Caramelized Salmon Recipe - Skillful Cook
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Caramelized Salmon

69 reviews / 4.4 average

Caramelized salmon.

Do I need to go on? Because the word caramelized pretty much speaks itself straight into my soul.

There’s just something about food – any food, including but not limited to meat and vegetables - that becomes sweet and salty and textured and browned into some kind of caramelized dream that makes me never want to stop eating. It’s regular food meets candy meets me floating on food lovers’ cloud nine.


Caramelized salmon on a white plate with greens.

So this salmon is caramelized. It’s like you’re painting a beautiful and crunchy caramelized outer crust on one of America’s most beloved fish-es. ← a hard fact based on my opinions and perspectives.

But it’s the truth, right? I think everybody and their mom either completely loves or feels obligated to love this healthy, pretty, pink-colored fish.

On a personal fish preference note, I like salmon, but it has always been more of that magazine-article-reading obligation kind of liking. Or as an excuse to work an Asian glaze and a hot pile of rice into my dinners. Mmhmm.

Caramelized salmon on a plate with greens.

I became a pure salmon lover just for the simple goodness of salmon about three days ago when I had this at a restaurant, stolen straight off Bjork’s plate in the middle of the restaurant with no thought about what our dinner guests would think of us because everybody shares off each other's plates in public, right? Er, uhh, yeah. If you must know, I didn't order the salmon because I HAD to have the grilled portabella burger with Gouda and roasted red peppers and chipotle aoli + a side of the world’s best French fries instead. Which, in hindsight, I actually do not regret. But anyways.

Ultimately the point of salmon obsession happened when I walked, no, ran home and recreated this restaurant caramelized salmon beauty in my own kitchen.

Here are the three ingredients you need to make salmon taste browned, glazey, salty-sweet, and a teensy bit spicy.

Salt, pepper, and sugar in a white bowl.

That's it.

You’re either in love with the short spice ingredient list and thinking about how fast you can get into the kitchen and make this, orrrr your mind is already racing with at least 30 other spices that you could add to that spice mixture. And more power to you if that’s deep down in your heart.

Salmon on a cutting board.

Howwwever. Let me just say this. In my moments of strongest temptation to take a simple recipe and add lots of spice and sauce and garnish and glaze and three kinds of sprinkles, I try to remind myself that more isn’t always better. A nice filet of high-quality salmon just shines with these extremely basic seasonings and a gorgeous cooking technique (that would be you, my caramelization magic).

Caramelized salmon on a plate.

Review = Five ingredients. Twenty minutes. Perfect texture. Addicting flavor. Healthy for your bod. Pretty to look at.

Caramelized salmon for dinner tonight? Okay, cool.

Three More Perfect Salmon Recipes

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Caramelized Salmon

Caramelized Salmon


This caramelized salmon is simple, healthy and completely gorgeous. Just five ingredients and 20 minutes get that browned caramelized crust on the salmon.


Units Scale
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (if using coarse salt, use 1 1/2 tablespoons and pulse it in a food processor a few times to make it less coarse)
  • a few dashes of freshly crushed black pepper
  • 16 ounces salmon, cut into 4 filets, with skin
  • olive oil


  1. Combine the sugar, salt, and black pepper in a shallow bowl. Dip each filet into the bowl and coat the entire surface of the salmon with the sugar/salt mixture.
  2. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the salmon, skin side down in the pan, and saute for about 5 minutes. If you're worried about the burnt sugar in the pan (or if there's too much oil/liquid) just drain it off or spoon it out of the pan. If there's a lot of oil splattering, turn the heat down. I would not recommend going higher than medium heat.
  3. Flip each salmon filet (carefully! keep the skin on there because it helps the filets hold together) and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Flip to the side and saute each of the sides for another 2-3 minutes, if the filet is thick enough.
  4. Preheat the broiler to 450 degrees. Sprinkle the top of each salmon filet with a teaspoon or two of additional sugar/salt mixture. Transfer the pan from the stovetop into the oven. Let the salmon broil for 5-10 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it's not burning. The sugar in the pan might look burnt but that's okay as long as the tops of the salmon are looking golden brown. When the salmon is done cooking, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes (that sugar gets HOT). Gently peel off the skin before eating - it will be very dark because it's totally caramelized with sugar, and it should come off very easily.


If you're using regular table salt, start with just 1 tablespoon and add more salt as necessary.

  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: caramelized salmon, salmon recipe, healthy salmon recipe

Caramelized Salmon - Five ingredients. Twenty minutes. Perfect texture. Addicting flavor. Healthy for your bod. Pretty to look at.

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    LOL everyone in MY family certainly eats off of each other’s plates in public!! Omg what a burger, by the way 😀 I looooove salmon–my mom uses brown sugar when she makes it, along with a hit of soy sauce and other yumminess! Your photos just provoked a massive craving; can’t wait to try this!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      As I read this delicious sounding recipe, I was wondering if the process could be the same using brown sugar, then I read your comment about how your Mom uses brown sugar! Making this tomorrow.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’ve been up-ing my salmon intake to get more Omega-3’s. This will be a great addition to add to the recipe rep·er·toire. Why the phonetics? Because I had to copy and paste to spell it right 🙂

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        This recipe is amazing, so simple and yummy!!!
        Also about the chia seeds discussed earlier if your looking for omega 3 they are so so good! My favorite way to eat them is to make a simple chia seed pudding with raw milk, mixed with honey and some berries.

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          This Caramelized Salmon was Awesome!!!!!! I will hold this until I die and then leave it for my daughter. LOL Who would have thought salt and sugar! You know your stuff, kiddo.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    This looks so good!! I actually just did this by pure mistake last week. I was at of all spices and was left with honey, sugar and salt. So I put it on salmon and oh my gosh, it was heavenly! I need to make it again because your photos are mouthwatering!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    CANNOT handle how amazing this looks! We had salmon the other night for the first time in a while and I realized how much I miss eating it. Guess this will just have to go on the menu next week 😉

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    I eat salmon about 2-3 times a week, because it’s so good for you (wild salmon only!). I’m always looking for new ways to cook it, and I think simplicity is key. Thanks for the recipe – I’ll try it next time!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      you don’t have to eat just wild salmon, it actually damages the environment and farm raised fish are the exact same, as their diets and living conditions simulate those of their enviornment very well.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Hi many people that i serve say there is a specific flavor of farm-raised salmon? Thought?

      2. Skillful Cook Logo

        How in the heck does eating wild salmon damage the environment? Huh! Sorry but wild salmon flavor and texture is far better than anything farm raised. I just got back from Alaska with 50 pounds of WILD salmon that was caught, cleaned and flash frozen in less than an hour….nothing better..

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I agree. Although this looked amazing just out of the broiler, there was way too much salt, it almost knocked me off my chair, and the fish ended up being quite bitter. I used kosher salt, not sure whether that was the issue. I had high expectations but this ruined two amazing-looking pieces of salmon.

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    I loooove salmon but have never been able to get that sweet crunchy crust you get at restaurants. Amazing and so simple! Thank you 🙂

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    This looks and sounds great I always prepare salmon on the grill with a rub. I’m looking forward to trying a new style.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Tried this recipe tonight in a cast iron skillet on the grill with a hickory wood fire. Cooked up perfectly skip the broiler and put the fillets directly over the fire for a minute and a half. Family loved this!

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Salmon is hit or miss for me, but I can already tell that this recipe is going to be a winner in my house. I will definitely be making this recipe!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I’m sorry, but how can someone rate a recipe without actually testing it? There are a number of such remarks with this recipe.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love salmon any which way. I always end up getting stuck in the same routine with it though…a little olive oil and a lot of chef pauls magic salmon seasoning! That stuff is the best if you’ve never tried it. I’ll try caramelizing my salmon sometime soon to mix it up.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    I may have to break my rule of not using salmon with skin on. Just creeps me out. This looks so good that it would be worth the risk!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Ok, I want to know what restaurant you were eating at with the great food choices!! Can’t wait to try this

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love this recipe! I drizzle a touch of honey or agave nectar over the salmon after I pull it out from the broiler.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    I had the salmon thawed out in my fridge for a couple days. I was planning to make them for dinner tonight- and then BAM! I got your recipe about caramelized salmon. I didn’t hesitate. I have made McCormick’s Recipe Inspirations Asian Sesame Salmon pack before…but with a honey/spice mixture.
    I am always super hungry on the nights I make salmon for some reason…but I love how after a couple bites, the hunger pains are gone. It’s great that salmon is such a light-filling food.
    I love food blogs, especially yours because of the great humor and sarcastic writings!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    You’re right, Lindsay – I love how simple and adaptable this is – I would have to resist throwing more spices in that mixture, but it’s so pretty that I wouldn’t want to mess with it! Love that sweet/salty combo.

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    I actually love the simplicity of this recipe. We eat salmon almost every week and I love what the sugar does to form a crust. Great idea and awesome post!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    Anyone who doesn’t share food with family / friends in restaurants is odd. And that is all I’m going to say about that. On to your amazing salmon! Sometimes simple is better. I will absolutely be trying this. I live for an Alaskan, wild-caught salmon filet. Dinner tomorrow, done. Thank you.

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    I normally like my salmon simple, with just olive oil, black pepper & lemon, but something about this is really appealing to me!