Smoked Herring Recipe

January 30, 2021

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 slices 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 persons 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 to 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
Hot pepper - With or without seeds. If you want it to be spicier use the seeds and the membrane
Oil - any of one of your choice can be used here
Cup with hot water
Some people would also add in 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 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 avocadoes 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:

Cornmeal porridge
Coconut bake biscuits
Tomato choka
Hard dough bread

Smoked herring recipe,
Breakfast, appetizers, snack
Yield: 6
Author: Renz
Smoked Herring Recipe

Smoked Herring Recipe

A delicious smoked herring choka. Smoked herring with onions and tomatoes with a hot garlic oil mix. Paired well with bake or bread.
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 5 Mininactive time: 15 MinTotal time: 30 Min



  1. Take scissors and cut the fillets into smaller sizes then shred the meat off using your hands. Discarding as much bones as possible.
  2. Add the shredded meat to a medium-sized dish
  3. Take boiling water and pour water over herrings. Make sure the water covers the fish.
  4. Leave to soak for about 10 minutes. This is to get rid of excess salt
  5. Throw water off and taste for salt. If still too salty, pour additional hot water onto fish and repeat.
  6. Add oil to a heavy pot, when heated add garlic, onions, flavor pepper, and hot pepper. Saute for 5 minutes
  7. Add hot oil mixture to the bowl of drained, shredded fish, and mix
  8. Add chopped tomatoes
  9. Taste for salt and pepper. Add if needed.
  10. Let sit so that flavors can combine.
  11. Serve 


  • Another method would be to add the smoked herring to the pan with the hot oil, garlic, onions, and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes. Remove from stove and add tomatoes.
  • If you got the whole herrings and not the fillets, remove the head and tails, then proceed with the recipe as normal.
  • If you taste the herring after scalding and think too much salt has been removed, simply add back your amount with regular salt
  • You can also boil the herring instead of scalding it with water. Just add to a pot of boiling water and boil for about 10 minutes.
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Renz HomeMadeZagat
Renz HomeMadeZagat

Hi guys, I’m Renz. I am the chief cook and bottle washer here at HomeMadeZagat. I am here sharing Caribbean recipes that I grew up eating and new ones I’ve fallen in love with over the years. I just want to showcase the amazing diversity of Caribbean food and that everyone can recreate these dishes.