This appetizer recipe combines classic smoked salmon canapés with smoked salmon-wrapped asparagus bundles.
Whip up a batch of these pretty little bites for your next cocktail party or Sunday brunch!
We're getting a little bit fancy today!
I love a good appetizer, and these smoked salmon canapés are one of my favourites.
The combination of the crunchy cracker, smooth whipped cream cheese, smoky salmon and fresh asparagus is so delicious!
While these might look fancy, they're actually pretty simple to make.
These small bites are great for cocktail parties because they're easy to eat with one hand (with a glass of sparkling cranberry punch in the other!).
While salmon canapés are usually served as a fancy party bite for special occasions, like Christmas or New Years, they'd also be equally welcome at a casual Sunday brunch with friends.
Or make a batch for yourself just because. You deserve it!
🐟 Types of Cured Salmon
Salmon is the star of this canapé recipe, and the type of salmon you use will significantly change the overall flavour of the dish.
There are a few different types of cured salmons that you can buy, so I wanted to take a moment to explain what they are and the differences between them.
For this recipe, I used cold-smoked salmon which is salmon that has been cured (or brined) and then smoked at a low temperature for several hours. This process gives the fish a smoky and salty flavour with a delicate texture.
When shopping for this kind of smoked salmon, look for the words "cold-smoked" or "Nova lox" on the package.
At my local grocery, the cold-smoked salmon packages are labelled "smoked sockeye salmon" or "smoked Pacific salmon", and they also say "sliced".
If you don't like the smoky flavour of smoked salmon, you could use lox instead.
Lox is another form of preserved salmon, but instead of being smoked, it is just cured (or brined) with salt. It has a similarly delicate texture to smoked salmon and will work well in this recipe.
While you'd think that "Nova lox" is the same as lox, it actually isn't. Look for packages that say "lox" or "bagel lox".
Another good substitution would be gravlax which is the Scandinavian preparation of lox.
Gravlax is usually cured with salt, sugar, dill and other spices. If you like a bit of sweetness, you can use gravlax in this recipe. Like the cold-smoked salmon and lox, gravlax is thinly sliced and delicate.
Hot-Smoked Salmon (Kippered Salmon)
This is the one type of cured salmon that will not work in this recipe.
Hot-smoked salmon is smoked at a higher temperature, which gives it a flaky texture (like cooked salmon).
This type of cured salmon is usually sold in thick portions, unlike the previous options, making it a poor replacement for the soft thin slices of salmon that you need for this appetizer.
At my grocery, the hot-smoked salmon is labelled "hot-smoked" and also says "chunks" since the pieces are much thicker than the cold-smoked salmon.
If you want to learn more about the different kinds of cured salmon, check out this article on the differences between smoked salmon, lox and gravlax.
🥣 Making the Canapé Spread
This cream cheese based spread not only holds this canape together, it's also a great place to add a ton of flavour to these small bites.
When I first created this recipe, I used regular spreadable cream cheese (the kind you get in a tub, not the brick). That works pretty well, but recently I discovered that whipped cream cheese works so much better!
The light texture of whipped cream cheese pairs better with the delicate texture of cold-smoked salmon.
You can usually find whipped cream cheese in the dairy section of your grocery. If you can't find it, or would rather use a brick of cream cheese that you already have at home, you can make your own whipped cream cheese by beating it with some cream.
That being said, if you'd still rather use regular cream cheese you can. Just let it come up to room temperature first so it's easier to work with.
Tip: Mix the cream cheese spread ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to assemble your canapés.
📖 Recipe Variations
I personally enjoy the combination of cream cheese, capers, dill and lemon in the spread, but you can definitely customize it to suit your preferences. Here are some ideas:
- Add a little finely diced red onion for more colour and flavour
- Substitute crème fraîche for the cream cheese
- Try using flavoured cream cheese (like herb and garlic)
This recipe is technically a crostini - a small bite made of sliced toasted bread with toppings.
I opted to use crunchy Melba toast crackers because it's a shortcut to making the crostini base, but if you don't like Melba toast (or Paris toast), you can use:
- Thin slices of rye or pumpernickel bread cut into circles and toasted (if you like those strong flavours)
- Your favourite plain cracker
- Thin slices of baguette bread*, toasted
- Puff pastry cut into circles and baked
- Sturdy slices of fresh cucumber (for a low-carb option)
*Making crostinis (or canapés) out of baguettes works really well. I used baguettes as the base of these roasted tomato crostinis and they turned out great!
I already talked about the different types of salmon that you can use in this recipe, but there are other substitutions that you can make:
- Pan-fry the asparagus instead of blanching them for a crispier texture
- Omit the asparagus to make classic smoked salmon canapés
- Use cooked shrimp if you don't like the flavour of smoked salmon
- Use fennel fronds instead of dill for a sweeter flavour
- Omit the lemon zest on top if it feels too fussy (there's already some in the spread)
⚠️ Food Safety
Smoked salmon can spoil very quickly!
You should defrost frozen packages of smoked salmon overnight in your fridge, not on your counter. Especially when the weather is warm!
Only defrost what you need and leave it in the fridge so it stays fresh until you're ready to use it. Be sure to refrigerate unused portions promptly and use within 3 days (or whatever time frame is recommended on the package).
Also, cold-smoked salmon and other cured fish products may not be safe for pregnant women to consume. Please check with your medical team to get more information.
🙋🏽 Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! As I mentioned before, lox or gravlax are suitable substitutions for cold-smoked salmon, although they do have a different flavour.
Hot-smoked salmon will not work here, though.
If you want to make these canapés for a party, you can do some of the prep work ahead the day before.
The asparagus can be cut, blanched, and then cooled before putting it in the fridge.
The cream cheese spread can also be mixed and put into the fridge until you're ready to assemble the canapés.
To avoid the canapés becoming soggy, don't assemble them until you're ready to serve them.
An open package of smoked salmon will last about 3 days in the fridge.
Previously defrosted smoked salmon should not be re-frozen. Always follow the guidelines on the packaging.
I do not recommend freezing these canapés because you're not supposed to re-freeze smoked salmon once it has been defrosted.
Also, the texture of these canapés are best when made and served fresh.
However, if you want to spread the cream cheese mixture on the cracker base and freeze that, you can.
Store the partially-assembled appetizers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to one month. You can thaw them overnight in your fridge and then top them with the smoked salmon and asparagus right before serving.
These little bites can be served on a large plate, cheese board or serving tray.
🖨 Printable Recipe
Smoked Salmon Canapés with Asparagus
- Glass Bowl
- Large Saucepan
- Serving Tray
- 10 spears asparagus
- 2 tsp olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup plain whipped cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons capers, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped (plus extra for garnish)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated (plus extra for garnish)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 6 ounces cold-smoked salmon, cut into 1.5 inch strips
- 1 package Melba Canapé crackers, or Paris-Toast Mini Toasts
- Fill a large saucepan with water, add 1 tsp of salt, and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, snap hard ends off of asparagus and discard. Cut remaining portions of stems into 1.5 inch pieces.
- Add ice to a large bowl of cold water, and place it next to your stove. You will need this to blanch the asparagus.
- Add the asparagus to the boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until bright green and tender. Then use a slotted spoon to move the asparagus out of the boiling water and into the ice water.
- Allow asparagus to cool down, then drain thoroughly. Dry the asparagus pieces on a towel, then toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, capers, lemon juice, chopped dill, lemon zest and black pepper. Spread the cream cheese mixture on each toast. Top each toast with a piece of dill (optional).
- Wrap a piece of smoked salmon around each piece of asparagus. Place a salmon/asparagus bundle on top of each toast, and garnish with extra lemon zest, black pepper and/or fresh dill fronds. Serve immediately.
- If you can't get whipped cream cheese, you can use regular cream cheese. Just make sure to let it come up to room temperature first, so it's easier to work with.
- If you can't find cold-smoked salmon, you can also used Nova salmon, lox or gravlax. Do not use hot-smoked salmon (kippered salmon).
- If you don't like Melba toast, you can cut out round shapes from any bread and toast them. Rye and pumpernickel are popular choices, or you could just cut a baguette into thin slices and toast those.
Please read the blog post for detailed tips and explanations.
This post was originally published on April 02, 2015. Since then, it has been updated and republished with new photos, an updated recipe, and a new FAQ section.