Salmon Cakes

Friday, September 26th, 2008

I love crab cakes. But at least here in Johnstown, refrigerated crab meat is expensive enough that making crab cakes on a regular basis is impractical. But there is an affordable alternative that tastes almost as good: Salmon cakes. Canned salmon is inexpensive and is a great substitute; you can find it near the canned tuna at pretty much any decent supermarket.


  • 2 cans salmon (15.75oz each)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • lots of pepper
  • Spices:
    • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • Or whatever else strikes your fancy
  • 1 large onion, diced fine
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • bacon fat or frying oil (peanut, canola, sunflower, or soy oil)


  • mixing bowl
  • can opener
  • fine strainer
  • griddle or large skillet (cast iron is best, but any heavy pan will do)
  • Metal spatula-like device: an offset spatula is best
  • Wire rack for draining: for best results, turn the rack upside-down in contact with newspaper.


  1. Drain the salmon into a strainer. Pick through the fish and remove any backbone or other large bones, if present
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and spices and toss
  3. Add the salmon, eggs, and onion to the bowl. Combine the ingredients with your hands. The mixture should be somewhat sticky. If it is dry, add another egg.
  4. Form the cakes with your hands:
    • The cakes can be any size from half-fist to fist sized. The cake should be a disc about twice as wide as it is thick… I can typically make 10 large-ish cakes from this recipe.
    • Squeeze in both hands to compact into roughly the correct shape.
    • While holding in the palm of one hand, cup your other hand around the outside of the cake to form it into a round.
  5. Heat the griddle on medium heat and add the frying fat.
  6. When water gently sizzles in the fat (3-4 minutes), add the cakes. It’s ok to place them close together.
  7. Turn when the first side is brown… I prefer a dark mahogany (~7 minutes), but many people prefer a more golden color (~5 minutes)
  8. When the second side is done, remove to the wire rack for draining and cover with foil. Serve immediately.

Service Suggestions

  • For a dipping sauce prepare sour cream with chives, or tartar sauce if you’re feeling very traditional.
  • Salmon cakes work well as a main dish, but you could also make smaller ones as hors d’œuvre or in a surf-n-turf combo.
  • On a cold day, pair with a warm vegetable soup.
  • On a warm day, pair with a cucumber salad.
  • Serve with Sauvignon Blanc or Corona.


Canned Salmon typically has a lot of added salt. You don’t need to add any salt, and I’d avoid salted seasoning blends (Old Bay) as well. Because the salmon is fully cooked, feel free to check for seasoning before frying.

I’ve seen recipes where the cakes are breaded before frying, typically with crushed saltine crackers. I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

If you are like me and instinctively add garlic to any dish calling for diced onions, please resist the temptation.