Salmon Cakes

Fresh salmon cake on the left, canned salmon on the right

Fresh salmon cake on the left, canned salmon on the right

Everyone in my family loves salmon and one of our favorite ways to eat it is in salmon cakes.  These are not the healthiest way to enjoy salmon (full of eggs, mayonnaise and fried in butter) but they have the benefit of being one of the cheapest.  Their low cost is due to the fact that they are the one way I can enjoy eating canned salmon.  All the strong flavors in salmon cakes help to mask the somewhat fishy flavor of canned salmon, the cheapest way to buy salmon.   Lately we were given several freshly caught salmon by a family member and I needed to find ways to use it up so I made my regular salmon cake recipe two ways:  with fresh, poached salmon and with a can of Chicken of the Sea pink salmon.  I based this recipe on one from the back of a packet of Chicken of the Sea salmon, but I have changed several things about it:

Canned salmon and a fresh salmon fillet ready for poachingSeasonings simmering in the poaching water

Lemon Garlic Salmon Cakes

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup each:  diced red pepper, sliced green onions
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
  • 1 14.75 ounce canned salmon with skin and bones removed or 3/4 pound salmon fillet, poached and flaked
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. butter

In a bowl, combine the bell pepper, green onions, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic and Tabasco sauce.  Stir in the salmon, egg, and dry breadcrumbs, mix well.  Scoop out 1/4 cup of salmon mixture, form it into a ball and roll the ball in the panko crumbs.  Flatten the ball into a 1/2 inch thick patty and repeat with the rest of the mixture to form about 8 patties.   Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat and fry patties, 4 at a time, until golden brown, about 10 minutes on each side.

Canned salmon on the left, fresh on the right

There were definite differences between the salmon cakes made with canned salmon and those made with fresh.  The most noticeable difference was the appearance.  The fresh salmon cakes looked pinker with more discernible texture but the canned salmon was pale and stringy looking.  The flavor and texture were also remarkably different.  The fresh salmon had a much milder flavor while the canned salmon was definitely “fishy” in taste.  I had never noticed this canned, fishy taste in the salmon cakes before, but when compared directly to cakes made with fresh salmon, it was almost overwhelming.  The fresh salmon also made for much firmer, dryer cakes.  I have always had trouble with the salmon cakes falling apart and crumbling when I try to turn them in the pan, but I didn’t have any problems at all with the ones made with fresh salmon.  They were dense and fried up very nicely.  The canned cakes, on the other hand, were softer and the pieces of salmon more crumbly.

The biggest drawback of using fresh salmon in salmon cakes is, of course, the price.  Although I had been given this salmon as a present, when I priced fresh salmon at the grocery store it would be about $8 for the amount needed in this recipe.  By contrast, the canned salmon cost only $2.25.  The time difference is another factor to consider since poaching fresh salmon adds about  35 minutes to the recipe.

Bottom Line: I preferred the cakes made with fresh salmon because they tasted fresher and were firmer in texture, but I’m not sure the difference was enough to justify paying 4 times more.  Besides, if I’m spending money on a fresh salmon fillet I’d rather use it in a simpler, healthier dish in which the salmon is not overwhelmed with other flavors.

Fresh Salmon Cakes                                      Chicken of the Sea Salmon Cakes

Cost:  $10.43                                                            Cost:  $4.68

Time:  1 hour 20 minutes                                     Time:  45 minutes