In the can

Dinner:  March 25, 2008

Project Pantry Cull took another small step forward last night, as I pulled out a long-neglected can of Wild Alaskan pink salmon and turned it into surprisingly tasty salmon “burgers.” I feel a bit silly referring to them as burgers because they were really more like croquettes, but I served them on little wheat rolls with a lemon-caper mayo and sweet potato oven fries on the side, so the spirit of the burger was there.

These were extremely simple to prepare: I drained off the liquid from the salmon, placed it into a big mixing bowl and removed as much of the skin and little bones as I could. I added one finely minced large shallot, salt, pepper, a beaten egg and some plain dry breadcrumbs, then formed the mixture into patties (I ended up with 3) and placed them in the fridge for about half an hour to firm up. They got a quick fry in a bit of olive oil in a hot cast iron skillet for about 3 minutes per side, then a quick blot on paper towels before I placed them on the rolls and dressed them.

This was really the first time I have cooked with canned salmon, but I was impressed by the flavor, and you can’t beat the price – I think our whole meal easily came in at under $10 – so I’ll definitely want to keep it on hand as a pantry staple. I went a little light on the seasonings for my burgers, but I think there’s definitely room to play around there as well – some fresh herbs, spicy mustard or zingy Asian seasonings would all be great additions to future versions of this recipe. If you have any favorite ways to prepare canned salmon, I’d love to hear about them.

17 thoughts on “In the can

  1. I did mini salmon cakes as an hors d’oeuvre a few weeks ago. Not unlike yours — canned salmon, breadcrumbs, egg, scallion, cilantro, lemon juice. Formed into bite-sized patties, a quick chill, and then a fry in the cast iron, served with a wasabi mayonnaise dipping sauce. They went fast!

  2. Salmon croquettes are big time comfort food for my BF so I make them a lot, along with my mac & cheese. I add an obscene about of sliced scallions and a dash of cayenne to the salmon/breadcrumb/egg mixture. Sometimes I do a quick dredge in panko if I’m in the mood for a super crust. I serve with srirachi sauce and homemade seafood cocktail sauce, extra horseradish.

  3. Laura Grace says:

    You’re never going to believe this, but my mother got us to love salmon at, like, age four by making little canned salmon croquettes. Breadcrumbs, milk, egg, lemon juice, dill, pepper. I’m pretty sure we ate them with ketchup as kids…

    All of a sudden I’m imagining salmon falafel. Is that crazy? Using falafel mix instead of the breadcrumbs? Heck yeah.

  4. connie says:

    i like to do a play on the ‘crab cake on top of salmon’ by making small salmon cakes and serving it with whole crab and the works (i.e. lemon, butter sauce). very tasty!!

  5. eunny says:

    This looks wonderful! I’m a big fan of canned salmon, especially in the summer – good-quality (skinless and boneless!) fish makes a perfectly respectable too-hot-to-cook salad with cannelini beans, olive oil, and greens.

  6. My husband sometimes makes these, and they’re pretty similar sounding to yours -he uses the salmon cake recipe from Joy of Cooking, and I think of them as a great excuse to eat tartar sauce (although lemon-caper mayo sounds great, too). We don’t bother picking the bones out, though – they mash up pretty easily, and you can feel smug about all the calcium you’re getting 🙂

    Very handsome sweet potato fries, BTW.

  7. Laura Grace says:

    Oh oh oh! One more! A riff on the tuna-asparagus melts my mom used to make. Good golly, my mouth is watering.

    Toss salmon ever so gently with mayo or whatev, salt and pepper. And then…

    Toasted rye spread with
    Salmon mixture topped with
    Asparagus, lightly blanched, covered with
    Cheese of your choice

    Pop under the broiler until cheese is bubbly. Devour.

  8. My mom used to make salmon “patties” as she called them, and we just loved them! Thanks for reminding me of them, I may have to pick up some cans of salmon and make these for my boys.

  9. I’m with Claudia, what’s up with the fries? I know, I know, you are featuring the salmon, but, c’mon, you gotta give up the sweet potato fries!

    I will tell you that canned salmon is in my rotation. I like it in a patty with panko, chopped rosemary, and onion; topped with an aioli of the day. Usually I serve this with rice and a steamed veggie. Pretty uneventful, but really tasty.

    So, not to dismiss your patties, but those fries? Do tell.

  10. Rachel says:

    OK, this sounds and looks and smells disgusting in its pre-cooked form, but trust me, it’s wonderful when it’s done: Hot Salmon Sandwiches.

    3 Tbs. butter, softened
    2 tsp. yellow mustard
    1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    1 16-oz. can red salmon, drained and flaked
    4 large kaiser rolls, halved

    Cream butter and mustard; spread on both halves of buns. Combine remaining ingredients and place one fourth of mixture on bottom half of each bun. Put tops on buns and place sandwiches in shallow pan or on baking sheets. Cover completely with aluminum foil. Bake 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until sandwiches are hot and cheese is melted.

    Yum! And there’s room to play with different types of cheese, mustard, and bun…

  11. Rachel says:


    The buns get all toasted, not soggy at all.

    Forgot to mention, I do take out some of the bones — I’m all for getting a little extra calcium, but not when it’s in recognizable parts like individual vertebrae!

    Sandwich also good with a little bit of chopped onion mixed in, maybe 1/4 cup.

  12. Jennifer Hess says:

    Wow, you guys – thanks for all of the great ideas!

    As far as the sweet potato fries go, honestly, it’s not much of a “recipe” at all. I cut two smallish sweet potatoes into 8 wedges each, tossed them with a little olive oil, placed them on a sheet pan and cooked them in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes or so, turning them about halfway through. When they came out I sprinkled some coarse sea salt on top. Easy!

  13. simon says:

    when I was little we did a pseudo japanese night. This was my dad’s domain. He would roast a can of salmon with a teriyaki sauce he whipped up, and would serve it with some sushi rice, some umeboshi plums, toasted nori sheets, and various other japanese condiments and side dishes. A very cheap dinner (especially in the ’80s, in NYC) and yet very delicious, and easy enough for a dad to do. I have always kept a can of salmon on my pantry because of this.

  14. I make salmon cakes close to once a week and serve them on top of a salad. My method is very similar, but usually I add some pesto and sun-dried tomatoes for flavor. Also add a little plain yogurt to keep them moist. I bake them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Found that my using my SilPat to bake them on I can totally eliminate all the oil from the recipe. And, they still get crisp.

  15. js says:

    My goodness that looks just scrumptious.

    I have a couple of canned salmon in the pantry (very, very old) that I need to get rid of and I have never been able to figure out what to do with them. I’ve tried making salmon salad (in the vein of tuna salad) but we didn’t like them that much.

    I’ll try this and hopefully it’ll go over better.

  16. Kerri says:

    Oooh, yes, I want to know more about the mayo, too! 🙂

    We have a generations-old family recipe for salmon pie, an old French-Canadian dish, which I just made for the first time last Sunday. My mother made this several times a year when we were growing up, and I learned that it’s crucial to serve it with copious amounts of ketchup…not to mask the flavor, but to enhance it. (Got a homemade ketchup recipe to share, too?)

    Pie crust for a bottom and top (no need to precook)

    1 15ish-ounce can of red sockeye salmon (as much of skin and spine removed as possible, but don’t sweat the small bones)
    4 Maine (or other dry) potatoes, chunked, boiled, and mashed
    1 medium onion, finely chopped and sauteed until clear in 2 Tbsp butter
    2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
    salt and pepper to taste
    one egg

    Mush together the salmon, potatoes, onion — taste, and add lemon juice if your onion was too sweet. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the egg, then mush around until all the salmon is totally incorporated into the potatoes. And then stir some more. Then stir more. Fill the bottom crust (9″ pan) with the mixture, top with the second crust, crimp and trim edges, slit top to vent steam. Bake at 400 for about 50 minutes.

    Did I mention the ketchup?

    Salmon pie...DONE

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