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!

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon

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

Description

Simple grilled salmon with a delightful basil-spinach pesto.


Ingredients

Scale

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

Salmon:

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

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.


Nutrition

  • 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

14 Comments

  1. Yoon-Hee on May 21, 2019 at 6:51 am

    Hello,

    I love this recipe. Simple and easy, but awesome flavor and healthy!
    Thanks.

    • Julie Andrews on May 21, 2019 at 11:36 am

      Fantastic, Yoon-Hee! I am thrilled you enjoyed it!

  2. Monica on May 21, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Looks delicious!!

    • Julie Andrews on May 21, 2019 at 11:36 am

      It sure is! And really easy to make!

  3. Kimberly Heithcock on May 21, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Great tips! I love grilled salmon but you are right it is intimidating at try it at first!

    • Julie Andrews on May 22, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      I’m glad these tips helped, Kimberly! I used to be afraid to cook salmon but now I get excited to make it because it’s fast, easy and SO yummy!

  4. Janet on May 22, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    I love Salmon, and this will give me another flavor. My favorite is marinated in Teryaki sauce and recently I used finely chopped macademia nuts with salt/pepper and crusted the salmon w/ that prior to sauteeing or baking. Deeeelicious!!

    • Julie Andrews on May 23, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      Wow, Janet, that sounds absolutely amazing!! I am also a fan of crusting fish with crushed up nuts – there are endless combo options!

  5. ST on May 27, 2019 at 7:38 am

    Very simple and flavorful recipe

    • Julie Andrews on May 28, 2019 at 1:46 pm

      I totally agree, Steirra! I am really glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  6. Jacky on June 25, 2019 at 11:09 am

    I don’t know why I hadn’t tried salmon and pesto, it is delicious!

    • Julie Andrews on June 25, 2019 at 3:03 pm

      It really is a great combo! You can’t beat a perfectly cooked piece of salmon with basil pesto smothered on top. 😉

  7. Rachael on December 24, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    I find it disconcerting that this recipe is listed under the dairy free flag and the pesto has parmesan cheese in it. Is there an alternative that can be used for those who are unable to have any dairy products? IE: cheese, butter, milk, sour cream ect.

    • Julie Andrews on December 24, 2019 at 9:30 pm

      Hi Rachael – The recipe was accidentally flagged as dairy free. The Parmesan can be omitted or replaced with nutritional yeast for a dairy free version.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating