Smoked Herring Recipe

30.1.21 | Recipe by Renz

A breakfast option that would transport you to the Caribbean in less than 30 minutes. A sautéed herring dish with onions and tomatoes. Just grab a slice of bread and dive in.

A bowl of cooked smoked herring with tomatoes, onions and scallion

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Let me introduce you to another salted meat we love using. This is smoked herring.

Considered the other "salt fish", it is primarily used by us in the Caribbean as a breakfast item. It's a cousin to saltfish. In fact, you can replace it anywhere saltfish is used.

It's normally sautéed up with some onions, fresh tomatoes, and hints of pepper and paired with some delicious fried bake.

What is smoked herring?

Packaged smoked herring fillets from the store

A small fish with flaky meat that is very rich in omega-3. It is also sometimes referred to as kipper.

We enjoy eating this fish smoked and salted.

It was customary in the early days to smoke meats so that it kept longer. Not many people had refrigerators, so they had to make sure their food lasted as long as possible.

Now we smoke the meat just to get that specific unique taste.

For the stages of smoke, the fish is heavily salted, which is then left to continue to dry on a smoker, which results in it having a heavy smokey flavor.

It has a very strong flavor and a very strong smell. People either really don't like it or they really really like it.

You will find it either as a whole fish or being sold as fillets. Fillets are usually more expensive to buy but it's a little less work.

When bought whole, the skin is still on and it obviously still has bones.

To make it the way we do in the Caribbean, you would need to debone, shred and also remove the salt, in preparation for eating.

How to prepare sautéed herring

Your list of ingredients will include:

Ingredients of herring, pepper, tomatoes, onions and garlic

  • Smoked herring - if you can find them already fillet that would be best. It's a little more expensive but it is less work to use to cook. Whole also works.
  • Fresh tomatoes - nice juicy tomatoes are the best option for this to add some "sauce".
  • Lime juice - this is optional but gives the mix a nice tart addition. You can also obviously use lemon juice.
  • Onions - some people love lots of onions. So if you want to use more, add them.
  • Thyme
  • Scallions
  • Garlic
  • Hot pepper - With or without seeds. If you want it to be spicier use the seeds and the membrane.
  • Oil - any one of your choice can be used here.
  • Cup with hot water.
  • Some people would also add green peppers (or any color bell pepper).

Since we are using herring fillets, we do not need to boil the fish. If we had gotten whole fish, we would give it a 5- to 10 minutes boil in water, then when cooled, cut it up and shred it.

Shredding is basically removing the meat from the bones, as much as you can. You cannot remove all the bones. They are really small fine ones. Even with the fillet pieces, you still sometimes get a lot of bones in there.

With the fillets, we cut them up and then shred them. We then take the boiling water and pour the water over herrings. Leave it to soak for a bit. This step is used to remove excess salt.

Repeat this step until you get to the level of salt that you desire. If you later find you have removed too much, don't worry, you can re-add later.

Now in a heavy iron pot or dutch pot, heat the oil. Then add your garlic, onion, flavor pepper, and hot pepper to the oil and saute.

Pour that hot oil mixture over the drained herring.

Shredded herring with tomatoes

Add the chopped tomatoes and mix. Taste for salt and pepper here and add more if desired.

Add in the scallions. Or if you have chives.

Let sit for a little so flavors continue to combine.

Then you are ready to serve.
Finished herring with avocado and fry bake

What to pair it with?

Sautéed herring for me, is best with some fried bakes. Just add some avocados and it is the best breakfast ever. Or even pair it with some coconut bakes.

If you want to make this a lunch/dinner option you can add some ground provision options like boiled cassava, and sweet potato, boiled plantains, and even dasheen. Then there's also rice or dumplings as options.

Or just have it plain and simple with some bread. I know people make it into a pate form and eat them as a snack with crackers.
Fried bake stuffed with smoked herring and avocado

Additional Tips

This can be made a day ahead for any gatherings. Either by a couple of hours and left to sit covered. If overnight, it can be placed in the fridge. Once back to room temperature, it's good to go.

It also lasts well in the fridge for a couple of days, sealed in an airtight container. A quick warm-up in the microwave or on the stovetop. Just add a little oil to a pot and sauté it up till heated through.

A bowl of smoked herring with avocado slices and an avocado

Check out some other Caribbean breakfast ideas: