Grilled Wild Salmon with Preserved Lemon Relish

Preserved lemons are lemons that have been preserved in salt. They are used often in Moroccan cooking. You can get them at specialty markets, or you can make them yourself. If you do not have access to preserved lemons, for this recipe you can use the grated zest from 2 lemons and 2 Tbsp of lemon juice instead.

  • Yield: A whole 4 pound salmon will serve 8.


  • One whole (4 pounds) or half (2 pounds) of a wild-caught salmon, gutted, cleaned, skin on, scales removed
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Relish Ingredients

  • 2 whole preserved lemons, rinsed of excess salt, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Ground black pepper



1 Prepare relish. Combine all relish ingredients into a small bowl.

2 Preheat grill for indirect heat.

3 Check to make sure the scales have been removed from the salmon's skin. If scales remain, use edge of a large spoon, scrape against the sides of the fish, in the direction of tail to head, to remove any fish scales that may still be on the fish. (Best to work over a sink, as the scales tend to fly all over the place.) Rinse fish with cold water and pat dry.

grilled-whole-salmon-1.jpg grilled-whole-salmon-2.jpg

4 Put 1-inch deep, diagonal cuts in sides of the salmon, spaced 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Stuff the cuts well with relish. Stuff cavity with relish. (Note that if this uses up all of your relish, you may want to make another batch of it to serve alongside the fish.) Squeeze some lemon juice over the fish. Rub olive oil generously all over the fish (this will help keep it from sticking to the grill grates). Tie up the fish with kitchen string, to help hold it together while grilling.

5 When the grill is good and hot, oil the grill grates. (Use tongs to spread oil over the grates with a folded up and oil-soaked paper towel.) Grill on indirect heat (away from coals or not directly over flame) for 20-30 min, turning half way. Try to keep the grill temperature at 350°F-375°F. Use a meat thermometer to test the fish, inserted into the deepest part. The fish is done when the internal temperature of the fish is 130°F.

If the skin comes off when you flip the fish, or when you remove the salmon from the grill, don't worry about it. Just peel it off before serving.

Serve with remaining fresh relish. A 2 lb half-whole salmon will serve 4.

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  • bbum

    I have had some adventures with grilled salmon. This was whole grilled salmon stuffed with tangerines, onion, dill, ginger, and brown sugar.

    Also, don’t forget grilled salmon heads! The head/cheek has some of the most tender and flavorful meat on the salmon.

    I have also stuffed salmon with young asparagus and dungeness crab prior grilling. Delicious.

    Finally, in this season of fresh heirloom tomatoes, grilling a salmon open faced and covered with slices of tomato and a generous helping of dill can be quite spectacular.

    Fish heads, fish heads, rolly polly fish heads, fish heads, fish heads, eat them up yum. ~Elise

  • Nate

    The pic looks great. I’ve not tried trussing a salmon like that. Seems to make sense, so you don’t lose all the stuff you put in the cavity.

    Does adding the lemon juice before grilling make a difference?

  • Ursula

    I was once given fresh salmon, and it tasted so amazing, nothing like what we buy in stores. It was quick to grill as well. What a treat!

  • Alex

    Do you think this recipe would work for any other kinds of fish?

    Yes. ~Elise

  • linda

    I just bought a whole salmon and was ready to cut it into steaks, but your idea looks great I’ll give it a try. I especially loved the lemon topping. Did you have to cut the head off?

    We just bought ours cut in half like that. If you have a whole fish I would keep the head on. The cheeks are really good. ~Elise

  • Peter

    I’ve often gone out shopping for a set menu,only to find a good and fresh fish on offer. Poof, I scrap menu plans and go for the fish (as you have).

    A simple approach to flavouring a fish (like here) is best.

  • Alex

    Neat trick I learned, that could be useful here. To oil your grill, stab half a lemon (or whatever) with a grill fork, cut side down. Dip the lemon in oil, and you’ve got a neat little basting brush.

  • Johanna

    Lovely way to cook salmon. I wonder if one could use fresh lemon instead of preserved for the stuffing.

    I would use just lemon zest, and some of the lemon juice, not the whole lemon. The inner peel and the membranes separating the segments can be quite bitter. ~Elise

  • Hank

    Nice relish to go with that salmon! Wild are a little easier to get done fast, but farmed salmon — because they tend to be a bit fattier — are more forgiving if you mess up.

    As for peeling off the crispy salmon skin, it’s my favorite part! I just made salmon skin cracklins with smoked paprika the other day.

  • DennisSC

    Some of the best meals I’ve ever have had been with wild salmon. Yum. Still can’t eat the heads (I’ve got a thing about eating anyone’s brain or eyes. No zombie, I.)

  • Lulu Barbarian

    Thanks for the idea for using preserved lemons. I used to make them, but I wasn’t very good at coming up with good uses for them, so they kind of piled up and I quit making them. I think if I ever used them enough I’d get a feel for how to use them, but I need more recipes and taste experiences first!

  • Kim

    Elise, my daughter and her husband live in Alaska. This means they enjoy their alotted share of the Wild Salmon they catch each season. There is nothing like it, and your recipe looks like a great way to fix it. Thanks!

  • harrison

    Got to try this last night.

    Living near the Pike Place Market, in Seattle, this recipe was a great excuse to use the public market to its fullest potential. I often pass it up for the traditional supermarket, or a corner store, forgetting how really wonderful it is.

    As for my results, they were fantastic. The relish was so delicious, I had trouble not picking at it before I got to stuffing my wild-caught Coho. I served it w/ some steamed green beans, and a rough-chopped braised carrot/chanterelle/onion mixture.

    The only thing I would have changed is this – next time I will certainly have my own homemade preserved lemons. I had to refrain from shouting “That is highway robbery!” when I first saw the price.

    So thanks for the inspiration to use our gem of a public market. And keep up the great work Elise. You are the best!

  • Weiwen Ng

    In response to the last commenter (I know this is a year late) – I just cut slits in a 1lb fillet, stuffed it with relish, and baked it at 400F with a bit of olive oil. About 15 minutes.

    You don’t need to get a large fillet and use the kitchen twine, but obviously it doesn’t hurt. Man, this was good!

  • Corey

    This looks great. I just need to find a good source of fresh fish. It seems most of the stuff in our local grocery stores is frozen before it gets to the display case.

    If you have an Asian market in your area, I would try there. Asian markets tend to have the freshest fish at a good price. ~Elise

  • rmusa

    Looks great!, We love salmon, but I don,t have a grill in my apartment. Can I bake this in the oven or on a griddle type grill?

    I don’t recommend cooking the whole salmon on a griddle grill inside; it would smell up your kitchen too much. You can easily bake the salmon, you might want to search online though for a baked whole salmon recipe. ~Elise

  • Larry Maier

    I have a fish shaped metal grate (domed also) that folds in half and you place the fish inside and lock the handles closed. Works wonders got it somewhere, sometime a long time ago. Used for backpacking in the Sierras.