Fish dips, normally smoked, pounded fish with mayo and seasonings, meant to be eaten on crackers or bread, are universal all over the United States. This rendition is smoked trout dip from the Great Lakes area, with horseradish, cream cheese and smoked lake trout.
I had a great day fishing for trout and salmon on Lake Michigan recently, and I brought home a really nice laker that was somewhere above 20 pounds — a real beauty. I immediately knew that I wanted to smoke most of it, and so I did my usual recipe for smoked lake trout.
So I smoked the bellies and tail sections over alder wood, and glazed them a little with some honey, but not too much. Aren’t they pretty?
We ate some right off the smoker, but the leftovers I wanted to turn into smoked trout dip, which I’ve eaten many times over the years in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
Similar to my recipes for salmon rillettes and smoked bluefish pâté, smoked trout dip is meant to be spread on crackers or small slices of bread, although it makes a great sandwich filling, a la your typical “tunafish” sandwich.
A good smoked trout dip should be spreadable, but not smooth. It should be smoky, but also creamy. And it needs some zip, from hot sauce, mustard and/or horseradish. My recipe relies on prepared horseradish and mustard for that. You also need a little sour in there, so I use sour cream and a touch of lemon juice.
The result is craveable, and I don’t use that term lightly. Holly and I ate most of this batch in one sitting, with the better part of a loaf of bread.
I definitely recommend sturdy crackers or thin slices of toast for your smoked trout dip, but if you’re skipping bread products, eat it on celery sticks or Belgian endive spears. Super good that way, too.
And while yes, I used lake trout here, any salmonid — salmon, trout or char, or whitefish — will work. For those of you living in non-trout regions, try this with king mackerel, mullet, Boston mackerel, bluefish, or any of the jacks. Bonito and skipjack tuna is another good option.
Once made, smoked trout dip will keep a week in the fridge before it gets gnarly. I have not found it to freeze well, however. But smoked trout does freeze well, so keep that handy for when you want to make a batch.
Smoked Trout Dip
- 1 1/2 pounds smoked trout (see above for alternative fish)
- 3 ounces cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons pickle juice (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced chives or green onion
- 2 tablespoons sour cream, or mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (any mustard will do)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
- hot sauce and black pepper, to taste
- Remove any skin or bones from the smoked fish and put into a bowl. Add all the other ingredients and pound and mash everything until it becomes a rough spread. Tinker with the seasonings as you like and serve cool over bread or crackers, or celery stalks.
Keys to Success
- Start with good smoked fish. Any will do, but trout, salmon or whitefish are my favorites.
- Use my recipe as a guide, not gospel. Tinker with the seasonings to suit your taste. It's all cooked already so you can taste as you go.
- Try adding some minced pickles to the mix for extra sour crunch.
- You can also go 50-50 smoked fish with leftover cooked fish and it will work well.
- Store in a covered container in the fridge up to a week.