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This is hands-down my favorite baked salmon recipe, and it’s virtually foolproof to cook. Season salmon fillets with pantry spices, slather on a delicious lemon mayonnaise sauce, then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Serve this as the centerpiece of an elegant hands-off dinner with sauteed broccoli and herby buttered orzo.
One of my favorite dinner recipes, this fillet of salmon is sprinkled with a pantry spice blend (dried oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper) and topped with a creamy lemon mayo sauce.
Next to broiling salmon, baking is one of the easiest ways to cook salmon fillets. Simply season them and bake with the skin on, which helps to seal in all the fatty oils that maintain flavor and juiciness. The prep takes just minutes, and you get meltingly silky, buttery-tasting salmon every time!
About the ingredients
- Salmon: Shop for plump, skin-on salmon fillets that appear glistening with moisture and don’t smell “fishy”. Pro tip: Whole, center-cut pieces of salmon (not pre-cut into portions) are the best option, if available. Because they’re the thickest, meatiest section of the fish, they will cook more evenly. Tail-end cuts are thinner and have less fat, which can dry out more quickly in the oven. You can also use a whole side of salmon in this recipe, adding on few more minutes of baking time.
- Mayonnaise: Use your favorite prepared mayonnaise (preferably one that’s not too sweet) or make a batch of creamy lemon mayo in the blender.
- Lemon: Fresh lemon juice adds brightness to the dish and pairs perfectly with the fatty salmon
- Spices: I created a spice blend using dried oregano, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, kosher salt, and black pepper. These spices are pantry-friendly and create a savory balance of flavor.
- The key to avoiding overcooked baked salmon is the temperature of the oven, which I set at 325 degrees.
Types of salmon
- King: Also called “chinook”, this is the largest and fattiest type of salmon (it’s my first pick for baking or roasting). Wild king salmon is expensive, but because this variety is used for producing most farmed salmon, it’s readily available and relatively affordable. I highly recommend seeking out Ora King or Patagonia salmon, which are the best-quality, sustainably farmed salmon I’ve tasted.
- Coho: Smaller in size than king salmon, coho is a medium-fatty type of salmon with a striking red-colored flesh. It’s a good choice for baking and works well in this recipe.
- Sockeye: Compared to king salmon and coho, sockeye salmon has significantly less fatty oils. It’s best cooked using quick, high-heat methods such as grilling or pan-frying. If you choose to use it for this recipe, reduce the baking time by half (10-12 minutes).
20-Minute Baked Salmon with Lemon Mayo
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) mayonnaise, or lemon aioli
- ½-1 teaspoon finely chopped or grated garlic
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼-½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1½-2-pound (680-900 g) salmon fillet, skin on, preferably 1½-2-inch thick, center-cut
- 1 or 2 fresh lemon wedges, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 325 (160C) degrees.
- Mix the lemon mayo: Blend the mayonnaise, garlic and lemon juice in a small bowl.
- Blend the spices: Combine the oregano, smoked paprika, salt, red and black pepper in a small bowl.
- Drizzle some olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Put the salmon skin-side down on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the spice blend over the salmon, the rub it into the flesh with your fingers or the back of a spoon.
- Drop spoonfuls of the lemon mayo over the top of the fish. Use a spoon or spatula to spread it out in one even layer.
- Bake the salmon 15-20 minutes. The flesh should look opaque and feel firm to the touch when pressed at the thickest part of the fish, measuring 120F (50C) for medium-rare or 140-150F (62C) for well done on an instant-read thermometer.
- Squeeze some lemon over the salmon. To serve, use a spatula to separate the skin from the cooked salmon fillets — it should come off easily. Enjoy!
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Season the salmon with the spice blend up to 24 hours before baking. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- The lemon mayo can be mixed ahead — cover and refrigerate it for up to one day. Spread it over the salmon just before baking.
- Baking one large piece of salmon (rather than individual portions) will give you the best results. However, you can use four 6-ounce pieces of salmon. Check them for doneness slightly sooner, 12-15 minutes after putting them in the oven.
- For serving a larger gathering, you can use a whole side of salmon (which usually weighs 3-4 pounds). Double the spice and lemon mayo and bake slightly longer, 20-25 minutes.
- If you’re baking a less fatty type of salmon such as Sockeye, reduce the baking time to 10-12 minutes.
Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.