This moist, flavorful, and flakey baked salmon is what weeknight dinners are all about! It’s seriously the easiest recipe to make – all you need are a few salmon fillets, plus a quick lemon butter sauce, and herbs. Then, let the oven work it’s magic!
This is hands-down the salmon recipe that I make most often in my house. It’s honestly foolproof, it takes less than 20 minutes to make, and it gives you the most succulent, and mouth-watering salmon. In other words, it’s just an easy, healthy dinner recipe that the whole family will love.
The great thing about a simple recipe like this is that it’s versatile enough to serve with a wide variety of side dishes. And by simply switching up the side dishes you can keep weeknight dinners interesting and tasty!
What You’ll Need For The Best Baked Salmon
When it comes to salmon, don’t overthink it. All you really need is a simple lemon butter sauce and a sprinkle of herbs to make it super delicious.
Salmon: You can make this with individual filets or one large piece (aka. half of a salmon). It works great either way!
Butter: Keeps the salmon moist and adds that delicious buttery taste.
Lemon Juice: A squeeze of lemon adds a bright and zesty touch.
Garlic: I’m using 3 garlic cloves, but feel free to add more or less!
Herbs: A parsley and dill combo complements the salmon perfectly.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
Wild salmon is best. Similar to shrimp, it’s best to steer clear of farmed salmon. Why? It’s more likely to contain pollutants, antibiotics and various toxins from the fish farms. And aside from safety reasons, wild-caught salmon generally has more nutrients, a better texture, a brilliant hue, and better flavor (translation: a more delicious baked salmon!)
The types of salmon to know. There are several varieties of salmon, but the ones I recommend are king, sockeye, and coho. Wild salmon does have seasons and each of these varieties are available at different times throughout the year. But no matter which you choose, just look for fillets that are bright pink and marbled.
Fresh vs. frozen salmon. Unless you’re going to a fish mart that has fresh catches of the day (which can be expensive), grab frozen salmon instead. Yes, it’s totally okay, and often better than the “fresh” salmon you’ll find sitting on ice…which isn’t so fresh. Frozen salmon is flash frozen on the ship right after it’s caught to preserve freshness!
How To Properly Thaw Frozen Salmon
If you planned ahead of time, thaw it in the fridge. Ideally, you want to slowly thaw your salmon in the fridge overnight. Or about 12 hours before cooking it. Just make sure to keep the fish in it’s wrapping and place it on a plate to catch any liquid.
If you’re hours away from dinner, thaw it in cold water. Not to worry if thawing it overnight slipped your mind! You can thaw your salmon by submerging it in a big bowl of cold water. This should take about an hour or so, depending on its thickness. But be sure to swap for fresh water if it starts to become lukewarm.
What’s The Best Temperature For Baked Salmon?
You’ve probably come across a few common answers when it comes to time and temperature. And while they all work, I find that baking at a lower temperature of 375F will keep the salmon extra moist and avoid overcooking. Because let’s be honest, it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re busy whipping up other dishes. So if you’re 1-2 minutes over your timer, your salmon will still be perfectly cooked. But, do keep in mind the size and thickness of your fillet:
For a normal size salmon fillet: cook for 12-13 minutes.
For a thicker salmon fillet: cook for 13-15 minutes.
For a whole side of salmon: cook for 15-20 minutes.
Pro tip: You’ll know the salmon is done baking when it flakes apart easily with a fork. I don’t often use an instant read thermometer when baking salmon. But if you want to double check, the internal temperature should be 125-130F, for moist, not-overcooked salmon.
How To Bake Salmon Perfectly
This amazingly moist and flakey salmon is done in just 15 minutes! It bakes super fast, so make sure to have your side dishes planned and ready to go! To get started, preheat your oven to 375F and then follow along below.
Let the salmon come to room temperature. Take your fillets out of the fridge and let them sit on the counter for about 15 minutes.
Make the butter mix. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter and lemon juice. Then brush the butter mix over the fillets in a baking dish.
It’s baking time. Sprinkle minced garlic, salt, pepper, and bake for 12-15 minutes.
Ready to serve! For the finishing touch, sprinkle a bit of parsley and dill before serving.
Here’s a Few Extra Tips
Season the fillet right before baking. For chicken and beef, it’s better to marinate it for at least an hour to let the flavors absorb. But for seafood, seasonings (especially salt) can draw out moisture much quicker. So for extra moist results, season right before sliding the pan into the oven.
It’s best not to remove salmon skin. Whether you like salmon skin or not, don’t remove it before baking. It will help protect the fillet from the pan’s heat, cook the salmon more evenly, and retain its delicious juices. Then once you’re ready to serve, you can easily slide the skin right off.
Don’t rinse salmon with water. Just like chicken, don’t wash your raw fish. It can increase your risk of contamination and spread to other surfaces of your kitchen such as the sink or countertop. Plus, the bacteria is killed once it cooks inside a hot oven.
Remove it right before the timer goes off. Keep in mind that salmon will continue to cook as it rests. So if you’re keeping a close eye on the time, taking it out right before it’s “done” is another way to prevent overcooking!
Don’t be alarmed by the white ooze! If you notice some white slimy substance on top of your baked salmon, don’t panic. It’s actually just a protein in the salmon called albumin that becomes solid when heated. The hotter salmon cooks, the more albumin will come out. So to prevent a thick white layer, cook your salmon at a gentle temperature.
Tasty Ways To Serve Baked Salmon
Now that you have a beautiful fillet, it’s time to build the perfect meal with it! Here’s a few delicious options to keep your weekdays interesting.
Layer it onto a salad. Layer your fillet on a bed of leafy greens and tons of fresh veggies. From tomatoes, to cucumber, to red onions, the options are endless!
Add it to a grain bowl. There’s many ways to go about this, depending on what flavors you’re craving that day. But I personally love a Mediterranean bowl that includes quinoa, leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded purple cabbage, and a side of tzatziki.
How To Store And Reheat Baked Salmon
For storing: If you’ve got a few fillets leftover, they’ll keep for up to 3 days in the fridge in a sealed container.
How to freeze: Make sure your salmon is completely cool before freezing. Then top it on parchment paper in a storage container to prevent it from sticking to the sides. Reheating salmon can be tricky since it’s already cooked. So the key here is to reheat it low and slow, either in the microwave or oven, to prevent it from drying out.