This smoked salmon tartare recipe is an elegant, light and pleasant seafood dish. Delicate yet delicious, it is perfect to serve as a scrumptious appetizer or vibrant starter during a formal or festive meal. It’s very quick and easy to prepare by combining smoked salmon, capers, cucumber, onion, lemon and herbs tossed with a sour cream and horseradish dressing. It is a real crowd pleaser.
Smoked salmon appetizer
A tartare is usually fish or meat cut into very small pieces and served without being cooked. Often salmon tartare is made with raw fish, however, this recipe uses smoked salmon because depending on where you live it is more readily available. A great alternative for raw meat or fish is this vegetarian option: Beet tartare with apple and feta.
A recipe for salmon tartare can be simply made with just a few ingredients. For this recipe though, I use a few more ingredients and seasonings just because it works really well. I have tried and tested this smoked salmon recipe many times for friends, family as well as for paying clients and it has always been a very big hit every single time. It has a beautifully vibrant look, refreshing taste and an explosion of delicate flavors.
Which ingredients to use
- Salmon: Use any smoked salmon you like, but preferably cold smoked.
- Onion: Use either a red onion or shallot as they are milder in flavor. A regular onion will be too strong and will overpower the taste of the smoked salmon. Don’t use too much onion and mince it finely.
- Cucumber: Finely minced cucumber adds a lovely freshness and crunch to this salmon recipe. You can choose to peel the cucumber or leave the peel on, but do remove the seeds as they contain too much liquid.
- Capers: The tangy and lemony taste of capers pairs perfectly with smoked salmon and brings all the flavors of this tartar to a perfect balance. I use a jar of capers preserved in brine.
- Sour cream: Adding sour cream gives the tartare a smooth and slightly creamy texture.
- Lemon: I prefer to use a splash of fresh lemon juice but a teaspoon of lemon zest works fine as well.
- Herbs: Season with a combination of chives, dill and freshly ground black pepper. You can use either fresh or dried dill.
- Horseradish (optional): Adding a tiny bit of horseradish gives this salmon tartare a subtle kick. The sharp and pungent flavor of the horseradish cream enhances the taste of this dish. It is optional as it isn’t always easy to find and not everyone likes horseradish with salmon, although I do highly recommend adding it if possible. It is a very worthwhile compliment to this dish.
- Pink peppercorn (optional): Adding pink peppercorns or pink pepper berries adds a beautiful vibrant color to the finishing touch of the dish. It also provides a unique taste with a combination of fruity and spicy tones. Just be careful with allergies! More information can be found here.
- Use gherkins or dill pickles instead of cucumber for a different flavor. Since cucumbers are milder in taste, be sure not to add too many gherkins or pickles.
- Crème fraîche can be used to substitute sour cream. Just remember that crème fraîche is thicker and creamier than sour cream, so start with a little bit when mixing with the smoked salmon so the tartare doesn’t become too heavy.
- Use lemon zest instead of lemon juice, although my preference goes for lemon juice to mix in the tartare. A bit of lemon zest can be sprinkled on top before serving.
- Chives and dill are the preferred herbs in this dish, but as a substitute, fresh parsley or basil works just as well.
- Dijon mustard can be used as a substitute for horseradish.
How to make salmon tartare
Note: All the exact quantities of the ingredients can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
The key to making a good tartare is to finely dice all the ingredients so they provide a good balance when it comes to the texture. Take your time with the chopping and use a good, sharp knife in order to make a clean cut.
- Cut the smoked salmon: Place the salmon on a cutting board and use a large, sharp knife to cut thin slices of about maximum ⅕ inches or 5 mm. Turn the slices and cut across the strips into ⅕ inches or 5 mm cubes.
- Cut all the ingredients: Do the same with the red onion or shallot and cucumber. Make sure to remove the seeds of the cucumber before dicing otherwise the tartare will become too liquid. I usually don’t peel the cucumber, but you can if you prefer. Roughly chop the capers, fresh dill and chives.
- Combine: Combine all the above mentioned chopped ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the fresh lemon juice, sour cream, horseradish and black pepper. Gently toss all the ingredients together. Have a taste and add more herbs if necessary. You can also add more salt depending on how salty the fish and capers might already be.
- Garnish: Serve and garnish optionally with chives, fresh dill, lemon zest and pink peppercorns.
How to store
This salmon tartare can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored in a sealed container in the fridge. Keep in mind though that after 1 day the tartare might not look or taste the same as it is best eaten fresh, so if you want to make this dish ahead of time for example your Christmas dinner, prepare it a maximum of only a few hours in advance for the best experience.
How to serve smoked salmon tartare
Serve this smoked salmon tartare on individual plates as a starter. Place a round cookie cutter on a plate then spoon some tartare inside and press down with the back of the spoon. Gently remove the ring.
Serve with a variation of garnish like pink peppercorns, a slice of lemon or lemon zest, fresh dill, chives, a dollop of sour cream or a handful of arugula on top. Serve with crackers, melba toast, slices of cucumber rounds, toast or slices of French baguette.
As an appetizer serve a smaller spoonful of tartare with garnish on top of a cucumber round or on a small piece of toast, in an appetizer spoon or an amuse glass. Halve the quantity when serving this tartare recipe as an appetizer.
More fish recipes to try
- Pan fried trout with garlic butter
- Dogfish stew with fennel
- Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast
- Creamy smoked trout pasta
- Smoked salmon with pineapple salsa
- Lemon baked whiting with roasted vegetables
Smoked salmon tartare
- 6 ounces (or 170 grams) smoked salmon finely diced
- 1 tablespoon red onion or shallot finely minced
- 1 tablespoon capers finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon cucumber finely diced
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 1 teaspoon dill fresh or dried
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chives finely chopped
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon horseradish
- 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
- lemon zest
- salt to taste
- Slice the smoked salmon into fine strips (max. 5 mm or ⅕ inches). Then combine these strips and cut those again (max. 5 mm or ⅕ inches)6 ounces (or 170 grams) smoked salmon
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the finely diced salmon, red onion, capers and cucumber.6 ounces (or 170 grams) smoked salmon, 1 tablespoon red onion or shallot, 1 tablespoon capers, 1 tablespoon cucumber
- Add lemon zest, sour cream, dill, chives, horseradish, lemon juice and gently toss together. Add freshly ground pepper to taste. Optionally add salt.1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 teaspoon dill, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, ½ teaspoon horseradish, lemon zest, freshly ground black pepper
- Divide the salmon tartare into individual servings. Spoon the tartare in to a round cookie cutter on a plate. Press down with a spoon and gently remove the ring.
- Garnish with fresh dill, pink peppercorns, chives or lemon zest.1 teaspoon dill, 1 tablespoon chives, 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, lemon zest
- How to dice the cucumber: Cut in half, remove the seeds, finely slice lengthwise and finely dice the slices. No need to peel the cucumber, but you can if that’s your personal preference.
- Pink peppercorn: Be careful when using them since they are related to tree nuts and people with allergies can react badly to them.
- Salt: Smoked salmon and capers are already quite salty. So do taste before adding extra salt.
- Appetizer: Half the quantity when serving this tartare as an appetizer.