Food You Can Eat: Salmon Mousse

(Grotesque) Image via The stripes are carrot strips. Don't do this.

I make salmon mousse more often that someone alive in 2021 might. I make it a few different ways, depending on the situation. When I was making this for a crowd I would involve gelatin and not use cream cheese, you do something else, that could be its own recipe, put the contents in a bundt pan (sadly I have no fish mold) lined with cling wrap, refrigerate for a few hours, and put on a large plate with accompaniments. This is a more appropriate version for pandemic-induced smaller settings. As it is this recipe is multi-varied, as you’ll see. You won’t be using all of these ingredients.


1 8-oz. package of herbed cream cheese

1 6-oz. can of smoked salmon, drained well, but a little of the packing juice is not a bad thing

1 small-ish lemon

1–2 tsp. capers, optional

A small amount of dill chopped really small, optional

A small amount of red pepper flakes or cayenne, optional


In a small bowl in a food processor, add the cream cheese and the salmon. Grate the lemon to create zest and add that. Juice the lemon and add that. Mix this until smooth. This is fine; this is your baseline.

If you want, you can stir in mix-ins after the blending process. You have to be careful, though, because you want it to retain its salmoniness and you also want it to not get clumpy. If you like capers, use those. I do, and sometimes when I make salmon I make a caper sauce. Dill is a natural pair for salmon, I really don’t know why, so you could stir some of that in. I only use red pepper flakes or cayenne if I use regular cream cheese, not herbed, so you be the judge. If you use regular cream cheese this is a little bland without something aside from the lemon to liven it up.

Scrape all of this into a bowl, cover, and let it chill for hours. If you want, line the bowl with cling wrap and when you’re ready invert the bowl onto a plate and pretend that there are 10X as many people in your apartment because you miss hosting parties so much. I think the best way to serve the mousse is to go full Scandinavian and put it on Wasa crisp bread or toasted rye bread. Or, if it’s hot outside, slice a cucumber between 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick and serve on that. You will get bonus points from me if you take a melon baller and create a little pocket in each cucumber slice (being careful not to break through the bottom) and make a small mousse mound on each.

The mousse will last for a couple of days in the fridge and makes for excellent snacking, but not for much longer than that. Don’t try to freeze it; that way madness lies.



  1. This one’s for you, Butcher. (How do you embed specific commenter’s handles in the comments, by the way?) This is one of the rare times I use packets of gelatin, but I spared everyone the somewhat elaborate “Salmon Mousse for a Crowd” recipe, because what’s the point in this pandemic-ridden, post-party age? 
    To all: Or just buy a tub of Philadelphia Salmon Cream Cheese™, but this is much better and not so “tastes like factory made.” As far as the salmon goes, in ascending order: Buy sliced salmon and flake it and add to the food processor. Buy your own salmon, cook it, and flake that. Buy your own salmon, smoke it yourself, flake that, and use it. This last preparation I can’t recommend highly enough, but I’ve only had it once, in a long-gone restaurant in San Francisco, and have never attempted it myself. But I still remember it, maybe 25 years later, when it was offered as a group appetizer that we all dug in from.

  2. Oh my gracious me, @MatthewCrawley, I am pretty sure that photo is the way madness reminds me of one of those hideous very deep sea trench fish that are albino or luminescent. Plus, it keeps looking at me, arrrgh! Other than new image-induced phobias, this sounds quite good and I had zero clue it was so easy to make. I’m sure that the carnivore won’t touch it because of the texture, but it will be on the menu for the next holiday when the hoards can safely arrive!

    • Oh, there’s that name again. Yes, pretty much, but burned as I was by Boursin mis-identification I didn’t mention it by name. It’s also much more expensive than homelier equivalents, and it’s not always herbed, and thicker, so if you use Boursin you’ll get a much denser mousse out of it. 

  3.  Canned smoked salmon?  Yikes!  If u live in PNW you would never live that down.  Anytime anyone catches anything other than a King or Coho you are getting smoked salmon from them.  If u have no fishing friends, every store has vacuum packed smoked salmon.  I WiLL not use canned.  Sorry, for the fish snobbery, back to your normally scheduled comments.  Good recipe besides that, staple of all wine parties around here. 

    • We buy “fresh” smoked salmon (as in shipped in from God knows where and who knows how old it is, shows up in the markets on shrink-wrapped trays, I live in NYC) by the ton, it seems, but sometimes there are weird spot shortages. A couple of times I’ve used canned and it worked out well, plus you can use a small amount of the packing juice as a little flavoring. I’m not sure where you all live so I try to keep the simplified recipes as accessible as possible, and not go all “New York Times” (“And if you don’t have [x] in a local shop, it can be ordered online [often from a source abroad] for about $17 for three ounces. Allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery.”)

    • …I somehow made it this far through life without being aware you could get smoked salmon in a can so I think avoiding that hasn’t been much of a problem

      …but I definitely recall my grandmother having strong opinions on farmed salmon being “no good” for anything but smoking…on the grounds that basically they didn’t get the exercise of your wild salmon & therefore lacked the necessary muscle tone for you to be able to cook the whole fish & serve it properly…in her view farmed salmon fell apart when you tried to slide a nice slice off the bone & that just wasn’t acceptable?

  4. My mother used to make salmon mousse in the fish mold. She didn’t do the face but used almond slices to create a scale pattern. It looked weird. But I did like the taste.

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