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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.

Blackened salmon fillets in a cast iron skillet.
Table of Contents
  1. How to Make Blackened Salmon | 1-Minute Video
  2. Ingredients for Healthy Blackened Salmon
  3. How to Make Blackened Salmon
  4. Serving Suggestions
  5. Storage Tips
  6. Recipe Variations
  7. Tips for the Best Blackened Salmon Recipe
  8. Blackened Salmon Recipe

How to Make Blackened Salmon | 1-Minute Video

We all know that salmon is full of protein, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, 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 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. The 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 for Healthy Blackened Salmon

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 printable 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.
  • Ground 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. Use as many (or as few) salmon filets as you need.
Process shot showing how to make blackened salmon

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 — perfect for busy weeknights! I’ve included the detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick overview:

  • Stir together the blackened salmon seasoning in a small bowl.
  • Rub the seasoning all over the top of the fish.
  • Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over a medium flame.
  • Cook the salmon, flesh-side down, in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes (or until it achieves that “blackened” sear). Flip the fish and continue cooking for 5-6 more minutes, or until the skin becomes crispy and the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Square close up shot of blackened salmon in a cast iron skillet.

Serving Suggestions

There are a variety of ways to enjoy this healthy blackened salmon. For instance, make salmon 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 Tips

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 only prepare two salmon fillets. The cooking process remains the same. If you make a full recipe of seasoning, just save the extra spice blend 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 careful 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

The Perfect 15-Minute Grilled Salmon

15 minutes mins

4-Ingredient Maple Honey Baked Salmon

33 minutes mins

Bourbon Glazed Salmon

21 minutes mins

Looking for even more ideas? Check out this convenient collection of 20 of the best salmon recipes!

Square close up shot of blackened salmon in a cast iron skillet.

Blackened Salmon

5 from 19 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 283 kcal
This healthy and easy 5-ingredient blackened salmon 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.
    Bowl of blackened salmon seasoning
  • Pat seasoning mixture onto the flesh side of each piece of salmon.
    Process shot showing how to make blackened 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.
    Square close up shot of blackened salmon in a cast iron skillet.

Video

Notes

  • 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 careful 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1fillet (6 ounces of salmon)Calories: 283kcalProtein: 43.5gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1.7gCholesterol: 114mgSodium: 437mg
Keyword: blackened salmon, blackened salmon recipe, 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. You are so right, salmon is anything but boring! I make it all the time for my husband and I, so I’ve got to try this version! Love how easy it is, Blair!

  2. I have never been a salmon girl. I am a big seafood person. I will have sandwiches out of a can but a filet no. I have picked off everyone’s plate for a taste in very expensive places. Have been sick recently & have been “receiving Meals On Wheels”. You never know what you are getting. Salmon turns up not so impressed. Well I loved it???????? So Blair look forward to trying this.

    1. That’s awesome, Jeanette! It’s never too late for our tastebuds to change!! So glad that you’ve been treated to some homemade meals while you’re recovering, too!

    1. Hi, Barbara! Yes, Blackened Chicken is also delicious! Just use the same seasoning and sear the chicken in your skillet until it’s cooked through. 🙂

  3. I’m up in my summer house in Alaska with a freezer full of Salmon that was given to me. Bless my neighbors Heart. I didn’t even have to clean it. LOL. This recipe looks so amazing that I have to try it. I love Salamon and am always looking for new ways to prepare it.. Thanks so much Blair for all you fabulous recipes.

    1. Wow — lucky you! Salmon is one of our favorite foods, so I can only imagine how delicious the fresh-caught version is! I hope that you enjoy this easy recipe, and have a great vacation!

  4. 5 stars
    This was a quick, delicious dish. It only took me about 20 minutes to prep 4 small salmon portions and throw in green beans as a side. Oh, I sprinkled parmesan cheese om mine for a good zest and texture! Thanks for sharing.

    1. I’m making this for Christmas dinner! My DILis Haitian and my son And her love spicy. I’m sure this is going to wow them!! Thank you

  5. 5 stars
    Simple and delicious! Alaskan sockeye salmon is my favorite! The sous vide method is yummy too, just sear it afterward in a cast iron pan.

    1. Hi, Tania! Yes, you can definitely bake the salmon in the oven. Here’s a link to a baked salmon recipe in case you need specific instructions. Enjoy!

    1. Hey, Kari! The recipe says that the prep time is 5 minutes and that the total time is 15 minutes. Sorry if you were confused by that, but I hope you enjoyed the meal! 🙂

  6. Made this recipe today. Salmon was very tender and delicious. I cut the cayenne in half but I think it’s still too much so next time, I will omit it.

    1. 5 stars
      Omg! I just finished eat this and all I can say is wow! That was by far the best fish I have ever eaten in my entire life! I didn’t mix everything in a bowl, I just sprinkled all of the seasons over the fillet and then pat it in well. Turned out AMAZING! Thanks for the recipe! This will be my go to fish seasoning.

  7. What heat about should i put the fleshy side on 2-3 min ?? medium ? sort of high heat? i truly want that crispyness. i love that part!

    1. Hi, Rissa! Leaving it on medium heat should do the trick, but if you really want an even crispier sear you can certainly turn up the heat to medium-high. Enjoy!

  8. 5 stars
    Made it for dinner last night for my boyfriend and he loved it. I used fresh, skinless salmon and the crust made from searing the spices was great..
    It’s a healthy, delicious salmon dish that’s not plain and boring. I will definitely make this again!

  9. Hi Blair,
    I have never eaten salmon. My husband it’s eat every time we go out to eat. It just don’t look like something I would enjoy. After seeing yours, I decided to try your recipe. OMG! This was amazing! I made extra seasoning, so maybe we will have more tomorrow. Thanks

    1. That’s amazing! I’m so glad that this recipe changed your mind about salmon! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know!

  10. 5 stars
    Absolutely wonderful taste- the cumin came through particularly well. My cayenne pepper is old, so I used chipotle pepper seasoning.
    It’s too bad we’re limiting shopping now. Otherwise, I’d run back for more.

  11. 5 stars
    this turned out amazing!
    Quick question – can cayenne be replaced with chilli powder? I ran out of cayenne for the next time I make this.

    1. Hi, Sarah! Glad you liked it! You can definitely use chili powder here, but it’s not nearly as spicy as the cayenne, so the dish will be mild. It will also have a slightly different flavor, but still good. 🙂

  12. 5 stars
    Seeing your post today of your Blackened Chicken recipe reminded me that I had intended to comment on this delicious salmon recipe! For years I have been purchasing a popular commercial brand of fish seasoning, which is good but has some ingredients that I prefer not to consume, and it’s just one more thing to have to remember to buy and keep on hand. Making my own is so simple and I always have the ingredients in my pantry. This is a great recipe and has become my go-to. I switch around the cumin to paprika ratio because my husband doesn’t care for cumin so I have to be sure it’s not the dominant flavor, but the rest is the same as you have listed. It’s also easy to adjust the spice level–a great advantage when making one’s own blends! Perfect and so easy!

    1. Thank you, Norma! I’m so glad that you have been able to tweak the seasoning to suit your husband’s preferences. Thanks for taking the time to come back here and leave me a note. 🙂

  13. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and it was amazing! I made a sauce from the leftover oil and drippings in the pan and served it over top of the salmon and served the salmon on top of a bed of rice pilaf with a side of baked parmesan asparagus. SO GOOD!!!!

  14. 5 stars
    Made this tonight to go on top of a salad and it was fantastic. Just enough spice to give it a kick but not make my nose run. The salmon was cooked perfectly with this recipe as well (and I always overcook salmon). Will be using in the future!

  15. 5 stars
    This receipt is the BOMB !!!! Awesome and Spicey just like we like it . My hubby and I thought we was eating in New Orleans at our dinner table in New Jersey .

  16. 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!