Herring: What is it? And how to cook it?

Herring can be cooked in different ways. It is delicious in salads, when marinated or cooked with sour cream. The flesh of fresh herring is cream-coloured and creamy. In this article you can read more about this healthy oily fish.

Chapter 1

What kind of fish is herring?

Herring is part of the herring family, a group of about 160 species. More than one third of all fish caught in the sea.

This fish lives in cold, temperate and tropical waters. Most herrings prefer salt water to fresh water, but they don’t stay in one place. They are known to perform large migrations. During the spawning period, they school together above spawning grounds to deposit their eggs on the seabed or on seaweed. It’s those migrations with high concentrations that have attracted fishermen from the start.


Haring has ensured that many regions, cities and traders in Northern Europe have become very wealthy. In Flanders (Belgium), this fish species saved the population from famine during the two world wars. It was the only fish species that could be fished under supervision at the time.

Herring are small fish. An adult herring can grow up to 30-35 cm long. They live about 10-25 years and are sexually mature from their 2nd to 3rd year of life. The size and weight of the herring depends on the size of the shoal in which it swims and the situation of the herring in the sea in general. For example, in warm sea water the fish will grow faster, but in a period of overfishing it will become smaller and reach sexual maturity earlier.

In addition, herring living in larger schools will remain relatively small due to competition between the fish. The size and weight of the herring is less important, as opposed to the sexual maturity of the fish. This is especially important for a herring, because the age and maturity of the fish determine its taste.

Chapter 2

Where do they come from?

Herring is one of the most common fish species in the North Atlantic, both in the East and in the West. This pelagic fish swims in large schools. Thanks to the color camouflage, blue on the back and silvery white on the belly, this fish is less likely to be noticed by their natural enemies.

Chapter 3

How does herring taste?

Herring tastes a bit salty and fresh. It’s not really good when herring tastes watery or salty. Good herring also has a tender structure and a fat taste. The color of the inside must be white, but bright red is also perfect. If you bite into a herring, it should not have any leftover guts or scales left.

In addition, good herring has a bright silver skin with a golden glow on its head. If you see herring that’s dark red on the spine, you know it’s not a good fish. It is also better to leave herring with a strong smell.

Chapter 4

Is herring healthy?

Herring falls under the category of ‘healthy oily fish’, just like salmon and mackerel. It contains good fat, namely omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fats help protect against cardiovascular disease. And the omega-3 fatty acid ‘DHA’ supports the functioning of the brain.

It’s an oily fish. So it’s a healthy choice that’s included in the Wheel of Five. It’s advised to eat fish once a week, preferably oily fish. Oily fish consists of more than 5% fat and can be bought in stores or at the fish stall.

Chapter 5

How do you eat herring?

There aren’t really any rules for eating herring. They’re often eaten whole or in pieces with pickles or onions. If you want, you can also eat herring without pickles or onions.

Chapter 6

How to cook herring?

You can grill fresh herring. But smoked and marinated herring is also very tasty. After all, this fish is jawed immediately after being caught: the organs are removed, except for the pancreas.

Enzymes in the pancreas then allow the fish to ripen. The herring is then salted and put in a barrel. Finally, they freeze the fish for at least 24 hours.

How do you clean the fish?

To clean herrings, do the following:

  • Cut the belly open and remove the belly band.
  • Then remove the organs.
  • Cut off the dorsal and anal fins. Cut as sparingly as possible so that the fillet is not damaged.
  • Turn the herring over and cut across the backbone to about the middle. Don’t cut all the way through. The tail fin must remain in place.
  • Remove the blue skin from head to tail. Peeling off the skin is tricky. Gently grasp the skin just below the head and pull it off in one go. Do that on both sides.
  • Place the fillet knife on the bone just behind the head and then push the fillet loose from the head with the back of the knife and fold the top fillet open and away from you.
  • Insert the blade under the spine at the back of the spine. In this way you push the bone away from the bottom fillet.
  • You now have two fillets, connected by the tail. Now break through the spine about 1 cm from the tail fin.
  • Trim the outside edges and remove as many leftover bones and other debris as possible.
  • Check whether any bones are still present and scrape the fillets if necessary. Also remove the leftover skin.

How do you fillet the fish?

When filleting herring, you almost always start from the head to the tail. You then fillet in the direction of the bones. If you don’t do that and you go off the tail, you cut off the bones and they can end up in the fillet.

Frying it in a pan

You can fry herring whole or separate the two fillets. You then take a large frying pan and heat oil in it. Use a generous amount of oil so that you get a nice crunch and the fish is fried well.

When the oil is hot, fry the fish for a few minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Then you can serve the fish as desired.

Chapter 7

Recipe: Herring salad beetroot and a poached egg

Geen beoordelingen

Herring salad with baby potatoes, beetroot and a poached egg

A delicious herring salad made with baby potatoes, beetroot and a poached egg.
Prep time20 minutes
Cooking time15 minutes
Servings: 4 persons
Author: Cultiviz


  • 600 grams baby potatoes
  • 4 red beets cooked
  • 2 apples
  • 2 slices white bread
  • 4 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 1.5 tbsp green herbs parsley, chervil finely chopped
  • ½ lemon juice
  • 4 pcs herring
  • 4 poached eggs
  • lump butter
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • black pepper freshly ground
  • salt


  • Brush the baby potatoes well and cut them in half or possibly into quarters. Boil them in salted water for about 15-20 minutes. Drain and let it release all the steam. Do not rinse them with water.
  • Add the butter to the pan and wait for it to sizzle. Meanwhile, cut the bread into small cubes and bake golden brown and crispy croutons.
  • Cut the beets and the apple into cubes that are not too small and mix them with the boiled baby potatoes.
  • Mix the Greek yogurt with the finely chopped herbs and lemon juice and season it with salt and pepper.
  • Dress the salad with part of the yoghurt dressing and leave it in the fridge to marinate for an hour.
  • Arrange the salad in deep plates. Cut the herring into strips and place them on the salad. Sprinkle with the croutons and place a lukewarm poached egg in the centre of the salad.
  • Garnish with some finely chopped apple and top it with chervil if desired.

Chapter 8

All recipes

Looking for more inspiration? Then see below more recipes with halibut. Or check our fish recipes for even more inspiration.

Herring salad with baby potatoes, beetroot and a poached egg

Herring is a type of small, oily fish belonging to the Clupeidae family. They are [...]