Resurfacing and Salmon Cakes

April 29, 2015(updated on October 18, 2023)
cans of salmon

It’s been a little over a week since I admitted my overwhelm and put up a picture of rhubarb. The book manuscript has made great strides since then and I’ve pulled myself together enough that I actually have something to say here! Oh glorious day.

I’m writing about salmon cakes (or patties, depending on your preferred nomenclature) today. They’re not the most glamorous of foods, but they are delicious, can often be made with just what’s in your fridge and pantry, and they make some of the best and most flavorful leftovers I know. And when you’re six days away from a deadline, meals that produce leftovers are absolutely key.

salmon patty ingredients

I’ve been making these cakes for the last four or five years, ever since my neighbor Lucille knocked on our door one evening and asked if we liked salmon cakes. She had made a full batch thinking her daughter was coming over for dinner, but she had gotten the night wrong. Would we like some?

Up until that point, I didn’t have much of an opinion about salmon cakes but I love eating food other people have prepared (because no matter how much I change up the spices, my food somehow always tastes like my food) and so I happily accepted Lucille’s salmon cakes. We ate them for dinner that night and decided that salmon cakes should be a regular player in our dinner routine.

I asked Lucille for her recipe and made them just once as written. I’ve since tweaked and altered the recipe enough that I feel comfortable calling it mine.

finished salmon patties

One of the things I really love about these salmon cakes is that they are best made with canned salmon. If you’ve never worked with the canned stuff before, be prepared for the fact that the filets will come out of the cans with some skin and bones remaining.

I handle this by spreading the drained filets (if you have a cat, save them the liquid and they will love you forever) out on a plate and using a fork to remove the skin and the biggest bits of the bones. It’s fine to leave the tiny pin bones behind because they’ve been cooked to the point of crumbling and are a good source of calcium.

Taking my lunch to go today. Two homemade salmon cakes, farro, pickled turnips, and some sad grape tomatoes, all over arugula. Oh, and a dressing of yogurt and homemade relish for the salmon. #lunch #lifefactory #teamyogurt

Once you’ve picked through the salmon, it’s just a matter of chopping a few things, breaking a couple eggs, and mashing it all together. The cakes are fragile and it won’t seem possible that they’ll hold together, but once you get the first side nice and browned, they will flip and hold their shape nicely.

Normally we eat these cakes as-is, but last night just as we were sitting down to eat, my husband asked, “Do we have any relish?”

Now, if you know me, you’ll know to be amused by that remark. Of COURSE we have relish. I pulled out a jar of last summer’s batch of this cucumber and green pepper relish. He stirred a forkful into a generous dollop of mayonnaise for a slapdash tartar sauce. We ate our cakes over greens with Scott’s sauce and all felt right with the world.

A note: I use parmesan cheese in these cakes instead of the more traditional bread crumbs. The reason for that is that Scott is often on a low carb diet. Plus, the parmesan melts a little during cooking and helps hold the cakes together really nicely. However, if you want to reduce the amount of fat in these cakes or make them a little more affordable, feel free to use bread crumbs. Just make sure to add some salt. I don’t use any because the cheese adds plenty.

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Salmon Cakes


  • 2 14.75 ounce cans of salmon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 1/3 cup minced red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped dill pickles
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill a big handful of fresh minced dill would be good instead, if you have it
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil for browning


  • Combine all the ingredients and mix well with a fork.
  • Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Begin forming small, relatively thin patties (think 3-4 inches in diameter), gently laying them one by one into the hot skillet. If they crumble, use your spatula to shove them back together.
  • Cook until they’re nicely browned on one side (if they seem to be browning too fast, reduce the heat) and carefully flip them. I sometimes use the two spatula technique to help the turn without breaking.
  • Once they’re browned on both sides and heated through, they are done. With this size batch, I typically end up filling my skillet twice before I’ve cooked them all.
  • Serve hot, warm or cold.

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31 thoughts on "Resurfacing and Salmon Cakes"

  • I always loved salmon patty night growing up. My mom would make them in much the same way, except she’d serve them with “creamed peas” (some kind of canned peas/roux/milk combination that I’ve always adored). I haven’t made them since I went gluten-free – my mom uses smashed saltines instead of bread crumbs – but you’ve inspired me to give them a shot! Yum!

    1. I make fishcakes with tuna, as my husband doesn’t care for salmon – 1, 6-oz (or whatever it is now) can tuna-in-water, drained, about 1/2 cup leftover cooked rice, 1 egg, seasonings – with salad this makes a nice supper for 2. Not low-carb (which we’re not worried about) but definitely gluten-free. No need for crumb coating; they look very nice browned in a little oil.

      I have made them with mashed potato, because my mother used to make potato-and-codfish cakes to go with baked beans, but didn’t find the texture to go so well with tuna (and then we discovered that DH is nightshade-intolerant, rather than gluten-intolerant).

      I freeze the water poured off the tuna for my sister’s cat . . . she’s on hairball paste, which by itself she hates, but will slurp down happily if it’s mixed with tuna-broth or canned cat food! Sis claims she can read “SUCKER” printed across my forehead in cat-writing, but, well . . . . that’s a bad thing?

  • My husband LOVES salmon cakes and I hardly ever make them. Thanks for the reminder and dinner inspiration!

  • Leftover Salmon? I’ve never heard of that. I think I could cook a whole freaking salmon and it would get eaten in one sitting! That being said, everyone makes fun of my salmon croquettes (that’s what my southern belle aunt called them) because I add so much tarragon that they’re green, but they are tasty! Now I might be making them for dinner tomorrow!

  • Sorta like crab cakes, only not.

    I made crab cakes for the first time this last February (for fat Tuesday).

    I may just give this a try.

  • I have one such can in my pantry at this very moment waiting to be salmon cakes! I will use your recipe post haste. Godspeed on your writing!

  • (because no matter how much I change up the spices, my food somehow always tastes like my food)

    I love that line and so get it! Your salmon cakes sound great and I love that the parm helps hold them together:@)

  • We had some leftover baked salmon from last night and I made these tonight. They were A.MAZING! A new favorite recipe for sure. Thank you for sharing it!

  • If you’re ever in a place where you made more balsamic vinegar reduction than you intended, it makes a truly amazing sauce for salmon cakes. Or anything really, but the sweet-sour-tangy flavor just brings out the richness of the salmon.

  • love any kind of fish cakes around here! And we usually do what Scott did for a tartar-like sauce. Although one time I remember making a vintage mustard sauce (Joy of Cooking 1954) that was fun and tasty.

    Maybe my canned salmon is different, but I never pick out the bones and skin – I just mash it all up really well. Because I can’t be bothered and because it’s just more omega-3s and calcium from the bones.

  • Now this is interesting – you don’t use any bread crumbs or whatever to fill them out and keep them together! My late mother (Lucille by name) used bread or cracker crumbs. I’ve been using mashed sweet potato; but I never would have thought they’d stick together without something like that. I’ve got a can of salmon in the pantry right now! hmm

  • Marisa, although I have enjoyed your “Still Life with Rhubarb” immensely this week, it’s good to see that you’ve come up for air! I’m looking forward to your new book and hope you’ll return to Atlanta for another book signing.

  • Growing up, my Mom would make salmon cakes fairly often and I loved them. I haven’t had any in ages and this post really makes me miss them. I’m definitely giving your recipe a try!

  • Yum! We love salmon cakes and make them a ton (also not picking out any bones or skin) – I never thought to use Parmesan but am trying that immediately.

  • Hi Marisa, this is indeed a great recipe! Further, a low carb-diet also helps in weight control. Thanks for sharing this recipe. 🙂

  • I LOVE salmon patties, and they’re so easy and so good for you and so perfect. My grandmother made them when I was little and they were one of my favorite things. Now that I’m married to a clearly uninformed person who claims he won’t eat the food of my people, and forget the kids, jeez – ingrates, all of them! – I rarely make them. But I’m sure, now that I’ve been reminded, that they will make an appearance this weekend and the rest will just have to suffer. My basic family recipe is one can of salmon, half an onion chopped fine, half a green pepper chopped less fine, however many saltine crackers seems right, crushed, salt, pepper and an egg. A little oil in the pan and they’re good to go. And this is one of the few things that, to me, just needs plain old ketchup.

  • So true about how, no matter if we follow another’s recipe to the ‘t’, the food we cook always tastes like our cooking! Kinda like how you can pick out a Springsteen song from the first note.

  • Glad you are frelying better. We would ear these salmon cakes (breadcrumb version) every Friday night during Lent. Lovely pantry staple dish that I sti make as an adult.

  • I’m so glad you posted this recipe. My husband loves salmon patties and it will be nice to make some slightly different than my same old recipe. I am very glad to know about using parm instead of breadcrumbs.

    Very good picture(and interview) of you over at The Optimist! Nice to see. Congratulations.

  • If you don’t want to (or, like me, are grossed out by) picking out all the little bones you can buy canned salmon, similar to canned tuna in cans from the regular grocery store, I don’t think TJs carries it, but I know Costco does. The cans tend to be a the larger tuna can size, but not as big as the full-sized cans you get with all the teeny bones in there….

    Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  • Your salmon cakes recipe sounds so good. We will have to try this soon. Thank you for sharing!

  • Loved my mother’s salmon loaf which definitely called for canned salmon. She served it with hard-boiled eggs white sauce. Thanks for reminding me of it!

  • Salmon patties were in major rotation on Friday nights growing up along with homemade macaroni and cheese. It was always a personal challenge to try and lift the bones out in as few a times as possible so that of course meant getting the salmon pieces laid out just right out of the can. Good reminder of comfort food that’s good for you.

  • I use a salmon cake recipe I found in a book on perimenopause. (Sounds odd, but it included some good recipes). The recipe calls for steel cut oats as a binder. I mix them up, cover the bowl, and let it sit overnight so the oats get nice and soft. Then I bake the cakes in a llightly greased muffin tin. I only eat two cakes for a meal (I like them for breakfast, too), so I freeze the rest for a quick meal.

  • Made this recipe tonight and it was SO GOOD! Always wondered what to do with canned salmon. I’ll be making these often. Thank you!

  • I didn’t see anyone that ate the finished product quite like we do. We like a chicken gravy dolloped on our croquettes and we serve them with mashed potatoes and buttered broccoli. I wasn’t introduced to them until I became an adult, my dad said they made the house smell horrible and banned salmon from our home. Funny from a man who loved nothing better than fried fish caught in the lakes or rivers around our area.

  • Canned tuna and salmon were about the only fish we had, growing up in West Africa, so salmon patties were definitely on our dinner menu. I never had the recipe we used then so am looking forward to trying yours soon. Your recipe would also work well with the canned smoked trout I get from my cousin, I think.