Salmon burgers don’t have to be tasteless and dried out. I’ve got tips for making flavorful patties using a special ingredient that locks in moisture. Plus, I have a quick and easy lemon dill sauce that complements the fish.
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When grilling season hits, these healthy salmon burgers are the first to get thrown on the barbecue. However, you don’t need to wait until the weather is warm. You can cook these patties on the stove top to enjoy all year round. When I’m not making my juicy grilled hamburgers, this lighter seafood option is a satisfying alternative.
A food processor quickly transforms fresh salmon fillets into mouth-watering patties. Adding breadcrumbs binds the ingredients together and ensures moist burgers. Each bite has little bursts of flavor from the herbs and tangy add-ins. Add a creamy lemon dill sauce and desired toppings for the ultimate seafood sandwich.
Atlantic, Scottish, or Alaskan king salmon are excellent choices to use for the patty. They are rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and their fat content keeps the cakes moist. Their tackiness, when broken down, helps with binding. There are additional nutritional benefits from eating salmon like protein, essential fatty acids that promote healthy joints, skin, and heart. Plus, B vitamins for energy, vitamin D, and the minerals selenium and phosphorus.
How to make salmon burgers
Use skinless salmon fillets and cut them into smaller chunks. This size makes it easier to break down. I use a food processor to coarsely chop and mix the patty ingredients for quick preparation and minimal mess. The fish’s mild flavor is enhanced by adding tangy Dijon mustard, capers, crunchy shallots, fresh dill, salt, and pepper.
You can also make these patties in a countertop blender. Although, it requires more stirring in between pulses to get all of the pieces of salmon to break down. I like to keep various chunks in the mix for texture as not to make the puree entirely smooth.
Bread crumbs lock in moisture
I’m a big fan of incorporating bread crumbs into ground protein. When combined with the salmon mixture, it absorbs moisture. This technique creates a starchy paste called a panade. As the fish cooks, the starches swell and form a gel-like matrix, locking in the juices instead of being lost to the hot grill or pan.
The panade holds the patties together whole preventing them from drying out. The bread also prevents the cakes from drastically shrinking, like beef burgers often do.
Form the patties
The recipe yields hearty salmon burgers, about 7 ounces in size. Divide the mixture into four equal portions, then shape into ¾-inch thick rounds. Make them about 4-inches wide, fitting perfectly in standard size buns. You can flatten them more, but keep an eye on cooking time.
I like to briefly refrigerate the patties while preparing the sauce so that the fat in the fish firms up. This step makes it easier to transfer onto the cooking surface. You can cover and store them for up to 2 days before using them. I brush olive oil on both sides of the patties right before cooking for additional insurance to prevent sticking.
Barbecue vs. stove top
The barbecue grill sends intense radiant heat from the bottom heating element to the grates, encouraging browning when in contact with the salmon. I use medium heat to prevent overcooking. Close the lid for a consistent environment of hot air, similar to the oven.
On the stove top, use medium-high heat for cooking the fish thoroughly. The pan temperature will be scorching, but it loses a lot of warmth with no lid. I use a grill pan for a similar look to barbecuing, but it lacks that smokey taste. A cast iron or nonstick pan also works well for a crisp surface, but it will not leave dark char marks. Make sure to use 1 tablespoon of olive oil on flat pans.
Lemon dill sauce
A creamy citrus herb sauce complements the salty flavor of the salmon. Fresh dill, sliced basil, minced shallots, lemon zest and juice, Dijon mustard, and spicy cayenne pepper are added to a creamy mayonnaise base. Spread it on the bottom toasted bun to prevent the bread from getting soggy due to the heat of the salmon.
Build your burger
There’s no need to rest the salmon patties like with red meat. You can enjoy them right away. Toast some buns. I prefer brioche, then add the lemon dill sauce. You can add other additional fixings like crisp butter leaf lettuce, sliced red onions, creamy avocado, and ripe tomatoes.
Serve this with
How long to cook the fish patties
Timing is crucial, as fish does not need additional time to rest and does not experience carryover cooking to the extent of beef. Therefore cook until the surface develops golden brown sear marks, and the internal temperature reaches about 130ºF (54ºC). Fish can overcook quickly, so don’t leave it on the grill or pan once it reaches the doneness temperature. The entire process only takes about 6 to 8 minutes.
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Salmon Burgers with Lemon Dill Sauce
- 1 ½ pound salmon fillet, skinless
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 5 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
Lemon Dill Sauce
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons minced shallots
- 2 teaspoons basil, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons chopped dill
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 hamburger buns
- 1 avocado, thinly sliced
- 4 slices tomato
- 8 slices red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 pieces butter leaf lettuce, Bibb or green leaf
- If still attached, remove the skin from the fish. Cut the salmon fillet into 1-inch pieces. Trim off and discard any grey areas from beneath the fillet.
- In a food processor or blender, add salmon cubes, dijon mustard, shallots, capers, dill, salt, and pepper. Pulse and scrape down sides until coarsely ground. There should be some small chunks and not overly pureed.
- Transfer the salmon mixture to a medium-sized bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, mix with a spatula until combined.
- Evenly divide the salmon mixture into four portions, about 7 ounces each. Shape into 4-inch wide patties, about 3/4-inch thick. Lightly brush each side of the patties with olive oil. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Lemon Dill Sauce
- In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, shallots, basil, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper.
Grill the Burgers
- Cook on the Stovetop: Heat a grill pan, large cast iron, or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Evenly grease the surface of the pan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add patties. Cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until the internal temperature reaches about 130ºF (54ºC), about 2 to 4 minutes.
- Cook on the Barbecue: Heat grill over medium heat. Clean and oil the grill grates. Once hot, add the patties. Cover and cook until char marks appear, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip, cover, and cook until the internal temperature reaches about 130ºF (54ºC), about 2 to 4 minutes.
- Right before serving, grill the buns cut-side down. Heat until toasted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add about 1 tablespoon of lemon dill sauce to each toasted bottom bun. Top with a salmon patty, avocado, tomato, onion, and lettuce.
- Make-ahead: The salmon patties can be formed and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator 2 days before cooking.
- Storing and reheating: You can keep cooked patties for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave on high power in 30-second intervals until warmed through. You can store the lemon dill sauce for up to 3 days.
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