Lomi Salmon, better known as lomi-lomi, is a popular Hawaiian side dish. Always served cold, this simple 4-ingredient recipe is made from fresh salmon, tomatoes, onions, and scallions.
What is Lomi Lomi Salmon?
Lomi-lomi is a popular Hawaiian side dish is made from salted fresh salmon, tomatoes, onions, and scallions. You will find it on virtually every Hawaiian food menu in Oahu, and it is a standard on touristy luau menus as well. Lomi lomi is always served ice-cold; most often alongside such other Hawaiian plate staples as Kalua pork, poi, laulau, macaroni salad, and fresh fruit.
The method of preparation - Lomi - takes its name from the Hawaiian word meaning to knead or massage “as the claws of a contented cat." In the lomi process, the salmon and other ingredients are massaged by hand until everything is broken up and thoroughly mixed.
With lomi salmon being such popular island fare, it may surprise you to learn that fresh salmon is not found anywhere near Hawaii. Salmon was first introduced to the Islands back in the 1880s, when mainland sailors began bringing salted salmon in their provisions from the Pacific Northwest. Even today, Hawaii remains one of the few places where salted salmon is commonly available for sale.
While on a trip to Oahu, Mr B and I asked a number of locals about the proper way to make lomi salmon. Everyone seems to have their own recipe for making it, and people hold some strong (often conflicting) opinions about the basic ingredients and process. For example:
You have to use fresh salmon and a handful of fresh chopped chilis.
My grandma always uses canned salmon.
The lesson here is, use the basic lomi salmon recipe as a guide, and make it your own. We gave our version a decidedly PNW spin with some of our own beautiful, wild-caught Sockeye salmon.
Lomi Lomi Ingredients
WARNING: Consuming raw or undercooked seafood may increase your risk of food borne illness. For more information, please consult current FDA guidelines.
• Salmon: Use only "sushi-grade salmon" when making lomi lomi.
We use sushi-grade sockeye salmon when making this lomi recipe. Sushi-grade fish is a term applied to fish is caught live and iced immediately during transportation, or stored in sub-zero freezers prior to preparation.
Store-bought salmon is acceptable as long as it has been previously frozen and labeled “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” or “for raw consumption”.
HINT: Wild-caught Pacific salmon are typically considered to be the healthiest salmon.
• Tomatoes: We think of this as a summer dish, because vine-ripe tomatoes make all the difference.
• Onions: We recommend using Maui Sweet Onions. If you can't find Mauis, use any sweet onion. Do not use red or yellow onions: their flavor is too sharp.
• Green onions: Use the entire green onion; white and green.
• Salt: Although a mixture of Kosher salt and cayenne are popular for salting the salmon, we recommend using Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sea Salt.
How to Make this Recipe
Wash off salmon and pat dry. Generously salt the salmon on both sides with Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sea Salt (or Himalayan Rock Salt, or kosher salt).
Wrap the salted salmon tightly in plastic and allow to cure 8 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.
Remove salted salmon from fridge and soak in ice water for one hour, changing water every 30 minutes.
Rinse salmon once more under cold water, and pat dry. Remove any salmon skin.
Using a sharp, wet knife, dice the salmon into ¼-inch cubes.
Mix the diced salmon, tomatoes, and onions together, massaging the ingredients by hand to mix thoroughly.
Chill salmon mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and up to 12 hours.
The most important tool you need for making lomi lomi is a sharp knife. A good-quality sashimi knife is affordable, versatile addition to your kitchen, and makes cutting fishes of all kinds a smooth an deasy process.
Store lomi salmon in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. (Technically, lomi lomi can also be frozen, but we don't recommend it: it loses its bright, fresh flavor.)
While it is easy to make your own salted salmon, you can also buy it premade. Prepared salted salmon is always available in Hawaiian supermarkets, and can often be purchased in the refrigerated section of your local mainland Japanese or Asian market.
Short answer: It depends. Only use salmon labeled “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade” or “for raw consumption” when making lomi lomi.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists salmon as a known source of parasites, bacteria, or other pathogens that can cause infections. Salmon is also a source of environmental contaminants.
More Salmon Recipes
As Pacific Northwesterners, Mr B and I love salmon! Our favorite salmon recipes include Orange Ginger Honey Glazed Salmon and Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict.
What to Serve with Lomi Salmon
Lomi Salmon is always served as a cold side dish, alongside other Hawaiian plate staples such as Kalua pork, garlic shrimp, poi, laulau, macaroni salad, and fresh fruit.
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Fresh Lomi Lomi Salmon
- 1 Sharp Knife
- ½ pound raw salmon sushi-grade, sashimi-grade or for raw consumption only
- 2 tablespoons Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sea Salt or Himalayan Rock Salt, or kosher salt
- 3-4 medium tomatoes chopped
- ½ medium sweet onion chopped
- 2-3 whole green onions chopped
- Wash off salmon and pat dry. Generously salt the salmon on both sides with Chili Pepper Sea Salt (or kosher salt and a dash of cayenne).Gently massage seasoning into salmon.
- Wrap the salted salmon tightly in plastic and allow to cure 8 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.
- Remove salted salmon from fridge and soak in ice water for one hour, changing water every 30 minutes.
- Rinse salmon once more under cold water, and pat dry. Remove any salmon skin. Using a sharp, wet knife, dice the salmon into ¼-inch cubes.
- Mix the diced salmon, tomatoes, and onions together, massaging the ingredients by hand to thoroughly combine.
- Chill salmon mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour, and up to 12 hours.Serve ice-cold.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
- Use only "sushi-grade salmon" when making lomi lomi.
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods.
- Never leave seafood or other perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours or for more than 1 hour when temperatures are above 90°F. Bacteria that can cause illness grow quickly at warm temperatures (between 40°F and 140°F).
- Thaw frozen seafood gradually by placing it in the refrigerator overnight. If you have to thaw seafood quickly, either seal it in a plastic bag and immerse it in cold water, or — if the food will be cooked immediately thereafter — microwave it on the “defrost” setting and stop the defrost cycle while the fish is still icy but pliable.
- Keep cold chilled seafood refrigerated until time to serve.
See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
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That's so cute, I had no idea that's what Lomi means, what unique trivia in that it's about a metaphor for a technique when all this time I thought it was yet another Hawaiian name for fish! Thank you for your careful research and dutifully thinking about blog topics even on vacation in paradise!
Marlynn [UrbanBlissLife] says
I am so impressed that you MADE Lomi Lomi! Looks beautiful -- and tasty!
Susan | LunaCafe says
Beautiful! I've never heard of this preparation. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I've never heard of Lomi salmon, but my in-laws love all things Hawaiian, so I'll forward this on to them!