Salmon Rillettes

As I’ve mentioned before, I love salmon. Having grown up for a time in British Columbia, I was spoiled with delicious fresh salmon cooked a multitude of ways, and each way a pleasure to enjoy. This dish is another delicious way to enjoy salmon. I would like to say I came across this recipe years ago while travelling and staying at a Howard Johnson’s, but I didn’t. I don’t know if it was ever on a menu at a Howard Johnson’s, but it is one of my favorite new recipes from a culinary icon, Jacques Pépin (for those who don’t know, there is actually a tie-in).

Traditional rillettes, which use pork belly or shoulder, are a simple rustic fare readily found throughout France, but virtually unknown on this side of the Pond. This salmon rillettes recipe, which I saw on Jacques Pépin’s Heart & Soul, is a fresh take on a classic dish, and makes a great appetizer or hors d’oeuvres to serve while hosting guests. Then again, you don’t need guests to justify making it, as it can keep for weeks in the fridge, as the clarified butter makes a great seal. To serve, simply spread it on slices of toasted baguette or crackers. In this recipe, I prefer to add hot-smoked salmon rather than cold-smoked as it gives the rillettes a much deeper flavor. This is a dish with few ingredients, yet the taste is simply sublime. Try it for yourself!

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Salmon Rillettes (from Jacques Pépin)
Serves 6 to 8


  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp. very finely chopped shallots or onions
  • 6 ounces fresh salmon, skinless, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 ounces hot-smoked salmon, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. horseradish
  • 1 baguette or crackers


  1. Heat the butter in a microwave-proof bowl for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until the clear part of the butter separates from the milky solids. Reserve 1/4 cup of the clear melted butter.
  2. Pour the rest of the melted butter, including the milky part, into a small saucepan. Add the chopped shallots and cook gently over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the shallots have softened. Add the cubes of fresh salmon, mix, then reduce the heat and cook for about 2 minutes. The salmon should be barely cooked in the center and still a little pink.
  3. In a bowl, crush the poached salmon into a coarse mixture with a fork. Add the crumbled hot-smoked salmon, salt, pepper, and horseradish, and mix well.
  4. Divide the mixture among two small ramekins (8 ounce), the molds should be about three-quarters full. Smooth the top of each one with the back of a spoon, then pour the reserved melted butter on top. Refrigerate until ready to use. (The rillettes will keep for a couple of weeks in your fridge.)
  5. To serve, let the rillettes warm to room temperature for about 1 hour. This allows the salmon and butter to soften a little and makes it easier to spread over toasted slices of baguette or crackers.

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