Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico de Gallo

pinit fg en rect gray 28 Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico de Gallo

 Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli Green Apple Pica de Gallo Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico de Gallo

After last week’s post, I had a fridge full of Perfect Homemade Mayonnaise, and the super-delicious variation, Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Rouille, demanded attention.

Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes Mise en Place Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico de Gallo

Of course, I could have just slathered it on a heap of grilled vegetables or corn on the cob, but there was also a ½ pound of cold-smoked salmon staring at me every time I opened the fridge door. I imagined the two would taste great together but nothing came immediately to mind.

Uncooked Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico de Gallo

And then, as I was flipping through Washington Food Artisans, by Leora Bloom, I spied a dish titled, Blackened Oysters with Chipotle Aioli & Pico de Gallo. The concept was solid: the freshest seafood simply sautéed, Cajun-style blackened coating, spicy aioli accompaniment, and crispy, sweet-tart topping. How good does that sound?

Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes Ready to Saute Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico de Gallo

The next thing I knew, I had a batch of Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes shaped and setting up in the fridge. I sautéed a small nugget, adjusted the salt level, and then in a moment of inspiration, took a bite first of the seafood nugget and then of green apple. The rest is history.

Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli Green Apple Pica de Gallo2 Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico de Gallo

Smoked Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico De Gallo

Let’s face it, salmon is expensive. To host a salmon feed for six people will set you back a pretty penny. These salmon cakes deliver robust salmon flavor for a more modest cost per serving and the flavor combination is over-the-top delicious.

Pur­chas­ing Note   For the fresh salmon, pur­chase about ¼ pound addi­tional to allow for removal of skin and bones. You need ¾ pound usable salmon.

Technique Note   To maximize salmon flavor and minimize fillers, the cold smoked salmon is pureed and used as the primary binder for the cakes. This is a great technique and is described in more detail in the post titled, Curried Seafood Cakes with Fresh Ginger Aioli.

Serving Note   You can serve these as a hand-held appe­tizer or plated first course, depending on the size you make them. If you want to serve as a main course, serve two of the larger cakes for each diner.

12 ounces skinned, dark flesh removed, boned,  fresh or flash frozen sockeye salmon, coarsely chopped
¼ pound cold-smoked (Nova-style) salmon, pureed in a proces­sor

2 table­spoons unsalted but­ter
1 cup peeled, minced onion
1 clove peeled, finely minced garlic

1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons minced chives
finely grated zest of 1 large lime
½ cup dry bread crumbs (Japan­ese Panko work well here)
¼ cup Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

Smokey Hot Cajun Spice (recipe below)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise
Green Apple Pico De Gallo (recipe below)
slices of fresh lime

  1. Clean and pre­pare fresh and cold-smoked salmon, as described above.
  2. In a large sauté pan, melt the but­ter and sauté the onions and garlic over low heat until barely ten­der but not browned. Remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.
  3. In a mix­ing bowl, whisk together the egg, capers, chives, lime zest, bread crumbs, Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise, and salt until smooth. Add the onion mix­ture, fresh salmon, and smoked salmon. Mix thor­oughly to combine.
  4. If you like, saute a small nugget of the mixture and taste for salt. Adjust the salt level accordingly.
  5. Refrig­er­ate for at least 1 hour to firm the mixture.
  6. Shape the seafood cakes into seven, 3-ounce disks or fourteen, 1½-ounce disks, each about ¾-inch thick. Lightly coat each side of each cake with Smokey Hot Cajun Spice and press lightly to adhere. Place cakes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrig­er­ate until ready to sauté and serve.
  7. In a large skil­let, using medium heat, heat butter until a drop of water siz­zles briskly when sprin­kled into it.
  8. Put as many seafood cakes as will fit com­fort­ably in the pan and sauté until nicely browned on both sides, 3-4 min­utes per side. Do not overcook or cakes will be dry.
  9. Remove the cooked cakes to a paper towel-lined bak­ing tray, keep warm in a 200º oven, and con­tinue cook­ing the remain­der of the cakes.
  10. To serve, remove the seafood cakes to indi­vid­ual plates or to a plat­ter, gar­nish with Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise, Apple Pico De Gallo, and slices of fresh lime.

Makes 7-14 cakes, depend­ing on size.

Spices for Smokey Hot Cajun Spice  Smoked Sockeye Salmon Cakes with Chipotle Aioli & Green Apple Pico de Gallo

Smokey Hot Cajun Spice

Recipes for Cajun Spice are all over the place, but paprika is always the star, with black and white pepper, and chile pepper playing strong supporting roles. Most versions include onion and garlic powder, but I’m not partial to either. Much better to add fresh garlic and onion to the dish if and when it makes sense. Salt is another ingredient I leave out of the basic mix. It can always be added later to fit the needs of the dish. As to herbs, you’ll almost always see oregano and thyme, and sometimes a few others as well.

This blend has just the right amount of heat for many palates, but may be too hot for some. While not flaming hot, it does have a discernible kick. I also love the touch of smoke lent by the smoked paprika and smoked black peppercorns. But of course, it’s fine to use whatever paprika and peppercorns you have on hand.

Cajun Spice is often used as a rub for meats and fish. A dish with this treatment is typically labeled “blackened.” Popularized by Chef Paul Prudhomme, blackening infuses meat or fish with caramelized spices. The spice coating darkens as it caramelizes but should not be black. If it’s black, it’s burnt.

4 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika
2 teaspoons smoked black peppercorns
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (this amount is HOT; cut in half if you are not sure of your eaters)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small spice grinder (or coffee grinder reserved specifically for spices).
  2. Pulse to pulverize the spices.
  3. Store in an airtight container in a cool location.

Makes a scant ¼ cup.

Green Apple Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo (also called Salsa Fresca) is a fresh condiment consisting typically of chopped tomato, onion, chile, cilantro and lime juice. It is less liquid than salsa and often used as a crunchy topping. This version adds green apple and a touch of honey to compensate for the tartness.

½ cup peeled, seeded, chopped Granny Smith apple
½ cup peeled, chopped red onion
½ cup stemmed, ribbed, seeded diced red bell pepper
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, ribbed, seeded, and minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
wildflower honey, to taste
fine sea salt, to taste

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the apple, onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno chile, and lime juice.
  2. Drizzle on honey to taste and then salt to taste as well.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Additional Inspiration

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Copy­right 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.


  1. Thx for posting this i can’t wait to do this….just by the looks i can tell it’s worth trying…more power!!

  2. I made what I thought were very good salmon patties this week. Now I can tell you I wish I had waited for this recipe! Thanks. Wonderful, as always.
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