Salmon Rillettes

5 from 8 votes
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Rillettes, pronounced “ree-yets,” are one of my favorite appetizers. It’s basically a really rough pâté that’s just barely spreadable. And salmon rillettes are every bit as good as the customary pork or duck rillettes.

Far easier to make than a proper pâté and equally less fussy, rillettes are to pate as Armagnac is to a fine Cognac: Just as good, but a little rougher around the edges.

salmon rillettes on toast on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Another way to look at a rillette is that it’s a lot like a salmon salad (or egg salad, ham salad or whatever), except it’s been beaten to a pulp. You eat it on crackers or toasted bread, so it needs to be spreadable enough to stay where you put it.

(Here is a general primer on how to make rillettes from pretty much anything.)

Best part is you don’t want the prime cuts to make your salmon rillettes: Anglers, this is a great use for the meat you scrape off the carcass with a spoon, and for that last 6 to 8 inches of fillet on the tail end.

If you are buying your salmon, don’t make rillettes from top-of-the-line Pacific salmon loin cuts — make it with cheaper pieces, or with lesser salmon, such as pinks or chum salmon. Any trout or char will work, too. I really like using tail sections if I don’t have “spoon meat.”

You’ll also want some smoked salmon, too. The flavor will be different depending on whether you use hot-smoked or cold-smoked fish, however. I use cold-smoked fish here, which is more delicate. A rillette with a piece of hot-smoked salmon will be pretty assertive, but still very good.

Only thing you want to watch for is hot-smoked salmon that’s been really heavily smoked: It’s too firm, and will not properly incorporate into the rest of the spread.

Rillettes are total outdoor food, too. You pack it into little jars — a half-pint Mason jar is ideal — melt some butter on top, let it solidify in the fridge, cover the jar and you’re good to go. Bring along some crackers or bread and you have a helluva meal at a picnic, on the boat, streamside, or wherever you find yourself.

Serve salmon rillettes on toast or crackers as an appetizer or a snack, with pickled things. It is really good on board while you are fishing for more salmon and trout.

salmon rillettes recipe
5 from 8 votes

Salmon Rillettes

The very best rillettes are a combination of fresh and smoked salmon or trout; this gives the spread a more interesting flavor. If you're lacking one or the other, it's no sin to buy some salmon or trout to make this recipe -- but most salmon and trout anglers I know have a ready supply of both fresh and smoked fish on hand.
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: French
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 1/2 pound fresh salmon or trout, skin and bones removed
  • 1/2 pound smoked salmon or trout, skin and bones removed
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Finely grated zest of a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives or parsley
  • About 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, or to taste
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Pickled mustard seeds or trout caviar (optional)


  • Bring about a quart of water to a boil. Salt it well. You can add some flavorings if you want, such as bay leaves, herbs or onions, but I rarely do. Slip the fresh salmon into the water and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let this sit for 15 minutes or so. Remove the salmon and when it is cool enough to handle, flake it into a large bowl.
  • Break up the smoked salmon and add that to the bowl, along with the sour cream, 3 tablespoons of butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and chives. Use a heavy fork to mash everything together. You want a rough spread, not a smooth pate. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter if the rillettes look dry.
  • Add salt, pepper and horseradish to taste. cover the rillettes with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for an hour or so before serving. Spoon over some pickled mustard seeds or caviar when you serve.


Once made, pack the rillettes tightly into jars; try to get as many air pockets out as you can. Once packed, melt some butter over the top of the rillettes, cover and store in the fridge. It will keep for at least a week this way, and up to 2 weeks if you keep resealing the butter cap between each use. You can also freeze the finished rillettes for several months.


Calories: 91kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 241mg | Potassium: 199mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 139IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 14mg | 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!

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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.

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  1. Greetings Hank

    I stumbled on your home page while looking for recipes for the massive amount of “Bärlauch” we brought home from the forests around Strasbourg, France over the Easter holidays. The closest I could find was your recipes for your “ramps”. It is not 1 on 1 fit, the the recipes are great. Thanks for your postings

  2. I’ve used this recipe for years – so good, so easy. These days I swap the butter for ghee (which brings a nice toasty, almost nutty flavor to the party) and leave the black pepper out (because it hates me – the recipe is better with the pepper). Even with my (necessary for me) small modifications, still excellent and easy to make.

  3. Thanks for sharing another really nice recipe! I enjoyed the mellow yet elevated salmon flavor in this dish. As with most of your recipes that I fully commit to, its not what I expected. Much less overbearing than the typical cream cheese salmon dip.

  4. I love this rillette recipe and just finished another batch which I place into small mason jars and pour about a 1/4” of butter on top and then give to friends. Well, I do that after consuming plenty…
    This is a great way to use salmon that is simple but different than the more traditional ways of preparing. Hook, Line and Supper has the recipe!

  5. I used chinook salmon tail pieces and smoked coho collars. I went a little heavy on the lemon zest and only 3 tablespoons of butter. I wasn’t overly impressed the day I made it, however, the following day when I spread it on crispy salmon skin I could not get enough of this! This recipe is just like me; simple, easy, and getting better with age!

  6. Hey Hank, Comparing this recipe to your salmon dip recipe. Is it just the solidified butter cover that allows it to hold up longer, compared to the salmon dip which doesn’t last more than a couple days?

  7. I made this with lake trout. Other recipes I’ve tried used just smoked fish. Using the combination of smoked and poached fish makes for a mellower and more refined taste. I pickled a combination of light and dark mustard seeds to add as topping-nice addition!.

  8. We just enjoyed smoked trout rillette made at Harvest Deli in Newrybar NSW
    They make it with creme fraiche, Dijon mustard, rice wine vinegar, dill
    I like idea of horse radish
    Looking forward to trying your recipe

  9. Very nice recipe, good uptake on a salmon spread! I like the garnish ideas and could also enjoy capers or ikura (salmon eggs).

  10. When I scrape the salmon from the backbone its already “flaked” but raw. Like a ground meat. I can’t see how I could “slip” it into boiling water then “flake” it when I pull it out. I imagine it would turn into a type of soup. Should I ball it up first? Or can you recommend another recipe for use of my “salmon scrapings”? Thank you this does sound great just want to clarify.

    1. Well, the recipe calls for fillets of salmon, not meat scraped from the carcass. And since this recipe requires cooked salmon to make the rillette, my advice is to cook the carcass first, then flake it.

  11. I made some of this yesterday with some Rainbow trout I was needing to get out of the freezer. I hot smoked some of the fillets quickly and then followed the recipe with one exception. I added some rosemary in addition to the chives. It was amazing.

  12. I have never seen a recipe for rilletes that is so simple. I’ve got to try this even if I don’t catch the salmon!

  13. Wow, this looks incredible! I would imagine salmon bellies would be particularly nice for this? Or maybe that’s just me craving salmon bellies!

  14. i love fish rilletes! i’ve a tasty recipe for an olive oil packed tuna version, totally addictive. i’ll give this a go too.

  15. Hank
    I like this idea of using fish. I’ve only done rillettes by cooking the meat very long & slow in fat. Did a squirrel in lard last season. It sure wasn’t pork or duck but it wasn’t bad. I do need to try the salmon for sure.

  16. This is one of my favorite ways to use up trimmings from springer salmon and smoked.

    Im guessing that you pulled these out of the willamette when you were in town last week?

    Next time you’re in pdx, say hi.. I’d love to show you some of the recipes I’ve made based on some of your stuff.