This is a common question for many people who enjoy both salmon and cheese. The short answer is yes, you can absolutely eat salmon and cheese together. However, there are some things to consider when pairing these two foods.
The Science Behind Pairing Salmon and Cheese
Salmon is a fatty, oily fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It has a robust, savory flavor. Cheese is a dairy product that is high in fat and has a strong, tangy flavor. Scientifically speaking, fatty foods like salmon and cheese make sense to pair together. The high fat content in both means they have a natural affinity for one another. Fat carries flavor, so the fattiness enhances the taste experience. Additionally, science tells us that contrasting textures and flavors complement each other. The smooth, rich salmon and the crumbly, salty cheese balance each other out.
Potential Problems with Pairing Salmon and Cheese
Just because salmon and cheese scientifically complement one another in terms of fat and flavor profiles does not necessarily mean they will be tasty together in every situation. Here are some potential issues that can arise:
- The cheese overpowers the salmon. Strong cheeses like aged cheddar or pungent blue cheese may mask the delicate flavor of the salmon.
- The salmon makes the cheese taste metallic or fishy. Salmon’s natural fishiness can seep into and clash with the cheese.
- Textural clashes. A flaky fish and a smooth, creamy cheese may feel incongruous in the mouth.
- Competing flavors. Too many strong flavors on the palate can feel muddled rather than complementary.
To avoid these potential pitfalls, it’s important to choose salmon and cheese pairings judiciously.
Tips for Pairing Salmon and Cheese
Here are some tips for successfully pairing salmon with cheese:
- Choose milder, creamier cheeses like mozzarella, brie, ricotta, or goat cheese. The subtle flavor allows the salmon to shine.
- Raw milk cheeses often pair beautifully with salmon. Try aged gouda or mild cheddar.
- Smoked salmon works wonderfully with cheeses. The smoky flavors complement tangy cheese.
- Opt for cheeses with some sweetness like aged gouda or fruit-infused cheese. It balances the salmon’s savory-ness.
- Soften strong cheeses by melting them. Melting tones down pungent flavors.
- Cream cheese-based dips pair excellently with smoked salmon. The richness matches nicely.
- Cut the cheese into small pieces or spread it thinly to prevent textural clashes.
- Use cheese as a garnish rather than the main feature to prevent the cheese from overpowering.
- Add crackers or bread to balance the textures and flavors.
Best Cheeses to Pair with Salmon
Taking flavor profiles, textures, and potential pitfalls into account, here are some of the best cheeses to pair with salmon:
|Cheese||Why it Works with Salmon|
|Fresh Mozzarella||Mild, creamy flavor lets the salmon shine. Soft, lush texture pairs nicely.|
|Brie||Soft, buttery brie mellows out salmon’s fishy notes. It spreads easily.|
|Cream Cheese||Rich and smooth, perfect for salmon spreads. Cuts fishy taste.|
|Ricotta||Fresh, mild taste complements without competing. Works well melted.|
|Goat Cheese||Tangy, bright flavor offsets salmon oiliness. Spreadable texture.|
|Gruyere||Nutty, sweet flavors tames salmon fishiness. Melts beautifully.|
|Burrata||Lush, soft texture matches salmon. Sweet, delicate flavor.|
|Feta||Briny, tangy flavor cuts richness. Crumby texture adds contrast.|
|Cheddar||Aged, sharp varieties pair well. Crispy cooked salmon balances creaminess.|
|Gouda||Caramel, nutty notes complement salmon. Aged gouda best.|
Worst Cheeses to Pair with Salmon
On the flip side, here are some cheeses that tend to clash with salmon flavors and textures:
- Blue cheese – Too pungent, makes salmon taste metallic.
- Parmesan – Hard texture fights flaky salmon. Strong flavor overpowers.
- Swiss – Can take on a plastic-y taste with salmon.
- Provolone – Often too sharp and greasy when melted with salmon.
- Colby – Too mild to stand up to salmon’s robustness.
- Monterey Jack – Bland flavor gets lost next to salmon.
- American Cheese – Artificial, plastic-y taste and texture.
- Queso fresco – Crumbly texture contrasts too much.
- Halloumi – The salty, rubbery cheese overwhelms salmon.
- Roquefort – Too pungent and tangy with salmon.
Popular Dishes Featuring Salmon with Cheese
Salmon and cheese successfully pair together in a diverse array of dishes across cuisines, from appetizers to mains to desserts. Here are some popular ways the two ingredients are deliciously combined:
- Smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers, and onions on bagels or toast points
- Salmon tartare served with goat cheese crisps
- Salmon sushi roll with cream cheese or mascarpone
- Salmon crostini topped with burrata or ricotta
- Salmon dip or paté blended with cream cheese or neufchatel
- Baked salmon topped with Parmesan or panko-Parmesan crust
- Salmon en croute – salmon wrapped in puff pastry with brie or gruyere
- Salmon salad topped with crumbled feta or blue cheese
- Salmon casserole with cheddar or gruyere baked on top
- Salmon pasta tossed with ricotta or mascarpone
- Smoked salmon cheesecake
- Salmon ice cream
- Salmon-flavored cream cheese frosting
While not all cheeses may complement salmon’s rich, fatty flavors and silky textures, many varieties pair wonderfully. Opt for mild, soft, fresh cheeses that add creaminess without overpowering. Ricotta, brie, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, and cream cheese are safe bets for balancing and enhancing salmon’s taste and texture. With the right cheese choice, you can enjoy the pleasures of salmon and cheese together in perfect harmony.