Blackened salmon is a tender, juicy and succulent offering when an easy salmon recipe with a bit of smoky flavor and spicy zip is what you're craving. My blackened salmon recipe is seasoned using my own blend of blackening spices, and topped with a pickled corn relish for a bit of a tangy bite and bright flavor!
For When You Crave Salmon with a Smoky Kick
Salmon, with its terrific ability to absorb any delicious flavors introduced to it, is one of my absolute favorite types of fish to cook with.
There is a myriad of delicious ways that salmon can be prepared, from broiling it, to grilling it, to pan searing it, to chopping and adding it to a healthy salad...the list goes on.
But the perfect way to enjoy tender, succulent salmon, when you're craving flavors that are a bit on the spicy and smoky side, is to prepare it blackened, in a super hot skillet—my personal favorite preparation!
When skin-on salmon filets are liberally seasoned with a homemade blend of flavorful, zesty blackening spices and herbs, the result is a seared, caramelized and “blackened” outer crust, crispy on the outside, yielding a tender and juicy piece of flavorful fish on the inside.
Easy to prepare in just a few minutes using a hot cast iron skillet or other heavy bottom pan, my blackened salmon recipe comes topped with my homemade pickled corn relish to spoon over top for some added tang and brightness, and a little pop of color!
How to Make Blackened Salmon
There are a couple of different ways one can prepare a blackened salmon recipe, both quick and easy.
One way is to brush melted butter over the salmon before sprinkling or pressing on the blackening seasoning prior to placing the salmon into the super hot skillet.
That method adds a bit of extra buttery flavor to the fish, and helps the outer part of the fish to become quite dark because the butter tends to burn a bit quicker than oil does.
The other method is to simply and firmly press the salmon fillets into the blackening spices and allow those to adhere without the addition of the butter, using a high-smoke point oil directly in the pan to sear and blacken the salmon fillets in for several minutes per side.
I like to use the first method, but instead of using regular butter, which burns super quickly at high heat, I substitute ghee (or clarified butter) as my choice of fat.
Because ghee is free of milk solids and is exceptionally clear, it has an incredibly high smoke point (can withstand super high temps without quickly burning) and imparts a nice, rich flavor when I blacken the salmon.
What I like to do is melt some ghee and first brush a bit of it over the flesh-side of each fillet to flavor it and help the blackening seasoning to better adhere, and then I use a bit more ghee in my cast iron skillet to actually cook/blacken my salmon fillets in.
To create that smoky, savory flavor and blackened crust for the salmon, I like to combine a few of my favorite spices and dried herbs with balanced flavor. For this I use sweet paprika as well as smoked, along with a bit of cumin, cayenne pepper, a pinch of ground cloves and allspice, some granulated onion and garlic, some black pepper, plus some dried oregano and thyme.
If you prefer not to mix up your own seasoning blend, you could always substitute a good quality Creole or Cajun spice mix free of salt so that you can control that yourself.
As far as the salmon goes, you can opt for either skinless salmon fillets or skin-on fillets, weighing about 6 to 8 ounces each.
While I would typically opt for skinless salmon for most preparations (I just prefer it more), when it comes to blackening the salmon, I like to use skin-on.
The reason I use skin-on is to offer just a slight barrier to the flesh to allow the fish to cook a little longer on the skin-side before becoming too dark or drying out the fish.
Here's a peek at my blackened salmon recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I prepare my pickled corn relish by adding all of the ingredients to a mason jar or bowl, and allowing the veggies to pickle for at least 4 hours, or even overnight. Once pickled, I drain the brining liquid, and keep the veggies in a covered mason jar (or Wecks jar) with a lid.
- For the salmon, I lightly brush some melted ghee over each fillet and sprinkle with some salt; then, I sprinkle over each flesh-side of the fillet a liberal amount of the blackening spices, pressing the seasoning into the flesh of the salmon to create a nice layer. (I do not add seasoning to the skin side.)
- Next, I heat my cast iron skillet slowly until smoking hot, with a bit more ghee added into it. When ready, I add my salmon fillets into the skillet with the seasoned, flesh-side down and allow them to blacken on that first side for about 3 minutes.
- Once blackened on that first side, I flip the salmon over onto the skin-side, and cooking for an additional 5-7 minutes on lower heat until medium-rare or medium doneness, depending on the thickness of the fillet. (I like to baste this side of the salmon with some of the now “blackened” butter as the fish cooks on this side, tipping the pan very carefully and using a spoon.)
- I remove the blackened salmon from the pan, place onto a plate or platter, and top with my pickled corn relish before serving.
Blackened Salmon with Pickled Corn Relish
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Nutrition Info: 598 calories per serving (with 1/4 cup of pickled corn relish)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 9 minutes
Total time: 39 minutes
Blackened Salmon Ingredients:
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 2 teaspoons granulated onion
- 1 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use more of less as desired)
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 4 (8 ounce) salmon fillets, skin on
- 5 tablespoons ghee (or avocado oil, or other high-heat oil)
- Cilantro or micro cilantro greens, for garnish (optional)
Pickled Corn Relish Ingredients:
- 2 ears fresh yellow corn, kernels cut (about 1 cup of kernels)
- 1/4 cup diced roasted red bell pepper (from a jar)
- 1 Serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and minced or sliced
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoons salt
- Begin by preparing the pickled corn relish: add you corn kernels, diced red pepper and Serrano or jalapeno peppers into a mason jar; in a bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, water, sugar and salt, and pour this over the veggies in the jar. Seal the jar and place into fridge to pickle for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- Once the corn relish is pickled, drain it completely of the brine through a fine sieve or strainer, and add the corn relish back into the jar and keep cold until ready to serve.
- Prepare your blackening seasoning: to a small dish, add the paprika and the remaining ingredients up to and including the ground cloves, and mix these spices/herbs together with a fork to combine; set aside.
- To prepare the blackened salmon, place the fillets onto a large plate or platter with the flesh-side up, skin-side down. Melt 1 tablespoon of the ghee and brush each fillet with the ghee.
- Sprinkle a few pinches of salt over each fillet, and then sprinkle over about 1-2 teaspoons of the blackening seasoning over each fillet, patting the spices into the salmon as to evenly cover it. Allow the salmon to rest with the blackening seasoning for 5-10 minutes.
- To blacken the salmon, place your cast iron (or other heavy bottom pan/skillet that can get very hot) over medium-high heat, and add in about 4 tablespoons of the ghee. Allow the pan to become very hot, until you start to see it smoke.
- Reduce the heat just slightly to medium-high now, and add the salmon fillets, seasoning side down, into the hot skillet. Allow the salmon to blacken (undisturbed) on that first side, for about 3 minutes, until very dark and a crust has formed (you can check with a spatula to see the level of color); then, flip the fillets over onto the skin-side, reduce the heat to low and cook an additional 5-7 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, or your desired doneness. (For added flavor and moisture, I like to baste the salmon with some of the now blackened ghee in the pan once it's on this side, by carefully tipping the skillet and using a large spoon, but this is optional.)
- Once the salmon is blackened and cooked through to your liking, remove from the skillet and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the pickled corn relish over top, and a sprinkle of cilantro leaves or micro greens, if desired.
Tips & Tidbits for my Blackened Salmon with Pickled Corn Relish:
- Skin-on fillets for easier cooking: While you certainly can use skinless salmon fillets, and season both sides with the blackening spices, I prefer to use skin-on fillets for this particular preparation. Once the seasoned flesh-side is blackened, I can flip the salmon over and cook it for a bit longer than the first side due to the barrier that the skin provides, which also gets crispy.
- Homemade blackening mix, or use a creole spice blend: If you prefer to use a single jar of spice, then feel free to use a Cajun or Creole spice mix which you can find in the spice section of the market. I like to make my own seasoning blend according to my tastes, so I use a combination of a few spices and herbs for added smoky flavor.
- Cast iron skillet or other heavy bottom pan: If you happen to have a cast iron skillet, then it's the perfect pan for blackening salmon. It becomes very hot and helps to create that dark crust on the outside of the salmon fillet, cooking things evenly. However, feel free to use any heavy bottom pan (preferably non-stick) that can get nice and hot.
- Where to find ghee, or clarified butter: Most markets carry ghee these days, and you can find it in either the refrigerated section where the butter is, or on the shelf where the olive oils and various other cooking oils/fats are found.
- Quick pickled corn relish for zip: While the pickled corn relish is of course optional, it does add a bit of brightness and tanginess to this smoky, spicy salmon. You can get a fairly good amount of zip from pickling for at least 4 hours, but you'll get a more intense flavor if you can pickle overnight.
- Tasty sides to serve with blackened salmon: Rice, couscous, quinoa, or fluffy mashed potatoes are all great sides to serve with this blackened salmon.