Grilled Pesto Salmon

Want a delicious salmon dinner on the table in about 20 minutes?

I sure do! Salmon has loads of health benefits, including being supportive of brain and heart health (thank you, omega 3s!), but sometimes it can be intimidating to cook. Do you keep the skin on or take it off? Does it need to be cut into filets first or can I cook it whole? What cooking methods are best for salmon? How do I know when it’s done?

There are many questions, but with a little practice we can all be experts at cooking salmon.

To get us well on our way to perfectly cooked salmon, let me answer these questions for you.

  1. You can cook salmon with the skin on or off! It just depends on your preference, but the skin is edible. It really only tastes good if it’s browned and crispy, though, so make sure to “set it and forget it,” meaning leave it on the stove or grill or under the broiler until it’s nice and crispy without fussing with it. Sometimes we play with our food a bit too much when cooking, making it difficult to achieve that perfect crust. But if you’re just not into the skin, you can have the butcher remove it or use a filet or boning knife to remove it yourself.
  2. Salmon can be cooked in filets or smaller pieces, or you can throw the whole slab on the grill, in a saute pan (just be sure it’s large enough) or under the broiler. It just depends on how you want to present it and what you’re serving it with.
  3. Salmon is a quick-cooking protein, so it works well to grill, saute or broil it. It is also delicious poached in broth or olive oil. It pairs well with a crisp salad or grilled, sauteed or roasted vegetables.
  4. And last but not least, the million dollar question: how can you tell when it’s done? Well, there are two best practices: 1) use an instant-read meat thermometer; when the thickest part of the flesh reaches 140 degrees, take it off the heat source and let it sit five minutes. Most proteins carryover cook about five degrees, so temp it again after five minutes and be sure it reaches 145 degrees. You don’t want to overcook it, so that’s why it’s important to take it off the heat before it reaches 145 degrees. 2) use the back of a fork to test the doneness; if you press down on the flesh and it springs back, it isn’t quite ready. If it starts to flake apart, it’s perfect! The time it takes to cook will depend on the cooking method and how thick the pieces are, which is why it’s more important to pay attention to the thermometer and flakiness versus the cooking time.

Hopefully these quick tips will help you feel like a salmon cooking rock star!

Comment below on how you like to cook salmon!

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Grilled Pesto Salmon

  • Author: Julie Andrews
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 20 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x
  • Category: Seafood, Dinner
  • Method: Grill or Stove-Top
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean


Simple grilled salmon with a delightful basil-spinach pesto.




  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup fresh baby spinach
  • ¼ cup freshly shaved or shredded Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, walnuts or almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil


  • 1-pound fresh salmon, skin-on
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium. Brush oil on the salmon and season with salt and black pepper. Grill flesh side down first for 5 minutes, then flip and cook another 5 minutes or until salmon skin is crispy and the flesh flakes easily when pressed with the back of a fork.
  2. While the salmon cooks, place pesto ingredients, except olive oil, in a small blender and puree, drizzling the olive oil in through the vegetable shoot until pesto-like consistency is achieved, scraping the sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  3. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, brush the salmon with the pesto. Serve immediately.


Cooking Tip: I add spinach to my pesto to cut back a bit on the cost, as basil is more expensive than spinach, but the basil flavor still overpowers the spinach so flavor is not sacrificed. Spinach also adds a boost of nutrition!

Substitution Tip: Try this recipe with chicken or flank steak! Use nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan cheese for a dairy free version.


  • Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
  • Calories: 322
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Sodium: 490mg
  • Fat: 24g
  • Saturated Fat: 4g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 20g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 4g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 24g
  • Cholesterol: 51mg

Keywords: Mediterranean, salmon, fish, pesto