What Do Kippers Taste Like? A Comprehensive Guide

If you’ve ever heard the word ‘kippers’ and wondered what they taste, you’re not alone!

Kippers have a salty, smoky flavor and a slightly fishy taste. They have been enjoyed for centuries worldwide but remain an enigma for many – even among seasoned foodies.

This comprehensive guide will look at precisely what they are and how they differ from other fish. So if you’re curious about these unique smoked fish treats, let’s dig in!

What Do Kippers Taste Like?

kippers breakfast with toast
Kipper breakfast with butter and toast. Credit: canva

Some say they taste like bacon, while others find them somewhat bland. Whether you love them or hate them, there’s no denying that the fish items are an engaging culinary experience!

Are kippers tasty?

This is a matter of opinion. Some people love them, while others find them too fishy or salty. The finest ones are pale copper and have delicate flesh that pulls away readily from the bone when cooked.

If you’ve never had a kipper, we recommend trying them! You might just be surprised by how much you like them.

Do sardines taste like kippers?

No, they don’t. As we mentioned, kippers are herring that have been smoked, while sardines are small, oily fish that have been canned or pickled. They are less salty, milder in flavor, and drier than sardines. However, this is due to curing and smoking, not a hard-and-fast rule.

Sardines have a strong flavor that some people compare to anchovies. They are often used in Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. They may be packed in plain water but are commonly immersed in oil, mustard, hot sauce, or tomato sauce, which becomes the prominent flavor of the can.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “what do kippers taste like?” the answer is an unmistakable salty, smoky flavor with a slight fishy undertone.

About Kippers

kippering process
Kippering process. Credit: canva

If you’ve never had a kipper, you’re in for a treat! They are a type of smoked herring popular in the United Kingdom.

They are usually eaten as part of a full English breakfast menu but can also be enjoyed as a snack or an appetizer. 

They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a natural vitamin D. They are also a good source of protein and low in calories.

What kind of fish are kippers?

Kipper, also known as British kipper, is an iconic British breakfast dish. It is a whole herring sliced in half from head to tail, gutted, salted, or pickled, then typically smoked.

Herring is a saltwater fish that belongs to the family Clupeidae. This family also includes anchovies, sardines, and sprats.

How to prepare

Kippers are usually prepared by gutting and filleting the fish, then salting and smoking it – known as the “kippering process.”

The smoking process can be done either by hot-smoking or cold-smoking. Hot smoking involves cooking fish, while cold smoking does not.

Are kippers and sardines the same thing?

No, they don’t. Kippers are herring that have been smoked, while sardines are small, oily fish that have been canned or pickled.

Sardines can grow larger, but larger fish are reserved for sale as fresh whole sardines rather than canning. However, they both belong to the family Clupeidae, so they’re similar in many ways.

Most kippers are Atlantic Herring, while sardines are usually Pilchard or Sprat. Much different fish within and outside the family Clupeidae are sometimes labeled as sardines, including Atlantic Herring.

kipper snack with crackers
Kipper snack with crackers. Credit: canva

How to Eat

How do you eat kippers?

There are many different ways to enjoy them! They can be eaten hot or cold and with various accompaniments. They can be grilled, baked, or fried. The smoked fish can also be eaten cold directly from the tin.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try for breakfast! Some people eat them with eggs, toast, and tea for breakfast. Others enjoy them as a snack or sandwich with crackers or bread.

These fish treats can also be used in recipes like pate or fishcakes.

Can you eat kippers raw?

No, it would be best if you don’t do that. Kippers are cured, which means they have been treated with salt or brine to preserve them.

This also makes them safe to eat without cooking. However, we do not recommend eating them raw because of the strong flavor. If you want a milder taste, try the cooked ones instead.

Best way to cook

scottish breakfast fried kippers scrambled egg
Scottish breakfast with fried kippers and scrambled eggs. Credit: canva

There are many ways to cook the fish items, but we think the best way is to fry them.

Heat some oil in a pan over medium heat, then add the fish and cook for about three minutes per side. If you want crispy skin, try flouring or breadcrumbs before cooking. Serve with lemon wedges, and enjoy!

Easy Recipes

Smoked Kippers With Scrambled Eggs

This breakfast is on the day of freshly smoked fish and scrambled eggs, with lashings of hot buttered toast and mugs of steaming tea.

They are not just breakfast food but can be served for lunch or supper.


  • 2 kippered herring fillets
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt
  • white pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1⁄4 cup milk
  • 2 slices of whole-wheat toast (per person)
  • 1⁄2lemon, cut into wedges


  1. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over low heat and cook the fish for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, curry powder, milk, 1 tablespoon of butter, and salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a second frying pan/skillet, gently scramble the eggs.
  4. Serve both with hot buttered toast and lemon wedges.

Smoked fish sliders with kippers

These little smoked fish sliders are perfect for a summer party.


  • 12 slider buns
  • 24 slices of cucumber
  • mayonnaise to taste
  • Dijon mustard, to taste
  • 24 kippered herring fillets
  • lettuce leaves (optional)


  1. Mix the mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Slice the cucumber into thin rounds and set them aside.
  3. Cut the herring fillets into small pieces and set them aside.
  4. Assemble the sliders by spreading some of the mayonnaise mixtures on each bun, then top with a piece of kippered herring, a slice of cucumber, and a lettuce leaf (if used).
  5. Serve immediately. Enjoy!


  • How to store: Fresh kippers are best consumed within a week but may be kept longer if frozen. Vacuum-packing will also extend their shelf life and prevent pungent or fishy smells from tainting your refrigerator.
  • Where to buy: If you’re looking for fresh kippers, your best bet is to head to a local fish market or order them online. Canned ones can be found in most supermarkets.
  • How long do they last? Kippers will last up to two weeks if stored properly in the refrigerator. You can also freeze them for up to three months.
  • Choosing the best kippers: Look for bright orange or pink ones. They should also be free of any dark spots or blemishes. Avoid those that smell too fishy, which is a sign of spoilage.

If you’re unsure how to choose the best-smoked fish, ask your fishmonger for help.


What’s the difference between sardines and kippered snacks?

There are a few key differences between sardines and kippered snacks. Sardines are typically smoked whole, while kippered snacks are made from fillets.

Sardines are also often canned, while kippered snacks come fresh or frozen. Finally, sardines have a more intense flavor than kippered snacks.

How should I eat kippered snacks?

There are many different ways to enjoy kippered snacks. They can be eaten raw, cooked, or canned. Kippers are often served with eggs, toast, and lemon wedges. They can also be used to make sliders or sandwiches.

Can I eat kippered snacks if I’m pregnant?

Yes, you can eat kippered snacks when you’re pregnant. However, choosing fresh, high-quality kippers is essential to avoid foodborne illnesses. You should also cook them thoroughly before eating.

Do kippers have bone?

Yes, they have a bone. However, the bones are typically removed before they are sold. If you’re concerned about bones, ask your fishmonger for boneless.

What does canned herring taste like?

Canned herring has a strong, fishy flavor. It is often salty and may have a metallic taste. If you’re not a fan of fish, you may not enjoy canned herring. However, some people find that the taste of canned herring improves with time.

You can likely find pickled herring in the seafood department of your local supermarket.

Are kippers better than sardines?

There is no clear consensus on which one is better. It depends on your personal preferences. Some people prefer the intense flavor of sardines, while others find kippers to be milder and more palatable.

Also, eating them will get the same health benefits as eating fresh sardines. Ultimately, deciding which type of fish you prefer is up to you.

Are kippers similar to mackerel?

Both fish are both types of oily fish. They have a similar taste and texture, but kippers are typically smoked while mackerel is fresh. They are also usually filleted, while mackerel is often sold whole.

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