Salmon fillets placed on a bed of vegetables, wrapped in a parchment paper pouch (en papillote) and baked in the oven. The fish is also topped with basil compound butter for extra flavor!
I was noodling around in the kitchen looking for a dinner idea that could be made within 30 minutes. So I dug deep into those foggy memory banks from my time in culinary school and had an Aha! moment. Have you ever tried to make salmon en papillote? It’s the French way of saying “in parchment,” but it sounds more impressive and romantic in the language of love.
This recipe is easy to make. The paper pouch steams the salmon and vegetables for a healthy and flavorful meal. It sounds like a wish I would make with a magical genie! We’re all strapped for time during the week, but this delicious meal can fit right into your weekday dinner rotation.
How to cook salmon en papillote
The en papillote method was one of the first techniques I learned during culinary school. We made snazzy paper pouches that enclosed fresh vegetables, aromatics, and protein such as fish or chicken. Man, if only I knew of this technique in college, it would have made my purchases from Food4Less much more enjoyable!
Cut into the shape of a heart (aww how cute). Tear off a large piece of parchment from the roll, fold it in half, then cut a half heart shape like you would in elementary school. Add the filling on one side of the folded heart, then fold the paper over and tightly crimp the edges, they should look like paper empanadas.
You can use any type of fish like salmon, snapper, tilapia or mahi-mahi. A 4 to 6-ounce fillet works well. I’ve tried baking an 8-ounce piece, and the vegetables cooked much sooner, and the salmon needed more time.
Select a bed of vegetables that cook relatively fast, like asparagus, trimmed green beans, thinly sliced zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, shallots, garlic or onions. I like to add some compound butter, typically a mixture of salt, pepper, herbs, lemon zest, anything you like to add some richness and extra flavor as it cooks.
Baking Sheet Pan
A half sheet size fits two wrapped pouches. Try to get a thick sheet pan because the salmon will roast under very high temperatures of 450F.
How long do you cook salmon en papillote?
It only takes 8 to 10 minutes for the pouch to puff up with steam and the paper to turn brown from the heat.
Salmon is my preferred fish to eat because it’s packed full of nutrients like omega 3-fatty acids for brain and heart health, has a flaky flesh and cooks very quickly. For this salmon en papillote recipe, I added sliced onions, shredded carrots, and asparagus to the pouch.
You can add other tasty vegetables like bell pepper, fennel, zucchini or Bok choy, however just make sure they are sliced thin, so they are tender once the fish is finished cooking. No root vegetables like potatoes or sweet potatoes, unless you slice them very thin!
I made a simple herb compound butter with basil, parsley, and lemon peel to melt on top. The salmon is ready when the flesh easily flakes off but is not dried out. I like to use filets that have the skin removed, so the entire piece cooks evenly. The herbs, butter, and juices from the fish seasons the bed of vegetables making the whole meal delicious.
Serve the salmon en papillote with a lemon wedge and squeeze the juice right on top, and you are ready to devour your dinner. That’s not even the best part. There is very little clean up because you can eat directly from the pouch and you don’t need any pots or pans to cook the vegetables, hooray!
How does the En Papillote method work?
No need to babysit each ingredient while it cooks. With this method all you have to do is prep the veggies, add the salmon, seasonings, and basil compound butter to the paper pouch. Once the edges are sealed, the paper pouch bakes at high temperatures of 450°F. The key is the high oven temperatures. Moisture is released from the salmon and vegetables as they cook and the liquid turns to steam at constant high temperatures above 212°F. Because the steam is trapped in the pouch and pressure cannot easily be released, the hot air quickly cooks the protein and vegetables. When the paper puffs up and expands after 8 to 10 minutes, that means steam has built up from the moisture and has cooked the food inside.
Salmon En Papillote with Vegetables
Basil Compound Butter
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon peel, freshly grated
- 2 teaspoons basil, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped fresh
Salmon and Vegetables
- 2 pieces parchment paper, 18x15 inches
- 12 ounces salmon fillets, two 6-oz pieces, skin removed
- 1 cup carrots, shredded
- 1 cup onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed to 6 inches, about 18 spears
- 1 teaspoons lemon peel, freshly grated
- 2 teaspoons green onions, thinly sliced
- kosher salt, to season
- black pepper, to season
- vegetable oil, to brush on parchment paper
- 2 lemon wedges
Basil Compound Butter
- In a small bowl, stir together softened butter, salt, lemon peel, basil, and parsley. Transfer to a piece of plastic wrap, twist tightly to create a small butter log. Allow it to freeze until hardened. Once frozen, slice into 4 portions.
Salmon and Vegetables
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Cut two 18 x 15-inch pieces of parchment paper. Fold the long side in half and cut into a heart-shape. The parchment paper should be large enough to contain one portion of fish and vegetables folded in half. Brush each piece of parchment paper with vegetable oil.
- Toss the sliced onions and shredded carrots together in a small bowl. Evenly portion the asparagus spears on half of each piece of oiled parchment papers. Place 1 cup of the onion and carrot mixture on top of the asparagus. Place one portion of salmon on each portion of vegetables, season generously with salt and pepper.
- Top each portion of fish with sliced garlic, ½ teaspoon of lemon peel, and 1 teaspoon sliced green onions. Add 1 tablespoon of the basil compound butter on top of the fish.
- Fold the other half of the parchment paper over the fish and vegetables. Starting at one corner, tightly crimp the edges of the paper to seal it tightly.
- Place the pouches (papillote) on a sheet pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. When baked, the parchment paper should puff up and brown slightly.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Transfer the envelope to a plate. Carefully cut open and served with a lemon wedge.