There is nothing better than a perfectly cooked tender salmon with crispy golden skin. Pan searing salmon gets you this and it’s always a win in my family. Not only is it ready in less than 15 minutes, but health-wise it feels like a win—a bonus for a working mom like me.
To give the salmon (I use skin-on fillets) an extra oomph, I coat it with another family favorite, dukkah, an earthy and rich spice blend with nuts. It’s a unique way to both flavor the salmon and give it a slightly crunchy crust.
I serve the salmon with a delicately spiced pearl couscous with lemons. It’s embellished with golden raisins, and a drizzle of a simple mint yogurt sauce brings the whole dish together beautifully.
I make this every so often when I feel like putting a “fancy” meal on the table but do not have much time. It’s perfect for a quick weeknight meal or a lavish weekend dinner!
What is Dukkah?
For this recipe, dukkah is rubbed onto the skinless side of the salmon for flavor and texture. Dukkah is a Mediterranean spice blend. The recipe can vary from region to region and family to family.
You can make your own dukkah or purchase it at any well-stocked grocery store or specialty market. My version is made with cumin, fennel, coriander, hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios. It can be used in so many ways—sprinkle it over olive oil to dip warm bread into, use it as a rub for meat and fishes, or sprinkle it on stir-fries.
The Best Salmon to Buy
I like to use king or sockeye salmon for this recipe because of their high oil content. I find that the oilier the fish, the moister and more tender it is after cooking. Coho salmon is leaner, but a good alternative. It is milder in taste compared to king salmon, so it could be a good gateway for salmon newbies.
Tips and Tricks for Cooking the Best Salmon
Here are some things to keep in mind when cooking the salmon:
- Always season the salmon with salt. A little bit of salt is all the fish needs for flavor. Dukkah sometimes has salt in it, so adjust your seasoning accordingly.
- I prefer a cast iron skillet for cooking the salmon—it gives you the most perfectly crispy, golden skin. But don’t worry if you do not have a cast iron skillet, you can use any well-seasoned skillet or a nonstick pan.
- Salmon is an oily fish, which means you don’t need a lot of oil to grease the pan. This recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil for four fillets of salmon.
- The skillet should be very hot when you add the salmon in. To check if it’s hot enough, carefully sprinkle some water on the skillet. It’s ready when the water beads up and evaporates right away. Place the salmon in the skillet skin side-down. Do not fiddle with the it for 3 to 4 minutes—the skin will become golden and crispy.
- Flip the salmon once the skin is crisp. For a medium-rare salmon, flip the salmon and cook it for another 3 to 4 minutes skin side-up. For well-done but still tender salmon, transfer it into a 400°F oven for 3 minutes.
What to Serve on the Side: Not Much!
This recipe includes a fresh mint yogurt sauce and lemony pearl couscous, so not much else is needed. If you’d like a side vegetable, simply prepared green beans would be nice.
More Salmon Recipes to Try
Dukkah-Spiced Salmon with Lemony Couscous
For the mint yogurt sauce
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
For the pearl couscous
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
1 to 2 dried bay leaves
1 small shallot, diced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 cup dried pearl couscous
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest from one lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the salmon
4 (6-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup store-bought or homemade dukkah
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
Make the yogurt sauce:
In a medium bowl, stir the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, mint, salt, and black pepper to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Heat the water:
In a small pot over high heat, add the water. Cover the pot with a lid and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. The boiled water will be used to cook the couscous.
Meanwhile, start the couscous:
In a medium (10-inch) pan over medium heat, add the oil, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves. They will sizzle and start changing color after about 10 to 12 seconds. Add the shallots and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent.
Add couscous and raisins:
Add the couscous and raisins and toast them for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the salt, lemon zest, and boiled water. Once it comes up to a rolling boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes. At this point, the couscous won’t be cooked through.
Finish cooking the couscous:
Remove the lid and stir in the lemon juice. Put the lid back on and finish cooking it for 5 to 7 minutes.
Preheat the oven:
If you like your salmon well-done, I recommend preheating the oven to 400°F to finish cooking it after pan searing.
Season the salmon:
Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. Season both sides with salt and only the skinless side with dukkah. Use your hands to press gently to secure the dukkah onto the salmon.
Cook the salmon:
In a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Gently add the salmon skin side-down and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the skin is crispy. Use a spatula to carefully flip the salmon, and cook it for 3 to 4 minutes. This should give you a medium-rare salmon.
For a well-done salmon that is cooked through, but not dry, transfer the skillet into the preheated oven for 3 minutes.
Transfer the salmon onto plates and serve with the mint yogurt sauce and lemony couscous.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 79g||101%|
|Saturated Fat 14g||69%|
|Total Carbohydrate 27g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 12g|
|Vitamin C 22mg||109%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|