My Pesto Salmon is a fancy meal made simple. This recipe is quick enough for a week-night meal and decadent enough to impress weekend dinner guests. Meeting the recommendations to enjoy seafood twice a week never tasted so good!
Cooking salmon and other fish can be intimidating, they seem to turn dry and rubbery when prepared incorrectly. The key to good salmon is simplicity and even heat. That’s why I prefer roasting my salmon in the oven with just salt and pepper. Depending on how fatty your salmon is, you can opt to add olive oil.
Oven roasted salmon is fool proof—you got this! It will take about 12 to 15 minutes to fully cook the salmon depending on how thick your salmon is and your preferences. You know the salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork and is opaque in color.
There are many factors in deciding your choice of salmon––fresh vs frozen, wild-caught vs farm-raised, sustainability and cost. Our oceans continue to be overfished and that’s why I like checking out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch page. They provide recommendations to “help you choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.” 1
The most economical option for buying salmon is typically frozen salmon filets. They will be individually packaged in 3-4 oz filets, making it convenient and ideal for solo cooking. They last for months in the freezer and are a great thing to keep on hand for a quick and healthy meal.
Salmon and other seafood are the major dietary sources of omega-3 fats and are also a good source of vitamin D and selenium. An analysis of 20 studies showed that eating one to two, three ounce servings of salmon reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent! This analysis also found the health benefits far outweighed the potential health risk from consumption of mercury and other metals found in the fish.2
Consumption of omega-3’s is definitely trending, just like avocado toast and overnight oats. And for good reason! Omega-3’s, an abbreviation for omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, are essential for our health. They are responsible for numerous cell functions and structural maintenance.
Omega-3’s also regulate the nervous system, blood pressure, glucose tolerance and inflammatory processes. The potential for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may even enhance performance when physically active.3
Seafood Twice a Week
All of the healthy benefits of consuming seafood has led to the US Dietary Guidelines (2015-2020) recommending that everyone enjoy seafood twice a week. Unfortunately, almost half of Americans eat fish occasionally or not at all, and about a third of Americans only eat seafood once a week.4 Hopefully my Pesto Salmon will give more people a reason to love seafood!
Pesto is delicious, and is typically enjoyed with pasta and pizza and now shines bright with my Pesto Salmon. The pesto adds a rich flavor and offers the nutritional benefits of greens and nuts. Pesto goes well with other seafood dishes too, I serve it with trout, scallops and even tuna salad!
Look at my recipe for pesto as a roadmap for making your own. Using what you have at home is a great way to save money and be resourceful with what you got! The necessary components of pesto are––herbs, oil, nuts/seeds, acid, and garlic.
For herbs, basil is the classic green to use and I highly recommend it being included, but you can also add parsley, cilantro, and/or chives. Use up whatever you have in the refrigerator! I love using pine nuts because they have a fatty, neutral taste, but there are many other options. Such as walnuts, pumpkin seeds, pistachios and sunflower seeds, which are all typically more affordable than pine nuts.
Let’s Get Cooking!
My Pesto Salmon is a delicious way to reach the goal of seafood twice a week. The salmon cooks up in less than 15 minutes and you can have the pesto ready by the time you take the fish out of the oven!
To turn the Pesto Salmon in to a complete meal pair it with greens like a salad, broccoli or asparagus and a grain such as brown rice or crusty bread. Leftovers make for a great lunch the next day. Enjoy!
- Salmon Recommendations from the Seafood Watch Program. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/groups/salmon?q=salmon&t=salmon
- Mozaffarian D, Rimm EB. Fish intake, contaminants, and human health: evaluating the risks and the benefits. JAMA. 2006;296(15):1885-1899. doi:10.1001/jama.296.15.1885
- Gammone MA, Riccioni G, Parrinello G, D’Orazio N. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. Nutrients. 2018;11(1). doi:10.3390/nu11010046
- Hicks D, Pivarnik L, McDermott R. Consumer perceptions about seafood – an Internet survey. Journal of Foodservice. 2008;19(4):213-226. doi:10.1111/j.1748-0159.2008.00107.x
- 4 pieces 5-6 ounces each salmon, pin bones removed
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 ½ cup basil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place salmon, skin side down, on lined baking sheet. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 12 to 15 minutes until cooked to desired doneness.
- While salmon is cooking, add the basil, nuts, garlic, salt, and lemon juice into a food processor. Process until coarsely ground. In a steady stream, add the oil and continue to process.
- Serve pesto on the salmon or on the side.