Stuffed salmon with creamy spinach filling, ready in 30 minutes! Simply cut a pocket into the fillet, add the cheesy herb mixture, then bake until tender and flaky.
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Salmon is a flaky fish packed with healthy nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. It is delicious when seasoned with salt and pepper and pan-seared, grilled, or baked. However, have you ever tried stuffing the fillet? The thick pieces are ideal for slicing into, and adding a savory filling elevates the dish into a gourmet meal.
Fresh spinach, herbs, and lemon pair well with the hearty yet mild-flavored fish. Combining them with a smooth cream cheese mixture makes it easy to add to the center. First, bake the stuffed salmon fillets for gentle cooking. Then, broil for a few minutes to get a golden crust.
There are various types of salmon to choose from. I recommend Atlantic, King, or Scottish for their rich and flaky texture. These varieties tend to be thicker, making them easier to fill and less delicate after cooking.
Purchase a whole fillet or pre-portioned 6 to 8 ounces pieces. You can usually buy it with the skin removed or remove the salmon skin yourself in just minutes. Leave it on if you prefer, and slip a spatula underneath to release it before serving.
Make the filling
The filling base is brick-style cream cheese for a smooth, thick texture. Make sure it is below room temperature, so it spreads easier. I like to add freshly chopped spinach, so it doesn’t have a mushy texture and muddy flavor like frozen.
Dill has delicate grassy citrus notes, which complements the fish. Lemon zest enhances the citrusy taste and provides aromatic oils as it bakes. Some pungent minced garlic bumps up the savory flavor, as does the salty parmesan cheese. The mixture can be made several days in advance, making meal prep quick and easy.
Other filling options
- Substituting Cream Cheese: Goat cheese or feta for a creamy, more intense flavor. Boursin is a Gournay cheese that has a similar texture, often comes already seasoned.
- Dry-aged Cheese: Parmigiana Reggiano or pecorino romano add a fermented, salty taste.
- Herbs: Parsley, chives, tarragon, or basil add a delicate herbaceous taste without overpowering the salmon.
- Alliums: Dried garlic powder or onion powder add a concentrated earthy flavor, although don’t use more than ½ teaspoon total.
Make a pocket
Use a sharp pairing knife to cut a slit lengthwise down the center of the salmon. I target starting a pocket through the thickest part of the salmon and stopping where it starts to get narrow and taper. Make sure to not cut through to the other side so that it keeps the filling trapped inside.
Add the filling
The cream cheese mixture makes about 1 cup of filling or ¼ cup per fillet. I find it easiest to pat it down with your fingertips to create an even layer inside. Push as much as you can into the pocket, as the salmon proteins will tighten and shrink as it cooks.
A little bit of ooze from the side is okay. However, you can secure a toothpick on the side to close the opening. I do this with stuffed chicken breast, and it works well, mainly if you choose to pan-sear or grill the fillets instead.
Season the salmon
Before baking, brush the surface with melted butter—the milk solids will lightly brown in the oven, adding more flavor to the fish. Alternatively, use olive oil for a fruitier taste and a more crisp crust since there is no moisture in the fat—season with salt and pepper for layers of flavor throughout.
Bake then broil
Whenever I make baked salmon, I choose a moderate heat of 375ºF (191ºC). This ensures efficient yet gentle cooking so that the flesh does not dry out. The goal is to cook the fish until it’s about medium-rare, or 125ºF (52ºC). This takes about 12 to 14 minutes for an 8-ounce fillet.
To develop a light golden crust, broil on high for 2 to 4 minutes. At high heat, these last few minutes will get the salmon to medium doneness, with a fully opaque flesh, around 140ºF (60ºC). Alternatively, you can keep baking for a few more minutes if you don’t want a darker crust until it reaches medium.
Serve this with
- Crispy roasted garlic potatoes
- Creamy mashed potatoes
- Roasted asparagus
- Roasted brussels sprouts
- Sauteed mushrooms
Stuffed salmon requires a few additional minutes compared to baking without a filling. The cooler filling causes a slightly longer cook time because it requires more time to heat the middles of the salmon. It takes about 12 to 14 minutes to get medium-rare doneness (125ºF/52ºC) or about 16 to 20 minutes for medium (140ºF).
No! The salmon does not need to be covered. It will cause the fish to steam instead of bake, and the golden crust will not form in the moist heat environment.
Yes, you can leave the salmon skin on while baking. However, separate the skin from the flesh before serving for a prettier presentation.
For a crispier salmon texture
Instead of baking the salmon in the oven, cook it on the stovetop for a crispier crust. Close the open ends with a toothpick for easier flipping and to keep the filling inside. Cooking the salmon in a hot skillet in oil over medium-high heat quickly browns and dries the surface for a deep golden-brown crust. The fat in the salmon renders, creating a super crispy texture. It takes about 3 to 5 minutes per side using this method.
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Spinach Stuffed Salmon
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup baby spinach, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 4 salmon fillets, about 6 to 8 ounces, skin off
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or olive oil
- Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Heat the oven to 375ºF (191ºC).
- Make the Filling – In a medium bowl, combine softened cream cheese, parmesan cheese, spinach, dill, lemon zest, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Set aside, or cover and refrigerate if not stuffing salmon right away.
- Prepare the Salmon – On the side of the salmon fillet, cut about a 3 to 4-inch long slit lengthwise to create a pocket. Make sure not to cut all the way through. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Stuff the Fillets – Evenly spread the cheese mixture into the pocket of each fillet, about 3 to 4 tablespoons. If available, close the opening with toothpicks to secure the filling inside.
- Season – Transfer the fillets to a lightly greased foil-lined sheet pan. Brush the surface with melted butter. In a small bowl, combine ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Evenly season the fillets.
- Bake the Salmon – Bake until the thickest part reaches an internal temperature of 125ºF (52ºC), about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven.
- Broil – Change the oven setting to broil on high. Cook until the surface is light golden brown, about 2 to 4 minutes.
- Serve – Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess grease. Serve immediately while hot.
- Baking Sheet
- Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Reheat: Cover and reheat in the microwave on the high setting in 30-second intervals until hot. Alternatively, heat in the oven at 350ºF until hot.
- For Pan-Sear the Salmon – Heat a 12-inch stainless steel, cast iron, or nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then turn the heat to medium-high. Carefully add the salmon, presentation side down, press the fish down into the pan for about 10 seconds. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the surface is golden brown, crispy, and easily releases from the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the edges are opaque and the center is slightly translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Using Frozen Spinach: Defrost and squeeze out the excess moisture. You will need ½ cup of chopped frozen spinach.
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