Pan seared salmon seasoned with warm spices and then topped with a light, refreshing Mediterranean salsa fresca is a healthy and beautiful dish fit for a special occasion! And the best part? It's easy enough to prepare any time you'd like to treat yourself to a wonderful meal made with fresh, simple ingredients!
Pan Seared Salmon, Fancy Looking Yet Delightfully Simple
I hold such a deep appreciation for a meal that is utterly gorgeous and colorful to look at and divinely delectable to take a bite of, yet absolutely easy to prepare, requiring little to no fuss on the part of the one preparing it.
Those simple yet beautiful meals are a real gift when I'm cooking for a special occasion, or when I simply want to treat myself and my loved ones to a dish that looks and tastes a bit “fancy” and impressive, all while being thoroughly comforting and nourishing.
This pan seared salmon is just that special kind of recipe, because it makes use of fresh, colorful and seasonal ingredients to create that flavor and eye-popping appeal, but with a very simple preparation and presentation.
How to Pan Sear Salmon
Salmon is a rich, meaty variety of fish, and takes on even greater flavor from a simple marinade made up of warm spices, olive oil and lemon before being gently laid in a hot pan for a sear on both sides.
For my recipe, I prefer to use skinless salmon fillets. I allow them to rest in the seasoning for roughly 20 minutes before I heat up my cast-iron skillet and cook them until golden and slightly charred, roughly 4-5 minutes per side.
And because salmon is already a very moist fish, the addition of the Mediterranean salsa fresca spooned over top cuts some of the richness with some bright, lemony and herby flavor, and adds that fresh and clean note. It offers that element that's cool and crisp, perfect for this light and healthy salmon recipe!
To tie things together, I personally like to serve this pan seared salmon with some very simple toasted couscous. Of course, this is totally optional, but I've included the easy recipe for it below the salmon and salsa, in case you're looking to complete your meal!
Here's a sneak peek at how I prep my pan seared salmon recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe below...)
- For moist, succulent and flavorful salmon fillets, I marinate the fish in a mixture of spices, olive oil, salt/pepper, and lemon.
- While the fish marinates, I prepare my easy Mediterranean salsa fresca to serve over top, and keep that nice and cold in the fridge.
- If preparing my toasted couscous as a side, I prep that next and keep it warm.
- To finish my pan seared salmon, I heat up my cast iron skillet (or other non-stick pan), and gently cook/sear my fillets for about 4-5 minutes per side, or until medium doneness on the inside and slightly charred on the outside.
- I top with the salsa fresca, and serve with the toasted couscous!
Pan Seared Salmon
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Nutrition Info: 461 calories (salmon with salsa fresca only)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Pan Seared Salmon Ingredients:
• 4 salmon fillets (roughly 6 ounces each), skinned
• Olive or avocado oil
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
• 1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• Pinch cayenne pepper
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Mediterranean Salsa Fresca Ingredients:
• 1 cup small cherry or sugar tomatoes, quartered
• 1 small Persian cucumber, finely diced
• 1/4 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
• 2 tablespoons pitted Kalamata olives, diced
• 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
• 1 teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• Black pepper
Toasted Couscous Ingredients (optional side):
• 1 cup couscous
• 1 1/4 cup water
• Couple pinches of salt
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Place the salmon fillets onto a plate or into a large bowl, and drizzle in about 2 tablespoon of the oil; then, sprinkle in the paprika, the granulated garlic and onion, the cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne and lemon zest, and toss everything gently to coat the fillets evenly and well; allow the salmon to marinate for at least 20 minutes, or even over night.
- While the salmon marinates, prepare the Mediterranean salsa fresca: combine all ingredients up to and including the lemon juice in a small bowl, and add a couple of pinches and salt and pepper; mix with a spoon to combine; keep covered and in the fridge until ready to serve.
- If preparing the optional toasted couscous: place a medium-small non-stick sauce pan or pot over medium heat, and add in the couscous; toast the couscous, stirring it frequently, for about a minute or so, and then pour it out of the pan/pot; set it aside for a moment.
- Into that same pot or pan add the water, a couple pinches of salt, the olive oil and the garlic, and stir to combine; bring the water to a vigorous simmer, pour in the couscous and stir, and turn off the heat; cover with a lid, and allow the couscous to soften for about 5-7 minutes; then, fluff with a fork, add the chopped parsley, and keep warm.
- To sear the salmon, place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of the oil; once the oil is very hot, add in the salmon fillets, and allow them sear on that first side for about 4-5 minutes, or until a deep, golden-brown; then, flip over and allow them to cook and sear on the other side for about 4-5 more minutes; remove from skillet.
- Top with seared salmon generously with the Mediterranean Salsa Fresca, and serve with a side of toasted couscous, or your favorite side.
Tips & Tidbits for my Pan Seared Salmon:
- Firm, fresh, skinless salmon: If you can find skinless salmon, opt to go that route for convenience (unless you enjoy the skin). Also, check to make sure that the salmon smells nice and fresh, and has a plump texture and good color.
- Marinate for a short time, or longer: While my recipe only calls for a 20 minute marination, if you'd like to gain even more flavor, allow the salmon to marinate for at least a couple of hours, or even overnight.
- Medium-high heat under the pan: In order for the salmon to cook through before getting too dark on the outside, make sure your pan is not too hot. Have the heat on medium-high or medium heat, as this will allow for some color or char on the outside while the fish cooks through on the inside. You'll need about 4-5 minutes per side for medium doneness.
- Tasty sides: My recipe for toasted couscous is included with the salmon recipe above, but other great options are rice, pasta, or quinoa!
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2015, and has been updated with even more love!