Blackened Salmon

Blackened salmon is the ultimate salmon recipe: fast, easy and seasoned to perfection! It’s guaranteed to become a favorite.

Blackened salmon

Speechless. That’s what I was when Alex made this beautiful salmon recipe for me…and we hope you will be too. This Blackened Salmon is so flavor filled, you’ll feel like you ordered it at a restaurant. Even better: it’s fast and easy. The cooking process takes just 5 to 8 minutes. The homemade blackened seasoning has a savory intrigue and makes a crispy black crust on the outside of the fish. (Yeah, it blackens your pan too…but it’s 100% worth it.)

Want a version with some heat? Try this Cajun Salmon.

What is blackening, anyway?

First, let’s talk about the cooking method: blackening! Blackening is a style of cooking fish and meat in a cast iron skillet with a special blend of Cajun-style spices until the outside is crispy and blackened. It’s a technique that was popularized by celebrity Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme of Louisiana. He created a recipe for blackened redfish in this 1980’s cookbook that took the world by storm. Since then, blackening has become a popular technique. It’s all about the spices: and each chef has their own special blend. Let’s talk spices!

Blackened seasoning

Ingredients in blackened seasoning

Here’s the thing about blackened seasoning: every chef has their own recipe, so there’s no “true” definition! The famous chef Paul Prudhomme had his own technique, and ours is heavily influenced by his method. Most recipes have spices familiar to Cajun cuisine: paprika, garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, and of course, cayenne for the heat. To our recipe we added a hint allspice and cloves to add intrigue and nuance.

This blackened seasoning blend has a hint of heat, but it’s mild. We wouldn’t even call it medium (our 3 year old loved it and didn’t detect heat). We recommend making this blend homemade because it’s just not the same otherwise! The ingredients in our homemade Blackened Seasoning are:

  • Smoked paprika or sweet paprika
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Oregano
  • Celery seed
  • Allspice
  • Cloves
  • Cayenne
  • Salt and black pepper
Blackened salmon

How to buy a great piece of salmon

Aside from blackened seasoning, you’ll also need a fantastic piece of salmon for this blackened salmon. Lower quality salmon can taste very fishy and have a mushy texture. Here’s how to buy a great piece of salmon:

  • Buy wild caught salmon. Wild caught is the way to go! It’s most sustainable and has the best flavor. Buy it either fresh from the fish counter or frozen works too.
  • Coho is a good choice. We tend to like Coho salmon for its mild flavor: it’s a good middle of the road option in terms of price. Of course, King salmon is incredible but it’s on the expensive end. Avoid Atlantic salmon as it is typically farmed salmon.
  • Make sure to buy skin on. You’ll need skin-on salmon for this recipe.

Basic steps for how to make blackened salmon

You can skip right to the recipe if you’re ready to start this blackened salmon. But let’s chat briefly about the method, because knowing why you’re doing something in the kitchen is just as important as doing it.

  • Brine the salmon. Brining takes 15 minutes, but it makes the best crispy on the outside, moist on the inside piece of salmon. Simply place the salmon in a salt water solution for 15 minutes; this also allows the salmon to come to room temperature.
  • Add blackened seasoning. Pat the salmon dry and season with the homemade seasoning blend (you can mix it up while the salmon is brining).
  • Sear the salmon skin side up for 2 to 3 minutes. Use a stainless steel or cast iron pan to get the best sear (not a non-stick pan)! Cook it over medium high heat until it’s cooked about halfway.
  • Flip and cook 2 to 5 more minutes. The timing depends on the thickness of the piece of salmon, so use your best judgement. It should be just tender and pink at the center (about 130 degrees Fahrenheit).
Blackened salmon

Helpful tool: a fish spatula!

You don’t need any special tools for blackened salmon, but here’s one that makes the process a little easier: a fish spatula! A fish spatula is a wide slotted metal spatula that’s used to gently slide underneath fish when you’re searing it. It’s actually useful for many more tasks outside of seafood: like flipping eggplant pizzas or fries.

Use any large, wide spatula if you don’t have a fish spatula. Metal is nice so that it can easily slide under the fish skin. Want to grab one for yourself? Here’s a link to our fish spatula.

How to clean your pan after making blackened salmon

After making blackened salmon, your pan will have a lovely blackened char as well. (Sorry, it’s part of the fun!) Here are a few things to note about cleaning your pan:

  • Don’t leave it for hours. You can eat your food first, of course! But don’t leave it for hours or overnight so that the black crust solidifies.
  • “Deglaze” the pan. Deglazing the pan is a cooking technique where you add wine or another liquid to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. You can use it for cleaning too! Simply place water in the pan and heat it on a burner over medium heat. When the blackened bits start to loosen, scrape them off gently with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula.
  • Use a non-toxic kitchen cleaner. If you have bits that are really stuck, we like to use a cleaner like Bon Ami.
How to make Blackened salmon

Sides to serve with blackened salmon

And that’s it: how to make blackened salmon! It makes a beautiful healthy dinner recipe that’s great for weeknights or to impress when you’re entertaining. What to serve with it? Here are a few side dishes we’d pair with it:

This blackened salmon recipe is…

Gluten-free, pescatarian and dairy-free.

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Cajun salmon

Classic Blackened Salmon


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (10 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Blackened salmon is the ultimate salmon recipe: fast, easy and seasoned to perfection! It’s guaranteed to become a favorite.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 pound wild caught salmon fillets, skin on
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons homemade Blackened Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or more olive oil for dairy free)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus one drizzle
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Brine the salmon: In a large shallow dish, whisk together 4 cups room temperature water and 3 tablespoons kosher salt until dissolved. Place the salmon in the water and wait for 15 minutes.
  2. If you haven’t already, mix up the blackened seasoning.
  3. Pat the salmon dry with a clean towel. Rub it generously with oil and sprinkle it with the kosher salt and blackened seasoning.
  4. Heat a large skillet (not non-stick*) over medium high heat and add the butter and olive oil. When butter is melted, add the salmon skin side up and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until cooked about 1/2 way to center of thick part of salmon.
  5. Flip the salmon (a fish spatula makes easy work of it). Tilt the pan down slightly and quickly spoon the pan juices over the top of the fish a few times. Drizzle with the lemon juice and spoon the pan juices a few times again. Cook for 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness, until just tender and pink at the center (the internal temperature should be between 125 to 130 Fahrenheit in the center when removed). Remove from the heat and serve.

Notes

*You’ll get the best sear from a stainless steel or cast iron skillet.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Seared
  • Cuisine: Cajun inpsired

Keywords: Blackened salmon

More healthy seafood recipes

We’ve got lots more healthy seafood recipes and fish recipes to try! Here are some favorites:

  • Pesto Baked Salmon Bright green basil pesto is a natural fit with baked fish! An easy weeknight meal that also works to impress guests.
  • Tilapia Fish Tacos Bake or broil the fish, then add sauce and slaw. A total crowd pleaser!
  • Creamy Shrimp Pasta Easy to make with the best big flavors: garlic, lemon, and Parmesan.
  • Seafood Paella This stunning one pan dinner features shrimp, vegetables and all the authentic flavors of this traditional dish.
  • Salmon with Capers Oven baked in foil until it’s perfectly tender, then topped with a delicious caper sauce. An easy healthy dinner recipe!
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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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