Några sillar och en lax för smörgåsbordet - Some Herrings and one Salmon for the Swedish Smorgasbord

Here are some recipes that make up what is commonly considered the crown of our smorgasbord: pickled fish! A real Swedish smorgasbord has an infinite number of dishes, and here are recipes for herring and salmon in a few different ways. These classic dishes are eaten cold as well as warm. Janssons Temptation is a famous warm herring dish, I will post my favourite recipe for that later, along with more varieties of herring and salmon recipes. For now, I hope you enjoy these delicious cold dishes.

It is impossible to imagine a Christmas, Easter or Midsummer without some pickled fish on the smorgasbord... As I have mentioned before, food traditions are very strong in Sweden even though many other customs have disappeared with the times.

Here are two recipes for pickled herring which go back a long time in my family. These recipes require a special ingredient: Ättika, which is a 24 % pickling vinegar very commonly used here (and Ättiksprit which is a 12 % dilution of made from Ättika). I'm not sure if Ättika is readily available outside of Sweden, but it can perhaps be ordered online, or found in delis that stock Nordic foods). The salmon recipe is new to me; I saw it on TV this easter, and we found it delicious.

Grandmother's Pickled Herring:

The amounts vary, use as many herrings as you want to make and vary the flour and salt amounts accordingly - use enough to cover all your herrings! The amounts for the pickling solution makes an amount big enough for a good size batch, discard any left over, or double, as needed.


herrings, cleaned and gutted. To see how to do this, watch this video up until the 1.30 minute mark.
Those Silver Darlings

flour, enough to cover the fillets

1-3 onions, sliced (I like to use one red and the rest yellow onions)
20 allspice berries, crushed
2-3 bay leaves

Pickling solution:

1 dl 12% ättiksprit (a pickling vinegar used in Sweden, perhaps available in shops and delis that stock Nordic foods)
2 dl sugar
3 dl water


Mix flour with some salt. Dip the fish in the flour mix so that they are covered. Fry them in butter and let them cool.

Mix the pickling solution: Bring all ingredients to a boil in a pan and let it cool. It should taste somewhat sweet with a pretty strong vinegar flavour.

Layer the fish and the onions, allspice and bay leaves in a jar or pot. Pour in the pickling solution. Cover and let it sit in fridge for 24 hours.

Serve on wholegrain bread and boiled eggs, or boiled potatoes and a cold sauce made from sour cream and flavoured with dill.

Brantevikssill. This recipe hails from Brantevik, a Swedish fishing community.


1 kg herring fillets, frozen for 24 hours before using, then thawed
5 dl sugar
2 onions, chopped
2 red onions, chopped
1 tblsp lemon pepper spice (a mix of dried lemon peel and black peppercorns)
3 tblsp chushed allspice
2 tblsp crushed White pepper
2 crumbled bay leaves
1 bigh bunch of chopped dill

Pickling solution:

1 dl ättika 24%
7 dl water
0.5 dl salt


Pull the skin off of the herring fillets. Each fillet will split into two. Submerge these into the pickling solution and let it all sit for 24 hours in a cool place. Strain off the fluid.

Mix together the chopped onions, spices and dill. Then add the sugar and give it a quick stir.

Layer the fish and spice mix in a tall glass jar. The layered effect is very decorative, hence the see through jar! You don't need to add any liquid as this pickle will produce its own juice. Store it in a cool place for a day or so before eating.

Another recipe for Brantevikssill! This one I found in a book about the Swedish Herring Academy. The society was formed in 1985 and its purpose is to spread Scanian herring culture. They award diplomas to fishmongers and chefs who promote herring culture. This past christmas I made this Brantevikssill devised by Swedish (Scanian) chef Jan Boris Möller. He is known from TV and has published Cook books. Actually he is a fvourite of mine because he seems to possess a big portion of humour and doesn't take himself too seriously. He also cooks food that is simple and where flavour takes centre stage. Here is the recipe, which is has a little more spiciness to it than the other one:

serves 12-15 people if served as part of a smorgasbord


1 kg skinned herring fillet, frozen for 24 hours beforhand then thawed

Pickling solution:

1 liter of water
1.4 dl 24% ättika
2 tblsp salt

Spice mix:

40 crushed white peppercorns
40 crushed allspice berries
2 red onions
2 onions
2 tblsp lemon pepper
3 crumbled bay leaves
3 dl chopped fresh dill
some grated lemon zest

5 dl sugar


Make the pickling solution by mixing the water, ättika and salt in a big jar. Let the thawed fish fillets sit in the solution for 48 hours, in the fridge.

After two days, take the fish out of the solution.

Mix together the spices in a bowl. Do not mix in the sugar with the spices, or it may not be distributed properly!

Layer the fish, spice mix and sugar in a big bucket or jar. Let it sit in a cool place for a few days. You will notice that the fish release a lot of fluid, this is normal.

Salmon Rolls on bread, serves 4-6


200g sliced salmon
100g cream cheese
0.5 dl chopped dill
0.5 dl chopped basil
zest of one lemon, finely grated
4-6 slices of dark bread, for authentic Swedish flavour use Kavring, or rye bread.

Place the salmon slices on a sheet of cling film, so that they overlap slightly and form a large rectangle.

Mix the cream cheese with the herbs and lemon zest. Spread it onto the salmon. Roll it up like a swiss roll using the cling film. Wrap the roll in the film and place in freezer for an hour or more.

Using a cookie cutter, make little rounds of bread, roughly the same diameter as the salmon roll.

While the roll is still frozen, cut into slices one or two cm thick. Place the slices on the bread and let them thaw before serving.


Most Popular