I’m geeking out over this crispy pan seared salmon because it’s legit too good not to share with the world. I licked the pan clean. Like, seriously I dipped my fingers into the cooled off creamy lemon parmesan sauce and scooped up every last drop. My hubby was only mad that he didn’t get to it first.
Ingredients in crispy pan seared salmon
- skin-on salmon filets (you want that crispy skin!)
- coconut milk
- mascarpone cheese
- parmesan cheese
- fresh herbs // kosher salt // freshly ground pepper // extra virgin olive oil (you know, the usuals)
Can’t have a delicious lemon herb sauce without the lemons and fresh herbs, so DON’T FORGET to pick some up!
How to pan sear salmon (or other fish) perfectly
My tricks for getting a perfect sear on salmon every single time begins by drying the fish on a paper towel lined plate. The goal is to remove all moisture from the skin. I let the salmon sit for about 5-10 minutes on each side before it ever touches a pan. Don’t forget to season the salmon (or whichever fish you’re cookin’ up) after you’ve dried it.
When ready, heat pan over medium-high heat until quite hot, then add oil. I like to use grapeseed oil, but extra virgin olive oil, canola, or vegetable oil would work great too!
Place salmon skin side down into hot oil then DO NOT TOUCH. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until the skin is real crispy and fish pulls away easily from the pan. At this point, you can carefully flip the salmon (this is my go-to fish spatula that I use for literally EVERYTHING!) and cook for another 3 minutes or so, or until the fish registers an internal temperature of 110 – 120 F for medium rare. Remember, your fish will continue to cook a bit more when you remove it from the heat!
Always dry the fish on a paper towel lined plate first to remove all the moisture.
Best pan to get crispy AF salmon skin
Spoiler: do NOT be scared to cook pan seared salmon with skin. That crispy skin is the best part!
You can absolutely pan sear fish in a cast iron or a stainless steel pan (hot pan, cold oil, works like a charm!), but for a more foolproof cooking method, I always reach for a large nonstick skillet. You will be shocked at how easily the fish lifts away from the pan.
If you’re looking to invest in a great nonstick pan to make perfect pan seared salmon every single time, I highly recommend GreenPan. Won’t break the bank, high quality, clean aesthetic. What’s not to like? I’ve used the 12-inch nonstick ceramic skillet pictured below for this recipe every single time.
Can I substitute dairy products for coconut milk?
Yes! I love the use of coconut milk in this recipe — it adds natural sweetness that you wouldn’t otherwise get — but it’s totally fine to replace it with heavy cream or whole milk.
Can I use frozen salmon?
No. You will absolutely not get crispy skin if you cook frozen salmon in a hot pan, nor will the fish cook evenly. If you’re using frozen fish, make sure you let it thaw overnight in a refrigerator before cooking to ensure it comes to temperature slowly. And don’t forget to dry the fish on a paper towel lined plate before adding to pan.
Does this freeze well?
While I would not recommend freezing the cooked fish, you could absolutely double the lemon parmesan sauce and freeze it. Cool sauce completely, then place in a freezer-safe, airtight container. Defrost as needed.
Make this easy, crispy pan seared salmon recipe one time and I am beyond convinced that — like me! — you’ll lick the pan clean. Simply put, it is the best. Ain’t no shame! And the lemon parmesan cream sauce? Fo’get about it!
If you make Crispy Pan Seared Salmon, please let me know by leaving a review below!
For additional weeknight favorites, check out the following recipes:
Spicy tagliatelle with crab, lemon, and capers
Weeknight slow baked salmon with herb-shallot butter
Asian stuffed peppers
Grilled romaine with pumpernickel croutons and lemon caesar vinaigrette
Recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest’s garlic butter creamed spinach salmon.
Crispy Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Parmesan Sauce
- 4 skin-on salmon fillets about 1 lb
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp grapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large shallots minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup coconut milk full fat or light OR 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup mascarpone cheese room temperature
- ½ cup parmesan cheese grated
- 2 lemons halved and grilled (grilling optional, but highly recommended!)
- 3 Tbsp fresh chives chopped, plus more for serving
- 3 Tbsp fresh dill chopped, plus more for serving
Optional, for serving:
- 2 medium zucchini cut into ¼” pieces
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup Israeli couscous
- 2 Tbsp pine nuts toasted
- ½ – 1 cup arugula or other micro greens
- Crusty baguette
- To make salmon:
- Place salmon filets on a paper-towel lined plate to dry. Let sit 5-10 minutes, then turn over and dry an additional 5-10 minutes. Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add salmon skin side down. Cook until skin is crisp and salmon easily pulls away from the pan, about 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip and cook other side until salmon registers between 110 and 120 F for medium rare, about 3 minutes more. Cook longer as desired, but remember the fish will continue to cook a little after you remove it from the pan.
- Remove salmon from pan and set aside. Meanwhile, to the same pan add shallots and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, then cook 30 seconds more. Pour in coconut milk or heavy cream and mascarpone cheese, then stir until cheese has completely melted. Add parmesan, juice from 1-2 lemons (start with 2-3 Tbsp, then add more if you love lemon OR just place lemon halves into sauce!), and fresh herbs, then whisk to combine. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning as needed. Remove from the heat, then either return salmon to the pan or serve on the side with sauce spooned on top.
- Serve immediately with couscous (recipe below), arugula, and crusty bread.
- To make couscous:
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Place zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle with 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine, then roast until tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
- Place 1 ¼ cups water in a sauce pan then bring to a boil. Add couscous, turn heat to a simmer, then cover and set aside until all water has absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, drizzle in remaining 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, roasted zucchini, and pine nuts. Gently toss to combine. Serve with pan-seared salmon and creamy parmesan sauce.