This sweet & spicy salmon marries a simple, subtle salmon with garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, fish sauce, and tons of chili flakes. Make this 20-minute recipe because it's simple to make, but make it over and over again because you'll find yourself craving it the flavors.
After watching my friend LaRae make homemade kimchi (link opens in new tab), I knew I had to experiment with a salmon recipe that uses those flavors . This recipe is exactly that - kimchi flavors from before the fermentation.
How and When to Season Salmon
Seasoning salmon with a simple rub of salt and pepper enhances its flavor. It's a good step to add right before you cook your salmon. If you season too early, the salt will draw moisture out from the salmon. Ideally, season for 5 minutes before you cook your salmon.
Is it OK to Marinate Salmon Overnight?
This all depends on the type of marinade you use. Any marinade that's acidic, like citrus juice or vinegar, should not be left overnight. These marinades should be applied a maximum thirty minutes before cooking. Non-acidic marinades, like the one in this recipe, can be left overnight to infuse the salmon with flavor. Try to use an airtight container if marinating overnight.
Note: Fish tastes best when it is fresh, so I would rather cook the salmon sooner than marinade overnight.
What is the White Stuff that Comes Out of Salmon?
When you cook salmon, you may notice that it oozes a white substance. That white substance is called albumin, a protein that exists in fish. It's perfectly harmless and safe to eat, but the goal is to have as much of this protein remain in the salmon rather than come out while cooking. When you see it coming out of the salmon, it is a good indicator that the salmon is cooked.
Can You Eat Salmon Skin?
Salmon skin is safe to eat, but tastes best when crispy. When roasting, cooking with the skin side down helps protect the fillet from too much heat. I like to cook the salmon with the skin side up and then easily peel off the skin before serving, but the ending presentation isn't as pretty as when you roast it skin side down. So if I'm having guests over (or taking pictures of food) I will roast salmon skin side down.
What Sides Go Well with Salmon?
Tried and tested salmon pairings include vegetables like green beans, broccoli, kale, and carrots. Salmon is also tasty served with a starch such as potatoes, rice, or orzo. I like to pair this salmon with a simple vegetable side dish so as not to detract from the salmon and marinade! Try one of these favorites:
- Herb Salad with Pomegranate Miso Dressing
- Easy Roasted Asparagus
- Fried Rice with Peas
- Herb Salad with Pomegranate Miso Dressing
What Spices Pair Well with Salmon?
The best spices for salmon start with the classic salt and pepper. If you have a good piece of fish, this should be all you need. A step up from that are herbs like rosemary, thyme, garlic, and dill.
Lemon or other citrus is also a really classic flavoring for salmon, whether you use lemon pepper or lemon slices. If you want to be a little more adventurous, this recipe is a great way to experiment with more untraditional spices for fish like ginger, chili powder, and brown sugar like in this recipe.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Citrus Thyme Salmon
- Teriyaki Salmon
- Tropical Fruit Roasted Salmon
- Chili Kumquat Salmon
- Jalapeño Lime Salmon
- Miso Ginger Salmon
Or check out all my fish recipes here.
Step by Step Recipe
To make the sweet and spicy salmon, you will need the following ingredients: soy sauce, red chili powder or flakes, brown sugar, garlic, fish sauce, ginger, olive oil, and salmon.
I have made this recipe with both Copper River Sockeye salmon and Prince William Sound Sockeye salmon and both came out great (links open in a new tab). The Copper River Sockeye is on the big flavor side, and the Prince William Sound sockeye is on the mild side, so choose your own adventure.
Note: Depending on the type of salmon you use, you will need to adjust the cooking time. Sockeye salmon is one of the thinnest salmon types, so it does cook much faster than other types. And even among sockeye, there is a great variation in thicknesses.
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Then, add the garlic, chili powder, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and olive oil to a food processor. Process the ingredients until the garlic and ginger have broken down, and you have a smooth paste. See the photo below.
Note: You can make this marinade up to 1 week in advance. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Pour the marinade over your sockeye salmon on a large baking sheet. You can also slice the filet into individual serving-sized pieces before serving.
Bake for about twelve minutes, until you see white proteins are starting to release from the salmon.
Your salmon should be perfectly cooked, and ready to serve!
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Sweet & Spicy Garlic Ginger Salmon
- 1.5 lbs. salmon Sockeye
- 10 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/4 cup red pepper flakes Korean chili powder, or shichimi togarashi
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 1/2 inches fresh ginger peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Preheat to 350F.
- Add the garlic, chili powder, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and olive oil to a food processor. Process until the garlic and ginger have broken down.
- Pour the food processor mixture over the salmon. Bake for ~12 minutes, until the white proteins have released from the salmon.