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  • Polish Mama Cooks

Mackerel salad with pickled beets and walnuts - Polish flavored Spring salad

Smoked mackerel together with canned sardines are two of the more vivid flavors of my childhood, and smoked mackerel is still one of the most popular smoked fish in Poland.

I do not remember my mom, my grandma or grandaunt making a lot of dishes with any of the two fish. However, I do remember being terrified of every Friday on a ski or summer camp, when I knew I would have to eat them. Usually blended into some kind of bread spread with farmers cheeses or dill and pickles. Bleee!

However, that was a long time ago, in the 90’s. Nowadays, the flavors that horrified me back then, are the one that I feel the most excited to work with, because they bring so many memories.

Know what you eat

Mackerel is any of a number of swift-moving, streamlined food and sport fishes. Its name is also used for certain species of tuna and bonito. It can be found in temperate and tropical seas all around the world, along the coast line or offshore.

Mackerel is an important food that is consumed worldwide. It is quite cheap to purchase, easy to catch (so I’ve heard), easy to fillet and extremely tasty, and full of nutrients. As an oily fish, it is high in omega-3 fatty acids which makes it a great fish for hot smoking on a grill. However, King mackerel is a high-mercury fish, so it is better to opt for the lower mercury options like Atlantic mackerel.

Where to get a smoked mackerel?

In Poland you can find smoked mackerel almost anywhere, in the corner store, on a farmer’s market in one of the fish stations or in the big supermarkets.

In the USA I was able to find it online on numerous websites, not surprising I found it on amazon; also was able to purchase it in Walmart. However, the highest quality, vacuum sealed mackerel I buy in a Polish store, Kiełbasa Factory. You can buy one with head on or fillets. For some reason the head and the eyes staring at me is not my thing - I opt for the fillet options.

So if you have a Polish store near you they should definitely have it.

How can you engage your kids? Instead of watching TV.

When I am in a hurry and need to eat something quickly Netflix, or for now Paw Patrol are my best friends, especially when making those big meals like dinner. Please do not blame me.

But I love to engage my kids in making food, hoping that it will trigger their interest and appetite… Honestly that doesn’t work as often as I would hope so. But I still try.

If you have time and would like to engage your children in making something yummy and teach them some number and language along the way, here is what you can do with this recipe:

  1. They can wash the lettuce, they will love to play in water, and if you have one of the salad spinners, let them spin it until the lettuce is dry.

  2. The kids will have fun decorating the plate with the greens, so let them do! You can also give each of your kiddos their own plate. But mine love to make my food, not necessarily eat it :).

  3. If you have slightly older kiddos, my son is almost 5 years old. I bought him one of the safety knife for children, and let him chop the nuts. Of course closely supervised. If your kids are a bit younger, my daughter is 2, I put the nuts in a clean cloth and zip lock back, place it on a cutting board and supervise them while they use the meat tenderizer to crush the nuts. AGAIN, Please supervise them closely!

  4. They can pour all the ingredients into the jar for the vinaigrette. While they mix the ingredients, you can teach them some numbers - 3 tbsp of olive oil, 1 pinch of salt etc. If you are using a jar, they will be very happy to shake the jar by themselves.


Servings: 2 Time: 10 min



The salad

  • 0.35 lbs Smoked mackerel

  • 5 slices of pickled beets

  • 1/2 of an apple (cut into matchsticks)

  • 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts

  • Small amount of sunflower seeds

  • 1 cup of lettuce (iceberg, or your favorite one)

  • 1 cup of fresh baby spinach

  • 1 cup of arugula

The honey thyme vinaigrette

  • 3 tbsp of olive oil

  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

  • Salt and pepper

  • A pinch of squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh lemon thyme

  • 1 tsp of honey


Step by Step

  1. Wash all the greens, and dry them. Cut the lettuce into smaller pieces.

  2. In a small jar mix together olive oil, vinegar, honey, chopped thyme, lemon juice and salt & pepper, and shake it well.

  3. Rough chop the walnuts, and open a jar of pickled beets.

  4. On a big platter put all the greens, you can mix them or place them in rows.

  5. On top place the pieces of smoked mackerel (you can just tear the piece a part). Add the sliced beets and apples, and chopped walnuts and sunflower seeds.

  6. Pour the vinaigrette on top.

  7. Serve with a piece of bread.


  • If you do not have a small jar on hand, you can use a bowl and a fork to mix the vinaigrette. I like to use a jar with a lid, and just shake all the ingredients until they come together.

  • You can find pickled beets in the store, you can buy hole once and sliced once, for this recipe sliced will make your job easier and will not be so messy.



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