A Fun and Easy Snack for Parties and Picnics
New Year’s Eve is almost here. And in a few weeks there will be that big Super Bowl bash. So the quest for party food is on. Snacks, spreads, and dips rule this time of year. And one of the best I know is Smoky Salmon and Cream Cheese Dip.
Salmon and cream cheese make a classic combo. Think lox and bagels with a schmear. Take the salmon and cream cheese, add some smoky notes and a bit of onion or scallion, and you’ve got the makings of a delicious dip. It’s great with your chip of choice — I tend to prefer ridged potato chips (which stand up better to dipping) or tortilla chips. You can also spread it on crackers, or on pieces of that little party rye that supermarkets feature so prominently this time of the year (they always have it in stock, but you see more of it during the holidays).
Once your guests taste this dip, it will disappear quickly. But if by chance you have some left over? Spread it on your morning bagel.
This recipe probably dates back to the 1950s. We first encountered it 30 or more years ago, when Mrs. Kitchen Riffs was working at her first post-law school job (yes, Mrs K R confesses to being a lawyer). She was clerking for a federal judge, who graciously invited his staff to a party at his home. This dip was one of the appetizers — and it went fast! We begged for the recipe, and have been making it ever since.
We particularly like to whip up a batch on New Year’s Eve. (We also make California Clam Dip every NYE without fail.) There’s something about New Year’s Eve that brings out the “dip diva” in all of us. But the fact that we’ve been making this one seemingly forever tells you something about how tasty it is.
The recipe calls for canned salmon, which usually isn’t smoked. So add some liquid smoke (which is a natural product; see Notes) to get the great smoky flavor that blends so well with cream cheese. Or if you want to splurge, you can substitute smoked salmon from your fish monger’s.
This recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare, and makes about two cups. Leftovers (packed in an airtight container) keep well in the refrigerator for several days. Serve with your favorite chips, crackers, or party bread.
- ~1 tablespoon finely chopped onion or ~2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions (scallions have a milder flavor, so use more)
- 1 ~15-ounce can salmon (better quality salmon makes a better dip)
- 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese (we always use the Philadelphia brand for this, but the store brands often are quite good)
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (see Notes)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional; we generally don’t use)
- chopped scallion for garnish (optional)
- Peel the onion, or wash scallions and remove root ends. Finely mince about 1 tablespoon of onion or 2 tablespoons of scallions.
- Open the canned salmon, drain, and put into a smallish container. Remove the larger bones and cartilage.
- Add the canned salmon and cream cheese to a medium-sized bowl (we always use our stand mixer). Add the minced onion or scallions and the liquid smoke.
- Beat until well blended — a couple of minutes using a stand mixer, 5 or more if beating by hand.
- Taste, and add more onion or liquid smoke if needed. Season with optional salt and/or black pepper. Mix again until blended (maybe a minute).
- This dip can be served right away, although it tastes a bit better if you allow the flavors to comingle in the refrigerator for an hour or so. You can sprinkle some chopped scallion on top for garnish, if you wish.
- You don’t actually need to remove the visible bones and cartilage from canned salmon — they’re soft and generally will turn to mush in the mixer. We take out the larger ones just to ensure a smoother dip mixture.
- Liquid smoke is made from the condensed smoke of smoldering hardwood (when the hot smoke is chilled, it condenses). The smoke itself is a natural product; there’s nothing artificial about it. The better brands of liquid smoke contain nothing except water and natural smoke concentrate. The cheaper brands? Do read the label; you may be buying things you don’t want. If you’re concerned about the safety of liquid smoke, the Wikipedia Liquid Smoke article has some useful information.
- Liquid smoke was first sold commercially in the US in 1895 by Ernest H. Wright. His brand of liquid smoke is still sold today.
- This recipe invites add-ins. You might want to consider adding lemon juice (maybe a tablespoon). Or maybe fresh dill or another herb (again, probably a tablespoon), chopped dill pickle (ditto), horseradish (a teaspoon for me), or some cayenne or Tabasco sauce (to taste). Basically anything you think would taste good probably will. I would suggest making the recipe as written the first time, and then experimenting if you want.
- Smoky Salmon and Cream Cheese makes a terrific dip or spread. But you might also like to use it as a stuffing for pasta (ravioli or cannelloni) or as a filling in crepes. Or you could pipe it into hollowed out hard-boiled egg halves (to make salmon “deviled eggs”), or bake it in pastry shells and serve it as a hot hors d’oeuvre. You can probably find a lot of uses for this basic recipe.
So, are you feverishly making preparations for New Year’s Eve? Or at least feverishly thinking about making preparations? Well, we have some ideas for you.
In addition to Smoky Salmon and Cream Cheese Dip, you might want to make California Clam Dip; it’s a classic, and always well received. Or how about Pimento Cheese, a luscious southern specialty? Other appropriate party fare might include Velveeta Tex-Mex Dip, Salsa and Picante Sauce, Cheese Straws, Homemade Chex Mix, or Microwave Popcorn. If you’re living in a part of the world where fresh peaches are in season, you could try some Peach Salsa.
What about drinks? If you have any Beaujolais Nouveau left, now is the time to drink it. The name means “new Beaujolais,” and that’s exactly what it is: A very young wine, released just weeks after the harvest. Tradition says you should always consume this wine before the end of the year in which it is bottled (though it should still retain its fresh quality a bit longer if you miss that deadline). Another New Year’s Eve favorite is Eggnog. And you can never go wrong with the Classic Champagne Cocktail.
If you’re looking for something a bit stronger, you might try a classic “hard liquor” cocktail, like the Manhattan or the Martini. I’m also partial to the Sidecar.
For those in the Southern Hemisphere who are luxuriating in warm weather? A tall Pimm's Cup or Bermuda Rum Swizzle would be mighty refreshing. Or maybe a Gin and Tonic or a Classic Daiquiri.
All that eating and guzzling can make you feel, ahem, indisposed the next day. If you’re looking for a classic hair-of-the-dog remedy, you could try the Corpse Reviver Cocktail (in fact, this little-known drink is worth serving on New Year’s Eve itself). Or if you’re in the market for a more contemporary (and “healthier”) morning drink, you might consider the Bloody Mary — which will be the subject of our first post for 2013.
Happy New Year!
You may also enjoy reading about:
Salsa and Picante Sauce
California Clam Dip
Homemade Chex Mix
Velveeta Tex-Mex Dip
Pickled Watermelon Rind
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Gin and Tonic
Corpse Reviver Cocktail
Talk about scrumptious! I am all for being the first to break family tradition (we do ethnic-faithful meals!) and show up at the party with a dip like this. Very nice! And please let Mrs. KR know we all forgive her for her momentary transgression into law (heh, just kidding!).
Nothing like dips for New Year's. I make something similar with smoked trout and capers. I always pray for leftovers so I can get that schmear! And by the way-hope your new year is very happy!
What a fabulous dip, John! Actually, I eat stuff like this for a light lunch so this is right up my alley! I've never worked with liquid smoke before but I am willing to give it a try! And I love your suggestion of shmearing this on a bagel! Now that is good stuff! I hope you had a great holiday season and I wish you and Mrs. Kitchen Riffs the best of everything in the New Year to come! : )
Hi Ala, you'll be glad to know it's been years since Mrs K R actually practiced law. ;-) I think your family would forgive your transgression if you showed up with this - such good stuff! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, I remember your smoked trout & capers dish - really good. And the schmear is so great, isn't it? Thanks for the comment, and I hope 2013 is terrific for you!
Hi Anne, this would be a really nice lunch! If you like a smokey flavor (usually hickory), you'll like liquid smoke. But a little goes a long way! Thanks for the comment, and I hope your new year is wonderful!
Nice dip! The homemade Chex mix sounds enticing too. I love snacking! Happy New Year :)
Ten minutes to prepare sounds great! And then the ingredients for the recipe are even better!! Delicious recipe :)
I wish you and Mrs. Riff a wonderful New Year!
I had no idea about the liquid smoke! Another great dip recipe. Thank you! I have a friend who is crazy about smoked salmon, I am going to send this to her as well.
Oh and Happy New Year! :)
This looks wonderful. I've never had salmon dip, I think I need to fix that asap. I adore salmon. I've even fished for it myself on occasion. My dad was a huge hobby fisherman so we grew up fishing often. Anyhow, I'm rambling now. Happy New Year my friend.
Methinks you are simply not allowed to take us back that far!! Listen: Pimm's and Velveeta [those horrible glasses out of which we all drank wine at the time . . . oops!] belong to a bygone age, don't they? Do believe you should have made this delightfully 'retro'? But the actual recipe is great!! Happy New Year!!!!
Hi Natalie, this definitely is the snacking time of year! And this salmon dip is perfect. Happy New Year to you, and thanks for the comment.
Hi Judy, this definitely is pretty easy to make! And it tastes wonderful. Happy New Year, and thanks for commenting.
Hi Ilke, although you can buy some brands of liquid smoke with weird things in them, the name brands are all pretty good. Happy New Year, and thanks for the comment!
Hi Kim, if you've never had salmon dip, you have a treat in store! You'll like it. It might be good - although weird - on a pizza, too. ;-) Happy New Year, and thanks for commenting.
Hi Eha, you know, I do kinda sorta recall those Velveeta glasses! I think. ;-) Nothing wrong with retro as long as it's good, and this is good stuff. Maybe we should call it classic instead? ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hmmph . . . obviously I was way 'ahead' of you!!!! Bear with me!! You know the little old lady leaning on a crooked stick . . .? She just may have a few secrets to tell'ya :) ! [May I roar with laughter as I type this?]. Classic - hmmph, perchance - I am almost there on your New Year's Eve' :) } Nah!!!!!
Hi Eha, I'm definitely behind you, that's for sure! Kind of the story of my life, though. ;-) I'd be delighted to hear any secrets or other wisdom you have to pass along — what I don't know is legendary (and if you don't believe me, just ask Mrs K R!). Thanks for the followup. ;-)
This looks so good. It's already New Year's Eve here and funnily enough I have just made some appetizers with salmon and cream cheese which we are eating as I write but quite different from your ones. They will be on my blog maybe tomorrow. Your recipe is one to stash away for the furture.
This is just a tasty blast from my past. My parents did something very similar for parties and it has fallen by the wayside. This is the perfect year for me to incorporate it again. Love using crab in dips. It feels so luxurious. Happy 2013! May it bring you all good things.
Hi Suzanne, I'll definitely be checking out your recipe! Salmon & cream cheese are so versatile, any combo of the two can take many different forms. And they're all good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Claudia, this recipe, or variations of it, has been around for awhile. ;-) It's great, though, as you know! Crab is also terrific in dips - in fact if you'd substitute crab, you'd basically have a Crab Rangoon dip! (Might want to drop the liquid smoke, however.) Thanks for the comment.
You will make my husband very happy when he sees that someone else uses liquid smoke. It's his favorite ingredient! Have a fantastic New Year. I'm looking forward to seeing what you cook up in 2013!
Hi Kristi, liquid smoke seems so wrong somehow - like some sort of chemical monstrosity. And maybe some of the cheap ones are. But the mainstream ones are all natural, and the flavor is excellent. Happy New Year to you, and thanks for commenting.
I can definitely see why this would disappear in a flash! Gonna have to keep it in mind for the big Superbowl party =)
This looks so good! I have a fresh smoked salmon (not canned) that my husband purchased when he traveled to Seattle. It's so good fresh, too! I can eat it just plain. Happy New Year!
If a dish is good, I really don't care when it first appeared. The fact that it's still being prepared says something. This salmon dip of yours would definitely go fast in my crowd, as would the clam dip. I'd have to make a little extra and stash it away. Once the last guest has left, it's nice to grab a glass of wine and have a little nosh before the great clean-up begins. Either dip would be perfect. THanks, John, and wishing the "Riffs" Household a very Happy New Year!
I love it when I go to a party and there's excellent pass-around food. This dip would be a crowd-pleaser for sure. Happy New Year to you and all the Riffs xx
Hi Peggy, this is great for Super Bowl parties! Or anytime, really. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Julia, with a good fresh smoked salmon I'd be happy to eat it plain! Perhaps with a dab of cream cheese. Happy New Year, and thanks for the comment.
Hi John, stashing some of this away is an excellent idea! That way you're sure you're getting enough. ;-) Thanks for the good wishes and comment, and Happy New Year to you!
Hi Charlie, one of my favorite things about parties is seeing recipes that are new to me! And that I can acquire for my own use. ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year.
I have sent your link to my sister as they smoke their own fresh salmon at home and this recipe rocks. Also if you used veggies as dippers this would be a great low carb option! Wishing you and Mrs. Kitchen Riff a very happy and healthy 2013. Take care, BAM
I bet this would be great on bagels, too, for New Year's brunch. Yum! Wishing you a fantastic 2013!
Hi Bam, home-smoked salmon sounds wonderful! And you're so right about the veggies. Thanks for the good wishes and the comment, and have a wonderful New Year!
Hi Carolyn, this is basically made for bagels! ;-) Thanks for the comment, and have a great New Year!
Happy New Year! Your smokey salmon cream cheese dip looks amazing :D My husband and I both love salmon, and I never thought of trying it in a cream cheese dip - sounds delicious!
This sounds like a delicious dip. I love dips with cream cheese in them. Happy New Year!!!
Ah yes, we need a lot of recipes for the upcoming events, and this looks perfect! Happy New Year!
Hi Kristi, this is a great way to use salmon. I'll eat salmon any way I can get it, but this dip is so tasty, and so easy to prepare! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Dawn, it's a wonderful dip. And doesn't cream cheese work so well in dips and spreads? Great ingredient. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Cathleen, you can never have too many dips in your recipe file! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Happy New Year John! This sounds excellent - I would love to serve it on mini bagels with a small dollop of caviar for a party!
Thanks for the "heads up" on liquid smoke. I bought some last summer and think it's fantastic.. but now I'm off to read the label!! This is a recipe my son would love, he devours smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye bread.. so this is a sure winner for us!!
Hi Alyssa, the mini bagels are a good idea, and the caviar is a wonderful idea! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Just a Smidgen, sounds like your son would definitely like this! And I agree liquid smoke has many great uses. Thanks for the comment.
Boy this looks good!! My family would love eating this!
Happy New Year!
That is such an excellent dip! Ofcourse by now the new year celebrations have come and gone and were about to head of into the new adventure that is called 2013..:) Happy Newyear!!!
I loved this recipe. Smoky salmon and cream cheese is a winning combination and this dip will be great for my family, especially when we watch movies on the weekends! Thanks for posting such wonderful recipes for all of us! Happy new year to you and happy cooking!!
Hi Maureen, tasty and darn easy to make - what could be better? ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Simone, this is one of those dips that's great both at parties, but really also at casual affairs like picnics. I think of it as a sort of pate. ;-) Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Purabi, don't salmon and cream cheese combine so well? Great idea to eat this on movie night! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Happy new year, John! This dip looks fantastic, so perfect for entertaining!
This dip is a classic for a reason! I've always used hot smoked paprika, but I'd definitely like to try it with liquid smoke and maybe a dash of hot sauce. Happy New Year John!!!
Hi Ali, it's a fun dip! Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hi Food Jaunts, hot smoked paprika sounds excellent - I really like the idea. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Not just for corn chips, I feel like dipping some freshly crisped pita on it. YUMMY!
Hi Raymund, pita would be great! Thanks for the comment.
I love coming to your blog. I always learn something new :)
I always thought liquid smoke was an artificial product but thanks to you. I know and will be looking for it
Hi Sawsan, I was surprised to learn that liquid smoke is usually an all-natural product too. It's worth experimenting with - a little bit adds quite a lot of flavor to a recipe. Thanks for the comment.
A mouthwatering dip and tasty combination! A classic, quite understandably...
Best wishes for 2013!
Hi Rosa, this dip really is something worth having. Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Dips and chips and so much fun and will never go out of style. Wishing you all the best in this new year.
Hi Karen, it's in my DNA - at this time of the year I just crave dips! And rarely eat them the rest of the year. Weird, isn't it? Thanks for the comment, and Happy New Year!
Hubby and I are dip people, and always love finding fun new dip recipes. This recipe sounds fun, and really full of gorgeous flavor!!! I wonder if we could smoke the salmon and add it in without the liquid smoke....hmmmmm, interesting:-) Thank you for sharing, Take care, Terra
Hi Terra, your own smoked salmon would probably taste wonderful in this! Terrific idea - let me know how it turns out. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I love this 10 minute quick dip recipe. I've never tried canned salmon (I think) but it's so convenient that I'd consider having one or two can saved up in a pantry for this recipe. We love liquid smoke too. I can almost taste this... my kids are big fan of salmon too, and it'll be popular appetizer for sure.
Hi Nami, the only time I use canned salmon is in this dip! Odd, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
John, thanks for pointing me in the direction of this wonderful recipe! Smoked salmon dip is a favourite : )
Hi Lizzy, this dip is so worth making! Enjoy your new bottle of liquid smoke! And thanks for the comment.
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