Proper South African Pickled Fish

Pickled fish is a Cape Malay speciality, normally eaten at Easter, together with hot cross buns. The recipe was originally devised by Cape Malay fishermen in an effort to preserve their catch for as long as possible. It’s a delicious South African meal, tangy and spicy, best served with salads or just on its own with some crusty bread. Serve it hot or cold, depending on the weather and your mood.

Pickled Fish

Servings: 8-10   Time: 30 mins   Difficulty: Easy 


  • 2kg filleted fish
  • 30ml vegetable oil
  • 750ml grape vinegar
  • 250ml water
  • 200ml sugar
  • 15ml turmeric
  • 30ml curry powder
  • 7ml salt
  • 15ml whole black peppercorns
  • 15ml whole coriander seeds
  • 4 large onions, finely sliced
  • 6 bay leaf or lemon leaves
  • 2 green or red chillies seeded and sliced
  • 4 thin slices green ginger
  • 45ml cake flour


  1. Cut the fish into slices, about 4-5cm each
  2. Fry in hot oil until cooked and drain on paper towel
  3. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, curry powder, salt, peppercorns, and coriander seeds in a large saucepan and bring to the boil
  4. Add the onions, bay or lemon leaves, chillies and ginger – cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the onions are limp but slightly crunchy
  5. Drain the pickling liquid into a clean saucepan (reserve the onion mixture) and bring to the boil
  6. Mix a little of the sauce into the flour to form a thin paste, then stir into the sauce and simmer lightly for 2 minutes to thicken slightly
  7. Layer fish and onions into a glass dish, pour over the sauce, cover and refrigerate

Set Of 3 Deep Dish Heat/Cold Microwave Oven Freezer & Dishwasher Safe Glass Dishes
Mix cocktails like a professional » This bakeware set can withstand temperatures between Fahrenheit (400°/-40°Celsius). Use it to cook your food and then place the leftovers in the fridge or freezer for convenient storage transparent glass allows you to monitor the cooking process and easily identify leftovers.

Pickled fish can be eaten as soon as it cools down. However, the flavour is even better after a couple of days.

Firm-fleshed snoek or yellowtail are the favoured fish to use, but hake or kingklip would do well too.

Firm fish will keep for up to 6 months in the fridge. Delicate fish such as hake or salmon can be kept for 2-3 months.

Wondering what to do with leftover pickled fish? Make pickled fish pâté, of course!

Pickled Fish Pâté


  • 1 can (400g) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup (125ml) plain yoghurt
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 500g pickled fish pieces, with onions and sauce separated
  • 1 packet (20g) flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper


  1. Mash beans, yoghurt, spring onions, pickled fish pieces, half the sauce and parsley together until coarse
  2. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Serve pâté with toasted bread

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