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This garlic butter salmon recipe is an easy dinner in under 30 minutes! It’s bursting with flavor from fresh lemon, butter and garlic.

Garlic butter salmon
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If there’s a perfect flavor combination, it’s this: garlic butter lemon salmon! This recipe pairs these natural partners in harmony, making an easy dinner in less than 30 minutes. It’s zingy from the lemon, rich from the butter, and savory from the garlic, making this tender fish taste sublime! This easy salmon recipe works for both weeknight dinners and entertaining, making it one ideal back-pocket idea. Our family loves it and we hope yours will too!

Ingredients in garlic butter salmon

This garlic butter salmon recipe is quick and simple. You’ll pan sear the fillets in a mix of butter and olive oil, then add minced garlic at the end to maximize the pungent flavor. You don’t need much more than fresh garlic, butter and lemon for this salmon recipe, making it an impressively simple recipe. As cookbook authors of a book about simple recipes, that makes us smile! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Salmon fillets (wild caught if possible)
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic
  • Salt and pepper
Garlic Butter Salmon

Type of salmon to buy

The most important part of this garlic butter salmon recipe is the quality of the fish. Low quality salmon can taste fishy and have a mushy texture. It can also have a lot of white stuff (called albumin) when it’s cooked. While it’s not harmful, it doesn’t look appetizing! Here’s what to know when shopping for salmon:

  • 1 to 1 1/2-inch thick fillets are good for this recipe. You might find it labeled center cut at the store. You can also make it with thinner salmon, which requires less cooking time.
  • Choose wildcaught salmon. Fish that is wild caught in your country is usually a sustainable choice. (There are also quality options in well-regulated farms; see Seafood Watch Consumer Guide.)
  • Buy fresh salmon. Salmon that’s fresh from the fish counter usually has the best flavor. Frozen can work too, but try to find highest-quality frozen salmon. Avoid big economy-sized bags, which we’ve found is generally thinner and can have a fishy flavor.

Allow the salmon to come to room temp (or brine it)

Another important part of any salmon recipe is to allow the fish to come to room temperature before cooking. This can take 15 to 20 minutes, but it’s important. If the salmon is too cold when heat is applied, the outside can cook much faster than the inside.

Even better is to brine the salmon or let it sit in salt water while it comes to room temperature for 15 minutes. This helps to season the fish and also avoids the white stuff (albumin) when the fish is cooked. Do this if at all possible for the best cooked piece of salmon!

Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce

Tips for cooking garlic butter salmon

This garlic butter salmon recipe is pan seared salmon, which is a quick and simple method and makes a beautiful browned, crispy top to the salmon. Keep in mind you’ll want to stay by the stovetop for the entire cook time. Garlic butter salmon doesn’t work as well as a baked or broiled salmon recipe since the garlic can burn, but we’ve got a few tips for changing it up before. Here are a few tips for this recipe:

  • Remember the thickness determines the cook time. 1-inch salmon takes about 10 minutes to pan sear. Very thin salmon can pan sear in just 5 minutes, so adjust the cook time accordingly.
  • Keep an eye on it! You’ll want to stay at the pan for the entire cook time, especially since you’ll need to flip the salmon and add garlic at different intervals at the end. It’s not a hands off recipe!
  • The salmon is done with the internal temperature is 125 to 130°F when measured in the thickest part. The fish will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat. To ensure full safety, the FDA recommended temperature for seafood is 145°F, or well done.

Variation: baked or broiled garlic salmon

We prefer pan seared salmon here because it allows the salmon to develop a browned, crispy top layer. Baking the salmon makes for an overall soft texture. You can try it broiled, but garlic tends to burn in the broiler. Here are a few ways to change up this recipe:

  • Make garlic butter. Make the garlic butter while the salmon bakes or broils, then toss it with the salmon once it’s cooked. Try a half recipe of this Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce or Garlic Butter Sauce.
  • Bake the salmon. Use this baked salmon recipe, then toss with the garlic butter.
  • Or, broil the salmon. Use this broiled salmon recipe, then toss with the garlic butter.
Garlic Butter Lemon Salmon

More salmon recipes

And that’s it! We hope you love this fast and easy dinner idea as much as we do. Here are a few more great salmon recipes to try:

This garlic butter salmon recipe is…

Gluten-free and pescatarian. For dairy-free, use olive oil or vegan butter.

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Garlic butter salmon

Garlic Butter Salmon


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x

Description

This garlic butter salmon recipe is an easy dinner in under 30 minutes! It’s bursting with flavor from fresh lemon, butter and garlic.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound salmon fillets, skin on (wild caught if possible)
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for brining
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus one drizzle
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus a few lemon wedges
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (if desired)

Instructions

  1. Brine the salmon* (optional): 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 not brining, allow the salmon to come to room temperature for 15 minutes. Pat the salmon dry with a clean towel. Rub it generously with 1 drizzle olive oil and sprinkle it with the kosher salt and generous grinds of fresh ground pepper.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the butter and the olive oil. When butter is melted, add the salmon skin side up and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until cooked about halfway to center of thick part of salmon.
  4. Reduce to medium heat and 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. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then drizzle with the lemon juice and add the minced garlic. Continuously baste the salmon by spooning the garlic butter over the salmon and cook an additional 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness, until just tender and pink at the center (the internal temperature should be between 125 to 130°F in the center when removed).
  5. Remove from the heat. Spritz with juice from a few additional lemon wedges and  chopped fresh parsley (if using) and serve.
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Seafood
  • Diet: Gluten Free

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!