Looking for a show-stopping appetizer that's sure to impress your guests? Make these smoked salmon canapés with asparagus!
These bite-sized bundles are perfect for any occasion, whether you're hosting a chic cocktail party or a laid-back brunch with friends.
I love a good appetizer, and these smoked salmon canapés are one of my favourites.
The combination of crunchy crackers, velvety whipped cream cheese, savoury smoked salmon, and crisp asparagus is simply delicious!
Don't be fooled by their elegant appearance - these appetizers are surprisingly simple to put together.
🤔 What are Canapés?
Canapés are small, bite-sized appetizers that typically consist of a base (such as a cracker, bread, or pastry), a spread and/or topping (such as cheese, pâté, or smoked salmon), and a garnish (such as fresh herbs or vegetables).
They are often served at cocktail parties or other social events as an hors d'oeuvres, but are equally welcome at a casual Sunday brunch.
These small bites are great because they're easy to eat with one hand, while balancing a drink (like my sparkling cranberry punch) in the other.
Canapés can be made with a wide range of ingredients and flavours, making them versatile and fun to put together.
📖 Recipe Variations
Like most canapé or crostini recipes, this one is easy to modify to suit your preferences. Here are some variations that you can try.
This canapé recipe is technically also a crostini, which is a small bite made of toasted bread with toppings. I love putting asparagus on toast, and these are basically just a mini version.
I've used Melba toast crackers here as a shortcut for the crostini base. If you're not a fan of Melba toast or Paris toast, though, here are some other options you can use:
- Thin slices of rye or pumpernickel bread, cut into circles and toasted (for a stronger flavor profile)
- Your favorite plain cracker
- Thin slices of baguette bread, toasted
- Puff pastry, cut into circles and baked
- Sturdy slices of fresh cucumber (for a low-carb alternative)
Feel free to experiment with different bases and find the perfect option to complement your toppings.
*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 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:
- For a pop of colour and flavour, add some finely diced red onion
- Swap out the cream cheese for crème fraîche to add a different kind of tanginess
- Make the spread even tastier by using a flavoured cream cheese, such as herb and garlic
Although the toppings for this appetizer are relatively straightforward, there are still some ways that you can mix things up.
- For a crispier texture, pan-fry the asparagus instead of blanching them.
- If you prefer classic smoked salmon canapés, simply omit the asparagus and stick to the traditional recipe.
- If you or any of your guests aren't fond of smoked salmon, consider using cooked shrimp instead for a delicious alternative.
While the garnish might seem like a fussy extra step, it can actually do a lot to elevate the look of your canapé, and provide an extra layer of flavour.
- 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)
🥣 Making the Canapé Spread
Not only does this cream cheese spread hold the canapé 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.
🐟 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.
I used cold-smoked salmon when I made this recipe, but 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.
- Cold-Smoked Salmon: salmon that has been cured (or brined) and then smoked at a low temperature for several hours. It has a smoky and salty flavour with a delicate texture. Also known as "Nova lox", but could be sold as "smoked sockeye salmon" or "smoked Pacific salmon".
- Lox: 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 works well in this recipe. This is sometimes sold as "bagel lox".
- Gravlax: usually cured with salt, sugar, dill and other spices. If you like a bit of sweetness, you can use gravlax. This Scandinavian preparation of lox is thinly sliced and delicate.
- Hot-Smoked Salmon (Kippered Salmon): smoked at a higher temperature, it creates a flaky texture like cooked salmon. It's usually sold in thick portions or chunks, making it a poor replacement for the soft thin slices of salmon that you need for this appetizer.
⚠️ 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.Refrigerate unused portions promptly and use within the recommended time frame on the package.
Also, 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 teaspoon 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 teaspoon 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.
Nutrition Disclaimer: this nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed.
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.