Classic Salmon Rillettes Recipe

Salmon rillette, a luxurious and textured spread, finds its roots in the culinary traditions of France. Traditionally, a "rillette" is a preparation of meat similar to pâté, where the main ingredient, often pork or duck, is slowly cooked in its own fat until tender, and then shredded and stored in some of that fat. The concept was later adapted for fish, especially salmon, resulting in a rich, creamy spread that beautifully marries both fresh and smoked salmon. This dish carries with it an aura of sophisticated French charcuterie, often gracing the tables of upscale brunches and appearing on the menus of fine-dining establishments. 

With the help of recipe developer Taylor Murray, salmon rillette is deceptively simple to make. With its delicate balance of flavors and textures, it offers an elevated alternative to standard smoked salmon, making it a delightful topping for bagels or toast, infusing a touch of French elegance into everyday meals.

Gather the ingredients for salmon rillettes

You'll need two types of salmon for this dish: a filet of fresh, raw salmon, and a portion of cold smoked salmon. Cold smoked salmon is cured in a salt and sometimes sugar mixture for several hours or days. After curing, the salmon is rinsed and then smoked at a low temperature (usually between 70 F to 90 F) for several hours. The cold smoking doesn't cook the fish but imparts a smoky flavor. The result is a silky, smooth texture with a delicate smoky flavor. The salmon remains translucent and has a very soft texture similar to raw fish. "I was able to find a nice, unsliced chunk of cold smoked salmon at Whole Foods in my area, though if you are having trouble, sliced cold smoked salmon will still impart the same flavor," says Murray.

The rest of the ingredients add flavor and body to the dish. A mixture of butter and creme fraiche adds richness and a silky texture, and the chives and white wine-simmered shallots add some layers of flavor. A few slices of crisp golden crostini are the perfect vessel for consuming this French delicacy.

Make the crostini

Making crostini from a fresh baguette is a great technique that transforms simple bread into crispy morsels perfect for an array of toppings. Start by preheating your oven to around 400 F. Take your fresh baguette and slice it diagonally into thin pieces, aiming for about 1/4-inch thickness to ensure each slice crisps up nicely while still holding its structure. Lay the slices on a baking sheet, and to elevate their flavor, lightly brush each piece with olive oil, adding a pinch of salt if desired. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the slices for about 10-15 minutes, or until they achieve a golden-brown hue. Once done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool slightly.

Steam the salmon

Steaming salmon with fresh lemon slices on top offers a gentle cooking method that preserves the fish's natural flavors and tenderness. First, fill a pot with a few inches of water, ensuring it remains below the level of the steamer basket when inserted. As the water comes to a boil, season the salmon with a sprinkle of salt. Place the filets on the steamer basket and layer fresh lemon slices atop each piece. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and let the salmon steam for about 8-12 minutes, depending on its thickness. The salmon is done when it easily flakes with a fork and has a translucent pink center. The gentle heat and lemon infusion produce a moist, flavorful dish that celebrates the salmon's inherent richness.

Cook the shallot

In a small pan, heat a half tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the finely chopped shallot, allowing it to sweat and mellow in the heat. This gentle cooking process coaxes the shallot into a softened state, its edges becoming translucent, signaling the perfect time to introduce a splash of white wine. As the wine hits the pan, it should immediately start simmering. The mixture is then left to simmer, gradually reducing the liquid until the pan reveals an almost dry base, concentrating the wine's flavors and enhancing the overall depth of the dish. This technique is referred to as "au sec" in French, meaning nearly dry. The wine should be reduced to about 1 teaspoon in volume at this point.

Mash the poached salmon with butter

Soften the butter with a fork, then mash it into the steamed salmon. Strike a nice balance between breaking down the largest pieces of salmon but not mashing so hard that the salmon is completely obliterated. If the salmon is still slightly warm from poaching, that is fine — it will help break down the butter. If the salmon is still hot, however, you should wait until it's slightly cooled before proceeding.

Mix the remaining ingredients

Fold in the creme fraiche, lemon juice, chives, smoked salmon, and sauteed shallots. Season to taste with salt and pepper. While salmon rillettes is typically chilled before serving so that it can develop a nice spreadable consistency, it is absolutely edible at room temperature, so don't be afraid to taste it at this point. 

Once you are satisfied with the flavor, find a small jar with a lid and add the salmon mixture in. Press until no air bubbles remain, then close tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 4 days. This spread is best eaten spread on crostini, but can also be a nice protein addition to a salad or a bagel.

Classic Salmon Rillettes Recipe
4.9 from 33 ratings
With its delicate balance of flavors and textures, salmon relletes offer an alternative to smoked salmon, making it a delightful topping for bagels or toast.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Pot of salmon rillettes
Total time: 25 minutes
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 (6-ounce) portion salmon
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 3 ounces cold smoked salmon, finely chopped
  1. Heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Drizzle baguette slices with 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil and bake until golden brown and crisp. Set aside.
  3. Cover the salmon with the sliced lemon and steam until cooked through. Set aside.
  4. In a small pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the shallot until softened and translucent. Add the white wine and simmer until the pan is almost dry. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, mash the butter with the steamed salmon. Fold in creme fraiche, lemon juice, chives, smoked salmon, and sautéed shallots. Season to taste, then transfer to a vessel and chill until firm.
Calories per Serving 364
Total Fat 21.0 g
Saturated Fat 7.5 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 42.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 28.5 g
Dietary Fiber 1.6 g
Total Sugars 3.3 g
Sodium 416.8 mg
Protein 14.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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