Sillmacka (Swedish-Style Herring Sandwich)

One of the visitors to the blog (hi Mats!) asked if I could post a Swedish inspired recipe, preferably something with fish and/or horseradish. So, I decided to share my recipe for sillmacka (herring sandwich).  Sillmacka is a classic Swedish open faced sandwich featuring herring on dark rye bread. Sillmacka is usually served as part of the midsummer buffet, but can be eaten year round; I have it for lunch quite often. For those who might be wondering, midsummer is a celebration of the summer solstice. It’s one of the oldest holidays in Sweden and is celebrated each year on the Saturday between June 20th – 26th; this year it’ll be on June 25, 2022.  You can learn more about midsummer from the Swedish Institute (click on the link here) or by doing a Google search. Okay, let’s get back to making sillmacka.

Types of Herrings to Use and Where to Find Them

I used matjessills (soused herrings) for this sandwich, but you can also use inlagd sills (pickled herrings) or other Swedish-style marinated herrings (e.g., mustard herrings). Matjessills (also called maatjes, matjes herring, Dutch new herring) are young herrings that are caught before the mating season; this is when they’re the fattiest. They’re frozen after being caught, then cleaned and brined before being pickled in a mild solution of vinegar, sugar and spices; see Wikipedia for more detail. Inlagd sills are salted herring fillets that are pickled with strong vinegar (ättika), carrots, onions, sugar, and spices.

If you’re in Ontario, Canada, you can purchase maatjes and inlagd sills from Viking Foods & Import Inc. They import food directly from Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. You can order food from them online or go to their store. I’m not sure if Viking Foods ships to places outside of Ontario, but Ikea also sells maatjes and inlagd sills; you can only purchase them in store. If you’re not a stickler for authenticity, you can get maatjes and other pickled herrings from grocery stores like Fortinos, Loblaws, and City Market. People outside of Canada can search online for a Swedish/Scandinavian grocery store in their area. You can also make your own Swedish-style pickled herring; I haven’t tried that yet, but I’ll post my recipe for it once I figure it out. 

Other Required Ingredients

To make this sandwich, you’ll also need dark rye bread, butter, dill, and red onions. I also made a simple sauce using crème fraîche (you can substitute with sour cream or mayo), finely chopped dill, lemon juice, black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Boiled potato is often added to this sandwich. If you want to include it, just slice the potato like the eggs and layer it with the eggs.

Swedish-style pickled herrings are a bit on the sweet side, so I usually add a bit of salt to the eggs (and potatoes, if I’m including them) to balance things out. Taste the herrings that you’re using, if you haven’t had them before, and decide if you want to add salt to the eggs (and potatoes, if you’re using them). Some pickled herrings can be very salty, so be sure to do a taste test before you add additional salt.

You can substitute the rye bread with pumpernickel bread if you’d like. You can also add chives or replace the dill with chives. While, we don’t typically butter bread for sandwiches in North America, it’s commonly done in Sweden and makes for a very delicious sandwich; I mean, can you ever go wrong with butter?

I wrote quite a bit for the sake of those who might be new to Swedish food. However, this sandwich is super easy to make; it only takes a few minutes. The ingredient amounts and the steps to make the sandwich are on the printable recipe card below. Enjoy!

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sillmacka (swedish-style herring sandwich)
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Sillmacka (Swedish-Style Herring Sandwich)

Sillmacka is a classic Swedish herring sandwich. It is usually served as part of the midsummer buffet, but can be enjoyed at any time of the year. This sandwich includes matjes herring served on rye bread with butter, eggs, red onions, and a simple dill sauce.
Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Main
Cuisine: European
Keyword: herring sandwich, sandwiches, sillmacka
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 252kcal
Author: Mavis K.

Ingredients

For the Dill Sauce

  • 1 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 1 tsp dill finely chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Pinch of salt

For the Sillmacka

  • 1 slice dark rye bread
  • 1 tsp softened butter
  • 1 hard boiled egg (sliced)
  • 4-5 pieces matjessills (or other Swedish style marinated herrings)
  • dill sauce (recipe above)
  • 4 slices red onions
  • 1 leaf dill (garnish)

Instructions

For the Dill Sauce

  • Put all the ingredients for the dill sauce in a small bowl.
  • Use a spoon to mix all the ingredients together until the crème fraiche is smooth.

For the Sillmacka

  • Use a knife to spread the butter on the rye bread (I lightly toasted my bread beforehand, but you can use untoasted bread).
  • Layer the sliced eggs on top of the bread, then top with the herring pieces.
  • Spread the dill sauce on top of the herring and top with the red onions and garnish with a piece of dill.

Notes

  • This recipe only makes one sandwich, but you can double the recipe and so forth to make more sandwiches.
  • Swedish-style pickled herrings are a bit on the sweet side, so I usually add a bit of salt to the eggs (and potatoes, if I'm including them) to balance things out.
  • Other pickled herrings can be very salty, so be sure to do a taste test before you add salt to the other ingredients.

Nutrition

Calories: 252kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 189mg | Sodium: 324mg | Potassium: 233mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 534IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 2mg

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