This recipe for Pan Seared Salmon is simple to follow and one of my favourite ways to cook salmon. It’s served up with the most flavourful Lemon Caper Butter Sauce that is so good, you’ll want to swim in it!
I’m not gonna lie – wayyyyy back when (and I’m talkin’ WAY BACK when) once upon a million moons ago, I was somewhat of a picky eater. One of the ones that swore up and down until she was black and blue that she “doesn’t like fish…” I mean, who was I? Cause that gal most definitely doesn’t exist now (and hasn’t for an exxxxtremely long time). Not only did I get over that so called hatred for fish I once upon a time was so convinced I had but I actually love it now! And I have to tell you that there’s nothing that makes me happier more than a piece of bright orange salmon you can just tell is fresh and wild.
Alright, alright. Let’s be real. We can’t talk about this recipe for Pan Seared Salmon without talking about the pure deliciousness served up with it. The lemon caper butter sauce is a star all on its own and worthy of its very own spotlight. It’s lusciously rich and effortlessly flavourful. A few simple ingredients come together to create the perfect match for the salmon (or any fish, chicken or veggie for that matter…) This sauce is so dang good, you’ll seriously want to try it on everything from here on out. And the best part? It’s super quick and easy to make!
If you’re a fellow salmon lover then you probably don’t have to be convinced that lemon, butter and capers are its perfect pairing. When Pan Seared Salmon is cooked to perfection it has a flaky and soft interior with crispy caramelized edges. Once you try the velvety buttery sauce with those soft delicate salmon flakes, this recipe for Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce might just become your new go-to way of cooking it.
INGREDIENTS FOR PAN SEARED SALMON WITH LEMON CAPER BUTTER SAUCE
The secret is in the sauce! You don’t need an array of crazy ingredients to make this recipe for Pan Seared Salmon in Lemon Caper Butter Sauce come to life. Let’s discuss what you do need in a little bit more detail down below:
- Salmon: For me, there’s no competition between wild salmon and farmed salmon. It’s always gonna be wild for me. I think it’s fresher, healthier, looks better, tastes better, etc, etc. I used a whole piece of wild Sockeye Salmon but you can use smaller fillets (~4-6 oz. each), if you prefer. But you do you, boo. Skin on or off is totally up to you. If leaving it on, you can either serve it with the salmon or discard it after the salmon is fully cooked (it slides right off). Alternatively, feel free to use an entirely different fish (such as cod or halibut) but you may have to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- Lemon: Adds acidity, flavour and tang to the sauce. Freshly squeezed lemon juice works best in this recipe.
- Capers: Adds salty little bursts of flavour throughout the dish.
- Butter: Cause everything tastes better with a little bit of butter, am I right? The butter is the base of the sauce and makes the salmon melt in your mouth delicious.
- Garlic: Adds flavour and pairs super well with the rest of the ingredients. Fresh minced garlic works best in this recipe.
- Onions: Adds texture and flavour to this recipe for pan seared salmon. You can use white, yellow or red onions for this recipe.
- Parsley: Adds a herby freshness and pop of colour to the dish. Chopped fresh parsley works best in this recipe.
- Salt: Adds balance to the dish and rounds out the flavours of the rest of the ingredients.
HOW TO PAN SEAR SALMON (KEY TIPS)
You can find full instructions for how to make this recipe for Pan Seared Salmon in the recipe card down below, but here are a few quick tips to keep in mind for this recipe:
- Pat the salmon dry before cooking/seasoning to release it’s excess moisture. This will result in even cooking all the way around and a crispier texture.
- Use a cast iron skillet or something similar and wait until it’s extremely hot before adding the salmon to the pan. The hot pan will help cook the salmon to crispy perfection. You can test the hotness of the pan by flicking some water droplets onto it. If it sizzles, the pan is hot enough to use. EXTRA TIP: Make sure to place the salmon in the pan away from you to avoid any unwanted splashes of hot oil. EXTRA EXTRA TIP: Don’t touch or fiddle with the salmon once in the hot pan (other than flipping it once). Leaving it be will give you that perfectly golden and crispy exterior.
- Searing the salmon skin side up or down is up to you. If you’re planning on serving and eating the skin, I recommend starting with the skin side down. If not, you can start with the flesh side down as that’s the part that will end up the crispiest.
- Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your salmon. The thicker it is the longer you’ll have to cook it. When it’s ready to be flipped, it’ll easily do so without sticking to the pan. EXTRA TIP: You can tell how much of it has cooked by looking up the sides of it as it’s cooking.
- Check for doneness by using your finger or a fork. If the salmon flakes easily, it’s good to go. If not, it likely needs a few more minutes.
- Cook the salmon first then work on the Lemon Caper Butter Sauce. Rest the salmon on a cutting board or a plate underneath a foil tent as you cook the sauce. It won’t take long and the sauce will be piping hot so you can pour it right over top of the salmon once it’s ready.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Whether or not to sear salmon in butter or oil totally depends on your personal preference. The butter will add more flavour to the salmon while the oil will keep things more on the neutral side. For this particular recipe, either one will work since the salmon is ultimately paired with a Lemon Butter Caper Sauce. However, I like using oil since we use the same pan and I don’t want the butter to burn or brown before adding the remaining sauce ingredients.
The amount of time it takes Salmon to cook in a pan will depend on how thick your salmon is. Thicker pieces will take a longer time to cook. But generally speaking, you should be able to fully cook salmon in a pan in under 10 minutes.
A controversial topic and personally, I think it comes down to personal preference. If you’re planning on serving the salmon with the skin and eating it, I recommend searing salmon starting with the skin side down. It’s way easier to flip the salmon that way as you might break or ruin the delicate flesh of the fish otherwise. However, if you’re not planning on serving or eating the skin, you can start with the flesh side down as that’s the part that will get the crispiest.
In this particular recipe, you’ll let it cook on the skin side for the majority of the cooking time to let it crisp up to perfection. You can choose to serve the skin on or easily remove it after you cook the salmon. Alternatively, you can choose fillets that don’t have any skin to begin with.
Yes, to ensure even cooking all the way throughout, you definitely want to flip your salmon when searing. However, avoid fiddling with or moving the salmon around until it has properly seared on the first side (~5-6 minutes).
The beauty of pan seared salmon is that it can be served up with so many different side dishes. Vegetables such as brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli or cauliflower always make great options. Pan seared salmon is also amazing on top of salads such as this Kale Caesar Salad or this Spinach Strawberry Salad.
HAVE LEFTOVERS? Try them in my creamy Salmon Chowder recipe! (you’re going to love it!)
- 1 pound Wild Sockeye Salmon*
- 1/2 cup Butter
- 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
- Half a (small) White Onion, diced
- 4 tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
- 2 tbsp Capers
- 1 Lemon, juiced
- 1 tbsp Oil, for frying
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Pat the salmon dry with a clean paper towel and generally season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When extremely hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the salmon, skin side down*, in the hot pan and resist any urge to fiddle with or touch it. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until the salmon is about 90% cooked (you can check the sides to see the progress).
- Carefully flip the salmon over and cook on the remaining side for about a minute or until the salmon is cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate under a foil tent and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add the onions (with a touch more oil, if needed) and cook until soft, stirring frequently, a few minutes.
- Add half the butter and stir until frothy and melted. Then add the garlic and capers and cook for a few additional minutes being sure to break up the capers with the back of a spatula.
- Add the remaining butter, parsley and lemon juice. Stir until the butter melts then remove the sauce from the heat.
- Spoon the sauce over the Pan Seared Salmon and serve immediately.
You can also use salmon fillets that are 4-6 ounces each.
Skin on or off the salmon is totally up to you. If you are using skin on, you can choose to serve it with the skin or easily remove it after you cook the salmon.
Searing the salmon skin side up or down is up to you. If you're planning on serving and eating the skin, I recommend starting with the skin side down. If not, you can start with the flesh side down as that's the part that will be the crispiest.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 425Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 130mgSodium: 391mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 31g
Nutrition is only an estimate and calculated using Nutritionix.
HAVE LEFTOVERS? TRY THEM IN MY CREAMY SALMON CHOWDER RECIPE!
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