy, then travelled all over the world. Now I’m living in Australia, with my Chinese wife, and son we had whilst in Japan! Truly international, eh? Anyway, I’ve been trying to rediscover the smells and tastes of my youth with some authentic Italian recipes like these, best I’ve found so far! Thanks again, I’ll see if I can add the feed to my google reader tonight, though my son usually does that for me!

  2. my father made this when I was a child !! I make it every new years eve !! eating the left overs right now . this is a great fondue !!

  3. My grandparents were from Italy. I grew up eating bauna cauda. I now make it every Christmas Eve for my own family. We love it with good bread, but my favorite is dipping cabbage into it. YUM!

    1. Thanks Kate! We made this recipe for our “Northern Italian” dinner last year and it was a hit there as well. though we DID hear from one or two of the guests that they had garlic seeping from their pores for a day afterwards. We call that vampire-proofing. ;-)

  4. My husband and I make a Bagna Cauda every New Years Eve. We do not add as much garlic and we use butter in addition to the olive oil. We use electric skillets on the table and distribute small bowls of marinated meats, shrimp, vegetables, chunks of mozzarella cheese and bread. Each guest gets a plate and a pile of bamboo skewers and every one make their own creation to cook in the oil. We spend hours around the table eating, chatting and ringing in the New Year.

  5. My mother and father and grand parents are of northern Italian decent. Some many years ago when I lived at home with my parents and grand parents,this exact receipt was a staple in our home during the winter months. For dipping we used red and green sweet bell and Italian peppers,large chunks of hard Italian bread, hearts of celery,firm cabbage cut into lare pieces(none of the soft outer leaves)and broccolli. My favorite is cabbage and celery hearts. My father who was a Chef in his own restaurant prepared a varation of this dish that I also love. He cooked the Bagna Cauda in the same way, but after the butter was stirred in, he would meld in a lage amount of sour cream, turn up the heat slightly, then stir in med large pices of cut up cabbage, blend togethet and cook for a few more moments making sure the cabbage remained somewhat firm. This dish was then remove from the stove and serve in the same way as the basic dish with all the same vegies and bread for dipping. Because this dish is kept hot, the cabbage continues to soften as as it sets on the table.

    1. My mother’s family came to this country from the area north of Turino, where they lived in a tiny village named Camponine,it was close enough to work in France and return home by foot.

      They prounced it Bagna ( pronounced – Banja- 9 soft g as in ya ) Calda and served is around the table as your previous writers , Jean and Joe state.
      of course the spoke Piedmontese dialect, Italian and French. It was a holiday
      treat. They went on to own a 5 star restaurant in Northern New jersey.

  6. Does anyone know of a Bagna Cauda electric skillet About 6″ high plugs into the wall? Have been searching for years. Please advise! Also, non-sticking.

      1. I’m all for kitchen conveniences! Once in a while, it’s nice to revert to our more atavistic nature and cook over open fire. But I’m behind any convenience that encourages people to get together over food and wine to share non-electronic conversations!

  7. My family owned a Duncan Hines 5 star restaurant in North Jersey. They spoke the
    Piedmontese dialect and French, being from a tiny spot north of Turino, called Camponine. It was our favorite holiday treat,as all the Clan gathered at Grandma’s
    sitting around the dinner table for hours.

  8. My father was from Torino. We had Bagna Cauda every New Year’s eve. Bagna Cauda means warm sauce in Piemontese.. And we use much more garlic, perhaps one small head of garlic, sliced very thin, and sautéed with the olive oil until very fragrant, and then add the butter. We, too, served it with good French bread slices, and cabbage, peppers, anise, broccoli. Anise was always the best! Fond memories, and my children have continued the

  9. We had bagna cauda for the first time last night. Our friend grew up in an Italian neighborhood near Chicago and his family enjoyed this treat every New Years Eve. As we walked into his home, the aroma of garlic tickled our senses. We watched him prepare the dish( he uses two bulbs of garlic and two cans of anchovies and finishes it with 1/2&1/2.) We went through a loaf of crusty bread and stopped only to leave room for dinner. My wife is from a wonderful Italian family and had never heard of bagna cauda, but it will now be one of our courses in our Christmas Eve “feast of the seven fishes”. Now to find some delicious Barbera!

  10. My grandparents were Piedmontese. We have bagna cauda on New Year Eve and have left overs on New Year Day. Brings back many memories. We have hard crust bread, celery, cauliflower, green pepper, tomato, mushroom, green onion, cabbage, and broccoli. No exceptions. My wife’s favorite is tomatoes, I have a harder time picking a favorite I love them all. Wouldn’t be New Year without. Great article.

  11. My Auntie Kaye used to make this when I was a kid. We loved it, but she would never give out the recipe. This brings back amazing memories of a time when life was sooooo simple!

  12. My Father was Calabrese (Southern Italy) and he made this dish for us every winter. We called it Bonyacalda and served carrots, zucchini, celery, leeks, cabbage chunks, broccoli, bread, chunk cheeses, green onions, sweet white onion chunks… Amazing times…talking and drinking homemade Diego Red wine. :)

  13. I discovered this via internet a few years ago and is becoming quite a tradition in my family. We eat it several times in the winter season and try to have friends join us too. I do roasted yams, cauliflower, broccoli, and fresh mushrooms, cabbage, radishes, and steamed shrimp (of course we add different veggies each time depending on friends) and of course bread. I also try for the small head of garlic per person or two to help with flu and cold season. lol. On occasion I add in a can of sardines. I share your webpage so that my guests can know what I am talking about. Thanks!

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