Blackened Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde
Published Jun 07, 2021•Updated Jan 12, 2024
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Dry spices and a bright, fresh salsa combine to make this sheet pan Blackened Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde a flavorful meal that you’ll be just as happy to serve to your family as to guests.
If you follow us on Instagram you may have seen that we are on vacation this week! Since I was a kid, my family vacationed every couple of years on the Outer Banks in North Carolina and Frank’s family vacationed there too! Long before we met, we were both spending summer vacations on the opposite ends of the same very long beach. As soon as we cross the bridge to reach the Outer Banks, we both say that we feel ourselves shifting into summer mode. And now, after a week at the beach, summer Jess is here to stay. I want all the shorts and flip flops, chasing lightning bugs, afternoons by the pool that this summer will bring. And around my dinner table, I want all the big flavors and LOTS of fresh herbs.
Blackened Salmon fits right in, along with its sister recipe, Honey Paprika Broiled Salmon. It’s super fast. Just rub the salmon with a mix of dried herbs and spices and slide it under the oven’s broiler – no need to keep that oven on for long. Finish the salmon with even more fresh flavor – fresh herbs and lemon and orange juice make a citrus salsa verde that you’ll want on this salmon as well as on chicken or steak you cook on the grill later this week.
If you have an herb garden (lucky you!), you probably already have nearly everything you need to make this dish. Here’s what you need to know:
Ingredients for Blackened Salmon with Salsa Verde
- Light Brown Sugar – In addition to adding a bit of sweetness to balance the savory and spicy ingredients in the rub, sugar expedites the caramelization on the top of the fish, giving it more of that “blackened” look.
- Smoked Paprika, Dried Thyme, Kosher Salt, Garlic Powder, Dried Oregano, Black Pepper, and Cayenne – Just a bunch of spices straight out of your pantry that will combine to give your salmon tons of delicious flavor. Adjust the cayenne to taste. You can skip it completely if you don’t want any spice.
- Salmon Filet – Use one large piece of salmon or individually portioned salmon filets (often you can buy them pre-portioned or ask the fishmonger to do it for you).
- Cooking Oil – Be sure to use a cooking oil that can be used at high heat since this will cook close to the broiler. I love avocado or grapeseed oil, but vegetable oil will work as well.
- Orange and Lemon – Use a microplane to remove just the outer zest of the orange and lemon (avoid the white pith). Use a small orange or, if your orange is larger than a tennis ball, just use half the juice.
- Fresh Parsley and Cilantro – You’ll need a lot of fresh parsley and cilantro to give this sauce big fresh herb flavor. Use kitchen scissors to snip the herbs off the stalks – try to use mostly leaves, but the upper tender parts of the stalks are fine to include too.
- Shallots – I love the tart flavor that shallots give to salsa verde, but a small amount of diced onion or a single clove of garlic could be used here too.
What is Salsa Verde?
Salsa Verde is a term that encompasses a wide variety of sauces that are green and served fresh, either chilled or at room temperature. They usually include tons of fresh herbs, citrus or vinegar, and oil. There are versions of salsa verde in many different cuisines – Italian, Mexican, Argentinian, and French to name just a few!
The citrus salsa verde for this recipe includes juice from oranges and lemons which gives it a bit of natural sweetness to balance the tart. It’s great on this salmon but works on so many other dishes too.
Score Salmon Before Broiling
Some salmon filets are cut in such a way that one part is very thick while another part is very thin. To help all of the salmon finish cooking in about the same amount of time, try scoring the salmon before you cook it, making cuts through the flesh to about half the thickness of the fish. This step also helps the seasoning to get all the way through to the center of the fish, giving it even more flavor.
How to Make Blackened Salmon
When a dish is rubbed with a blend of flavorful spices that turn a rich dark, nearly black color as they cook, it is often referred to as “blackened”. The blackening action comes, in particular, from sugar in the spice blend which caramelized as it cooks. To cause that caramelization to happen it is important to cook the salmon at high heat – searing or broiling will do the trick.
How to Broil Salmon
Broiling salmon in the oven gives it a nice dark crust on top while keeping the center tender and flaky. Be sure that the salmon is about 6 to 8 inches beneath the broiler and broil it skin-side down so that the flesh gets exposed to high heat.
A word of caution. The high, direct heat of broiling can cause the natural oils in the salmon, as well as any oils and seasoning you added to sputter and smoke. Be aware of this before you begin and turn on your kitchen’s fan to minimize the smoke in your kitchen.
More Salmon Recipes
- Foil-Roasted Salmon with Chickpeas and Greens
- Broiled Honey Lime Salmon
- Pan Seared Salmon and Gnocchi with Sage Butter Sauce
- Lemongrass Roasted Salmon
- Honey Lime Salmon Tacos
- Salmon with Sweet Chili Lime Butter and Roasted Broccoli
- Chipotle Lime Salmon
- Thai-Style Salmon Satay with Peanut Sauce
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Blackened Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde
- Food Processor
- Half Sheet Pan
- 1 Tbsp packed Light Brown Sugar
- 2 tsp Smoked Paprika (regular paprika will work)
- 1 tsp Dried Thyme
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper (use more or less, depending on how much spice you like)
- 1 1/2 lb Salmon Filets (one large piece of salmon or small center-cut salmon filets will work)
- 3 Tbsp Cooking Oil, divided
- Orange and Lemon Slices (optional), for garnish
Citrus Salsa Verde:
- 1 small Orange, zest and juice
- 1 small Lemon, zest and juice
- 1 1/2 cups loosely packed Flat-Leaf Parsley (use mostly leaves, but some tender stems are okay)
- 1 1/2 cups loosely packed Cilantro (use mostly leaves, but some tender stems are okay)
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp Shallots, chopped into large pieces
- 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
- Preheat the oven’s broiler. Place an oven rack about 6 to 8 inches beneath the broiler.
- Line a sheet pan with foil first and brush with 1 Tbsp of cooking oil.
- Make spice blend: While oven is heating combine brown sugar, smoked paprika, thyme, salt, garlic powder, dried oregano, black pepper, and cayenne. Set aside.
- Make salsa verde: Make the salsa verde by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until evenly combined and only small flakes of the herbs remain. You can also finely chop everything by hand.
- Score and season salmon. Place salmon on prepared sheet pan, skin-side down. Use a sharp knife to cut / score the salmon a few times. (Note: Focus the slices on the thickest part of the salmon and slice to a depth that is about halfway through the salmon filet. This step will help the salmon to cook more quickly in the thick spots and will allow some of the flavor to reach the center of the fish.)
- Brush or rub salmon with remaining 2 Tbsp of cooking oil and then rub the spice blend into the top of the fish, including getting some of the spices down into the slices you made.
- Broil salmon: Broil until salmon is golden brown on top and flakes easily with a fork, 8 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness. (Keep an eye on your oven. Oil from the salmon can sputter up as it cooks and will occasionally cause smoking. I turn on the kitchen fan before I begin just to get ahead of any smoke that may form.)
- Serve salmon immediately with salsa verde on top.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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