Silakat (Finnish Herring)

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Silakat, or Finnish herring, is a beloved dish in Finland, celebrated for its simplicity and rich flavors that reflect the country’s strong maritime heritage. Herring has been a staple in Finnish cuisine for centuries, owing to its abundance in the Baltic Sea and its versatility in preparation. This recipe showcases a traditional Finnish approach to herring, highlighting its delicate taste and the vibrant flavors of Nordic cuisine.


  • 500g fresh herring fillets
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 whole allspice berries
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Fresh dill, for garnish


  1. Prepare the Herring:
    • Rinse the herring fillets under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. Cut the fillets into bite-sized pieces and place them in a glass or ceramic dish.
  2. Prepare the Pickling Liquid:
    • In a saucepan, combine the white vinegar, water, sugar, salt, allspice berries, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar and salt dissolve completely.
  3. Pickling the Herring:
    • Once the pickling liquid is ready, remove it from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Pour the warm pickling liquid over the herring fillets, ensuring they are fully submerged. Add the thinly sliced onions on top.
  4. Marinate:
    • Cover the dish with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld. The longer the herring marinates, the more flavorful it becomes. It’s ideal to marinate for 2-3 days for best results.
  5. Serve:
    • Before serving, remove the herring from the pickling liquid and arrange on a serving platter. Garnish with fresh dill for added flavor and presentation.

Tips for Serving:

  • Accompaniments: Silakat is traditionally served as a cold appetizer or part of a Finnish smorgasbord (buffet), accompanied by rye bread, boiled potatoes, and sour cream.
  • Storage: Store leftover silakat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. The pickling liquid can be reused for a second batch of herring or discarded after use.
  • Variations: Some variations of silakat include adding mustard seeds or black peppercorns to the pickling liquid for a slightly different flavor profile.

Cultural Significance:

In Finland, herring holds cultural significance beyond its culinary appeal. It’s often enjoyed during festive occasions like Midsummer celebrations or Christmas feasts. Its availability and preparation methods vary regionally, with each area boasting its own traditional recipes and techniques.


Silakat, or Finnish herring, exemplifies the simplicity and elegance of Nordic cuisine. With its delicate yet flavorful profile, this dish continues to be cherished among Finns and enjoyed by visitors seeking an authentic taste of Finland’s culinary heritage. Whether served as an appetizer or part of a larger meal, silakat offers a delightful blend of sweet, salty, and tangy flavors that reflect the rich maritime traditions of the Baltic Sea.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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