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Lemon-Dill Salmon Cakes

Makes 4 servings30 minutes hands on time30 minutes total time

Makes: 3-4 servings

Total Carbohydrates: 7-9 grams per serving

Hands-on Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

If you’ve never used canned salmon before, prepare for a revelation. This is an old-fashioned thrifty type of recipe in that it’s designed to stretch an already fairly inexpensive ingredient (canned fish), but then – thanks to the herbs and lemon and Old Bay seasoning – it ends up tasting very deliciously like the kind of fancy crab cakes that you would follow around at a wedding reception when they were passing hors d’oeuvres. Cold the next day, and wrapped in a lettuce leaf, one of these makes my ideal lunch. Please note: these are a little bit fussy to fry as they’re inclined to fall apart if you don’t use a very light touch as you’re flipping them. If the fragility is going to drive you crazy, swap in an egg and 1 tablespoon of mayo for the 1/3 cup of mayo. (I like the fluffy texture of the all-mayo version, but maybe it might not be worth it to you.) Also, not to be immodest, but this is pretty much the most delicious tartar sauce.

If you’re looking to:

Lower the carbs: Swap in almond meal for panko.

Lower the fat: Swap in 1 beaten egg and 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise for the 1/3 cup mayonnaise. Bake the cakes on an oiled baking sheet in a 425 oven for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Skip the tartar sauce.

Lower the salt: Reduce the salt.


1 (15-ounce) can salmon, drained, skinned and boned, or 2 (5-ounce) cans of skinless, boneless salmon (or tuna), drained

½ cup regular or wholegrain panko bread crumbs (or almond flour or meal)

1/3 cup Hellman's or Best Foods mayonnaise (not low-fat)

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons of its juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon table salt)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 stalk celery, finely chopped, plus some of the leaves, also chopped

2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

Vegetable oil for frying

Lemon wedges

Tartar sauce, purchased or homemade (see recipe below)


  1. Mash the salmon with a fork to separate it into small flakes, then add the panko to the bowl and use the fork to blend it into the fish. 
  2. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, Old Bay, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper, then stir it into the fish mixture along with the celery and dill. The mixture should just hold together: add a bit more panko if it's too wet, or a bit more mayonnaise if it's too dry. Taste it and add salt if it needs it.
  3. Use a 1/3-cup measure to measure and shape six patties around 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick. 
  4. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a medium-sized nonstick skillet over medium heat, until a pinch of the fish mixture sizzles when dropped in the pan. Fry the cakes in a single layer until deeply golden, around 4 minutes per side, turning them very carefully and only after they have a significant crust developed on the bottom (you’ll have to peek under one to check). 
  5. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate and serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

Tartar Sauce

Makes around ¾ cup


1/2 cup Hellman's or Best Foods mayonnaise (not low-fat)

1 tablespoon finely chopped dill

1 tablespoon drained capers or chopped cornichons (I use both)

1 tablespoon brine from the caper or cornichon jar (or use lemon juice)

½ teaspoon kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon table salt)


Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl and chill until serving.

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Her book "How to Be A Person" was published in 2020. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]