If you’ve been to our house for dinner, we likely agree on two critical points: 1) I’m not Martha Stewart (5 minutes and a look at the kitchen sink will confirm) and 2) dinner was delicious anyway. Thanks to easy recipes like this Spicy Baked Salmon, all that I (and you!) need to make a gorgeous meal is a few ingredients, a big piece of foil, and a baking sheet.
This healthy baked salmon recipe is a riff on my everlasting, always reliable Baked Salmon in Foil. After making it (literally) dozens of times (and, all my other healthy salmon recipes), I can tell you it is the very best oven baked salmon recipe.
It’s also incredibly adaptable! Instead of my usual method of using lemon and herbs, for today’s sweet and spicy baked salmon twist, I took the same core concept in a completely different direction.
This recipe is embarrassingly easy, and it’s going to make you feel like a pro chef. I love it for company because I can prep it in advance, it feels special and fancy but isn’t overtly showy, and my friends consistently rave.
I also love Spicy Baked Salmon for weeknight meals. It takes roughly five minutes to throw together, it’s healthy, and I can use the salmon in a variety of ways, as you’ll see in the serving suggestions below.
Even if you’ve never cooked fish before, this recipe is completely within your reach. You only need a couple of ingredients to make it, and the resulting Spicy Baked Salmon wow factor will have you returning to the recipe again and again.
Spicy Baked Salmon–Key Ingredients and Top Tips
Choose High-Quality Salmon
- Because this recipe is so simple, you can’t hide behind a poorer quality piece of fish. It is always (and I mean always) worth it to spend a few dollars more a pound to ensure you have a high-quality fillet.
- Salmon to look for: wild-caught varieties. At our store, that usually means coho, sockeye, or king. Sockeye has the strongest flavor and is the leanest. King salmon is the most expensive, thicker, and richer tasting. Coho falls somewhere in between and is what I try to purchase when it’s available.
- Avoid farm-raised, fatty Atlantic salmon. These salmon are often fed an artificial diet and are lower in nutrients. Just like buying higher-quality meat, you get what you pay for with fish.
- Even if the nutrient factor doesn’t bother you, farmed salmon also results in a poorer tasting final product. This is because it is more watery and lets off a lot of extra liquid when it bakes. This can cause your salmon to become mushy.
- If your store only has wild-caught salmon that was previously frozen, that’s OK! It’s better to purchase frozen and thawed wild salmon than farmed salmon.
Add the Spicy Salmon Rub
OK, now that you’ve picked up a nice piece of salmon, it’s time to flavor it up!
This spicy salmon rub is simple but impactful. The ingredients in it are:
- Chipotle Chile Powder. This spice is ERRRRRR-THANG. It’s deep, smoky, spicy, and will add incredible dimension to any recipe that calls for it. In addition to using it in the salmon rub, I also use it in almost every single one of my chili recipes and other Tex-Mex recipes too.
- Lime. A fab combo with chipotle, lime cuts through the heat and adds freshness.
- Brown Sugar. Completely optional but tasty. I like a sweet and spicy effect, so I add 1 tablespoon to the rub.
Serving Spicy Baked Salmon
In addition to serving this Spicy Baked Salmon on its own, I also love it for:
- Spicy Salmon Tacos. Pile inside tortillas and top with the creamy slaw recipe I use in these Shrimp Tacos.
- Spicy Salmon Bowls. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice with lots of avocado and Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, and diced tomatoes. Chunks of roasted sweet potato would be a tasty add-in too (future self: try this).
- Spicy Salmon Salad. Serve over chopped romaine with chopped fresh tomatoes and the dressing used for this BLT Chopped Salad (feel free to keep the bacon). It would also be delish over this Grilled Corn Salad.
This Spicy Baked Salmon yields enough to comfortably serve four. If I’m making it only for Ben and myself, we usually eat it the first night on its own with roasted vegetables (and brown rice if I have my act together enough to have some on hand). Then the next day I’ll use the leftovers to make one of the above variations.
Actually, I use the leftovers to make tacos 99.9% of the time, because Tex-Mex is the language of affection around here. If you decide to try this Spicy Baked Salmon recipe (or any of the suggested spinoffs!), let me know how it turns out for you in the comments section below. I always love hearing from you!
More Simple, Healthy Salmon Recipes
- Buffalo Baked Salmon
- Garlic Salmon
- Pineapple Glazed Salmon
- Balsamic Glazed Salmon
- Soy Ginger Salmon
- Grilled Salmon in Foil
Spicy Baked Salmon
- 1 3/4 pounds side of salmon wild caught if at all possible (skin on or off; if I’m not in a hurry, I ask the seafood counter to remove the skin, but both work well)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar optional; omit for Paleo or Whole30
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
- 1 medium lime zest and 1 tablespoon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or melted unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with a piece of aluminum foil large enough to easily wrap all the way around the salmon and seal it. Lightly coat the foil with nonstick spray. With paper towels, lightly pat the salmon dry. Place the salmon in the center.
- In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, chipotle chile powder, lime zest, and salt. Brush the salmon with the olive oil (or melted butter) and lime juice. Sprinkle with the chipotle seasoning mixture, rubbing if needed to coat the salmon evenly.
- 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 12 to 18 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 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. 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 overdone very quickly. As soon as it flakes easily with a fork, it's ready. Alternatively, you can check the salmon's temperature with an an instant-read thermometer. At 145 degrees F, it is done.
- To serve, cut the salmon into portions. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro or top with an extra squeeze of lime juice as desired.
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