Celebration Salmon Salad is a grand main course salad that’s worthy of Christmas, brunch with friends and other celebratory occasions!
With chunky flakes of hot smoked salmon and an addictive Yogurt Ranch Dressing, there’s a handful of components to this recipe but it’s easy – and it’s all the little details that makes this so special! Bonus: can be entirely prepped ahead, stays perky for over an hour even once dressed!
Celebration Salmon Salad – it started as a joke
Every year, we (the RecipeTin Family) get asked* to do the “catering*” for my mothers’ annual Christmas Lunch with 30 social club friends. The menu is requested 5 months in advance, and we usually stick with trusted favourites for the mains. Ham, roast chicken, turkey, side of salmon – that sort of thing.
This year, I decided to change it up a bit and try something new – so I switched the usual Parmesan Crusted Salmon with what I called “Celebration Salmon Salad”, then hit Send.
I was mocked by the family for making up a festive sounding name without any idea of what it was actually going to be – and putting putting myself in a position of having to invent something that stacks up to the name!!
But I’m pleased to report that this was a huge hit at the party – and certainly the most requested recipe. 🙂
The Components of Celebration Salmon Salad
Here’s what goes into each component of the Celebration Salmon Salad (I did warn you there’s a few….but that’s what makes it so special!!)
1. Hot Smoked Salmon
Store bought, all the way! Open and flake. Makes your life easier, plus smoking (well!) is not an everyday thing. The smokey flavour brings a special something to salmon! Use any flavour you want – they come plain, or flavours like cracked pepper, sweet chilli (pictured – it was on sale).
2. Yogurt Ranch Dressing
The yogurt brings a welcome tang to this creamy dressing that’s loaded with traditional ranch flavours. I LOVE this dressing! Just mix and set aside 20 minutes+ to let the flavours develop.
(PS Dressing photo has typo, “mustard” is incorrect, it should be “garlic”! Will fix!)
3. Pickled red onion
Just mix and leave (no boiling) for 1 hour to soften the onion, remove the harshness and add pickled tang. It’s just lightly scattered through the salad to add a hint of tart as well as adding gorgeous pops of colour!
4. The Green Stuff
Marinated Kale – It’ll sound fancy when you tell your friends, but really, it’s just raw kale rubbed with olive oil and salt so it softens and makes it tasty (so even kale haters won’t complain). Kale adds extra colour as well as adding texture and volume to the leafy greens . You really can’t taste it separately. It also holds more dressing than the cos/romaine, sort of like a sponge, so you get a burst of dressing when you bite into the kale!
Something juicy and fruity – Peaches, nectarines, blood orange, normal oranges or grapefruit. Anything that’s soft and juicy adds to the eating experience here, I’ve tried all in the San Fran Chicken Salad (on which this recipe is based) and they are all terrific. I used grapefruit;
Leafy Greens – You could really use any leafy greens here, but cos/romaine lettuce is my favourite;
Shaved Fennel – It’s a secret ingredient in this salad! You can just taste it – because you don’t use much and once shaved, the distinct aniseed flavour of fennel is really tempered. People knew something was mixed in with the lettuce, they just couldn’t pick it!
Snow pea sprouts – A little sprinkle across the top looks a bit fancy and adds interest to this salad!
Parmesan – the final secret ingredient! Tossed through and sprinkled on top. Adds serious umami (savouriness) into the salad.
Assembling the Celebration Salmon Salad
Here’s how to assemble this salad – it’s a little different to the usual, for both presentation and practical purposes (otherwise the salmon and fruit falls to the bottom):
Drizzle leafy greens with some dressing and parmesan;
Toss well to coat – the yogurt is thicker than normal dressing, so it needs more tossing that usual salads;
Pile half onto a large platter;
Top with salmon, more onion, and fruit slices;
Pile on remaining leafy greens then repeat; and
Finish with a scattering of snow pea sprouts and parmesan.
When I made this for my mother’s Christmas party, I prepared everything in advance (including chopping the lettuce) with the exception of the fruit which I cut fresh to keep it as juicy as possible. Then on the day of, I just assembled it.
This Celebration Salmon Salad is intended to be a main dish. Piled on a big platter, I think it makes a striking centrepiece on a buffet table, or a smaller scale for sharing with friends.
If serving this as a meal and you’ve got people present who get insecure without some form of carb present (fellow Carb Monsters, unite!), try one of these on the side:
Suggested sides for a meal
So – in conclusion – this Celebration Salmon Salad may have started out as a bit of a cheeky joke. But the end result was a seriously tasty, very pretty looking dish made for sharing with family and friends.
Make it, then the name will get seared into your brain too. “Celebration Salmon Salad this, Celebration Salmon Salad that….” People can’t stop talking about it!! 😂 – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Celebration Salmon Salad with Yoghurt Ranch Dressing
- 500g / 1 lb hot smoked salmon , store bought, any flavour (Note 1)
Quick Pickled Onion:
- 1 small red onion , halved then finely sliced
- 1 cup (250 ml) apple cider vinegar (enough to just cover onion), sub white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp white sugar
Yoghurt Ranch Dressing:
- 2 cups Greek yoghurt , full fat recommended
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove , minced
- 1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp EACH onion powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 cups (packed) kale , torn into bite size pieces (Note 2)
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- 2 pieces fruit - nectarines, peaches, grapefruit or blood oranges (get whatever's ripe and juicy, or sub normal oranges)
- 10 cups cos lettuce / romaine torn or cut into bite size pieces (Note 3)
- 1 small fennel , shaved (0.5 mm / 1/5" thickness) or finely sliced
- 1 handful snow pea sprouts (can omit)
- 3/4 cup (75g) parmesan , shredded (Note 4)
- Flake salmon: Use two forks to flake salmon into large chunks.
- Dressing: Mix the Yoghurt Ranch Dressing ingredients in a bowl. Adjust olive oil + lemon juice to taste. Leave 20 minutes.
- Pickle Onions: Place ingredients in a bowl, toss to coat. Set aside for 1 hour+ or until onion is softened (if in a rush, make sure the onion is finely sliced = faster pickle). Drain.
- Marinated Kale: Place kale in a large bowl, drizzle with oil then sprinkle with salt. Use your fingers to massage the oil onto the leaves - you want to ensure every part of the kale is coated in oil. Set aside for 30 minutes or until kale is softened.
- Nectarines/peaches option- halve then finely slice.
- Grapefruit/blood orange option - segment per video. Squeeze all remaining juice out of the membrane after segmenting, mix into dressing.
- Place lettuce, kale, fennel, 1/2 cup onion in bowl. Drizzle with about 1 cup dressing and 1/3 cup parmesan. Toss well to coat. Taste, add more parmesan or salt if you want, or more dressing.
- Pile half dressed lettuce onto serving platter. Flake over half the salmon and half the fruit. Scatter with more red onion.
- Top with remaining lettuce, salmon, fruit and onion (might not use all onion).
- Drizzle with some dressing (might not use all, serve remainder on side). Scatter over snow pea sprouts, sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Place on table and let everyone help themselves!
Life of Dozer
Dozer banished behind the shoot curtain while filming this Celebration Salmon Salad! He was not in a celebratory mood 😂