Smoked Herring and Potato Salad Recipe

Harengs pommes à l’huile — literally, herring and potatoes with oil — is a great classic among French hors-d’oeuvres, one that you’ll still find on brasserie and traditional (or neo-traditional) bistro menus.

{I’ll take this opportunity to mention this formidable project from the New York Public Library Labs: What’s on the menu? is a digitized collection of restaurant menus dating back to the 1850’s, and harengs pommes à l’huile appears in quite a few of them.}

It’s easy to see what’s so winning about the combination: the strength of the herring, salty and smoky, is mitigated by the potato slices, sweet and still warm, their edges softened by a rapid tossing in a tangy vinaigrette.

It’s everything a winter dish should be: nutritious, filling, with a bright herby note from the chervil, and a nice edge of acidity and bite from the lemon juice and onion.

It’s everything a winter dish should be: nutritious (herring has all the good kinds of fat and is low on the food chain), filling (the staying power of the potato), with a bright herby note from the chervil, and a nice edge of acidity and bite from the lemon juice and onion. It’s also quick, cheap, and sustainable, and no one complains about that, either.

The smoked herring you use should be somewhat salty — such is the nature of smoked herring — but not overly so. Try a small piece: if it is pleasantly salty, you can use it as is. If it is uncomfortably salty, soak the fillets overnight in milk or water, ideally placing the fish on a small rack so it doesn’t touch the bottom of the container, where the excess salt will collect. Drain, rinse, and pat dry.

Smoked herring has many more uses, such as rillettes, a rough-textured spread for appetizer toasts, a parmentier with broccoli, or croquettes such as these. If you have a favorite recipe, I’d love to hear about it!

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Smoked Herring and Potato Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 22 minutes

Serves 3 to 4.

Smoked Herring and Potato Salad Recipe


  • one very small onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon strong Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 500 grams (1 pound 2 ounces) small new potatoes, evenly sized, about 8, scrubbed but not peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) deboned fillets of smoked herring (sold as harengs doux in France, these should not be overly salty; if very salty or salt-crusted, desalt as outlined above), cut into bite-size pieces
  • a small bunch of chervil (substitute parsely or cilantro), roughly chopped


  1. In a medium salad bowl, combine the onion, salt, mustard, and lemon juice. Let rest to take the edge off the onion.
  2. Place the potatoes in a pan of (unsalted) water. Cover, bring to a low boil, and cook for 12 minutes, or until cooked through and tender (test with the tip of a knife). Drain and let rest until just cool enough to handle, then slice into 1.5-cm (1/2") rounds.
  3. Whisk the olive oil into the onion mixture. Add the potatoes and toss to coat. Add the fish and herbs, and stir gently to combine. Serve immediately for a warm salad; any leftovers can be eaten cold the next day, with the optional addition of mâche lettuce.
  • I’ve always been a bit wary of cooking herring but this looks so easy and delicious! Thank you for sharing!

    xx Kait


  • sophie

    where do you get your smoked herring in paris? i’d love to make this at home but wouldn’t know where to look!

    • Hareng doux is readily available at most every supermarket, in the fish aisle, but the one I’ve used lately comes through La Ruche qui dit oui!, a great site that allows consumers to order directly from producers.

      • Chris Madsen


  • Sophie

    great, thank you! i’m signed up for la ruche, but haven’t been available on thursday nights yet (the night my local ruche meets). i’ll check out a supermarket version, then.

  • I never cooked with herring before but you totally convinced me. This sounds fantastic!

  • The first time I ever had this was in a little bistro in Tours; I loved it but inexplicably never thought to make it at home, despite it being an obviously easy dish (plus my love of smoked fish). I look forward to finally filling that gap!

  • msue

    This will be our lunch today – at least a slightly adapted version. Using the smoked trout we have on hand, plus some very tiny potatoes that are about the size of marbles, plus some garbanzos, all tossed with mache and baby kale with your lemon dressing. Such a lovely recipe! Thank you, Clotilde!

  • mason

    Any suggestions for using pickeled herring?

    • I’ve never cooked with, or used pickeled herring, sorry!

    • b miller

      We eat it as is, as a buffet snack, on game day. It’s great with rye crackers.

  • david roberts

    simon hopkinson’s recipe for marinated smoked herring, in oil with onion,carrot,fennel etc., with potato salad in Gammon and Spinach p 73 is excellent too

  • Alexander

    Great recipe!It is still good, even if you can’t find the smoked herring.

  • Chris Madsen

    The French habit of chucking it into a large bowl of torn salad leaves and tossing all together – which I normally use for confit de gesiers – works well, too.

    • Yes! Love it.

      • Chris Madsen

        Did it tonight. Had no chervil or parsley, so added finely sliced stalk of celery instead. Substituted shallot for onion and lightly cooked that before adding potatoes to pan.
        On reflection, a few capers might have been interesting. But we are happily fed :) Thanks for the idea. x

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