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Spice up your next healthy seafood dinner with this easy 5-Ingredient Blackened Salmon recipe, which comes together with just 5 minutes of prep! It’s a classic Southern favorite that’s crispy on the outside, moist and buttery on the inside, and loaded with zesty Cajun flavor. Pair it with some rice or biscuits and a side of veggies for a quick weeknight meal.

Process shot showing how to pan blacken salmon

How to Make Blackened Salmon | 1-Minute Video

Healthy Blackened Salmon

We all know that salmon is full of protein, healthy fats, and other good-for-you nutrients, but sometimes the same old piece of fish gets boring. Instead, kick your salmon up a notch with a flavorful Cajun blackened seasoning rub. This healthy salmon recipe is ready for the skillet in about 5 minutes, making it perfect for busy evenings.

What does it mean when fish is blackened?

Salmon is “blackened” when it’s rubbed with a special seasoning of herbs and spices, and then cooked in a hot cast iron skillet. This dish is typically associated with Cajun cooking, and became popular in the 1980’s as a way to replicate the taste of charcoal grilling in a commercial kitchen (source). The end result is salmon with a crispy “blackened” exterior and a tender, buttery inside. While it may appear burnt, the dark colored (and deeply flavored) seared crust is a result of the charred spices on the outside of the fish. It does not taste burned at all!

Overhead shot of a plate of healthy blackened salmon with a side of rice

The Seasoning

There is no single recipe for a classic blackened salmon seasoning, but most blends include some or all of the following ingredients: thyme, oregano, paprika, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Is Blackened Salmon Spicy?

Blackened salmon that’s served in restaurants is often pretty spicy. The benefit of making your own seasoning at home is that you can pick the flavors that you like most, and you can control the amount of spice in your dish. Keep the heat relatively mild by cutting the cayenne in half. For a spicier piece of fish, increase the cayenne in your seasoning blend. As written, this blackened salmon recipe tastes zesty and slightly smoky (thanks to the cumin and smoked paprika), and spicy — but not too spicy.

Bowl of blackened salmon seasoning

Ingredients

I consider this a 5-ingredient recipe (not counting the salt, pepper or olive oil). Here is an overview of the ingredients that you’ll need, but as always, the full set of measurements and specific cooking instructions are included in the recipe box at the bottom of this post.

  • Cumin: adds depth to the seasoning blend with its rich, hearty, earthy, warm profile and an edge of citrus.
  • Smoked paprika: there are many varieties of paprika available, from sweet to spicy. It’s important to use smoked paprika in this dry rub to give your fish that extra-special unique, smoky flavor!
  • Cayenne: this is the ingredient that makes a blackened seasoning rub spicy. You can increase the cayenne for a really spicy dish, or cut it in half for a more mild piece of fish. If you don’t like any spicy food at all, just omit the cayenne.
  • Garlic powder: delicious savory flavor that pairs beautifully with the salmon.
  • Kosher Salt: another essential ingredient! Not only does the salt add flavor, but it also pulls moisture from the outer layer of the fish, helping to achieve a seared crust and tender, buttery inside.
  • Black pepper: adds more flavor and a little bit of zesty “kick.”
  • Olive oil: to help sear the salmon, giving it that great blackened crust, and to prevent it from sticking to the skillet.
  • Salmon: a skin-on fillet that’s cut into individual pieces is easiest to cook in the cast iron skillet; fresh or frozen (and thawed) is fine.

How to Make Blackened Salmon

This easy recipe only requires about 5 minutes of prep and less than 10 minutes to pan blacken the salmon in a hot cast iron skillet! Dinner will be on the table before you know it…

Process shot showing how to make blackened salmon
  1. Stir together the blackened salmon seasoning by combining cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Rub the seasoning all over the top of the fish.
  3. Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over a medium flame.
  4. Cook the salmon, flesh-side down, in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes (or until it achieves that “blackened” sear). Then flip the fish over and continue cooking for 5-6 more minutes, or until the skin becomes crispy and the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Cast iron salmon recipe with lemon wedges and fresh herbs

What to Serve with Blackened Salmon

There are a variety of ways to enjoy this healthy blackened salmon. For instance, add the flaked salmon to tacos and top with mango salsa. The Cajun-flavored fish is also delicious in Blackened Salmon Pasta with Alfredo sauce, or on toasted sandwich rolls with a creamy remoulade or tartar sauce, lettuce and tomato.

Blackened Salmon Sides

Here are a few easy side dishes that also pair well with the zesty fish:

Front shot of a piece of blackened salmon on a plate with green beans and rice

Storage

Leftover salmon will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. The cooked salmon can be frozen for four to six months, too. Thaw cooked salmon in the refrigerator or immersed in cold water. Use cooked, thawed salmon in salads or as a substitute for canned salmon in casseroles, pasta dishes, sandwiches or wraps. I love to use the leftover blackened salmon to make salmon salad with mayonnaise, finely-diced celery, pickle relish and salt. It’s delicious scooped with crackers or tucked inside sandwiches!

Recipe Variations

  • Cooking just for two? You can cut the ingredients in half and just cook two salmon fillets. The cooking process remains the same. If you prepare a full recipe of seasoning, just save the extra spice for another meal.
  • If you’re serving picky kids, you can omit the blackened seasoning from their individual pieces of fish. Instead, season the kids’ salmon with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then sear in the skillet according to the recipe instructions. There’s no extra work for you, and everyone’s happy!
  • Instead of making your own spice mixture, you can purchase a prepared blackened seasoning at the grocery store.
  • Use the same seasoning blend to make blackened chicken.
Horizontal overhead shot of a plate of blackened salmon

Tips for the Best Blackened Salmon Recipe

  • Control the level of heat in your seasoning rub by increasing, decreasing or omitting the cayenne pepper.
  • Use fresh salmon or frozen salmon for this recipe. If starting with frozen salmon, make sure that it’s completely thawed before using. You can thaw salmon in the refrigerator overnight or quickly thaw it by placing the salmon in a large Ziploc bag and submerging it in a bowl of cold water.
  • Skin-on salmon works best because the skin provides a safety layer between the fish’s flesh and the hot skillet, helping the salmon retain its juices and cook evenly. The skin also holds the fish together, making it easier to flip without the flesh falling apart. In a pinch, you can certainly use salmon with the skin already removed — just be carefully when turning it in the pan!
  • Garnish the fish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, lime juice, lemon wedges, or lime wedges for a bright, acidic finishing touch.
Overhead shot of a plate of the best blackened salmon recipe

More Dinner Ideas Using Salmon

Process shot showing how to pan blacken salmon

Blackened Salmon

5 from 19 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 283 kcal
Spice up your next healthy seafood dinner with this easy 5-Ingredient Blackened Salmon recipe, which comes together with just 5 minutes of prep!

Ingredients
  

  • 4 salmon fillets, skin-on (about 5-6 ounces each)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne (omit or decrease for a mild flavor)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Optional for serving: lemon wedges and fresh chopped herbs such as thyme, oregano, or parsley

Instructions

  • In a shallow bowl, mix together cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • Pat seasoning mixture onto the flesh side of each piece of salmon.
  • In a large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
  • Place salmon, flesh-side down, in the hot oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, and then flip salmon with a spatula. Cook for about 5-6 more minutes, or until skin becomes crispy and fish flakes easily with a fork.

Video

Notes

  • Control the level of heat in your seasoning rub by increasing, decreasing or omitting the cayenne.
  • If you’re serving picky kids, you can omit the blackened seasoning from their individual pieces of fish. Instead, season the kids’ salmon with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then sear in the skillet according to the recipe instructions. There’s no extra work for you, and everyone’s happy!
  • Cooking just for two? You can cut the ingredients in half and just cook two salmon fillets. The cooking process remains the same. If you prepare a full recipe of seasoning, just save the extra spice for another meal.
  • Use fresh salmon or frozen salmon for this recipe. If starting with frozen salmon, make sure that it’s completely thawed before using. You can thaw salmon in the refrigerator overnight or quickly thaw it by placing the salmon in a large Ziploc bag and submerging it in a bowl of cold water.
  • Skin-on salmon works best because the skin provides a safety layer between the fish’s flesh and the hot skillet, helping the salmon retain its juices and cook evenly. The skin also holds the fish together, making it easier to flip without the flesh falling apart. In a pinch, you can certainly use salmon with the skin already removed — just be carefully when turning it in the pan! 

Nutrition

Serving: 1fillet (6 ounces of salmon)Calories: 283kcalProtein: 43.5gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1.7gCholesterol: 114mgSodium: 437mg
Keyword: blackened salmon, blackened salmon seasoning, healthy blackened salmon
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This post was originally published in August, 2017. It was updated in January, 2021.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. This has become my family’s favorite salmon (or steelhead trout) recipe. My tip is to mix up a large batch of the seasoning (6 or 12 times makes theath easy) and store it in a jar. Then you can get the salmon in the pan really quick.

    1. Great tip, Sarah! I often do the same! Thanks so much for your note. I’m glad that your family enjoys the fish!