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9 best smoked salmon for Christmas 2023, from M&S, Asda and more

From classic to oak smoked, these are perfect for patés, canapés and breakfast on the big day

Amira Arasteh
Tuesday 24 October 2023 20:58 BST
A luxurious staple come Christmas time, we round up the best smoked salmon on the market
A luxurious staple come Christmas time, we round up the best smoked salmon on the market (iStock/The Independent)
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While some of us are smoked salmon fans day in and day out, others reserve this slice of luxury for special occasions. Christmas morning is the perfect example, as a few slices of smoked salmon work as a great little treat for your festive breakfast. Whether you’re pairing with scrambled eggs, in place of bacon, making eggs royale or topping your cream cheese bagel, there’s plenty that can be done with smoked salmon to start Christmas Day right.

Not a big breakfast person? No problem at all because smoked salmon adds a fragrant flavour to pasta dishes, as well as working wonders when weaved into canapés.

But choosing the best smoked salmon is tricky as there are so many options on the market and you’ll likely find yourself spoiled for choice. There are packs of classic smoked salmon, oak smoked, ones with lemon and pepper, and some brands are even curing with the likes of beetroot.

Christmas will be here before you know it, and for many families, smoked salmon will be high up on the food shopping list. As usual, we are on hand to help you source the most scrumptious slice of smoked salmon to start your big day in the best way.

How we tested

From boutique buys to supermarket saves, we’ve tested smoked salmon from all around (Amira Arasteh)

We wanted to properly assess the taste of each smoked salmon offering, while also seeing how it would pair in popular dishes we might opt to eat come the Christmas season. Trying meals such as scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, enjoying a classic salmon and cream cheese bagel, or throwing it in a pot with some cream cheese and pasta – the sky was the limit. We were looking to evaluate the perfect balance of smokiness and saltiness while ensuring nothing was overpoweringly fishy or tough in texture.

The best smoked salmon 2023:

  • Best smoked salmon overall – M&S collection maple and peppercorn smoked salmon: £5.50,
  • Best budget buy – Asda zesty lemon and pepper smoked salmon: £3.75,
  • Best luxe smoked salmon – Fortnum & Mason’s farmed Scottish smoked salmon: £14,
  • Best wild smoked salmon – Leap smoked sockeye salmon: £6.37,

M&S collection maple and peppercorn smoked salmon

  • Best: Smoked salmon overall
  • Size: 100g
  • Flavour: Maple and peppercorn
  • Why we love it
    • Flavoursome marinade
  • Take note
    • Smallish portion

This new salmon on the block from M&S is cured and twice smoked over oak and maple wood shavings in a traditional kiln before being topped with maple syrup and pink peppercorns. The pack says a minimum of four slices but we counted seven in ours.

While we first tried the salmon in a more classic fashion – on top of a cream cheese bagel – M&S recommends serving it on buttered oatcakes, so we tried it in a less savoury fashion as well, swapping the plain bagels for cinnamon and raisin ones.

This smoked salmon went down a treat, ticking both the taste and texture boxes, as well as being easy to serve, thanks to it being pre-sliced.

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Asda zesty lemon and pepper smoked salmon

asda lemon pepper smoked salmon christmas
  • Best: Budget buy
  • Size: 100g
  • Flavour: Lemon and pepper
  • Why we love it
    • No need for lemon and pepper
  • Take note
    • Thin slices

While Asda does, of course, sell a classic smoked salmon, we were particularly keen on this flavour. We typically add a squeeze of fresh lemon and a crack of black pepper to our smoked salmon, so we were intrigued to see if these extras would give the same flavour.

We really enjoyed this smoked salmon as, while it’s not quite the same as fresh lemon and cracked pepper, we didn’t miss not having those two additions on our fish, and it paired perfectly with our scrambled eggs in the morning.

Although the texture may be a tad too thin for some smoked salmon fans, we liked it, the flavour was great, and the price was very reasonable.

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Fortnum & Mason’s farmed Scottish smoked salmon

fortnum mason farmed smoked salmon christmas
  • Best: Luxe smoked salmon
  • Size: 200g
  • Flavour: Classic
  • Why we love it
    • Meaty texture but light and buttery
  • Take note
    • Still pricier than most supermarket offerings

This smoked salmon from Fortnum & Mason features premium fish, which has been hand-filleted and hand-salted. Smoked in Fortnum’s traditional smokeboxes with constantly burning and monitored fires, the salmon is smoked for 24 to 72 hours over British oak.

The first thing we noted upon tasting this salmon was the fresh flavour and the balance of the creamy taste and the smokiness. The texture was meaty but light and buttery at the same time.

We voted this as the best luxe buy, but the truth is that while this smoked salmon might be pricier than some supermarket brands, it’s not as expensive as one might expect (ourselves included). Therefore, this smoked salmon will make a great addition to the breakfast table, minus the outrageous price tag.

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Secret Smokehouse London smoked salmon d-cut pack

secret smokehouse london smoked salmon christmas
  • Best: Sustainably-sourced smoked salmon
  • Size: 200g
  • Flavour: Classic
  • Why we love it
    • Supporting independent brand
  • Take note
    • More expensive than supermarket offerings

If you’re London-based and looking to shop local – or live elsewhere in the UK but fancy trying an independent brand, Secret Smokehouse could be one for you. Sourcing from sustainable Scottish farms and never using frozen salmon, colouring agents, nitrates or any other artificial preservatives, the brand’s artisanal smoked salmon is produced entirely by hand.

While this smoked salmon was pricier than some other supermarket offerings we tested, it was double the size portion-wise, and we did notice an improvement in texture and thickness to other brands. We tried this salmon with both scrambled and poached eggs and found it to be a really enjoyable addition to breakfast.

Smoked in the classic sense, if you’re really wanting to feel fancy over the festive period, Secret Smokehouse salmon is served at The Ritz, Dinner by Heston and many other famous restaurants.

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Leap smoked sockeye salmon

leap smoked salmon christmas
  • Best: Wild smoked salmon
  • Size: 100g
  • Flavour: Classic
  • Why we love it
    • Not farmed
    • Hand-cured
  • Take note
    • Flavour might be too strong for some

We’ve seen Leap smoked salmon on the supermarket shelves over the years so were intrigued to try it for ourselves. Hand-cured and smoked over a blend of five woods, the perk of Leap is that the salmon is wild (caught in the North Pacific waters of Alaska) and not farmed, meaning there’s less chance of any nasties.

We tried this salmon on its own, as well as with bagels and toast. The prominence of flavour was something we noticed more in comparison to other supermarket brands, which is something to be aware of if you prefer less fishy-tasting fish. However, we really enjoyed the stronger flavour and also appreciated the firm, succulent texture.

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Waitrose no.1 chestnut Scottish smoked salmon

waitrose chestnut smoked salmon christmas
  • Best: For subtle flavour
  • Size: 100g
  • Flavour: Chestnut smoked
  • Why we love it
    • Subtle and sweet in flavour
    • Pairs well with cream cheese
  • Take note
    • Flavour may be too subtle from some

While most of the classic smoked flavours in this review are oak-smoked, this offering from Waitrose has been cured, hung and kiln-smoked for up to 24 hours over chestnut, oak and beechwood.

This trio is what gives this smoked salmon a mild and sweet flavour, among the muskiness. We also enjoyed the complexity of the smokiness of this salmon, which we felt was great for a supermarket brand.

As it’s quite subtle and sweet in flavour, this fish worked best, in our opinion, paired with cream cheese – be that with scrambled eggs, bagels or as part of a canapé display, should you be hosting over the festive period.

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Goldstein hot smoked salmon

goldstein hot smoked salmon christmas
  • Best: Hot smoked salmon
  • Size: 150g
  • Flavour: Classic
  • Why we love it
    • Great option for people who don’t like raw fish
  • Take note
    • Not a classic smoked salmon

Whether it’s the taste or the texture, not everyone is a fan of eating raw or even cured fish. But smoked salmon can also be hot, making it a great option for those who prefer their fish cooked.

Cooked with Goldstein’s own home cure recipe and then roasted in kilns, there was certainly a depth of flavour to this fish. It’s probably more noticeable, as we’re so used to eating non-smoked cooked salmon, but there was a gorgeous flavour and saltiness that had us craving more.

You can definitely pair this with eggs for breakfast, but it also works really well in a pasta dish, should you be looking for something to break up the continuous stream of turkey that is the ritual over Christmas.

If you’re a fan of this smoked salmon from Goldstein, you can opt to subscribe and make a small saving with each purchase.

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Co-op Irresistible beech and oak smoked salmon

coop irresistable smoked salmon christmas
  • Best: For pairing with cream cheese bagels
  • Size: 100g
  • Flavour: Beech and oak smoked
  • Why we love it
    • Smokey beech and oak flavour
  • Take note
    • Flavour may be too subtle for some

This Scottish-farmed smoked salmon from Co-op has been smoked with beech and oak, giving it a gorgeous but subtle flavour. We enjoyed pairing it with cream cheese on a bagel, making a perfect light breakfast – something that’s ideal if you’re a family who has an earlier Christmas meal. We liked the fleshy texture and how it wasn’t too thin when layered as a filling.

This smoked salmon appears to be so popular, it’s currently out of stock. However, there’s plenty of time until Christmas, so if the sound of this one takes your fancy, just keep checking in on the Co-op website.

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Tesco finest mild and delicate Scottish smoked salmon

tesco finest smoked salmon christmas
  • Best: Mild-flavoured smoked salmon
  • Size: 100g
  • Flavour: Classic
  • Why we love it
    • Offers the right amount of saltiness

We also looked to Tesco’s finest range to test the smoked salmon and found lots of options, including mild and delicate, strong and robust and even a zesty lemon and pepper version.

If you’re slightly dubious of the powerful flavour of smoked salmon, this mild and delicate option could be a good one to have on the dining table. The thin slices, smoked over hickory and oak, offer the right amount of saltiness, while also remaining not too fishy.

We shared this with a family member who isn’t too crazy about fish and found that with a squeeze of lemon and some pepper, it went down a treat.

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The verdict: Smoked salmon

During our taste-testing trial of different varieties of smoked salmon on the market, we thoroughly enjoyed trying the slightly more unique brands, methods of smoking and flavours. Anyone who has previously not been a huge fan of smoked salmon will be glad to know that the supermarkets in particular have expanded their range to include a variety of strengths of smokiness, as well as different flavours: from lemon and pepper to maple and peppercorn.

While it’s not a classic flavour, M&S’s new addition of the maple and peppercorn certainly caught our attention and was one we felt we could continue eating for days. However, should you be looking to spend a little more, we were also thoroughly impressed with the offering from Secret Smokehouse, while Leap is the frontrunner if you’re firm about your salmon being wild and not farmed.

Looking to get our festive feast sorted? Read our guide to supermarket’s food-to-order ranges

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