Smoked Candied Salmon

4.84 from 107 votes
Jump to Recipe

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Salmon candy has become my new favorite road food. Sweet, smoky, meaty, fatty. And while it looks like regular smoked salmon, it’s not. So what on earth is candied salmon?

pieces of candied salmon on a cutting board.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Well, I first heard about candied salmon decades ago, when it was called squaw candy, but it’s no longer called that for obvious reasons. Salmon candy is basically heavily smoked strips of salmon, originally smoked so long they were basically salmon jerky. Nowadays it’s usually lacquered with something sweet, such as brown sugar, maple or birch syrup, or even molasses. The idea is to combine fatty-savory-smoky-sweet in one bite.

Strips from the belly of the salmon are best, but regular fillet strips are good, too — and you can do this to salmon collars as well.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my recipe for smoked salmon. I really do. But it’s for large pieces of salmon, meant to be eaten as a meal, or crumbled into salads or whatever. It isn’t something you can wrap in a paper towel, stick in your pocket and carry with you when you are picking blueberries or wandering around, or maybe fishing for more salmon.

For that you need to change things up a bit. First is the dry cure. My regular smoked salmon uses a brine cure, which keeps the fish supple and moist. Salmon candy needs to be heavily cured and heavily smoked to keep in less-than-ideal conditions.

While it isn’t strictly jerky, although if you want to make a true salmon jerky this is my recipe, the heavy cure and smoke has let me carry salmon candy on multi-day road trips and on fishing boats with a minimal amount of refrigeration.

How minimal? I’ve eaten it at room temperature after it had been in my pack while fishing all day, or in the late afternoon on a long drive. But I fish in cool places, so the salmon probably never got about 65°F. I wouldn’t let it get actually hot and eat it.

Remember, this is an Alaskan invention and it rarely gets hot in Alaska.

If you want something truly hardy, you will need to cut the strips thinner and smoke them harder to get them jerky-like.

What salmon to use? Well, any, really. This is a great use of chum or pink salmon, and it is also excellent with large trout or char. If you want to order salmon from Alaska, try Yakobi Fisheries — I have fished commercially with them and can highly recommend their fish.

Consider my candied salmon a hybrid, hardier than regular smoked salmon, and not quite as austere as the traditional salmon candy made by the native Alaskans. Whatever you call it, it’s damn good.

close up of strips of candied salmon
4.84 from 107 votes

Smoked Salmon Candy

This is traditionally done with salmon in Alaska, usually chinook, coho, sockeye or chum salmon. But any salmon will work for this recipe, as will fish like mackinaw (lake trout), Dolly Varden, big rainbows or cutthroats, char or really any large, fatty fish you can cut into strips. I bet tuna belly would be good for this.
Course: Cured Meat, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 25
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours


  • 5 pounds skin-on salmon pieces, cut into 1- to 2-inch thick strips
  • 1 pound kosher salt
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1 cup maple syrup or birch syrup


  • Mix the salt and brown sugar together. Find a lidded container large enough to hold the salmon; a big plastic tub works well. Lay down a layer of the salt/sugar mixture about 1/4 inch deep. Put a layer of salmon down on this, skin side up. Cover the salmon with more salt/sugar mixture. If you need a second layer of salmon, make sure the layer of salt and sugar between them is thick enough so that the pieces of salmon are not touching. Basically you are burying the salmon in salt and sugar. Cover and let cure in the fridge at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 hours. The longer the cure the saltier it will be; I cure for 2 hours.
  • Remove the salmon from the cure, which will get wet, and briefly rinse the fish under cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel and set the salmon on a drying rack skin side down. Let this dry in a breezy place for 2 hours, or in the fridge, uncovered, overnight. I put the racks under a ceiling fan near an open window with another fan blowing at the fish from the side. You are doing this to form a pellicle on the salmon, which helps it smoke properly. Don't skip this step!
  • Traditionally salmon candy is cold smoked for several days. If you can do this, go for it. Regardless, you want to bring the temperature up gradually over the course of an hour or so and let it sit at around 165°F to 200°F for at least 3 hours, and up to 6 hours if you like your salmon candy harder and smokier.
  • Every 90 minutes to 2 hours, paint the salmon with the maple syrup. This also helps to remove any albumen -- the icky white stuff -- that can form between the fish flakes if your smoker gets a little too hot too fast.
  • When the salmon looks good and lacquered, typically about 3 to 4 hours, remove it to the drying racks again and paint it one last time with the maple syrup. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing. Salmon candy will last a week in the fridge, longer if vacuum sealed. It freezes well, too.



Smoke likes Fat. Smoke adheres better to fat than lean meat, so bellies and collars are better for this.
Vary the thickness. Very thin strips will dry harder and be more like jerky... and will keep longer. I eat mine fairly quickly, so I leave the strips thicker, at about 2 inches wide.


Calories: 164kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 41mg | Potassium: 474mg | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 36IU | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

You May Also Like

Salmon Risotto

A simple salmon risotto recipe with herbs and butter that works well with leftover salmon or trout, or scraps from the carcass. You could use canned or smoked salmon or trout.

Japanese Salmon Rice

A very simple, clean, Japanese salmon rice recipe that uses short- or medium-grain rice, sake, green onions, salmon and optional furikake rice seasoning.

Smoked Salmon Tacos

Smoked salmon tacos aren’t a thing in Mexico, but smoked marlin tacos are, and that’s what these are modeled after. Easy, quick and tasty.

Salmon Miso Soup

A simple salmon miso soup recipe that hinges on good broth, miso and Japanese noodles. A great use for salmon scraps or leftovers.

About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. I add garlic to the brine. Strip slice the meat not the skin. Lay on elevated rack/cookie sheet. Spread brine with flour sifter. Every few hour add brine to wet areas. Next day rinse rinse rinse dry etc. Hang fillets in Big Chief to smoke. I save unused brine and add to next batch. Some times I use 3 to 1 white/brown sugar. Experiment. God bless America

  2. Emptied out the freezer of my last years catch,didn’t realize how much fish I had so I started with the candy salmon and went on to jerky, and simple smoked salmon. This has taken three days and has delicious results. Now I am ready for my spring bear hunt, my salmon fishing trip, and my moose hunt in the fall. Thanks for those easy recipes going to use them in years to come just can’t let my friends know how much I have stashed away for these up coming adventures. Thanks for the tips and tricks.

  3. Hey there. I’ve got some fresh steelhead and am thinking about trying your recipe. I do not have a smoker, though. Since you don’t mention a smoker specifically, I’m wondering if you do this in a smoker or can I use a gas BBQ? Sounds like heresy to ask that. Apologies for the neophyte question.



    1. John: Yes, it’s done in a smoker. If you have a gas grill, you can soak some wood chips (they sell them in the supermarket next to the charcoal) and put them in a foil packet left partially open, and put that on the gas. It will heat up, and cause the wood to smoke. You might need to keep adding chips as you go, but it will get you some nice smoke.

      1. I used a spiced maple syrup and the pepper taste did not come through in the end product much at all. Low heat 165-170 in smoker on salmon, 6 hours. As a side note, these are Salmon River NY salmon caught in October, a little later on the run and not always the best tasting fish.
        I didn’t think I’d ever find anything better than my venison jerky recipe but I have. Also endorsed by my 11 year old as the best salmon she’s ever had. I agree.
        Thank you Hank.

      2. I’ve used a small table top charcoal grill successfully. I put a foil pan with 1/2″of water on the coal grate that takes up most of the length of the grate, then load the area near the air intake with charcoal. I start about 5 or 6 briquettes and put them on top of the pile, with a foil packet of smoking chips on top. In my grill that amount of charcoal will last about 4 hrs.
        Take from it what you will.
        Honorary member of The Club of No Return — Leroy Sheppard

  4. Hey Hank,

    Been following this for years and it’s the first thing destroyed at the holiday party’s, to the point where I bring a little extra.

    This year I’m working with some timing issues. When it comes to putting the salmon it be fridge to form the Pellicle, is there any harm leaving it in longer than overnight? A maximum amount of you wouldn’t exceed?

    Thank You!

  5. Am in the process of making this now. We have a Bradley, and we used your recipe last year as well. This year, I’m trying Demerarra for the brine and basting with Agave syrup. I also like to add a wee bit of cracked black pepper to one batch that’s basted with Maple Syrup. My FAVE!

  6. Can you reuse the curing mixture? Seem like a lot of salt and sugar to just throw it away after one use. Maybe if you freeze it?

    1. there won’t be cure left to throw away; just a gooey, salmon-juicy mess that I, at least, feel has more than served its purpose and feel no shame rinsing down the drain.

  7. Hey, Hank Shaw

    So do you paint the salmon with maple syrup before initially putting the salmon in the smoker or not until the first 90 mins to 2 hours has elapsed?

  8. This is very similar to the salmon candy recipe I use.
    Here’s a little tip….

    When you have your fish cut into the strips you’re going to smoke, take a plain brown kraft paper grocery bag and cut out strips just larger than each piece of fish.

    Smoke your fish on the strip of paper. It doesn’t impede the smoking, but once you’re done cooking and cooling the fish, strip away the bag and the skin goes with it in one smooth pull.

    Makes prepping for vacuum sealing a whole lot easier and cleaner.

  9. I first wish to say is, I liked all the comments
    Today I was attempting to smoke some sockeye salmon on my barbecue, sadly it was to hot
    I salvaged it and dabbed maple syrup on it
    It’s a tad too salty for my palate but I’ll tweak the recipe next time

    I’m going to put my salmon candy in my oven on 180 for about 6 hours, basting with maple syrup
    I had a bottle of liquid smoke and I added it to the first glazing with the maple syrup
    I’m confident that it will be just fine

    My husband ordered us a cold smoker reputable brand
    Will definitely be doing this Mmmm Many more times

    I agree with a commenter that this salmon candy is addicting

    Vancouver Canada here

    1. The best Salmon candy I’ve ver had as at the Granville Market in Vancouver. I wish I knew the name of the vendor.
      It’s very dry, and very sweet and chewy and totally addicting. ?

  10. How thick are your two inch wide pieces? For the bellies and collars, do you cut off the “skin” to expose the meat to the salt/sugar cure? I want to try this with king salmon bellies and collars.

    1. Nate: I only really do this with king salmon, as you can see in the pictures. No, I don’t remove the skin. It holds the pieces together better.

  11. Hi, Hank! I tried this with a Presto smoker, which has since been recalled due to safety issues (likely folks not using common sense, but whatever), and it turned out pretty good. I didn’t use any syrup, but am wondering if honey can be substituted (yeah, I’ll probably have to water it down some, and wonder if you can recommend any particular ratio). As I’m currently looking for a smoker, it seems you prefer the Bradley, which is fine with me, and I’m assuming the cold smoke attachment would be a prerequisite. Given that it can run for up to 8-9 (or maybe even 10) hours, would you recommend smoking for multiple ‘sessions’, or just going for the ‘max’ (8-9)? Also, I have a LOT of ‘Pink’/Humpback salmon to smoke. Would you recommend vacuum sealing/freezing these?

    1. Buck: Yes, you can use honey. And I would go with multiple sessions. I vac seal and freeze my finished candied salmon, yes.

  12. I am heading up to Ketchikan for my first ever Alaskan fishing trip in a few days. Really want to make this recipe to replace my neighborhood candy salmon crack dealer at B&E Meats. I have a Big Green Egg, which I don’t think will smoke cold enough. Do you recommend a preferred smoker for salmon and fish?

    1. Marc: Yes, the Bradley is the best for fish, because it tends to smoke a lot colder than all other smokers I’ve used. That one is actually tough to get over 300F, so smoking below 200F is easy with it.

    2. Marc — I just got back from Ketchikan. You didn’t say if you were going to to go on a charter or not, but I’ve found that you can fish from the shore at Mountain Point (about mile 5 on the Tongass Hwy South) and really get into them there. Use the PINK ‘Buzz Bombs’, which you can find at WalMart, Tongass Trading Co., etc. There will usually be a bunch of locals and ‘seasoned’ visitors to help you out. I get mine processed at The Cedars Lodge, for what that’s worth.

    3. We lived in Alaska from 1961-1964. Momma, daddy and I would fish and camp in a 5-man Army tent at Seward on Resurrection Bay. Daddy would build a low smoking fire with green wood. He made a rustic rack to hang the silver salmon we caught and hung it far enough away so it wasn’t too hot. He used a simple mix of salt and sugar and cut in about 1” strips. Turned out dry and delicious. Smoked very low while we slept. It was primitive but wonderful!

    4. What type of smoking chips do you use in smoker for chinook ? Hickory ? Alder? , Cherry? Guess what I’m asking is what flavor of chip is good with candy salmon , it’s been 20 plus yrs since I have smoked fish , looking for some tips … thank You in advance ???

  13. I want to try something similar with some mahi. I was thinking a brown sugar dry cure and smoke, then brush with a brown sugar rum glaze?

  14. Used your smoked salmon recipe and smoking tips – thanks – fantastic flavor!
    What technique/knife edge do you recommend in cutting smoked salmon into portions (snacking, etc.)? When I cut with a sharp blade still get some shredding due to “grain” of filet – looking for a cleaner technique resulting in less “waste” (never wasted, just a treat to the preparer!) – thanks again.

    1. Cosmo: I tend to flake it off the skin. I am pretty sure it’s nearly impossible to get a clean cut once it’s smoked. Easier to cut when cured, then smoke.

      1. Hi Hank,
        I do an overnight basically 12 hour cure in salt, another 6 – 12 hours in
        brown sugar only. Have done the mix salt/sugar, bu 12 hours is max for me.
        If you leave it longer it longer it gets more salty.

        The pieces stay together quite well less skin,