Almost Mom’s Salmon Loaf

A twist from 100 years ago, and my Mom’s salmon loaf was transformed!

When I was growing up, included in our family’s weeknight supper rotation was the humble salmon loaf, often served on Friday fish nights. A simple recipe that used bread crumbs to stretch an inexpensive can of salmon to make eight servings. I remember how wonderful the house smelled while it was baking. Topped with a little tartar or white sauce (some people like ketchup) it was my sister Jan’s favorite supper, and was almost always served with mashed potatoes and green beans. Isn’t it funny how we tend to make the same entrée with the same side dishes over and over? I think there’d be a revolt in my house if the tomato soup wasn’t served with grilled cheese in some form. 

I loved the salmon loaf too, although sometimes it could be a little on the dry or heavy side, and my own children were not as fond of it as I was, unless it was slathered with tartar sauce. 

Let’s borrow from the past

Cheryl at A Hundred Years Ago offered a post recently on a fish loaf recipe from 100 years ago that used beaten egg whites to lighten up the dish. I decided to try this technique using my recipe that is roughly based on my mothers, and I kept my fingers crossed.

Mom’s recipe was simpler than mine. It included the canned salmon, eggs, onions, celery, milk, dried breadcrumbs, dill weed, and garlic powder. Over time, to her recipe I added a minced carrot, anchovy filets, fresh parsley, Worcester sauce, and I swapped the milk out for the juice from the canned salmon and a little tomato juice and paste, and I sometimes used fresh breadcrumbs. I also used fresh garlic rather than the garlic powder.

For my new version, I added the extra egg the 100-year-old recipe included. If you don’t consume eggs, I think you could probably substitute whipped aquafaba to achieve the same fluffiness,

Salmon Soufflé?

Mom also had a recipe card for Salmon Soufflé, although I don’t recall her ever making this. The soufflé recipe called for a white sauce mixed into the salmon, separation and whipping of the eggs, and it was baked in a casserole dish. So, I guess this recipe is a mash up between all four versions of salmon loaf! 

It came out great! Moist, tender, yet still rich and flavorful. The next day at lunch, my husband enjoyed a slice, browned in a skillet, with an egg on top. The rest, shipped off to my sister for a treat!

A success

I like this version better than Mom’s, and the next time, I might try the Salmon Soufflé recipe with the white sauce and cook it in a casserole dish––probably my mom’s Corning Ware. My sister Jan? She loved it too!

Thanks to Cheryl for the idea! If you haven’t visited her blog, it’s lots of fun. A Hundred Years Ago

Almost Mom’s Salmon Loaf

  • 1 14.75 oz. can salmon
  • 1/4 cup or so tomato juice
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 rib minced celery with tops
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 anchovy filets, minced
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp. dried dill weed
  • ¼ cup fresh minced parsley
  • 1 tsp. Worcester sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 C.). Grease a loaf pan.

Open the salmon and drain the liquid into a measuring cup. Place the salmon in a bowl, and pick over to remove any bones or skin. Break up with your fingers or mash with a fork, and set aside. I prefer the finger method because you can feel for any stray bones.

Add enough tomato juice to the reserved salmon juice to make 3/4 cup. Add to the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and set aside.

Melt butter in olive oil over medium high heat and add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook until softened, then add the garlic and anchovies. Continue cooking an additional minute, until garlic is fragrant and anchovies have disappeared. Remove from heat and place in the salmon bowl.

Add the egg yolks, dill weed, parsley, and Worcester sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and combine with the fork.

Once the crumbs have softened, add to the salmon mixture, and mix up everthing well.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold one third or so of them into the salmon mixture to lighten it up. Add the rest of the whites and gently fold the mixture just until combined.

Gently place in prepared pan, and level off the top. I also brushed the top with a little melted butter for a bit more flavor. Mom used oil.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until browned, firm to the touch, and fragrant. Let cool for five minutes, then turn onto platter. My mom didn’t do this last part, she just sliced it in the pan and served it. I’m not sure how she got that first slice out of the pan!

Top with Tartar Sauce or Lemon Dill Sauce, or even ketchup if that’s how you had it as a kid!

Act Two

Slice the left-over salmon loaf and brown in a little butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Place on a piece of toast with a perfectly poached egg in top.

New England Tartar Sauce

You can’t have fried fish in New England without a tartar sauce, and it is equally as delicious on a salmon loaf.
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely minced dill pickles
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp. capers, crushed
  • ½ tsp. Worcester sauce
  • 1 tsp. chives
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice

Mix everything together, add salt and pepper, and taste. Adjust to your liking, and thin with more lemon juice if desired.

Lemon Dill Sauce

  • 2 tbsp. butter or vegan butter
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose or gluten-free flour
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh dill, minced
  • Zest and juice of one lemon

            Place the butter and flour in a small saucepan over medium heat and place the milk in a second to warm. Once the butter is melted, whisk briskly to combine with flour and cook for a minute or two.

            Slowly pour in the heated milk, whisking. Add the Dijon, salt, and pepper, and continue cooking until thickened.

            Remove from heat and add the parsley, dill, juice, and zest. Great on any type of fish or vegetables,

From Mom’s Recipe Box:

Sylvia’s Salmon Loaf

  • 1 large can salmon, picked over
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup minced sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Bread crumbs enough to bind
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Oil

      Pick all the bones out of the salmon and place in a large bowl. Add rest of ingredients and mix well. Add crumbs to feel right, but not too much. Place in a loaf pan, drizzle with a little oil, and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

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41 Comments Add yours

  1. Sylvia’s salmon loaf was what we ate at our house too. Isn’t it funny to think about how years ago there were a certain number of meals that were eaten on a regular basis. They were cooked, served, and we ate them. We never thought of saying I really don’t like that could I have macaroni and cheese or pizza. 🙂 This post reminded me of another recipe my grandmother made called red flannel hash. I ‘think’ it was leftover beef, potatoes and the red came from beets. It was good, and I haven’t had it since I was a little kid. Thanks for the memories.

    1. I think we all had the same mothers! Salmon loaf, shepherd’s pie, Saturday night baked beans and hotdogs. We had the red flannel has too; mom’s was the leftovers from New England boiled dinner, which included the beets which gave it the color. We all looked forward to Sunday dinners of roasts and fried chicken! I learned to eat just about anything because at suppertime, there were no options, we ate or we went hungry, so we ate!

  2. Looks great. Certainly an old school recipe

    1. With a few old and new twists!

  3. Even though I’m not so fond of canned salmon, I’m quite sure I would enjoy this loaf, with all the wonderful flavors you’ve added to it, and the different ways of serving. 🙂

    1. Thank you Ronit, my modern update might be to make it with fresh salmon! I might do that with the soufflé recipe.

      1. Sounds good! 🙂

  4. Yes, balanced meals came naturally to our families back then, didn’t it. Potato-Vegetable-Meat/Fish. And we always had a little something for dessert. 😍

    1. I think dessert was invented by mothers to bribe their kids to eat whatever was put in front of them. It worked!

  5. Ally Bean says:

    Sylvia’s Salmon Loaf recipe is what I remember from my childhood when my mother made it. There were no anchovies in my childhood world. I make tuna cakes every so often, put haven’t had salmon loaf in years. What a fun foodie flashback.

    1. It really is fun to revisit these oldies! The beaten egg whites made a big difference, so I will definitely keep that in mind.

  6. chef mimi says:

    Is there a canned salmon product you can recommend? I’ve never had good luck with any that I’ve come across. Otherwise, this looks great!

    1. Oh dear, I’ve thrown away the can! However, look for a wild-caught Alaskan salmon, they are always good. The large can will have skin and bones and lots of liquid. Because it has the skin and bones, it also has more flavor, but it doesn’t take long to pick through. There are smaller cans that are boneless and skinless, but they are quite a bit more expensive, have less liquid, and can be dry.

  7. I can’t eat salmon, but the tartar sauce sounds wonderful!

    1. Thank you! We usually use it on fried clams!

  8. janperk says:

    this was so delicious. just like mom used to make!!

    1. Thank you sister! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  9. This sounds wonderful. As an Old School Catholic, I’m always on the lookout for something new for Fish Friday. Thanks!

    1. Hope you enjoy it Rosemarie! It tasted like my childhood, only lighter!

      1. That’s great!

  10. jan says:

    Just came back to say thanks for letting me savor all your new dishes you come up with, sis, it is so much fun to eat them.. keep them coming. lol love you!! jan.

    1. Love you too honey! I love serving a grateful audience of guinea pigs!

  11. Forestwood says:

    I like the idea of this, Dorothy but am sure the family would reject this based on what they see. I am thinking I could sell it to them if I made it into singular round patties. It seems sacriligous but do you think it would work in that format. Shallow fried in balls?

    1. Absolutely! It makes great patties or balls and you could smear them with sauce!

      1. Forestwood says:

        Awesome. I will add it to the to make list.

  12. Never heard of Salmon loaf before. I am pretty sure I am going to enjoy it!

  13. I loved my Mother’s salmon loaf. It sounds a lot like your Mother’s recipe. Alas, my husband doesn’t care for salmon 🙄. Thanks for the memory!

    1. You’re welcome! I think a lot of the cooking was simpler back then, and few surprises.

      1. My mother was an amazing cook, especially considering the size of our family and ingredients were limited in those days (variety wise). Mom learned to cook and bake from Nuns in a hospital kitchen. Hospital meals were way better back then!

      2. They grew up in homes where it was second nature to make do. They knew how to stretch a buck, and we all were well fed!

      3. We definitely were!

  14. foodzesty says:

    Ohhhh Yessss I love this recipe!!!

    1. Thank you! It’s a great oldie!

      1. foodzesty says:

        Absolutely!!!

  15. Salmon loaf!? I’ve never actually heard of this before. So unique!! I read through the recipe and it doesn’t seem too hard. I can’t believe this is such a traditional food that I haven’t tried! Thanks for the great recipe 🙂

    1. This dish was served in most households when I was growing up, still is pretty popular. It’s tasty, easy, cheap, and feeds a big family!

      1. Wow!! I guess it’s a staple recipe. I’m not the biggest fan of seafood but my family is. I should try it sometime~

      2. Give it a try! You won’t have the attached memories, but you can make your own!

  16. You’re salmon loaf looks yummy. I have never heard of it. I shall try. Have a blessed week Dorothy!💓🍃💓🍮🍮🍂

    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

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