My Salmon Cakes recipe is almost identical to my grandmother’s, with one major difference: fresh salmon. Growing up I only ever ate salmon out of a can, and that’s what she made Salmon Cakes (you might call them Salmon Patties or Salmon Croquettes) with.
I still use canned salmon – I keep a few cans in my pantry at all times in case cravings hit – for this recipe once in a while, but usually, I opt for cooking my own fresh filet and flaking it. Y’all know I love doing some little things the more complicated way.
Salmon Cakes are a very classic Southern, country cornbread fed dish and they don’t need much fussing with so you’ll find this recipe is simple, with only a handful of ingredients and straightforward instructions, both of which are versatile.
Salmon Cakes Ingredients
Feel free to jump to the full recipe, but here are useful notes about the ingredients you will need to make this Salmon Cakes recipe:
- Fresh salmon: Canned salmon works here, too. It’s up to you whether you remove the bones or not because they are edible, but I don’t like their texture so I always remove at least the spine. You won’t need the kosher salt if you opt for canned salmon, because it’s already salted.
- Vidalia onion: Sweet onions, and a decent amount of them are mandatory when making Salmon Cakes in my house. Dice them small enough so that there aren’t huge chunks of onion in the patties, and yellow onions are a fine substitute.
- Fine yellow cornmeal, all-purpose flour, egg: This is what holds it all together. These three form our binding agent. You want to use an equal amount of flour and cornmeal so that the patties aren’t too thick or mealy. You can substitue mayo for the egg without adjusting the flavor too much.
- Cajun seasoning, kosher salt: I have a recipe for cajun seasoning in the post above my Cajun Chicken Pasta recipe, but you can make your own or use your favorite. The Kosher salt is optional if you’re sensitive to sodium. Definitely skip it if you’re using canned salmon.
- Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed is preferable, but bottled will do.
- Flat-leaf parsley: More for color than anything, so optional. Adds a slightly earthy flavor to them that most folks won’t miss.
How to Make Salmon Cakes
Full instructions are included in the recipe below, but here is a basic overview of what you’ll need to do, along with some important tidbits to help you make the most of my Salmon Cakes recipe:
- Blacken your salmon. Bring your salmon out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter for about 10 minutes. After this rest, lightly oil both sides of your salmon filet(s) and season with a pinch of kosher salt (also on both sides). Follow that up with a liberal amount of cajun seasoning, but only on the skinless side. Rub it into the salmon meat, and get the edges of sides of the filet, too. Place a skillet over medium-high heat and allow it to preheat for 3 minutes. When the pan is hot – I like to wait for it to be smoking a bit – drizzle in a teaspoon of olive oil and swirl it around to coat the surface of the pan, then add your salmon skin side down. Yes, I said down.
- Flake it. Transfer the cooked salmon to a mixing bowl and use a fork to flake the meat. You can remove the skin if you’re not going to eat it, or you can tear that up into small pieces with the fork, too. If the salmon isn’t completely cooked through that’s OK: it’ll finish as you fry the patties.
- Get to mixin’. Once all of the salmon is flaked add the onion, parsley, cornmeal, flour, egg, and the remaining cajun seasoning and lemon juice. Stir everything together until a sort of paste forms, and all of the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout.
- Form the patties. To make the salmon cakes lightly oil the palms of your hands, then take a heaping spoonful (I use a regular cereal spoon) and use your hands to roll it into a ball. Press the ball into a patty about 3″ wide and no more than 1/2″ thick. Repeat until the bowl is empty – you should get somewhere between 8-12 patties.
- Fry ’em. Wipe out the skillet you used to sear the salmon with a paper towel, then add about 1/4 C of vegetable oil to the pan. You only need enough oil to cover the entire surface of the skillet; it should come about halfway up the sides of the patties when you add them. Turn the heat onto medium-high and allow the oil to heat up. When the oil is shimmering – drop in a small piece of onion, if it sizzles, the oil is ready – add the salmon cakes in a single layer. Don’t crowd the pan: they shouldn’t be touching. You’re not going to cook the patties too long: you don’t want them to dry out. Cook for 3 minutes on the first side, until dark golden brown, then carefully flip and continue cooking for another 2 minutes or so. Remove to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat until all the patties are cooked. Dassit!
What To Serve With Salmon Cakes
I know it probably seems like I usually eat them in the morning with grits, but that’s not the case: I actually prefer to eat them with nothing. Absolutely nothing!
I will happily sit down to a meal of just Salmon Cakes – no condiments, no bread – eaten with my hands. Or I’ll snack on cold Salmon Cakes throughout the day. That said, I think Spicy Yellow Rice and Roasted Broccoli would go really well with them.
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