Pickled herring, apples, onions, pickles and red beets are covered in a luscious creamy sauce with a beautiful pinkish-red hue. Herring fans will love this traditional German Red Herring Salad recipe!
Red Herring Salad Recipe
I’m originally from Stuttgart Germany but also lived a couple of years in north Germany near Hamburg where I was able to delve into its regional cuisine. Fish dishes abound in the north where citizens have access to the freshest of seafood from the North Sea. One type of fish in particular has become almost synonymous with north Germany: Herring. Specifically pickled herring. If you’ve ever visited Hamburg or any other towns in the northern region of Germany you’ve undoubtedly come across pickled herring in the form of Fischbrötchen (crispy sandwich rolls filled with pickled herring, onions, pickles, remoulade or mayonnaise), Rollmops (pickled herring roulades filled with pickles, onions and seasonings) and the dish we’re featuring today: Heringssalat or Herring Salad. This traditional herring salad recipe is sure to take you on a walk down memory lane.
Herring salad is likewise popular throughout Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, both the standard version and the “red” version. The herring salad I’m sharing with you today is the popular red version made with red beets that give the salad a beautiful pink hue. Known as German Roter Heringssalat, Norwegian and Danish Rød Sildesalat, Swedish Röd Sillsallad, and Finnish Punainen Sillisalaatti, this Red Herring Salad recipe features the traditional ingredients of pickled herring, onions, apples, red beets, pickles and dill enveloped in a creamy sauce.
Eating Pickled Herring For Good Luck!
In Germany, Poland and throughout Scandinavia it’s traditional to eat pickled herring at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve. Whether eaten as rollmops or in a salad, with its silvery scales that resemble silver coins, herring is said to bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.
This Red Herring Salad is traditionally enjoyed both for New Year’s as well as Christmas. With it’s pretty pinkish-red hue it is especially fitting for the Christmas season.
And whether you know this salad by the name of Roter Heringssalat, Rød Sildesalat, Röd Sillsallad, or Punainen Sillisalaatti, it is a dish that is guaranteed to please and unify pickled herring lovers both near and far.
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How To Make Red Herring Salad
Red herring salad is super easy to make.
- Make the cream dressing by whisking the oil, vinegar, pickle juice, salt and sugar together until emulsified and the salt and sugar and dissolved. Then stir in the sour cream, whipping cream, mayonnaise, mustard and chopped dill.
- Pour the dressing over the diced pickled herring, apples, beets, onions and pickles and carefully stir it until combined.
- Cover and chill the salad in the refrigerator for at least an hour or two before serving.
How To Serve Red Herring Salad
Boiled potatoes are traditionally served with herring salad as are hard-boiled eggs. To serve, lay some slices of boiled egg on top of a mound of herring salad along with a sprig of dill for an attractive presentation. You can also add some onions sliced in rings. Place some boiled potatoes next to it.
Alternatively this herring salad is also commonly served spread on crusty bread.
Some Germans like to incorporate the potatoes and eggs into the salad instead of serving them on the side. To do this simply dice the cooled boiled potatoes and/or hard-boiled eggs and add them to the salad with the rest of the ingredients before folding in the creamy dressing.
For more authentic German dishes, be sure to also try our:
- Käsespätzle (Cheese Spaetzle)
- Swabian Potato Salad
- Senfbraten (Roast Pork with Mustard Gravy)
- Pork Schnitzel
- German Potato Soup
- and many more! (click link for complete list)
German Red Herring Salad (Roter Heringssalat)
- 1/2 pound pickled (soused) herring fillets (German Bismarck herring or matjes herring), drained and diced small
- 2 medium apples , cored and diced small
- 1/3 pound cooked red beets , diced small
- 1 medium yellow or red onion , diced small
- 4-5 German pickles , diced small (authentic German pickles are key to the flavor, do not substitute with American pickles as they have a very different flavor)
- For the Creamy Dressing:
- 2-3 tablespoons pickle juice from the German pickles
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon German yellow mustard (tastes significantly different than American yellow mustard) (optional: some also like to add a touch of horseradish)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/4-1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons German mayonnaise (tastes significantly different than American mayonnaise)
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
- for serving: boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, crusty bread
- In a small bowl, whisk together the pickle juice, mustard, oil, vinegar, salt and sugar until emulsified and the salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir in the whipping cream, sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard and dill.
- Place the diced herring, apples, beets, onions, and pickles in a large bowl.Pour the dressing over the herring mixture and carefully stir until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the salad is thicker than you prefer, add a little whipping cream. If you prefer the dressing thicker, add more sour cream and/or mayonnaise.
- To serve, lay some slices of boiled egg over a mound of herring salad with a sprig of fresh dill. You can also add some onions sliced into rings. Place the potatoes next to the salad. Alternatively, spread the herring salad on crusty bread.Can serve 4 as a side or main dish or more people as an hors d'oeuvres.
Brigitte E. Sims says
This is sooo good! I leaned out the recipe a little by substituting the heavy cream with non-fat Greek yoghurt and used low fat sour cream; it still delicious. Shared this with my American friends who loved it as well.
Kimberly Killebrew says
I’m so glad, Brigitte, thank you for the feedback! :)