This easy blackened salmon recipe features bold spices for a tasty dinner in just 15 minutes! First, apply a quick dry homemade blackening season blend to each fish fillet, then pan-fry in olive oil until a flavorful dark crust appears on the surface. Weeknight blackened salmon is that simple!
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This easy blackened salmon recipe is my go-to when a seafood craving hits! The dry rub is quick and easy to prepare with minimal effort, and the salmon cooks perfectly in a hot cast-iron skillet. Blackened salmon is one of those dishes you can pair with any side dish to mix up a weeknight dinner. The blackened seasoning rub is a blend of savory, spicy, and sweet seasonings that are generously coated on each fish fillet, adding delicious flavors and textures while it cooks.
The best part of this blackened salmon recipe is that it takes almost no time but feels impressive. Once the salmon is added to a hot pan and cooked on each side for just a few minutes, the taste transforms, making each bite better than the last. The meaty, savory, umami flavors come out, and it will satisfy meat-eaters and fish-haters alike. Fans of spiciness and crispy salmon will devour this dish!
Blackened Salmon Seasoning Rub
Whenever you’re cooking salmon, chicken, or even steak, there are several ways to add extra flavor and retain moisture. Of course, marinades and sauces are a nice option, but sometimes you want to highlight the meaty, savory flavor of the meal without adding extra sauce.
A dry spice rub does the trick when I’m looking to add fast flavor to proteins. So how do you make a blackening seasoning mix? My blackening spice recipe is a mixture of paprika, cumin, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, chili powder, and black pepper. Although I use it here in a blackened salmon recipe, it also works great on other types of fish fillets, chicken, and even pork.
If you’re unfamiliar with the magic of dry rubs, you liberally coat the salmon with spices and seasonings. The balance of heat, savory notes, and sweetness from the spices get enhanced when cooked in olive oil, which helps the fat-soluble flavors intensify. The spice blend takes on deep, nuanced flavors permeating the salmon and highlighting the texture, flavor, and spice level.
When making this blackened salmon recipe, I apply a generous coating of the blackening spice to the flesh side of the salmon fillets. For those who like extra crispy fish, the skin can be left on and fried in the pan. Otherwise, remove the skin and season both sides of the fish fillet with the blackening seasoning blend before you cook the salmon.
Choosing the Right Oil for Blackened Salmon
When making this blackened salmon recipe, I haul out my trusty cast iron pan, which is perfect for pan-searing salmon and adding that ideal crispy finish. Of course, any heavy pan will do, but I highly recommend considering cast iron for this recipe.
I pan-fry the seasoned salmon fillets in a thin layer of olive in my large cast-iron skillet. When you make this salmon recipe, be sure to consider oil smoke points. The frying oil should be hot enough to sear the surface of the salmon quickly but not so hot that it becomes overly smoky and breaks down.
I cook the salmon in the hot skillet for a few minutes on each side to create a crispy outer layer and deep golden colors on the salmon surface. The salmon should flake easily when finished.
Salmon fillets cook quickly, making this quite a fast, easy (weeknight-friendly) meal to prepare. The cast-iron skillet gets that high-temperature heat you want for an extra crispy outside. The result of this cooking method is tender and flaky salmon with a boldly spiced crust—it’s irresistible!
I often add limes to the salmon presentation so diners can squeeze a little lime juice on the blackened salmon. It’s quite flavorful, but you can always offer salt and pepper to taste. I like to serve this blackened salmon recipe with grilled corn salad or broccoli rice. Blackened salmon is a simple and tasty recipe—once you master it, you’ll want to put it on repeat and serve this favorite fish weekly at the dinner table.
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The Secret in the Blackened Salmon Spices
Wondering how to cook blackened salmon so it gets that caramelized texture and flavor without tasting burnt or bitter?
The secret to cooking the best blackened salmon is in the blend of spices. I add a small amount of brown sugar to the blackening spice mixture because it not only adds a hint of sweetness to the salmon (or any protein) but also accelerates the browning on the surface of the fish.
FAQ About Cooking Blackened Salmon
I like to mix my blackening seasoning rub in a small bowl or a mortar. Most spices are already pre-ground, so there’s no need to use the pestle to crush the spices. Just stir them together in the bowl, so they blend well. I use a teaspoon of paprika and cumin, the two flavors I like to highlight. Next, I use a ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Then I go a little lighter on the heat with a ¼ teaspoon of chili powder and black pepper. I also use a teaspoon of brown sugar and blend it together as my rub. You can adjust amounts to suit your taste.
It’s often hard to know how long to cook salmon because it depends on the thickness of your fillets, your pan, and even the type of oil you use for the recipe. I start with a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and then turn it up to medium-high as needed. I watch it carefully until the salmon fillets flake easily with a fork. Typically, it’s a few minutes on each side. The salmon will continue to cook slightly more when you take it off the heat.
I personally prefer cooking with olive oil in many cases. Some people express concerns about the smoke point of olive oil, but extra virgin oil is fine up to 410 degrees. Most home cooks use melted butter, margarine, or vegetable oil for pan-frying because quality olive oil can get a little expensive. That said, this blackened salmon doesn’t need much oil, and I find that the Mediterranean flavors pair well with this easy blackened salmon recipe.
Sugar helps with blackening the fish
Sugar is composed of two simple sugar molecules, glucose, and fructose. At around 200°F (93°C), the fructose begins to caramelize, and deep brown pigments form on the surface. This is much lower than the 300°F temperature needed for the Maillard Browning reaction to occur on its own. The result is an attractive blackened crust in a short period, which is helpful because the salmon, like most fish, cooks very quickly.
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- Mix Blackening Spice – In a small bowl combine paprika, cumin, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, chili powder, and black pepper.
- Prepare Salmon Filets – Cut salmon fillets into 4 equal pieces, about 6 ounces in weight each. Season each side with 1 teaspoon of the blackening seasoning mix, 2 teaspoons total.
- Cook Salmon – Heat a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot add the oil. Place the salmon fillets in the pan and cook until lightly charred and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the flesh flakes easily, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Plate & Serve – Transfer to a plate, serve with a lime wedge and sprinkle with parsley.
- Storing: Blackening seasoning can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Cooked salmon can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave the salmon on high heat in 15 to 30-second increments until hot.
- Make it Whole30 and Keto: Omit the brown sugar. Use sea salt and extra-virgin olive oil.
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