Three types of pickled herring

Tre typer av inlagd sill

Three types of pickled herring on a plate

Herring has long played a central role in Swedish food. Originally, it was because it was so cheap and plentiful, but now it is because it is because it is central to many Swedish festivals.

Pickling herring in vinegar and salt became popular as a technique to preserve filleted herring and make it last through the winter. Herbs and spices were then added to create interest. Today, pickled herring appears on the table at nearly all festivals in Sweden, with the exception of crayfish parties.

Three types of pickled herring with trimmings is a popular starter in Swedish restaurants. It is usually served with some egg, a nice piece of Västerbottensost, a little sour cream, new potatoes (if in season), some crispbread and a glass of snaps.

Three seems to be a magic number. I've never been offered 2 or 4 types! You can serve any three types, but the most common are löksill (herring with onions), kryddsill (herring with spices) and senapsill (herring with mustard).

Although it is possible to pickle your own herring, I really don’t think it is worth it as the quality of herring in British supermarkets isn't usually good enough and because it is possible to buy some really good Swedish pickled herring. However, if you are keen to try pickling some fish I recommend trying our recipe for inlagd makrill (pickled mackerel) instead. John Duxbury



1 red onion, finely chopped
12 quail eggs, hard boiled
6 tbsp soured cream
3 small jars pickled herring, preferably Swedish
6 slices mature (aged) cheese, such as Västerbottensost
  fresh dill or chives, to garnish
  freshly ground black pepper


1. Place a teaspoon or two of finely chopped red onion on each plate.

2. Shell the eggs and halve them. Place four halves on each plate.

3. Place a small portion of each type of herring on each plate, along with a tablespoonful of sour cream and a slice or two of cheese.

4. Garnish with some chives or dill and freshly ground black pepper.


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John Duxbury
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