Pickled herring

No smörgåsbord is complete without a selection of different pickled herring. The fish can be found in abundance throughout the Baltic and was often pickled in order to preserve it for longer periods. To pickle fresh herring fillets, you will need to first salt them in a brine for a few hours to help keep a firm texture and aid the preservation process. You can then proceed with a pickling marinade of your choice. Alternatively, you can buy ready-salted or marinated herring in jars or cans and add your favourite flavours.

Pickled Herring

Basic recipe
Serves 4

You will need:

  • 1kg fresh Baltic herring filets in bite-size pieces (if Baltic herring is not available you can substitute Atlantic herring)
  • 200ml distilled white vinegar (about 12%)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 small red onions, finely sliced
  • 2 carrots, finely sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 15 white peppercorns
  • 10 juniper berries

To serve: finely chopped dill, chives and red onion


  1. Place the herring fillets in 500ml of water, 100ml of the vinegar and 1 tbsp salt and leave in the fridge for 4-5 hours. Drain thoroughly.
  1. Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan with 500ml water. Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool completely before pouring over the salted herrings. Leave to marinate in the fridge overnight or, ideally, for at least 24 hours before serving with the chopped dill, chives and red onion.


This pickled herring recipe is an excellent base for other flavourings. There really is no limit to how to add flavours to the herring, either by adding ingredients to the marinade (citrus, herbs, spices, etc.) or by serving in additional sauces. Drain the fillets well before adding to your sauce of choice.

Mustard Pickled Herring

You will need:

  • 500g pickled herrings, see recipe above, well drained
  • 1 small leek, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp sweet mustard (if you can’t find a Swedish sweet mustard use American hot dog mustard instead)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 3 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 4 tbsp chopped dill, optional


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce apart from the caraway and dill, if using. Loosen the mixture with a few tablespoons of water and season with salt and white pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.
  1. Add the pickled herrings, caraway and dill and leave to marinate for a further 24 hours before serving.

Sour Cream and Chive Pickled Herring

You will need:

  • 500g pickled herrings, see recipe above, well drained
  • 100g good quality mayonnaise
  • 150g sour cream
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • Lemon, juice and zest
  • 2 tbsp lumpfish roe, optional


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, lemon juice and zest. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  1. Add the pickled herrings, cover well with cling and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. To serve, garnish with chives and lumpfish roe.



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