Are you up for a new dinner recipe to spice things up?
Is it a Friday during Lent and you’re all out of ideas for cooking fish?
Just in the mood for a tasty seafood dinner?
How do you feel about blackened salmon?
It adds an interesting flavor punch to the average fish dinner. You’ll love the taste that goes along with the all of the healthy fats and protein you’ll get from blackened salmon.
What Is Blackened Salmon?
Blackened salmon is a fish dish with origins in Cajun cooking – the technique was made famous by Chef Paul Prudhomme from New Orleans.
The original recipe calls for blackened redfish, but the technique can be applied to other fish and protein sources – steak and chicken cutlets are other popular options.
You might be wondering: But... isn’t blackened just burnt? Nope.
“Blackened” is a Cajun cooking technique where you slather your food in butter then coat it in a layer of herbs or spices (commonly some mix of thyme, oregano, chili peppers, peppercorns, salt, garlic powder, or onion powder) and cook it up in a very hot cast-iron skillet. The goal is to toast (and sometimes char) the seasoning to form an extra crispy protective skin around the meat so it ends up steamed and perfectly cooked.
The name refers to the characteristic brown/black color of the crust which is caused by the spices charring and the milk solids from the butter browning.
Here are a few recipe variations so you can make your own blackened salmon at home.
Jeff Calkins’ Blackened Salmon Fillets
For this recipe, you’ll first want to gather all the necessary ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons of ground paprika
- 1 tablespoon of ground cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon of onion powder
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- ½ a teaspoon of ground white pepper
- ½ a teaspoon of ground black pepper
- ¼ a teaspoon of dried thyme
- ¼ a teaspoon of dried basil
- ¼ a teaspoon of dried oregano
- 4 salmon fillets (the skin and bones should be
- ½ a cup of unsalted butter (should be melted)
Preparations should take you an estimated 15 minutes and cooking should be about 10 minutes.
Step 1: Mix the paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder, salt, white pepper, black pepper, thyme, basil, and oregano in a small bowl.
Step 2: Use 1/4 a cup of the melted butter to brush the salmon fillets on both sides and then sprinkle the Step 1 mixture evenly over the fish. Drizzle another 1/2 of the remaining butter on one side of each fillet.
Step 3: Cook the salmon fillets butter side down in a large, heavy skillet over high heat for 2 to 5 minutes until blackened. Turn the fillets and drizzle the last ¼ of the butter onto them. Keep cooking until blackened until the fish is easily flaked by a fork. Enjoy!
5-Minute 5-Ingredient Blackened Salmon
This recipe has a prep time of 5 minutes and takes 10 minutes to cook. It’s a quick, bare-bones recipe of blackened salmon. Here are the ingredients (the salt and pepper aren’t counted among the “five ingredients”):
- 4 salmon fillets (about 6 ounces each)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin
- 1/2 a teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (increase or
decrease to taste)
- 1/2 a teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/2 a teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper
- Olive oil
- Optional: Add lemon wedges to the side and
sprinkle fresh chopped herbs like oregano, thyme, or parsley before serving.
And, as an amended version for kiddos who are picky with flavor, just use salt, pepper, and garlic powder for the seasoning.
Step 1: Mix together the smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
Step 2: Coat each side of a salmon fillet with the seasoning mix by repeatedly patting a pinch of the mixture gently onto the pink flesh of the fish.
Step 3: Heat about a tablespoon of your preferred olive oil in a large skillet heated over medium fire.
Step 4: Pop each salmon fillet with its flesh side down into the heated olive oil. Let them cook for about 2 to 3 minutes before you flip the salmon. Then, cook for another 5 to 6 minutes, or until the skin becomes crispy and easily flakes with a fork.
A Few Non-Traditional Recipes
If you’re in the mood to cook up blackened salmon with a bit of a twist, try one of these recipes.
Blackened Salmon with Pineapple Rice
First, start by gathering the recipe’s ingredients:
- 1 cup of long-grain white rice
- 8 oz. of fresh pineapple
- 1 jalapeño
- 1/2 a cup of fresh cilantro
- 1 1/4 pounds of skinless salmon fillet
- 2 tablespoons of blackening spice mix or Cajun seasoning, minus salt (you can use one of the above recipe’s seasoning lists for the specifics)
Step 1: Cook the rice according to the package’s directions, or however you typically cook your rice. Fluff it up with a fork and fold in the pineapple, jalapeño, and cilantro.
Step 2: Simultaneously heat a large skillet over medium heat. Coat both sides of
the salmon with the seasoning mix and cook covered until opaque throughout and blackened. This should be about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Serve with the
rice and enjoy!
It should take about 25 minutes altogether.
Blackened Salmon Soft Tacos
This recipe calls for the following ingredients:
- 1 1/4 pounds of skinless salmon fillet
- 2 tablespoons of blackening spice mix or Cajun seasoning, minus salt (feel free to use one of the above recipe’s blackening ingredients to make your own, or find a seasoning packet)
- 1/2 of a small head of romaine lettuce
- 1/2 a cup of fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
- 1/4 a teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 a teaspoon of pepper
- 8 small flour tortillas
- Low-fat sour cream, for serving
Step 1: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Coat both sides of the salmon with the seasoning mix and cook covered until opaque throughout and blackened. This should be about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
Step 2: Toss the lettuce, cilantro, oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.
Step 3: Flake the cooked blackened salmon into pieces. If you’re a fan of sour cream, spread some onto the tortillas, and then fill the tortillas with salmon and top with the Step 2 mixture.
It should take about 15 minutes altogether.
Blackened Salmon with Mango Salsa
Image from Joy in Every Season
This recipe should take about 30 minutes to knock out. Let’s start with the ingredients:
- 1 large ripe mango, peeled, seeded, and coarsely
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 small clove of minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon of paprika
- 1/2 a tablespoon of cayenne pepper
- 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, washed, with the leaves
removed and chopped up
- 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1 pound (or 4 pieces) of salmon fillet, skin on
- Cooking spray (or an estimated 1 teaspoon of
Step 1: Mix up all of the salsa ingredients in a bowl (mango, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice), season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
It should make 1 cup of mango salsa.
Step 2: Mix the paprika, cayenne, thyme, oregano, and salt in a small bowl until blended. Coat the salmon fillets with the mixture.
Step 3: Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat and spray it generously with cooking oil. Add the salmon flesh side down once the pan is very hot. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes before flipping the salmon, then cook for another 5 to 6 minutes. Serve the blackened salmon topped with the salsa.
Be Sure to Enjoy Your Blackened Salmon
Thirsty? Why not snag a drink that’ll go well with your salmon dish?
Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Zinfandel are a few suggested wines that will pair quite nicely with your plate full of blackened salmon. The best wine choice also depends on your side dishes too.
Whatever blackened salmon recipe and side dishes you choose, you should be happy to expect great Cajun flavor and a satisfied tummy.