In the metropolitan area where I live, there is truly a great selection of dried fish in various ethnic food stores, my favorite of which is herring. However, it is always very salty and I have a somewhat high blood pressure so the doc said keep my salt intake under control as well as I don't really like salty food very much.

Is the saltiness essential to the preparation of dried fish? Can the fish be as nicely dried/smoked without using so much salt? Finally, the most important question is, is there a way to desalinate the dried herrings that I otherwise like so much? E.g. I would make eggs with minced dried herring and not add any salt to the eggs, hoping that would neutralize the saltiness and the mix is still so salty I can barely eat it.

  • If they're smoked, the smoke acts a preservative, so they might not be salted quite so heavily ... but odds are, there'd still be a fair bit of salt (just maybe not quite as much). If it's sold packaged in the US, it should have the sodium content listed, but you'll want to make sure to normalize the portion sizes for comparison.
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 21:13

4 Answers 4


You are correct in that salt fish are very salty. Where we live salt herrings are a tradition. The way to remove the saltiness is to soak them, changing the water every few hours.

The trick here to really getting the saltiness out is to split the back. (The belly should already be split.) This is really important.

I once had someone cook them for my family and they were so salty you could barely stand to eat them. When asked if they had soaked the fish they replied that they had soaked them for two days! Then someone asked if they had split the back and, of course, the answer was no. They didn't know to do that.

If soaked properly the fish should not be totally fresh but should taste like fresh fish that you seasoned with salt.

  • I get them in fillets. they are mostly deboned.
    – amphibient
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 20:31
  • Wow! I've never seen them like that. So you won't need to worry about splitting the back!
    – Cindy
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 20:35
  • 1
    I just wanted to add to something @Cindy stated. She mentioned changing the water every few hours, but didn't mention an overall soaking time. Most preparations of salted fish recommend soaking the fish in water or milk for at least 24 hours. Personally, I learned to prepare salted fish by soaking it in milk and a lot of people swear by that method as opposed to soaking the fish in water. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 21:48

A wonderful classic dish from Europe starts with salt cod. You soak it for 24 hours with many changes of water, just in a bowl in the fridge, then cook it in milk until it softens. Then you make a mash from the cooked cod, some potatoes, and cloves of garlic that you gently cook in olive oil. Finally whip the olive oil into the mashed up fish/potato/garlic puree and grate fresh black pepper into it.

You can serve this as a warm spread for bread or you can use it as the basis of a gratin, with gruyere cheese grated over it and then baked in the oven until the cheese forms a brown crust. Delicious.

So if you want to experiment with salted fish, this is what I would start with. Quite easy to do and very inexpensive (salt cod is surprisingly cheap).

  • Nice answer:) But here salted cod is very expensive :( (!) Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 20:56

A good rule of thumb is to soak the fish for 1 day per centimeter of the thickest part of the fish. That's the general rule for dried fishin Norway.

  • I actually had dried fish today. Thickest part was 3cm and the fish had soaked for three days. Excellent meal!
    – Jørgen R
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 23:28

You could soak it in fresh water overnight, but then it won't be dry anymore of course.

  • is there a way to redry it ?
    – amphibient
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 20:27
  • 1
    @amphibient in the oven for a long time on a low temperature (150 or 175) maybe. Try experimenting.
    – Random832
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 20:32

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