Fish Salad Recipe with fine Matjes or Bismarck Herring

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I would like to introduce my Herring Salad recipe to you at this point. The salad of fine herring or Bismarck herring is easy and fast.

My connection to the North German coast and thus the fish cuisine with sea fish has grown strongly in the last years. The originals, which are offered locally, have become more and more a topic for me, which I also like to deal with inland more and more.

Sourly pickled fish, especially the young salted herring, the Matjes, are fish classics. The fine taste harmonizes wonderfully in many forms of salad and tastes delicious not only on the roll but also with other side dishes.

Let me now show you a salad variation with herring fillet, paprika, apple, cucumber and fennel for cooking. I wish you much fun and success.

Matje salad recipe picture. In this article you will learn important things about making matje salad yourself.

The preparation of  Matjes saladI will present you in another post. © Food Photographer Thomas Sixt

1. Pickled Fish Shopping Advice

First of all, let’s have a look at the fish in the glass: with the selection that is offered standing on the refrigerated shelf, one can almost get dizzy.

To make the selection easy, here is an overview: 

1.1 Matjes

In Germany, the matje, or herring for that matter, comes mostly from the North Sea. The fish is gutted, filleted and skinned and pickled in salt. Refinements such as smoke flavour or sherry can also be found in the trade depending on taste.

This young fish has a higher fat content than the adult. That is why it is particularly tender. Very well known and popular is the Dutch Matjes. In Holland you must try matie, it tastes delicious!

For my fish salad the matie is a bit too salty. That’s why I put the fillets in cold water for 15 minutes before using them for desalting.

Alle Zutaten Heringssalat

All ingredients for the salad with herring at a glance.

Matjes wässern

Just water the maties for a moment – we don’t want any drowned bodies 😉

1.2 Bismarck Herring

Our second chancellor of the fishy salads is the Bismarck herring. This adult and sexually mature herring lies as fillet in a sour marinade enriched with pepper, allspice, bay leaf and mustard seed.

Usually the fish skin is still on the fillet. The fish skin can also be used. I personally like to make the small effort to remove the fish skin by pulling or with a sharp knife.

Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) liked the pickled herring, which is the reason for the name! He is said to have said: >>If herrings were as expensive as caviar, people would appreciate it far more.<<

Hering ohne Fischhaut

The sour herring without fish skin is a special salad delight.

Bismarckhering enthäuten

Our sour herring is skinned. That’s what makes a fish salad so delicious!

So far we have our fish under control and are well prepared. We can now turn to the other ingredients in the salad. For the sake of completeness, I will explain the salted herring here, which I personally do not use for the salad…

1.3 Salted Herring

The salted herring is usually the so-called “whole herring”, pickled with roe and milk, partially gutted, in a strong brine.

You can also get the salt herring as fillet, then these are called “herring rags”. Please water these fish fillets longer, the salt content is simply too high to eat directly.

2. Prepare Salad according to Season

Before we start preparing the salad, here is a small tip about the season and the suitable occasions…

I prefer the creamy matie salad in a housewives’ style in the cold season, i.e. in autumn and winter. The full taste fits better for me in the cold half of the year.

I prefer the vinegar-oil-herring salad in the summer, it is more refreshing and fits for me better in the warm and hot season.

Typical occasions for the fish salads are New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day for herring feasting, the carnival season and the summer picnic.

I personally like to serve my guests fish salads as a small starter or as finger food on Asian spoons.

Heringssalat mit Apfel, Essig und Öl

The fish salad with vinegar and oil marinade fits perfectly in the warm and hot season. © Thomas Sixt food photographer camera
Canon EOS RP

3. Prepare Salad Ingredients

For our perfect salad I wish for you not only the herring fine but also our raw vegetables.

Gemüsezutaten Heringssalat

Finely cut ingredients of vegetables and apple make our salad perfect.

Prepare the vegetables:

  • We skin our peppers with the peeler. This way the stomach-unfriendly skin of the peppers does not get into our salad.
  • We slice the fennel finely. So our fennel contribution cannot drown out the fine fish taste.
  • Our fresh green cucumber is freed from its watery seeds with a large spoon before we peel it.
  • Our aromatic, sweet and sour organic apple is added to the salad in sticks.
  • We cut our red skinned onion into slender moons and use them only discreetly in the salad.

4. The successful Marinade

I have rounded off our salad for you with a light marinade of vinegar and oil. I like to use apple vinegar for a light fruity oil-vinegar marinade and I prefer to use brown sugar or agave syrup to achieve the sweet-sour harmony.

For the spiciness I always use the pepper mill. In my opinion, freshly ground pepper is far more aromatic than industrially ground pepper. Moreover, the mixed grain from the mill on the tongue is more fun afterwards.

This time the oil is thistle oil. Any high-quality oil is suitable, such as rapeseed oil or even a light olive oil.

My salt for seasoning is rock salt. A Himalayan salt would be just as good. Also a sea salt or better Fleur de Sel would work. But I become shy with pure table salt, that is really not healthy.

If you prepare this dressing, you should prepare and mix the marinade except for the oil. Shortly before serving, whip the dressing with a whisk and add the oil with a nimble hand. This gives the best marinade binding!

Dressing für Fischsalat

Only at the end the oil is added to the dressing!

5. Recipe

Heringssalat mit Matjes
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote
Herring Salad
Fine fish salad recipe from chef Thomas Sixt. Make a fine fish salad with vinegar-oil marinade easily and quickly yourself.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: German Recipes
Keyword: Gluten Free Recipes
Servings: 2 Persons
Calories: 289kcal
Author: Thomas Sixt
  • 200 g Matjes Filets
  • OR
  • 200 g Bismarck herring Fillets skinned
Salad Additives
  • 1/2 pc Red pepper freshly peeled
  • 1 pc Apple I use a sweet and sour organic apple like Elstar
  • 1/2 pc Fresh green cucumber
  • 1/4 pc Fennel
  • 1/2 pc Red onion
Salad dressing
  • 3 tbs Cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar I use brown cane sugar.
  • 2 pinches Salt Preferably rock salt or Himalayan salt.
  • 2 pinches Pepper Freshly ground black pepper from the pepper mill.
  • 3 tbs Oil I use thistle oil.
  • 1 tbs Herbs Dill, parsley, chives
  • Prepare the ingredients: herring, paprika, apple, cucumber, fennel, red onion
    Alle Zutaten Heringssalat
Prepare fish fillets for the salad
  • Variant 1: Prepare the salad with matjes. For this, water the matjes fillets for 15 minutes.
    Matjes wässern
  • Variant 2: Prepare the salad with Bismarck herring. To do this, skin the Bismarck herring with a sharp knife or carefully peel off the skin.
    Bismarckhering enthäutet
  • Cut the herring into suitable pieces.
    Hering ohne Fischhaut
Prepare vegetables and apple for the salad
  • Peppers: Quarter the peppers, remove the seeds and remove the skin of the peppers with a peeler.
    Cucumber: Cut the cucumber in half and remove the cucumber seeds with a tablespoon. Then peel the cucumber and cut it into fine half rings.
    Fennel: Clean a quarter of the fennel and then slice it finely with a suitable slicer.
    Apple: Cut the apple into quarters and remove the seeds. Then cut off the apple slices from the quarters.
    Onion: Cut a half red onion into fine crescents or strips.
    Gemüsezutaten Heringssalat
  • Place all the raw ingredients plus the fish and chopped parsley in a bowl.
Prepare the dressing
  • For the dressing, mix apple vinegar, brown cane sugar, pepper and salt. Shortly before placing the dressing on the salad, stir in the oil with a whisk to create a fine emulsion.
    Dressing für Fischsalat
Finalize the salad
  • Add the dressing to the salad ingredients.
    Dressing zum Heringssalat
  • Marinate the herring salad with the salad servers.
    Heringssalat mariniert
  • Arrange the fish salad finely on the plate and serve with bread, rolls or jacket potatoes.
    Heringssalat mit Matjes
Shelf life of marinated fish salad with onions:
Due to the addition of the onions the shelf life is limited, please eat the salad on the day of preparation or at the latest the following day.
The raw onions should at best be left in the vinegar marinade during short-term storage to prevent fermentation of the onions.
Please store the salad in the refrigerator! 

6. Calories and Nutritional Values at a Glance

Nutrition Facts
Herring Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories 289 Calories from Fat 783
% Daily Value*
Fat 87g134%
Saturated Fat 47g294%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 9g
Cholesterol 549mg183%
Sodium 2415mg105%
Potassium 1130mg32%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 21g23%
Protein 20g40%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

7. Matching Side Dishes

Fried Potatoes
Potato Fritter
Potato Pancake
Baked Potatoes

8. More Ideas for Fish Salad

Matje salad recipe with variations, tips and cooking video instructions
Tuna pasta salad recipe for the summer party
Salad Nicoise recipe
Tuna fish salad recipe with Romana salad, avocado and egg

9. Frequently asked Questions

What is Bismarck herring?

These are filleted, pickled herring fillets. In the optics these fish fillets remind of a butterfly, in each case two fillets are connected with the tail fin. Traditionally the marinade consists of vinegar, oil, onions, mustard seeds, pepper, bay leaves and sugar. In Austria this fish preparation is marketed as “Russians”. In the GDR this herring preparation was called “Delicacy herring”.

What is a fried herring?

It is a gutted herring without head, which has been breaded and fried before being pickled. The marinade usually consists of vinegar, oil, onions, mustard seeds, pepper, bay leaves and sugar.

What is a green herring?

It is a raw, gutted, fresh and unprocessed herring. Before preparation, please prepare flakes, then whole or filleted as desired.

What is a matie or matie herring?

This is the young, not yet sexually mature herring, which is particularly fine in taste.

What is a salted herring?

These are “full herring”, usually with roe and milk. The fish are partially gutted and are pickled in a strong brine. Salted herring requires prolonged soaking in fresh water before consumption to make it taste fine.

What is a hollow herring?

As hollow herrings are called herrings which are caught after reproduction. The hollow herring is the qualitatively worst herring.

Which herring is optimal for herring salad?

Head chefs prefer to use the fine herring, followed by Bismarck herring, to prepare herring salad.

Which side dish goes well with herring salad?

Fried and jacket potatoes are the classic, followed by rolls. You can also serve rösti, potato pancakes or potato pancakes with herring salad.

How to marinate herring salad?

In addition to the vinegar-oil marinade presented in the article, a creamy variant for the herring salad in a housewives’ style is also available: Mix sour cream and crème fraîche in equal parts, season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and cayenne pepper, and add a little mayonnaise to taste.

What about rolled pickled herring?

Rolled pickled herrings are single, pickled herring fillets (Bismarck herrings) rolled and filled with cucumber and onions. In Austria, rollmops are called “fork roller”.

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Author: Thomas Sixt

Hi, I am a German Chef, Cookbook Author and Food Photographer. The imparting of cooking knowledge is my great passion. Everyone can cook for himself and with this website I would like to contribute to its success. Let yourself be inspired and enjoy good food. If you have any cooking questions, please use the comment function at the end of each article and recipe. I wish Thomas Sixt Good Luck!