The nightmare is always the same. I am hungry, I go downstairs to the refrigerator, open the door, and there it all is. The fridge is filled with stacks of one overpowering awful, disgraceful dish. Salmon cakes. The only thing you can make with leftover salmon.

I haven’t had a salmon cake in decades, and that’s on purpose. To me, they always were as dry as the Gobi. The flavor was salmon, and salmon, and salmon. One overpowering note. And old salmon at that.

So, if have leftover salmon, what do with it? Well, the opposite of those salmon cakes. You want to avoid that dryness and you need a symphony of flavors: salmon in the lead with overtones to create a full complement for your taste buds.

Suzen and I experimented this weekend on some left over smoked salmon. We created the concoction for a dip, but it has multiple uses. You can stuff tomatoes with it, place a large dab on a bed of lettuce for a salad, or spread it on toast for a great sandwich.

The amounts here can be easily scaled up to produce more. And, you can increase the flavor notes if you wish by including:

  • Chopped onion
  • Herbs beyond chives
  • Diced pickles
  • Lime instead of lemon

We did use smoked salmon here, salmon we had just smoked ourselves so it was fresh and moist, not dry and leathery. If you have leftover salmon, but it is baked or barbequed and not smoked, you can introduce that smoky flavor by adding a dash — just a dash— of the adobe sauce from a can of chipotles. Really go easy here. You can add but you cannot subtract!

And, for distinction, there is dill here. And no salt and pepper. The combination is truly different.

Salmon Dip

Yield: dip for 5-6 folks, salad for two


  • 6 ounces cooked salmon
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ sour cream
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons diced chives
  • 1 tablespoon capers


Using your hands, pull the salmon into small pieces, discarding any skin or tough parts. Place in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and sour cream. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix well. Add the lemon zest and juice plus the capers. Stir to combine.

Adjust to get the texture you desire by adding more mayo or sour cream. With smoked salmon and the capers, salt and pepper are really not needed here. You are looking for a smooth, subtle flavor with a texture that is easily spreadable.

Source: Suzen and Brian O’Rourke