Lemon Pepper Salmon
So, I’m not sure how your week’s been, but I could really use an easy, healthy dinner right now. Naturally said, dinner must also be fantastic (standards, my friends). And, since I’m taking requests on both of our behalves, let’s not spend spend more than 10 minutes prepping it and have something easy to serve with it too. Too much to ask? This Lemon Pepper Salmon doesn’t think so!
Tender, flaky salmon is spiced simply but sublimely, then baked in the oven in foil. This lemon pepper salmon is exactly the kind of recipe you and I need more of in our lives.
Lemon pepper salmon asks very little of you—I was not kidding about the 10 minutes of prep, fewer if you are super speedy—and rewards you richly in return. The salmon fillet is baked to perfection, and the foil packet method makes it nearly foolproof.
Nervous about cooking fish? I have all the best tips to make sure this Lemon Pepper Salmon turns out perfectly every time!
Here, the source of chaos has been my cookbook edits, which are due on Monday. I’ve been working till the wee hours every night, combing through almost 400 pages of nitty gritty detail to double (and triple) check that every last detail is perfect. I’ve included so much useful information in every recipe (including questions you didn’t even know you wanted to ask).
I’m not taking any shortcuts, which I know will make for a wonderful, complete, resource-rich book. I know the effort will be so worth it once you are holding it in your hands…but in the meantime, we’ve had some really hectic, stressful nights.
Rather than ordering take out, I’m turning to my ever-trusted baked salmon. It’s easy to make, even on a deadline, gives my body fuel and nourishment to keep me energized, and it tastes exquisite.
This lemon pepper salmon is the latest spinoff of my go-to Baked Salmon in Foil. Foil-packet baking is my favorite way to make salmon, because it is foolproof!
I used to be super intimidated to cook fish, and I thought it was something too “fancy” to make at home. NOT TRUE.
Baked salmon is quick and easy to make for cooks of any level. It’s not too fancy, and since when is making a nice meal for yourself considered “fancy” anyway? Salmon is good for you too.
My other salmon recipes (like this Salmon Meuniere) have dozens of glowing reviews, including from plenty of first-time salmon bakers. I know this lemon pepper salmon will be no exception!
How to Make Lemon Pepper Salmon
- Salmon. You can make baked salmon with the skin on or off. I prefer my lemon pepper salmon with the skin on for ease (it helps lock in extra moisture).
- The skin peels off easily after your salmon is cooked, so you can remove it before serving or just eat around it on your plate. That said if you prefer your baked salmon without skin, you can either select it that way at the grocery store. If it doesn’t come that way to begin with, the seafood will often remove it for you.
- It’s important to look for high-quality, wild-caught varieties of salmon. Where I shop, that usually means coho, sockeye, or king—most of the time I choose coho or sockeye (king is delicious but super pricey). Try to avoid farm-raised, fatty Atlantic salmon. They are often fed an artificial diet and contain less nutrients. This type of salmon is typically more watery as well, which can cause your salmon dish to become mushy.
- Lemon. While I always enjoy lemon with my fish, in this version it SHINES. The recipes uses both the lemon zest and juice for max citrus impact.
- Black Pepper. The citrus flavors are truly elevated by the inclusion of black pepper. It adds a nice kick of flavor to the salmon without making it spicy. (Another place you can find this killer combo: Lemon Pepper Wings).
- Herbs. For a bit of extra color and freshness. You can use anything you have growing in your garden or what looks best at your grocery store. Another bonus of cooking with herbs and lemon: they add incredible fresh flavor to this dish without any extra calories. No herbs on hand? In this recipe, you can omit them. The lemon and pepper still carry the flavor.
- Olive Oil. Olive oil adds healthy fats, keep the salmon moist, and ensure it bakes perfectly.
- First, place your salmon on a plate and allow to come to room temperature. This will help it cook evenly all the way though.
- Next, grab a large piece of aluminum foil, and place it on your baking sheet. Spray lightly with nonstick spray, and lay down a row of your fresh herbs (I used thyme) and lemon slices.
- Take your piece of salmon, and lay it over the herbs and lemon. Top it with lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Flavor baby!
- Now, you’re ready to seal up the packet of yummy flavors and salmon. Make sure there’s enough to fully cover the salmon piece, leaving some room for air to circulate.
- Then, move your baking sheet with the foil packet to the oven and bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.
- When you’re ready to serve, top your salmon with additional fresh herbs (I added some extra thyme) or lemon juice. Voilà!
How to Know When Salmon is Finished Cooking
- Check for flaking. Using a fork or butter knife, peek in the thickest part of your salmon. If it’s beginning to flake but is still a little translucent, it’s done. Or, if your salmon flakes easily with a fork, it’s ready.
- Use an Instant Read Thermometer. This method never fails! When your salmon hits near 145 degrees F at the thickest part, it’s done. I actually like to remove my salmon a little early (around 140 degrees F), cover it, then let it rest for 5 minutes to come up to temperature. It ensures the salmon is super moist and never overcooks.
What to Serve with Lemon Pepper Salmon – Sides Suggestions
- Asparagus. The ULTIMATE lemon pepper salmon side dish! This Roasted Asparagus With Caramelized Onions would be delicious here.
- Vegetables. For a fresh, healthy side dish, try pairing the lemon pepper salmon with a sautéed or roasted vegetable. Sautéed Cabbage, Sautéed Zucchini, Roasted Zucchini, or Roasted Brussels Sprouts would all be excellent.
- Rice. Salmon pairs perfectly with rice. Try it with this Lemon Rice for something easy and elevated.
- Pasta. A hearty side option for when you need a more filling meal. This Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese, Avocado Pasta and Asian Ginger Sesame Roasted Vegetable Pasta would all be SO good!
- Salad. Try a salad for a cool side dish option. I love pairing lemon pepper salmon with this Anytime Arugula Salad or this Spinach Strawberry Salad.
More Favorite Baked Salmon Recipes
- Soy Ginger Salmon. Flavorful, easy salmon with an incredibly delicious, sticky glaze.
- Whole30 Salmon. This recipe yields the most tender, flaky salmon with a creamy avocado sauce.
- Garlic Salmon. Healthy, simple, and ready in just 30 minutes using one pan.
- Pineapple Glazed Salmon. Perfectly cooked salmon topped with a colorful, fresh pineapple avocado salsa.
- Balsamic Glazed Salmon. This dish looks so impressive, and it’s ready in just 20 minutes.
Do you bake salmon at home? I’d love to hear about some of your favorite ways to flavor it!
Also, if you try this Lemon Pepper Salmon, please leave a comment letting me know how it turned out! Hearing from you keeps me so energized (and, it will keep me energized while I work on my book edits this weekend too)!
Lemon Pepper Salmon
- 2 pound side of salmon - boneless (skin on or off, depending upon your preference) wild caught if possible
- 10 sprigs of fresh thyme - optional, but delicious
- 2 medium lemons - plus additional for serving
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper - plus additional to taste
- finely chopped fresh herbs of choice - (I prefer parsley or basil)
- Remove the salmon from the refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold your piece of salmon with a large piece of aluminum foil. If you prefer the salmon not to touch the foil, lay a sheet of parchment paper on top.
- Lightly coat the foil with baking spay, then arrange 5 sprigs of the thyme down the middle. Cut one of the lemons into thin slices and arrange half of the slices down the middle too. Place the salmon on top.
- Drizzle the salmon with the olive oil. Zest the second lemon over the salmon and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Lay the remaining thyme and lemon slices on top of the salmon. Juice the zested lemon, then pour the juice over the top.
- Fold the sides of the aluminum foil up and over the top of the salmon until it is completely enclosed. If your piece of foil is not large enough, place a second piece on top and fold the edges under so that it forms a sealed packet. Leave a little room inside the foil for air to circulate.
- Bake the salmon for 15-20 minutes, until the salmon is almost completely cooked through at the thickest part. The cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your salmon. If your side is thinner (around 1-inch thick) check several minutes early to ensure your salmon does not overcook. If your piece is very thick (1 1/2 inches or more), it may need longer.
- Remove the salmon from the oven, and carefully open the foil so that the top of the fish is completely uncovered (be careful of hot steam). Change the oven setting to broil, then return the fish to the oven and broil for 3 minutes, until the top of the salmon is slightly golden and the fish is cooked through completely. Watch the salmon closely as it broils to make sure it doesn’t overcook. Remove the salmon from the oven. If it still appears a bit underdone, you can wrap the foil back over the top and let it rest for a few minutes. Do not let it sit too long—salmon can progress from "not done" to "over done" very quickly. As soon as it flakes easily with a fork, it's ready.
- To serve, cut the salmon into portions. Sprinkle with additional fresh herbs or top with an extra squeeze of lemon as desired.
- This recipe is best enjoyed the day that it is made, as salmon can dry out when reheated.
- TO STORE: Store baked lemon pepper salmon in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
- TO REHEAT: I suggest reheating individual portions, either in the microwave on low power, or in a skillet. Let the salmon come to room temperature before reheating.
- TO FREEZE: Remove it from the skin and freeze in an airtight container for up to two months. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. From here, you can use it in any recipe that calls for canned salmon, toss it into a pasta, or use it to make this easy Salmon Patty recipe.
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