Dilly Salmon Pasta Salad with Pickles and Caraway Breadcrumbs

The classic cookout side gets main character treatment in this cool and creamy one-pot wonder.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    30 minutes

Benjamin Kemper

By Benjamin Kemper

Published on June 7, 2023

Welcome to One Pot Bangers, Benjamin Kemper’s weeknight cooking column, where you’ll find our freshest, boldest ideas that require just one pot, skillet, or sheet pan. Busy week? We’ve got you covered with these low-effort, high-reward recipes from around the globe.

Deli-case pasta salad—you know the type, gobbed with sugary mayo and flecked with bargain-bin tuna—can be grim, frightening stuff. With cookout and picnic season upon us, I wondered how I might freshen up the American side to give it a more intriguing flavor profile. The goal was to give the dish what a zoomer might call “main character energy”: pasta salad as the meal, not a sorry accessory to it.

I settled on using fresh salmon instead of tuna—a generous amount, flaked into big, juicy chunks. Then, drawing inspo from my Ashkenazi forebears, I added a few tugs of fresh dill, a glob of horseradish, and a handful of chopped pickles (plus a splash of their brine to loosen everything up). A sprinkling of caraway-scented breadcrumbs on top, and I had a recipe I could get behind. I’ve been making this salmon pasta salad on repeat for picnics, barbecues, and (since all the action happens in one pot) casual weeknight meals.

Feel free to use frozen or canned salmon in place of fresh. Poaching is the easiest way to cook the fish: Simply place the salmon in an 8-by-8-inch microwaveable pan, add ¼ cup of water, then cover and cook on high until opaque, about 8 minutes for center-cut fillets (9–12 minutes for frozen). For a more elegant presentation, transfer the drained pasta to a serving bowl in step 2.


  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs, or homemade bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. ground caraway seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. conchiglie (shell) or orecchiette pasta
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped dill or bread-and-butter pickles, plus 1 Tbsp. brine
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped dill fronds, plus more whole fronds for garnish
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. bottled horseradish
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • ½ small red onion, very finely chopped
  • 2½ cups flaked cold cooked salmon (see headnote)
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise, plus more to taste
  • ⅓ cup crème fraîche, or sour cream


Step 1

In a large pot set over medium-low heat, melt the butter, then add the panko and caraway and cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden, 4–6 minutes. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Step 2

Rinse the pot, then fill it with generously salted water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and boil, stirring occasionally, until fully cooked (just past al dente) according to the instructions on the package. Strain and rinse under cold water until cool. Return the pasta to the pot.

Step 3

Stir in the pickles, brine, parsley, dill, lemon zest, lemon juice, horseradish, mustard, cayenne, and onion and set aside to marinate for 5 minutes. Stir in the salmon, mayonnaise, crème fraîche, and three quarters of the reserved bread crumbs. Season with salt and black pepper to taste (it should be very well seasoned) and more mayonnaise if desired.

Step 4

Garnish with the remaining bread crumbs and dill fronds. Serve immediately (at room temperature), or cover and chill until ready to serve. (Tightly covered, the salmon pasta salad will keep for 2 days in the fridge; if it looks dry, stir in a couple tablespoons of water.)

Continue to Next Story

Want more SAVEUR?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.