What to do with that Canned Salmon Lurking in the Pantry?

Canned Salmon – there was a time I’d tell you that you were nuts had you suggested I eat such a thing…but as I’ve found, those on a limited budget that are trying to get the recommended amount of fish into their diets have to be creative –

About 9 1/2 ounces of Salmon is left - cooked slightly more than I'd like, but still pretty good and very inexpensive
About 9 1/2 ounces of Salmon is left – cooked slightly more than I’d like, but still pretty good and very inexpensive

When I had to start consciously budgeting for food, my food snobbery (of course I “only liked” fresh Salmon) had left me missing some essential nutrients. I had to learn a few tricks on how to work fish into my diet. One of the tricks not mentioned? Be open to canned Tuna (on a limited basis; eat low on the food chain, especially where fish is concerned) and canned Salmon.

Actually quite good, if a bit bland and a tad overcooked for my taste, canned Salmon was something I used to feel a bit squeamish about. I know, I know – I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never been horribly fond of fish (hailing from a land locked area with parents who didn’t serve much fish except Tuna Casserole) in the first place, and certain parts of the fish remind me I am eating fish, and one of those parts is the skin. Perfectly good to eat, and good for you, I’ve never been able to get past the idea of it, or of eating the little bones, either.

I know, too, from my cruises around the internet, that I’m not alone! Here’s how I deal with it – well first of all, I tell myself that I know it will be a bit unpleasant but will only take a minute or so to do:

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So what to do with the canned Salmon? It can be used in almost any recipe that calls for a cooked Salmon. Salmon Loaf and Salmon Cakes come to mind, always classics. But how about subbing in the canned Salmon for a higher end recipe?

Maybe a lovely Spring Pea and Salmon Salad? I made this one with canned Peas, just to show it could be done. If you garden or have it in your budget to buy, fresh peas and lovely pea shoots would be amazing. Frozen peas might be a bit fresher tasting, but this salad is wonderful even using the canned. There’s the slightest bit of finely diced onion and bell pepper, too, nestled amongst the greens.

Spring Pea Salad with Canned Salmon
Spring Pea Salad with Canned Salmon

I think a lot of people who are frugal sometimes have canned vegetables on hand, and if you’re in a position where you’ve had to seek help from a food shelf or Church, you may not be choosing what you actually get. Which will likely be mostly canned items.

This salad has a lovely Lemon Yogurt dressing which I think “makes” the salad. Since I don’t like premixed yogurt, I’ve even taken the top off of “fruit on the bottom” yogurt when inspiration has hit and I have no plain yogurt on hand.

Lemon Yogurt Dressing
Lemon Yogurt Dressing

I also played around with a Pea Salad my Mom used to make – the dressing was initially very sweet but this one is bright, fresh and has a bit of tang. Vegetables can be varied depending on what’s on hand.

Marinated Salmon and Pea Salad
Marinated Salmon and Pea Salad

I think sometimes we’re more limited by lack of inspiration than lack of budget – while admittedly, it can be a bit difficult to be inspired by that menacing can of Salmon (or peas) when a budget item is treated as a small part of something wonderful, well, it doesn’t seem so budget, after all.

Here’s my Mom’s Smoky Salmon Dip, and it tastes so clean and fresh, you’d never guess that it was made with canned. While it would be delicious with a combination of fresh and smoked salmon, it almost seems a waste from a frugal standpoint to use such a lovely and expensive fish and mix it with cream cheese! 🙂

With a well stocked fridge and pantry you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to whip this up! Movie night? Impromptu guests? Or maybe you’re camping or up at the cabin…

Smoky Salmon Spread, minutes to make.
Smoky Salmon Spread, minutes to make.

How much cheaper is a can of Salmon compared to fresh? First of all, it depends what you’re paying for each…Fresh Salmon, here, on a really great sale during Lent can drop down to $4.99 a pound, but most sales are between $5.99 and $7.99 a pound. Most fresh Salmon has the skin on it.

A can of Salmon yields about 9 1/2 ounces. On a good sale, it’s usually about $1.99 a can, but I’ve bought it often throughout the year, though mostly during Lent, for $1.00 a can and now and then, even less.

  • At $1.00 a can, Salmon is the equivalent, after being cleaned of skin, bones and water, of $1.68 a pound.
  • At $1.99 a can, Salmon, again, after being cleaned of skin, bones and water, is $3.35 a pound.

So, if you’re on a budget and fresh, or even frozen, Salmon isn’t a consideration, canned Salmon is budget friendly option. It’s probably very worthwhile when you consider the health benefits of eating Salmon…as least it is for me. It’s also a healthy protein item that compares very favorably, price wise, to other proteins we might consider to be “cheap” but don’t offer the positive health benefits: ground beef, for instance, or cheaper cuts of pork.

4 thoughts on “What to do with that Canned Salmon Lurking in the Pantry?”

  1. I have found it difficult to find canned salmon recipes beyond salmon patties/burgers. It is a shame because I have found it easy to come by canned salmon that is wild caught and Alaskan. The frozen fillets that I find sometimes come from sources that I would rather not use, so thank you for this recipe list!

  2. I’ve always enjoyed canned salmon (probably because I’m from Kansas and never knew there was anything “better” until I got much older!) I usually use it in salmon loaf, salmon salad (replacing tuna in the standard recipe) and scramble it with eggs. I’m going to have to try your Spring salad though; it looks amazing!

    I’ve recently started to experiment with canned sardines since they are high in omega-3s and low on the food chain (and cheap!). Alton Brown has an awesome recipe for a sardine-avocado sandwich that eased me into sardines.

    1. LOL – I’m from the midwest, too, and if it weren’t for Advent and Lent, we probably would never have eaten fish. I love Salmon loaf, too, but we had some horrible ones growing up. I took my brother’s advice and make it now with oatmeal instead of the standard crackers, and then I always throw a bit of minced bell pepper, onion and celery into it, an egg and a big squeeze of lemon

      Sardines are on my list of super healthy and really good for you foods that I never got around to learning how to eat – I wouldn’t call myself a “picky” eater by “American” standards, but there has been an exposure to fish that was lacking in my early life which I wish I would have remedied much sooner. Decades sooner! I don’t think I’m alone in this, either: when looking at healthy diets on a world-wide basis, I think the standard American diet is really lacking in fish, and it’s recommended to eat fish three to four times a week.

      Fish has been a bit of a personal struggle for me: I conquered Anchovies years ago, probably because of the popularity of the Caesar salad. And fish sauce, because of my love of the healthy Asian dishes that use it. I’ve even moved on to Tilapia, and found myself enjoying Red Snapper (which reminds me a bit of salmon.) I’m always actively trying to work fish into my diet, and I do take fish oil every day. Since the Omega 3 oils help to speed nutrients into the cells I try to take them with my morning green smoothies.

      I have never “had” to face the sardine (no one’s ever served it to me and I’ve never sought it out), and therefore have always ignored it – but it keeps popping up as a food we should actively seek out and eat. As you said, you can hardly get lower on the food chain, rated as one of the healthiest of fish, and cheap – thanks for the tip about the Alton Brown recipe. It might have to be a future blog post…

      Alton Brown has an interesting back story that he’s alluded to on the Good Eats show – years of great food took a toll on his health and he made huge changes to his diet. I can’t help looking at some of the Chefs on food network who started out so young and thin (or thinner) and look at the correlation to my few extra pounds every year, even as I’ve struggled with eating healthy and following the “best advice of the times.”

      But I’ve gotten sidetracked, so to sum it all up: Eat more fish, and the smaller the fish, the better. And try sardines!

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