Cooking for Two: Easy Salmon Foil Packets with Vegetables

Cooking for TwoDinnerQuick and EasySalmon

This easy, all-in-one Salmon Foil Packet with potatoes, snap peas, and tomatoes gets its spicy zing from Harissa paste, a North African spice mix. Baking in foil makes super-tender salmon and clean up is a snap! This dinner is designed to feed two, but it’s easy to scale up or down.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas | Banner Art Credit: Elena Resko

This meal-in-one little package highlights the method of oven-steaming fish and is outrageously easy.

Layer potatoes, snap peas, and tomatoes in a foil packet, top with salmon fillets, and slather it with spicy harissa mayonnaise. The flavors of the harissa mayonnaise combined with the salmon and vegetables infuse the whole dish with bold, spicy flavors. Hallelujah! Dinner is done!

WHAT IS A FOIL PACKET?

Foil packets are a great way to cook salmon (and many other things) to yield a tender and juicy texture.

A foil packet is a crimped envelope made of foil that encloses layers of fish and vegetables. The ingredients steam in the oven or on the grill in their own moisture. Besides being dead easy, this method is a very healthy alternative to frying, and good for delicate fish, including salmon.

They are easier to make than the French “en papillote” (cooked in parchment paper) because sealing the foil doesn’t take any special technique, but the end result is the same.

In addition to great flavor, the real kicker in favor of foil packets is minimal cleanup!

A plate holds an open foil packet to reveal the healthy salmon with tomatoes, sugar snap peas and sliced limes on top. A blue napkin is to the right of the foil packet and a fork and knife are on the npakin.

How to Keep Food from Sticking to the Foil

Food can stick to the foil. To avoid this, I either oil the foil or cut a piece of parchment to place on top of the foil then layer the ingredients. If you have non-stick foil or oil the foil well, you could skip the parchment layer.

WHAT IS HARISSA?

Harissa paste is a North African spice mix made from hot, red chilies, garlic, caraway, cumin, and coriander. It is usually very spicy, so use a little less if you’re easily overheated, or add more if you love hot food.

Harissa usually comes in a paste (tube or jar) or powdered (similar to dried spices).

I prefer the paste that comes in a tube. Since I live near several Middle Eastern groceries, it’s easy to find. You can also find it online.

If you can’t find the paste, you might find the dried powder in the spice aisle of your supermarket. To use dried harissa powder, start with mixing 1/2 teaspoon into the mayonnaise, taste and adjust according to your preference.

If those two options fail, add some hot sauce, garlic, coriander, and cumin to the mayo to your taste.

Side view of the best roasted salmon fillet. Halved grape tomatoes, chopped cilantro and thinly sliced lemon sit on top. A knife and fork are on the right side of the plate and a blue napkin is folded next to the utensils.

HOW I MAKE HARISSA SALMON

For this recipe, I borrowed the old New England trick of grilling bluefish with Russian dressing, but I swapped the Russian dressing for harissa-infused mayonnaise. The results are in!

My better half loved how the spicy sauce permeated the fish and vegetables, and how moist and tender the salmon was. I also loved how easy it was to have dinner ready in a hurry!

THE BEST SALMON FOR FOIL PACKETS

There are many types of salmon to choose from—Scottish, Norwegian, Icelandic, US Atlantic, and Canadian, to name a few.

The best salmon for this dish is actually the one that is available to you on the day you shop! My local store usually offers Atlantic salmon (which I used for this recipe) and maybe one other choice.

For the foil packets, I asked to have the skin removed, so there would be no barrier between the fish and the flavors in the packet.

Vertical top view of a roasted salmon fillet with roast halved tomatoes, sugar snap peas and thinly sliced limes on top. A glass of white wine is above a blue napkin with a fork and knife on it.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH SALMON FOIL PACKETS

These salmon packets already contain vegetables, but you can never have too many vegetables on your plate. So feel free to add a Fattoush Salad, Coconut Rice, and a nice cool Bee’s Knees Cocktail.

TIPS TO MAKE AHEAD AND FREEZE FOIL PACKETS

I don’t advise making the packets and freezing them because the vegetables and salmon would lose a lot of texture and fresh flavor. This is such an easy dish; freezing just isn’t a good trade-off.

However, you could assemble the packets up to one day ahead of time. Take them straight from the fridge to the oven and add a couple of minutes to the baking time.

MORE RECIPES USING HARISSA

Easy Salmon Foil Packets with Vegetables

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

For the Harissa Mayonnaise:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paste
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

For the salmon packets:

  • 2 to 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow potato (6 ounces), very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 handfuls (4 ounces) fresh sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
  • 12 to 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 2 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets

For garnish:

  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • Chopped parsley

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

2 Make the harissa mayonnaise: In a small bowl, stir the mayonnaise, harissa paste, honey, and lime juice.

A small ceramic bowl sits on a marble countertop. Inside is mayonnaise, harissa, hone and lime juice for quick and easy salmon foil packets. A small ceramic bowl sits on a marble background. A spoon is inside with a thick mayonnaise sauce for the best salmon foil packets.

3 Assemble the packets: On a work surface, place an 18-inch-long piece of foil, preferably non-stick, with the long side parallel to the countertop. Brush the face-up side of the foil with 1 teaspoon of oil. (Optional: Instead of oiling the foil, cut a piece of parchment that is 9- by 12-inches and place it over one half of the foil.)

Arrange half the potatoes on the oiled side of the foil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.

Place half the snap peas over the potatoes, followed by half the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of lime juice. Place a salmon fillet over the vegetables and spread with half the harissa mayonnaise.

A large piece of foil has a piece of parchment paper covering half of it. Sugar snap peas for Salmon and Vegetable Foil Packets with Harissa. Olive oil coated cherry tomatoe halves and sugar snap peas rest on a piece of parchment paper. The paper covers half of a large sheet of foil. A large piece of foil is under a white piece of parchment paper. Uncooked salmon fillet covers halved grape tomatoes and sugar snap peas.

4 Fold and seal the packet: Fold the foil over the fish so the ends meet. Fold all three open sides to make a border of about 1 inch, and crimp them to tightly seal the packet. Place on a baking sheet.

Repeat with the second sheet of foil, vegetables, and salmon.

A top view of a white cutting board with a vertical foil packet..A white cutting board rests on a marble background. A foil packet with healthy salmon and vegetables inside. White background with a top view of a sheet of foil on a baking sheet.

5 Bake the packets: Bake the packets for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the salmon and vegetables are cooked through.

Carefully open one of the packets to peek. The internal temperature of the thickest part of fish should register 140ºF on an instant-read thermometer.

(Note that the fish will continue to cook for a few minutes once it is removed from the oven.)

A baking sheet sits on a marble background, with a sheet of foil on it. Salmon filet rests on top of sliced grape tomatoes and sugar snap peas.

6 Serve the salmon: Open the packets carefully (be prepared for hot steam to escape.) Slide a large spatula under the potatoes and transfer the vegetables and fish to dinner plates. Garnish with the lime slices and a few sprinkles of chopped parsley. Serve with rice, if you like.

Roast salmon filet on foil with roast grape tomatoes, chopped cilantro and thinkly sliced lime on top.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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5 Comments / Reviews

No ImageCooking for Two: Easy Salmon Foil Packets with Vegetables

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Jaxon

    I’ve been using this tin foil technique to cook fish for about 50 years. It works with almost every kind of fish. Mostly I use it to cook whole trout, even on campfire grill or directly on the ashes with the catch from river or stream fishing. You can use it with whole talapia, perch, or any other smallish freshwater or saltwater fish. You can use any seasoning you like with fish, or just butter/oil and lemon. I’ve seen this done using parchment paper instead of tin foil, but haven’t tried it myself.

  2. Elise Bauer

    Hi Sally, my mother recently came home from the hospital and a neighbor kindly made your recipe for my parents. They LOVED it! Couldn’t stop raving about it today. My friend loved how easy it was to make. So thank you!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Karlette

    Easy, healthy, and delicious. The sauce really makes it! Thank you.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Elle

    This sounds delicious. Will be making it tomorrow with Atlantic Salmon (I think sockeye is too lean). I’m curious why you don’t recommend just using Parchment for the packet. It’s oven safe at the recommended temperature and easier on the environment. Pleating the edge is easy and you can use a binder clip or paper clip to hold it tight. It looks beautiful and I’m eager to to give it a whirl.

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Roast salmon filet on foil with roast grape tomatoes, chopped cilantro and thinkly sliced lime on top.Cooking for Two: Easy Salmon Foil Packets with Vegetables