Pickled herring from scratch

garlic and corainder pickled herring

This week I have done something very Swedish, I pickled my own herring. Pickled herring hasn’t had the same breakthrough in the UK as it has in Sweden so the selection and availability is quite poor. Having had a brainwave whilst at the fishmongers looking at fresh herrings made me realize that I can pickle herrings myself, from scratch, what has been stopping me, and how stereotype can I get?

In Sweden, my friends who make their own sauce for pickled herring seems to buy pickling herring. It comes in a tin, you rinse the herring, make the sauce, wait for 24 hours and voila! I have never seen pickling herring here in the UK so it was time to make my own, how hard can it be?


First thing first, I bought four herrings, they are cheap as chips and so big at the moment you get lots for your money. I always buy the herrings whole and fillet them myself. This way I get them just the way I want them.


Fresh herrings


Start by scaling the fish, if you do this under running water the scales won’t go all over the place. use a sharp knife and gently scrape the scales off. I bought a fish scaler but I can’t get along with it and always break the skin but it might simply be that I am doing it wrong. I find that a knife is easier to control.


Do a cut along the belly of the fish and remove any intestines and if there is any roe. I used the roe for another dish.


Make a cut under the gill just behind the head and run the knife along the bone and you will have a fillet. Turn the fish over and do the same to the other side.


Filleted herring bones


Most of the longer, and annoying bones will stay on the main bone but there will still be some on the fillet.


Rinse the fillets and lay them flat, skin side down. Find the remaining longer bones and run the knife along to remove them all in one go. You can pin bone the fillet as well but it will take quite some time.


Filleting herring


Place the knife at the back of the fillet and gently move the filet along the knife edge and remove the skin. Trim the fillets to make them look even.


herring fillets


You will still have the shorter bones in the fillets but once cooked they won’t bother you when eating.


Start by curing the herring.


Basic herring cure      

preparation time 10-15 minutes                

cooking time 0 minutes, 24 hr in the fridge for the cure                  

serves 4 as a starter             


  • 4 herrings, filleted and cut in to diamond shapes
  • 1/2 dl or 1/4 cup vinegar essence
  • 1 dl or 1/2 cup sugar, I used demerara, raw cane sugar but any sugar will work
  • 2 dl or 1 cup of water

Place the vinegar essence, sugar and water in a bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.

Place the filleted herring in a tub or glass jar with a tight fitting lid and pour over the vinegar cure mix.


filleted, curing herring


Close the jar and place in the fridge for 24 hours.

When the herring is cured drain it. It will look the same as before but it will be firm to touch.


cured herring


I did a garlic and coriander sauce but anything you fancy would work and this was experimental. Wasabi will be next up.


Garlic and coriander sauce for pickled herring 

preparation time 10 minutes 

cooking time 0 minutes but once the herrings is added it needs to sit in the fridge for 24 hours 

serves 4 as a starter 


  • 1 1/2 dl or 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 heaped tbsp natural yogurt
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • a good handful of coriander stalks, chopped fine

Mix all of the ingredients and add to the pickled herring. Let stand in the fridge for 24 hours before serving.


It is tradition to eat herring with boiled eggs and/or boiled potatoes so I opted for potatoes and I chopped some fennel fronds on top.


garlic and corainder pickled herring


The herring has a perfect consistency and it tasted just like home. I like strong flavors with herring and as mentioned before, wasabi next time. Now when I know how easy it is to make I am sure I will come up with some new flavor combinations.


I am bringing this to the lovely Angie’s Fiesta Friday. It is the most fun, foodie party around, a great place to meet other bloggers and get inspired by a wide range of recipes!

This week Angie has two pf my favorite bloggers as co hosts, Hilda, Along the Grapevine who is so incredibly inventive and shared her foraging bounties with us. Julianna, Foodie on Board creates mouthwatering dishes, even if I already had a big dinner, it still makes me hungry!











19 Responses to “Pickled herring from scratch”
  1. This is the Scandinavia answer to Ceviche ! Seriously … vinegar was the ‘fridge’ of yore … it helped to store food for the barsh bitter winters. It’s hard to get herrings here in Rome … damn … you’ve get me all started now ! 🙂

  2. chefjulianna says:

    Isn’t this awesome, Petra? So often we never even think to try making certain products at home and it really is so easy! Since I have started blogging, I have been trying so many more things at home! You make this sound so delicious and easy and I am not even a great fan of pickled herring!
    Happy Fiesta Friday to you and thanks so much for bringing your lovely dish to us today! 😀

    • petra08 says:

      hi Julianna
      I know pickled herring is not for everyone. When I told a friend he wouldn’t stop wrinkling his nose! You are so right, blogging opens the mind and there is soo much foods to cook and never enough time! We just have to do our best!
      Thank you for being a fab co host and enjoy the weekend 🙂

  3. Not sure I’ve tried pickled herring, at least not the way you have it here. I did try some kind of small pickled/marinated fish in Italy. Sardines maybe? I wasn’t a huge fan, but hey my tastebuds have grown up a little more since then 😄 So maybe I’ll like them if I try them now. And I know these fish are rich in omega 3. I should train myself to like them! 😄

    • petra08 says:

      Hi Angie
      This is a very Swedish way of pickling and I know it is a acquired taste!
      For me it is a lot about the flavour of the sauce that goes with the herring, but I have always loved it.
      A friend of mine says that tastebuds change every 7 years so you should always try things you don’t normally like. I have decided to try new things since and some things I have started to lie whilst some… You know! Maybe give it a go? 🙂

  4. Hilda says:

    I have been wanting to make my own pickled herring because I am reduced to buying the imported stuff that comes in jars – not bad but I know it could be better. Not sure if I can find fresh herring around here, but when I do I will definitely be making this. I like it best for breakfast with dark rye bread. And since you are industrious enough to clean your own fish, you might like to know that you can completely remove any odour plus soften your skin if you scrub your hands in used coffee grounds. Thanks for bringing this fabulous fare to Fiesta Friday (how’s that for alliteration?).

    • petra08 says:

      hi Hilda
      I agree with you that dark rye bread is delicious with herring as well! M doesn’t like pickled herring for breakfast but I think it is great.
      Am sure the cure will work with other oily fish such as mackerel or sardines if they are easier to get?
      I didn’t know that about coffee grounds. Thank you for the tip! I usually use lemon if I think I have a fishy smell but will try this.
      thank you for co hosting and I hope your weekend is good! 🙂

      • Hilda says:

        I also meant to ask what strength vinegar essence is. I have a Russian vinegar which is about 70% as opposed to reg. vinegar here which is only 5%, but the former can be dangerous if used in too concentrated a form. I do sometimes add a smidge to pickles to give it that extra kick. Or would just regular vinegar do?

        • petra08 says:

          hi Hilda
          This is a 24% vinegar from Sweden. It is diluted with water and that should bring it to about 6% strength so omit the water and it should work the same with regular vinegar 5% vinegar. 🙂

  5. Monika says:

    Pickled herring is also a very popular Polish dish (as well as Russian, Ukrainian and Jewish) and we eat it every Christmas Eve! Your recipe looks really tasty, I love the coriander in it! I applaud you for making it from scratch!

  6. I grew up eating pickled herring before I moved to Canada. Such a great idea to make your own.

  7. This is a work of art…hats off to you for cleaning your own fish. Truly a remarkable dish Petra!

    • petra08 says:

      hi Zeba
      It was just like eating herring in Sweden and I was so happy it worked.
      The fishmonger would happily clean my fish but this way I get it just the way I want it.
      I am glad you like it!
      Have a lovely week 🙂

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