See how to make the best pesto crusted salmon! Pesto salmon is impressive enough to serve for special occasions, yet still a quick and easy family weeknight meal. This healthy sheet pan recipe is ready in less than 30 minutes and perfect when you need food on the table fast.
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Easy salmon pesto recipe
Pesto crusted salmon is one of those easy dinner recipes I make on repeat. Salmon and pesto make an incredibly flavorful combo, and my family LOVES it. It’s so quick and easy. Perfect when you have lots of hungry mouths to feed after a long day!
Salmon with basil pesto requires barely any hands-on time. A sheet pan + a spoon are the only equipment you’ll need. Wanna know the best part? This crusted salmon recipe is almost foolproof. No more dry, overdone fish. Instead, juicy, tender, aromatic, and perfectly flaky salmon.
What is baked pesto salmon?
Pesto salmon is a super easy, super delicious crusted salmon recipe. You make it by spreading pesto over salmon fillets and then baking the fish in the oven. It creates tender, flaky salmon that is full of flavor and anything but dry.
My pesto sauce salmon is an easy sheet pan recipe. It’s gluten-free, low carb, and keto-friendly. To make it dairy-free, buy dairy-free pesto or make homemade basil pesto without parmesan cheese.
Ingredients for salmon with pesto
Delicious dinners start with good-quality ingredients. You’ll need just 4 ingredients, 2 of which are optional. It’s essentially a 2-ingredient recipe. Here’s your grocery list for salmon and pesto:
- Salmon filet: I like to make this dish with fresh salmon, but frozen defrosted salmon is also a good option. You can prepare the recipe with individual fillets or a whole large salmon fillet.
- Basil pesto adds lots of flavors and protects the fish from drying out. I like to use homemade basil pesto, but store-bought works well, too.
- Pine nuts (optional) toast as the salmon bakes and add a little crunch. Feel free to sub pine kernels for chopped walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, or any other nut you like.
- Lemon juice (optional): A few spritzes lemon juice add a refreshing note and brighten up the salmon pesto recipe. Lemon juice aids digestion by breaking down the proteins in salmon.
What, no salt and pepper?
Yep, that’s right. Basil pesto already contains enough salt, so you don’t have to add any additional salt. The same goes for pepper. However, feel free to sprinkle your pesto crusted salmon with chili flakes for a hint of spiciness.
How to make pesto crusted salmon
Salmon with pesto sauce is beyond simple to make! It needs just a few minutes of prep, and then a few minutes in the oven. I love this quick 30-minute meal for busy weeknights and as a quick weekend lunch. Here are the simple steps for how to make pesto crusted salmon:
Step 1: Preheat oven
Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / gas mark 5 and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (baking paper) or spray with non-stick cooking spray. I recommend using a light metal baking sheet because dark pans cook hotter.
Step 2: Assemble the salmon
Arrange the salmon fillets on the lined baking sheet, 1 inch / 2.5 cm apart. Spread pesto over each fillet until evenly coated. Sprinkle with pine nuts.
Step 3: Bake
Bake in the preheated oven until the salmon is cooked through. Individual filets take 12 to 15 minutes. A whole large salmon fillet needs to bake for 15 to 25 minutes. The filets are done when the fish looks light pink and opaque and flakes with a fork.
Step 4: Serve
Remove the salmon from the oven once fully cooked and flaky. Serve warm with a few spritzes lemon juice. Enjoy!
Pesto parmesan salmon
Pesto already contains parmesan, but I don’t think you can ever have enough cheese in your life. For extra cheesy pesto salmon, sprinkle 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese over the assembled fish fillets. Bake until the cheese is gooey and melted. Parmesan shaving will work, too.
Salmon with pesto and tomatoes
To make tomato pesto salmon, set up the salmon as described in the recipe. Then top each salmon fillet with two slices of tomatoes and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Another idea is to arrange cherry tomatoes around the pesto salmon fillets and then bake. The tomatoes will burst during baking. The tomato juice will mix with the pesto and create an incredibly flavorful dish.
Butter pesto salmon
Pesto butter salmon is called salmon Milano or salmon Milanese in Italy. To make it, pulse 1/2 cup softened butter, 2 garlic cloves, 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor until creamy. Spread the pesto butter over the salmon patties and bake as indicated in the recipe.
Lemon pesto salmon
Lemon pesto salmon is my favorite variation! The lively citrus aroma brightens up the whole dish. Here’s what you do: Using a Microplane or citrus zester, grate the zest of 1 organic lemon. Stir the zest into the basil pesto and then slather on the salmon fillets. Top each fillet with a lemon slice and bake.
Garlic pesto salmon
Chances are your pesto already has garlic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add more! For extra garlicky pesto salmon, mix 2 finely minced garlic gloves into the pesto and then cook as lined out in the recipe.
What to serve with pesto salmon
Baked pesto salmon is a light and healthy meal, and you can serve it with almost any side dish. It pairs beautifully with salad and vegetables. Here are some sides for pesto salmon:
- tomato salad
- green beans
- steamed broccoli
- roasted cherry tomatoes
- grilled asparagus
- roasted potatoes
- mashed potatoes
- rice or risotto
- cooked pasta
Pesto encrusted salmon FAQ
Can you bake salmon in the oven?
Yes, you can bake salmon in the oven. It’s one of the easiest and most delicious ways to prepare salmon.
Can you use red pesto?
Yes, of course! You can prepare this crusted salmon recipe with any kind of pesto you have or like. Red pesto, walnut pesto, pesto Calabrese, and arugula pesto are delicious alternatives for basil pesto.
Can you prepare the recipe with a whole large salmon fillet?
Yes, of course! The recipe instructions and amounts are the same as for individual fillets. Just be sure to add 5 to 10 minutes to the cooking time because a whole fillet takes longer to cook.
Do you bake the salmon with the skin on or off?
Leave the skin on to bake salmon in the oven. The skin will hold the salmon fillets together and allows you to serve the salmon pesto recipe in one piece.
Do you bake salmon skin side up or down?
Salmon is baked with the skin-side down. Grease the baking dish well with olive oil or butter, so the salmon skin doesn’t get stuck, and you can easily serve the crusted salmon fillets.
How long should I bake salmon?
Individual salmon fillets need to bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the fillets are cooked through. A whole large fish fillet takes 15 to 25 minutes. You can tell that the salmon is done when the sides of the fish look light pink and flaky.
To what temperature should salmon be cooked?
The USDA recommends cooking salmon to an internal temperature of 145°C / 63°C. I prefer to cook salmon to 130°F / 55°C because the internal temperature continues to rise after you remove the salmon from the oven.
To take the temperature, insert an instant-read thermometer at the thickest part of the fish. Salmon cooks fast, so keep an eye on the cooking time.
Pesto baked salmon storage instructions
How do you store baked pesto salmon?
Store this delish salmon recipe in an airtight food container in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.
How to reheat basil pesto salmon
Reheat pesto crusted salmon in a moderately hot oven (300°F / 150°C / gas mark 2) until just hot, for about 5 to 7 minutes. I find that microwaving dries out salmon and avoid it.
Can you freeze pesto baked salmon?
Yes, you can freeze basil crusted salmon. Let the salmon cool to room temperature on the sheet pan. Next, put the sheet pan in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours until completely frozen through. Then wrap each fillet tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe container. Basil pesto salmon can be frozen for up to 3 months.
How to defrost pesto salmon
To defrost, unwrapped the salmon, put it on a plate, and let thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Can you make baked salmon with pesto sauce ahead of time?
No, this baked pesto salmon recipe tastes best served fresh, so try to make it right before eating. However, you can prepare the pesto in advance if you plan on making it from scratch.