Caramelized Salmon

Caramelized SalmonCaramelized.

Do I need to go on? Because the word caramelized pretty much speaks itself straight into my soul.

There’s just something about food – any food, including but not limited to meat and vegetables – that becomes sweet and salty and textured and browned into some kind of caramelized dream that makes me never want to stop eating. It’s regular food meets candy meets me floating on food lovers’ cloud nine.

Caramelized Salmon

So this salmon is caramelized. It’s like you’re painting a beautiful and crunchy caramelized outer crust on one of America’s most beloved fish-es. ← a hard fact based on my opinions and perspectives.

But it’s the truth, right? I think everybody and their mom either completely loves or feels obligated to love this healthy, pretty, pink-colored fish.

On a personal fish preference note, I like salmon, but it has always been more of that magazine-article-reading obligation kind of liking. Or as an excuse to work an Asian glaze and a hot pile of rice into my dinners. Mmhmm.

Caramelized Salmon

I became a pure salmon lover just for the simple goodness of salmon about three days ago when I had this at a restaurant, stolen straight off Bjork’s plate in the middle of the restaurant with no thought about what our dinner guests would think of us because everybody shares off each other’s plates in public, right? Er, uhh, yeah. If you must know, I didn’t order the salmon because I HAD to have the grilled portabella burger with Gouda and roasted red peppers and chipotle aoli + a side of the world’s best French fries instead. Which, in hindsight, I actually do not regret. But anyways.

Ultimately the point of salmon obsession happened when I walked, no, ran home and recreated this restaurant caramelized salmon beauty in my own kitchen.

Here are the three ingredients you need to make salmon taste browned, glazey, salty-sweet, and a teensy bit spicy.

Caramelized Salmon

That’s it.

You’re either in love with the short spice ingredient list and thinking about how fast you can get into the kitchen and make this, orrrr your mind is already racing with at least 30 other spices that you could add to that spice mixture. And more power to you if that’s deep down in your heart.

Caramelized Salmon

Howwwever. Let me just say this. In my moments of strongest temptation to take a simple recipe and add lots of spice and sauce and garnish and glaze and three kinds of sprinkles, I try to remind myself that more isn’t always better. A nice filet of high-quality salmon just shines with these extremely basic seasonings and a gorgeous cooking technique (that would be you, my caramelization magic).

Caramelized Salmond

Review = Five ingredients. Twenty minutes. Perfect texture. Addicting flavor. Healthy for your bod. Pretty to look at.

Caramelized salmon for dinner tonight? Okay, cool.

4.6 from 40 reviews
Caramelized Salmon
Serves: 4
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ tablespoons coarse sea salt, pulsed gently in a food processor
  • a few dashes of freshly crushed black pepper
  • 16 ounces salmon, cut into 4 filets, with skin
  • olive oil
  1. Combine the sugar, salt, and black pepper in a shallow bowl. Dip each filet into the bowl and coat the entire surface of the salmon with the sugar/salt mixture.
  2. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the salmon, skin side down in the pan, and saute for about 5 minutes. If you're worried about the burnt sugar in the pan (or if there's too much oil/liquid) just drain it off or spoon it out of the pan. If there's a lot of oil splattering, turn the heat down. I would not recommend going higher than medium heat.
  3. Flip each salmon filet (carefully! keep the skin on there because it helps the filets hold together) and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Flip to the side and saute each of the sides for another 2-3 minutes, if the filet is thick enough.
  4. Preheat the broiler to 450 degrees. Sprinkle the top of each salmon filet with a teaspoon or two of additional sugar/salt mixture. Transfer the pan from the stovetop into the oven. Let the salmon broil for 5-10 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it's not burning. The sugar in the pan might look burnt but that's okay as long as the tops of the salmon are looking golden brown. When the salmon is done cooking, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes (that sugar gets HOT). Gently peel off the skin before eating - it will be very dark because it's totally caramelized with sugar, and it should come off very easily.
If you're using regular table salt, start with just 1 tablespoon and add more salt as necessary.


Caramelized Salmon - Five ingredients. Twenty minutes. Perfect texture. Addicting flavor. Healthy for your bod. Pretty to look at.
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  1. LOL everyone in MY family certainly eats off of each other’s plates in public!! Omg what a burger, by the way 😀 I looooove salmon–my mom uses brown sugar when she makes it, along with a hit of soy sauce and other yumminess! Your photos just provoked a massive craving; can’t wait to try this!

    • As I read this delicious sounding recipe, I was wondering if the process could be the same using brown sugar, then I read your comment about how your Mom uses brown sugar! Making this tomorrow.

  2. Jasmine says:

    I’ve been up-ing my salmon intake to get more Omega-3’s. This will be a great addition to add to the recipe rep·er·toire. Why the phonetics? Because I had to copy and paste to spell it right :)

    • Carissa says:

      Chai seeds have lots of omega too. You should try that.

      • This recipe is amazing, so simple and yummy!!!
        Also about the chia seeds discussed earlier if your looking for omega 3 they are so so good! My favorite way to eat them is to make a simple chia seed pudding with raw milk, mixed with honey and some berries.

  3. This looks so good!! I actually just did this by pure mistake last week. I was at of all spices and was left with honey, sugar and salt. So I put it on salmon and oh my gosh, it was heavenly! I need to make it again because your photos are mouthwatering!

  4. Oh my! Yum! That looks amazing. Your photos just made me very, very hungry :)

  5. What’s better than a recipe that calls for one ingredient to buy at the store?! I love this! And I love salmon so I want to make this soon!

  6. CANNOT handle how amazing this looks! We had salmon the other night for the first time in a while and I realized how much I miss eating it. Guess this will just have to go on the menu next week 😉

  7. I eat salmon about 2-3 times a week, because it’s so good for you (wild salmon only!). I’m always looking for new ways to cook it, and I think simplicity is key. Thanks for the recipe – I’ll try it next time!

  8. I have been looking for a recipe for this exact thing… THANK YOU

  9. I loooove salmon but have never been able to get that sweet crunchy crust you get at restaurants. Amazing and so simple! Thank you :)

  10. I love me some salmon so I know I would love this recipe!

  11. This looks and sounds great I always prepare salmon on the grill with a rub. I’m looking forward to trying a new style.

  12. Salmon is hit or miss for me, but I can already tell that this recipe is going to be a winner in my house. I will definitely be making this recipe!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  13. i always run out of ideas with salmon, this one will be great to try :)

  14. I love salmon any which way. I always end up getting stuck in the same routine with it though…a little olive oil and a lot of chef pauls magic salmon seasoning! That stuff is the best if you’ve never tried it. I’ll try caramelizing my salmon sometime soon to mix it up.

  15. I may have to break my rule of not using salmon with skin on. Just creeps me out. This looks so good that it would be worth the risk!

  16. I will be trying this recipe. Salmon is such a great dinner and I agree that sometimes less ingredients can be great.

  17. Ok, I want to know what restaurant you were eating at with the great food choices!! Can’t wait to try this

  18. Love this recipe! I drizzle a touch of honey or agave nectar over the salmon after I pull it out from the broiler.

  19. I had the salmon thawed out in my fridge for a couple days. I was planning to make them for dinner tonight- and then BAM! I got your recipe about caramelized salmon. I didn’t hesitate. I have made McCormick’s Recipe Inspirations Asian Sesame Salmon pack before…but with a honey/spice mixture.
    I am always super hungry on the nights I make salmon for some reason…but I love how after a couple bites, the hunger pains are gone. It’s great that salmon is such a light-filling food.
    I love food blogs, especially yours because of the great humor and sarcastic writings!

  20. You’re right, Lindsay – I love how simple and adaptable this is – I would have to resist throwing more spices in that mixture, but it’s so pretty that I wouldn’t want to mess with it! Love that sweet/salty combo.

  21. I actually love the simplicity of this recipe. We eat salmon almost every week and I love what the sugar does to form a crust. Great idea and awesome post!

  22. Anyone who doesn’t share food with family / friends in restaurants is odd. And that is all I’m going to say about that. On to your amazing salmon! Sometimes simple is better. I will absolutely be trying this. I live for an Alaskan, wild-caught salmon filet. Dinner tomorrow, done. Thank you.

  23. I normally like my salmon simple, with just olive oil, black pepper & lemon, but something about this is really appealing to me!

  24. I could eat this all day every day. I just love salmon. I am going to try to make something similar soon :-)

  25. Salmon is my favorite fish! I would eat it every day. Up next…this recipe!

  26. Thank you for this simple recipe! Salmon recipes are always sort of intimidating to me (no idea why) but this looks so do-able.

  27. johnny b good says:


  28. I am not a fish person and oftentimes, I tell people, I don’t like my fish WET! 😀 This recipe is perfect for someone like me. Can’t wait to try.

  29. Oh dear heavens. YES. Caramelized salmon. Heavenly. This is a recipe jackpot, Lindsay!!! I can’t wait to try it :)

  30. Wow – thats one easy recipe! I love easy and quick recipes! Thank you!
    Lovely pictures!

  31. I’ve got some salmon in the fridge right now that I was just wondering what to do with! Thanks for the inspo Lindsay!

  32. YUM! Beautiful pictures!!

  33. This is such a good dish/recipe and good for us. Mmmmmm…

  34. I made this last week, right after reading your post. LOVED IT! I mayyyy have over carmelized it a wee bit… but it was still delicious! And for anyone else who is scared of salmon skin, it really does peel off super easy when you make it this way! :)

  35. Thinking about subbing brown sugar and also drizzling a little balsamic glaze over before serving. Salmon is what I almost always make when I am cooking for myself. Along with some new potatoes that I roast in my toaster oven with fresh herbs and then do a quick spinach saute on the stove. Three things I absolutely adore :)

  36. I love love LOVE salmon- but I find people either love it like us, or HATE it! There are no middlers. Oh well, more for me! This looks so yummy!

  37. Gorgeous photos! I love how simple this is!

  38. This is SOO good! I wasn’t able to quite get the wonderful brown crunchiness of the caramelized sugar, but I just couldn’t bring myself to start the oven and use the broiler. I tried my torch for the first time tho! Will definitely be making this again! Thank you!

  39. Hey Lindsay, my hubby and I enjoy many of your wonderful recipes, but on this one I have to gripe a little. I hope you don’t mind.

    We followed the recipe completely and our salmon was waaaaaay too salty. Are you sure it should be 3 TBLS and not 3 TSP? It basically made the fish almost unpalatable and quite unpleasant. I think the concept is great, but next time I think I’ll put only 1 TBLS of salt in and see how that goes.

    • Hey Kim, thanks for the feedback – I always appreciate hearing back from people after they try recipes. I think you’re right that it should be a little less – in looking at the math again, the ratio should be 3:1 sugar to salt, so it should really be more like 2 1/2 tablespoons. I’ll make that adjustment. Did you end up using all the sugar/salt mixture? I had some left over after covering my filets so I can see it being too salty if you ended up using all the mixture. I hope it works out better for you next time with less salt!

      • I also just realized that I used coarse sea salt for this recipe, and just pulsed it a little bit in a food processor, which would definitely have an effect on the saltiness. I’ll make a note about that, too.

        • Thanks, Lindsay! I think I’ll try the TBLS first and go up from there. However we both alter things, less salt is definitely a good idea! 😀

  40. This post made me laugh and hungry at the same time. You have a wonderful talent for making the yummy seem even yummier.

  41. I just prepared this salmon for dinner and it is wonderful. I am a fish eater and salmon is not my favorite. I think will have to move it back up a few notches. (o:
    Thanks for sharing…I shared with my daughter who is “the” cook in the family. We’ll see whose salmon turns out better. I didn’t formally measure the ingredients – and she isn’t a formal measure-er either. LOL Just a little friendly mother daughter competition.
    I wonder if anyone has tried preparing tuna steak this way, esp. with a little soy…?

  42. The best things in life are caramelized. Oh wait, is that not how the saying goes? It should be! I can’t wait to try this salmon.

  43. Wow! Made this tonight for dinner for the whole family and everyone loved it! So easy and such simple ingredients. Thanks!

  44. Hiya I really want to make this yummy recipe… I’m kind of new to cooking, and I’m in the uk so I’m not sure if some of the terms you use are specifically American or just new to me!? Could you help me out?
    Skillet? I have a griddle or a frying pan, could I use one of those?
    Broiler?!? Maybe that’s oven?
    Reaaaallly want to make this for my mums birthday tomorrow!

  45. Yum yum yum!!! I just made this! Was totally delicious. You definitely can’t walk away when your making this though… Almost had some burnt fish 😉

    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  46. This is some of the best salmon I have EVER had. Thanks so much for the recipe!! I blogged about it over here:

  47. Looks like bacon, so maybe I can get my 10-yr-old boy and my wife to eat it. I know I will!

  48. I saw this on Pinterest, and tried it tonight. One of the best things I have ever eaten! I followed the directions exactly, and it turned out perfect. Thanks so much for sharing!

  49. what happens if you don’t have a pan that can go in the oven? can you change it into a different one? Would love to try this recipe but my pan doesn’t go in the oven :(

  50. Sorry, but I just can’t get behind this recipe. Maybe it would be a good one for parents trying to get their kids to like fish, but it’s just unnecessarily sweet. The whole time I was eating it, I was wishing it was a simple salmon with lemon.

  51. I tried this a couple months ago and LOVED it. I don’t think I used the broiler, but it still turned out fine. And I can say that if anyone finds themselves using fish without the skin like I had to, metal tongs are the way to go.
    We’re doing this for thanksgiving, and my mother and I had the idea of adding a little cinnamon, since we’re both cinnamon fiends. I have high hopes.

  52. Looks like a good recipe to try this winter. We eat more salmon in the summer on the grill.

  53. Just made this tonight!! Turned out amazingly. So yummy :) Thanks!

  54. Trying to eat more salmon, the only fish I can eat. (Grew up on Lake Erie).

    Would cut back on salt a little and I used baking pan to broil. Big mistake without foil, kiss that pan goodbye.

    Did love the flavor !

  55. Hi Lindsay! I just wanted to let you know I have been lurking for a while but this is my first comment. : ) My family made this for dinner last Friday and it was ah-maz-ing!!! I usually “grade” my recipes and to me this is an A++. It has become our new salmon go-to recipe. Although I did want to note that while still good and full of flavor the next day, it wasn’t as good as eating it immediately after made. I would also use a little less salt. This was very easy to make and we loved it! We moved it to a broiler tray instead of using the pan in the oven, too, since we doubled the recipe.


  56. I don’t know how I found this recipe, but I’m sure glad I did!! SO GOOD! Thanks! I’m bookmarking this blog!

  57. I love this recipe! It’s about time I commented because I’ve made it 3x in the past 2 weeks. My husband loves it. It’s so easy, and is impressive enough for company. I’ve even spiced it up and thrown some Old Bay or chili powder in there–you can’t go wrong. THANK YOU!

  58. CollegeBugetEater says:

    Hey, never had salmon. What do u recommend serving this with?

  59. This was terrific! I made it for my family of proclaimed salmon haters and my parents and sisters loved it! Thanks so much!

  60. By far one of the worse salmon recipes. Caramalizing fish should be done with brown sugar. Putting it in the broiler hardens the fish. Not tasty.

    • Sorry to hear that Mo. I often swap brown sugar for white when I make this, but I find that either tastes good. Did you actually make the recipe?

  61. This was so easy and delicious! Just make sure you use a lot less salt if you’re using table salt!!

  62. shannon says:

    This looks so good – trying it out this evening with Maple Syrup!!! Can’t wait…. Thanks for this simple yet stunning recipe!

  63. Kim Tardy says:

    Absolutely delicious !!! I had it with herbed quinoa. Healthy never tasted or looked so good. Thanks so much for the fantastic recipe!!!

  64. I made this tonight and my very fussy husband loved it -we both did. I used brown sugar because that is what I had. The salmon was so moist and delicious. I will definitely make it again.

  65. Jennifer says:

    I made this recipe for dinner tonight… Delicious! I will definitely be making this over and over again. Thank you!

  66. Love this salmon. I used kosher salt so I would probably use about 1 1/2 tbs next time. Still yummy. We’ll see what the family thinks tonight!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  67. Thankfulness to my father who stated to me regarding this
    weblog, this webpage is actually remarkable.

  68. This might be a dumb question but we do not have a broiler as I am currently living in Brussels and we do not have an oven in our apt…. would it still taste ok if I don’t use the broiler part? Anything I can do instead?

    • Hm, I know this is a bit of a reach but do you have a cooking torch? You need a really hot flame to get that caramelized crust on top, although I think just keeping it in the pan would still get it browned and sticky :) is that close enough for you?

  69. looks amazing but far too salty. I wanted to try it again with less or no salt but hubby said to just try another recipe.

  70. I suddenly have an overwhelming craving for salmon!

  71. Made this recipe for the first time tonight and I am already excited to make it again. Absolutely delicious! Wonderful recipe, so simple and yet complex!

  72. So easy and really good! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  73. I love your recipes and blog, but I had to chime in after reading the comments. While I’m sure this dish tastes awesome, I would not call it healthy. It has almost the same amount of sugar as a batch of cookies. It would worth it as a splurge meal but it shouldn’t be your go to recipe.

  74. Just made this for supper. It was delish! I’m not a fan of salmon to begin with but I try to make myself eat it for the health benefits. I are my piece of salmon and wanted more! That never happens. Thanks!!!

  75. I’m not much of a cook, but I’ve got into trying new recipes recently and I made this dish last night when I had friends over for dinner. It was just delicious and all of us loved it :) thank you! :)


  77. Love the sweet and salty mix! Found this on pinterest. Thanks for posting!

  78. I saw this on pinterest when I was looking for a new salmon recipe! This is amazing. My fiance who doesn’t love salmon said he could eat it all night long. Thanks for the simple, delicious recipe.

  79. Oh my wow!!! I made this exactly like your recipe except I substituted the sugar for coconut sugar. It was SOOOOO GOOD! My husband thought it was fancy teriyaki sauce. He didn’t believe it was only 3 spices.

    Thanks for posting this! I’ll be making it again.

  80. I have made this a few times now. It is my salmon go to recipe. My husband and my 11 month old son absolutely love it. Personally I love how fast and simple it is. There are so few recipes that this good, easy and have such little clean up.

  81. Absolutely delicious! I never (and I mean NEVER) cook dinner. I help my lovely girlfriend cook, but that’s the extent of my experience. I surprised her with this recipe with a side of sautéed asparagus and brown rice. Needless to say, she loved it! Thank you so much!

  82. This salmon recipe looks delicious. I was wondering if I can use chicken instead of salmon.

  83. Hi.. Looks yummy.. will try it tonight as a solmon lower.. If i did not get wrong, 5 minutes skin side, 2-3 minutes top and each 2 sides, and again keeping in owen under the broiler 5 to 10 minutes, makes total 15 to 20 minutes cooking time. don’t you think it is too much, if you like it juicy inside ?

  84. Hi Kristen,

    Thank You for this fab recipe I had caramelized salmon the other night out at a local restaurant and all I can say is YUM, YUM! I went looking for a recipe and found your blob. Trying it tonight Thank You for the great recipe I know its going to be just as fabulous!


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