pickled herring recipe

Raw fish is a funny one. In Asia millions eat sushi and sashimi daily, relishing in the purity of the fish and the tang of accompaniments like pickled ginger, soy sauce and wasabi paste. The Scandinavians gorge on gravadlax, sliced thinly and draped onto blinis with a touch of horseradish, and South American ceviche is a food experience everyone should try.

While Oysters were once a staple of the poor in the UK, fewer of us enjoy their ozone-and-brine beauty because it’s never been cooked. This raw, pickled or cold-smoked fish culture just isn’t all that popular in the UK.

In The Netherlands, however, it is an intrinsic part of their national food identity. I’m talking, of course, of herring. It’s not hard to see why it’s so important once you taste it; tender herring fillets (skin and bones removed for the fussy) are completely lovely, with a punchy vinegar flavour balanced with horseradish, buttered new potatoes, dill and boiled eggs.

pickled herring

It’s also worth noting that herring, if caught in North Sea or North Atlantic, is one of the most sustainable fish available and therefore great for the future of seafood – as well as being good for you.

It isn’t just Holland that loves its fish this way; Scandinavia, too, is big on having it pickled, brined and soused, but seeing as no Scandinavian teams made the World Cup, we‘ll focus on a variation of the Dutch version of pickled herrings – both are very similar to anyone but the most patriotic of a-fish-iondos.

Eat this hot or cold.

Pickled herring recipe


  • 200ml cold water
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • 25ml white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 thinly sliced white onion
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 generous pinches of table salt
  • about 20 white peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds500g or 4-5 herring fillets – fresh is best, but (defrosted) frozen ones will do


Add everything except the fish into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the herring to the pan, cover, and simmer on a low heat for 12-14 minutes, then remove from heat.

Allow cooking liquor to cool to a manageable temperature, then either drain and serve the fish warm, or add the fish to a kilner jar and top up with the liquor, onions, herbs and spices – adding a little extra white wine vinegar (2 tablespoons) for piquancy. Eat within 2 days.

Serve with buttered new potatoes sprinkled with fresh dill, quartered hard-boiled eggs and a creamy horseradish sauce.

Netherlands image by Ann Marie Michaels

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  • Oonai2000

    I think you’re just ignorant, Marjolein. Just check the supermarket, you’ll find pickled herring in jars. It’s definitely also a dutch thing.

  • Oonai2000

    Pickled herring is also a dutch thing. I guess you’re just ignorant.

  • Tuuli Reinsoo

    oh yeah, I guess I am. thank you. I m just here in my muddy pond not knowing all things of the world unlike you who probably traveled to every country and ate at every home. sorry for not being your level.

  • Oonai2000

    I guess so. Try to think of that next time you make statements about things you know nothing about.

  • Tuuli Reinsoo

    it wasnt a statement though, dear, I said what it rather reminded me of.

  • Marjolein Heesbeen

    @Oonai2000 Thank you for calling everyone you do not agree with ignorant. Yes you can buy pickled herrings in the supermarket, but I thought this site was about cooking and I (born and bred in The Netherlands – age 55) don’t know anyone in the Netherlands who still makes this dish or has ever made it. Typically Dutch dishes that are still made: kale, potatoes and smoked sausage (boerenkool met worst), poffertjes, jachtschotel, hutspot, red cabbage with apples and many more. I’ll be happy to provide the recipes.

  • Oonai2000

    You said it didn’t sound dutch to you. Ofcourse that was a “statement”:
    1. A declaration or remark
    2. A presentation of opinion or position.
    I guess that’s another thing you’re ignorant about…

  • Oonai2000

    I guess you need to learn how to read as well. Not once did I call people ignorant because I don’t agree with them . I called you two ignorant because you are suggesting (even proclaiming) this isn’t a (typical) Dutch dish, but instead Scandinavian or Estonian. If you read the article, it doesn’t even claim it’s the most typical or exclusively Dutch dish there is, it simply wants to highlight an aspect of Dutch cuisine that’s no langer part of UK cuisine. Or do you really expect a recipe on how to make Dutch soused herring? What does it matter people don’t make pickled herring anymore (I actually have), people also buy the dishes you mentioned straight from the supermarket.

  • NanNJ

    I got to this site because my we brought my born in Holland grandmother pickled herring and black berry brandy every visit. Thanks for the memory.

  • steve

    does it? oops 🙂