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!
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.
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.
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.
What to Serve With Salmon Foil Packets
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
- Sheet-Pan Harissa Chicken with Carrots and Cauliflower
- One-Pan Roasted Harissa Salmon with Vegetables
- Hearty Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Stew
- Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots
Easy Salmon Foil Packets with Vegetables
- 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
Preheat the oven
Make the harissa mayonnaise
In a small bowl, stir the mayonnaise, harissa paste, honey, and lime juice.
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.
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.
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.)
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.