German Traditional and Vegan Herring – Fantastic Fake Fish

Cream Herring Dish

Cream Herring Dish

There is this traditional (northern) German dish. It’s a dish with steaming hot salt potatoes (peeled or not) served with a cold ‘herring salad’ or ‘cream herring’. It used to be a ‘poor people’s’ dish, but those times are long since gone and all sorts of poor people’s food has become quite popular, also because it often is pretty healthy. While I do eat some fish (in small doses), I like a challenge, so this recipe will give you two versions – one vegan and one traditional, which taste so similar that, if you don’t put them side by side, you probably can’t tell (and even if you do, it’s hard – I’ve let my guinea pigs (read: housemates) test it!).

Admittedly, you probably only like the vegan version if you also like fish. It comes out somewhat fishy-herring-y – somewhat also the point though *lol
Try it out, let me know what you think!

 Recipe: Cream Herring (or  not) – hard to spot

If you want to pickle the herring yourself (and you can get fresh herring), start early – it needs a day to ‘get there’ (it’s not my recipe, but brilliant and from honest-food – Swedish Pickled Herring).  The eggplant only needs a minimum of 1 h or so. You can, however prepare the vegan herring a couple of days in advance – I have kept it for 5 weeks on the kitchen counter (in winter=cold) and it lasted fine. The recipe is split in two parts – Preparing the Herring and Preparing the Cream Herring Dish.

If you want to make the real herring yourself, take the time to read through honest-food – Swedish Pickled Herring‘s recipe. I think it’s brilliant and there is nothing to add from my side. It also forms the basis for the vegan fake fish, but for that I will put the entire recipe here. You can also eat the pickled eggplant like real pickled herring – for example just like Rollmops on buttered bread in the morning.

Serves 4

Preparation: 30 min
Cooking: 1 h (20 min for eggplant, 40 min for potatoes)
Inactivity: 1 h – 4 h

Preparing the Herring

Real Herring

  • Bowl
  • Chopping board and knives


  • 400 g pickled herring (Bismarck/Rollmops)
  • 200 mL water to soak (if really herring is really salty)


  1. If the herring is strongly salted, soak it for about 30 min to 1 h in water.
  2. Drain well, once well soaked.

Vegan Herring

  • Bowl
  • Chopping board and knives
  • Saucepan or pot
  • Pickling jar


  • 2 L boiling water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 large eggplant (or two small)
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, red, thinly sliced
  • 0.25 L water
  • 0.5 L white wine vinegar
  • 30 g salt
  • 70 g sugar
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds, whole, yellow
  • 1/2 tsp allspice (pimento), ground or 2 tsp whole berries
  • 2 tsp pepper, black, whole corn
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 sheets nori seaweed (about 20 cm * 20 cm)
  • 2 Tbsp wakame seaweed
    (if you can’t find this, just use more nori)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce (vegan)
  • 1 Tbsp oyster (mushroom) sauce (vegan)
    (if you can’t find this, just use more soy sauce)


  1. If you want to prepare the vegan herring in advance, fill the pickling jar and its lid with boiling hot water to sterilize. Let sit until you have cut the onion and lemon, then empty it for use.
  2. Slice onion and lemon and place into the pickling jar.
  3. Peel the eggplant with a vegetable peeler and remove ends.
  4. Cut into 8 mm thick slices, about herring filet thickness.
  5. Cook for about 5 min, until semi-soft.
  6. Place the eggplant on top of the lemon and onion.
  7. Add all other ingredients in a pot and let come to the boil, until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
  8. Pour the pickling liquid with solids over the eggplant, onion and lemons, making sure all solids of the pickling liquid get into the jar and the jar is as full as possible for pickling.
  9. If you want to keep the eggplant for longer, place the lid on top.
  10. Let sit for at least 1 h.
  11. Use as is, or use for a cream herring recipe!
Cream Herring

Cream Herring

Preparing the Cream Herring Dish

In the picture, both, vegan and real herring, are shown. Which one is which?

  • Bowl
  • Chopping board and knives
  • Peeler, if you intend to peel your potatoes
  • Saucepan or pot
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Steamer basket that fits on your pot (or separate steaming setup)


  • 400 g pickled herring (Bismarck/Rollmops, soaked if necessary)
  • 1 large pickled eggplant
  • 1 nori seaweed sheet
  • 1 Tbsp wakame seaweedand
  • 1 apple
  • 1 onion, red
  • 2 gherkin, sour pickled (about 12 cm each)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 200 ml cream
  • 200 g sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper, cracked
  • 1 -2 tsp sugar (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar (or citric acid, to taste)
  • 8-12 medium-sized waxy potatoes (e.g. Nicola, Linda, Elvira)
  • 3 L boiling water
  • 4 Tbsp salt
  • 500 g green beans, stem removed


  1. Cut the herring (vegan or real) into mouth-sized bits (about 1 by  2-3 cm). Cut the nori, if making the vegan version and grind nori and wakame as much as possible.
  2. Remove the core of the apple and chop into 0.5 cm *0.5 cm *1cm cubes roughly.
  3. Cube the onion and gherkin likewise and add all chopped ingredients into a bowl. Add nori and wakame if making the vegan version.
  4. Add cream, stir and add sugar, salt, pepper and vinegar (and/ or citric acid) to taste.
  5. It can be eaten straight away (as soon as the wakame is softened-if you can’t wait, leave it out), but it’s best if marinated for 1 – 2 h in the fridge.
  6. Bring the water to the boil and wash or peel your potatoes (if you wish to do so). They will taste differently when peeled to un-peeled, but both are delicious.
  7. Add the potatoes to the water and turn the water to a simmer.
  8. Add the steamer on top (or steam separately).
  9. Simmer on low until a fork or knife stuck into the potatoes goes in easy. Waxy potatoes don’t fall apart that easy when cooked and are much firmer when being bitten.
  10. Arrange a portion of beans with the potatoes on a plate and add the cream herring!


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