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Easy Baked Salmon with Sweet & Smoky Rub

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Looking for a twist on your typical baked salmon? This sweet and smoky rub only requires 5 ingredients, and is fast and flavorful meal your whole family will love.

baked salmon with sweet and smoky rub

Every so often I get in a total rut in the kitchen. I sit down to meal plan on Sunday morning like normal, and my mind goes blank. I ask the family, and no one has ideas. When I have weeks like this where I’m not feeling particularly creative, I go back to the basics. These dishes might not be the most interesting ones, but they’re delicious, quick to make and crowd-pleasing.

One of our favorite simple, healthy weeknight meals is baked salmon. I can season the salmon and cook it in under 20 minutes, roast a vegetable alongside it in the oven and pop some rice or cous cous on the stove and boom—I have a healthy, taste and easy dinner ready in under 30 minutes.

It’s easy, fast and so delicious. I whipped up this one with a unique sweet and smoky rub, and it was a major hit! My 6-year old took a big bite and said “mmmmm! great spices mom!”, which made me laugh out loud. Kids really are the best, aren’t they?

Another reason we love baked salmon is because it’s incredibly healthy. It’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, making it a great weeknight choice to nourish your body. A

With our step-by-step guide, you’ll learn the secrets to preparing perfectly baked salmon every time, how to not overcook it and tips for selecting the freshest fillets at the grocery store.

Health Benefits of Baked Salmon

We all know that salmon is good for us due to its rich nutritional profile, so let’s quickly highlight a few of the best health benefits connected with eating baked salmon regularly:

High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The health benefit salmon is most known for is probably that it is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are known to support heart health, reduce inflammation, and contribute to brain function.

Heart Health

The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. They can help lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, and improve overall heart health. This makes salmon a great diet staple.

balanced healthy dinner idea

Rich in Protein

As someone who is actively trying to increase my protein intake, this is a great benefit. Salmon is a high-quality source of protein, which is essential for muscle repair, maintenance, and overall body function. Protein also helps keep you feeling full, making it a good option for those looking to manage their weight.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to various health conditions, so incorporating anti-inflammatory foods like salmon can be beneficial.

Brain Health

The omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, found in salmon are crucial for brain health and development. Consuming adequate amounts of omega-3s is associated with improved cognitive function and a lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Eye Health

The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon are beneficial for eye health, particularly in preventing age-related macular degeneration and dry eyes.

Choosing the Right Salmon for Baking

You can use different cuts of salmon for baking, but we prefer a standard fillet over a salmon steak. I typically look for wild-caught salmon because it’s typically higher in nutrition and doesn’t include any fake dyes to give it that characteristic pinky-orange color. Here are a few things to look for when you’re buying salmon:

Freshness: Look for fresh salmon. Fresh salmon should have a clean, ocean-like scent. Avoid fish with a strong, fishy odor, as it may indicate that the salmon is not fresh.

Color: Salmon should have a vibrant color. For example, wild-caught salmon varieties like sockeye and coho have a deep red or orange hue (some of my favorites!), while farm-raised salmon tends to be lighter in color. Farm-raised salmon is often artificially colored as well. Avoid salmon with dull or faded colors.

Texture: The flesh of the salmon should be firm and moist. Press the salmon with your finger; it should bounce back and not leave an indentation. Avoid salmon with a slimy or mushy texture which tells you its past its prime.

Skin Appearance: If you’re buying salmon with the skin on, check the skin for scales and make sure it looks clean and intact. The skin should have a metallic, shiny appearance. You can also ask your fishmonger to remove the skin for you if your recipe calls for it.

Fat Content: Look for salmon with visible white lines or streaks of fat, known as marbling. This fat adds flavor and helps keep the salmon moist during baking. However, if the fat appears yellowish, it may indicate a lower-quality fish.

Source: Consider the source of the salmon. Wild-caught salmon is generally considered more environmentally sustainable and may have a different flavor and texture compared to farm-raised salmon. However, both are fine for baking.

Frozen vs. Fresh: If you can’t find fresh salmon, high-quality frozen salmon can be a good alternative. Ensure that it has been properly frozen and thaw it in the refrigerator before baking.

Labels: Pay attention to labels such as “wild-caught” or “farm-raised.” These labels can provide information about the origin and production methods of the salmon.

Sustainability: If sustainability is a concern for you, consider choosing salmon that is certified by reputable organizations, such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which ensures that the fishery meets specific sustainability standards.

Tips for Buying Great Salmon

Ask the Fishmonger: My best tip is to ask your fishmonger what’s freshest and when it came in. You can also get the intel on when they receive their shipments. If fresh fish comes in on Tuesdays, shop accordingly to get the freshest piece and eat is as soon as you can.

Try Different Types: This is a great way to see what you like best. Some varieties will be leaner and have a more dense texture, while others are more fatty and have a more buttery texture.

Easy Baked Salmon with Sweet & Smoky Rub

Okay, now onto this simple recipe! I love using this baked salmon seasoning because it doesn’t require much effort, and chances are, you may have most of these spices in your cabinet already.

Key Ingredients:

Step-by-Step Guide to Baking the Perfect Salmon

Step 1: Preparing the Salmon for Baking

If your salmon came in one large piece, cut it into serving sizes. You can also ask your fishmonger to do this for you. I like to pull out any visible bones as well. Once cut into serving sizes, place it on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Step 2: Mix Rub Ingredients

smoky sweet salmon rub

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the rub and mix together well. You can prepare this rub in advance or even make a larger batch to store for the future. Just make sure to mix well and then store in an airtight container—especially important because we’re using brown sugar which can get hard when exposed to air.

Step 3: Season Salmon

weeknight dinner ideas easy
easy dinner idea

Next, drizzle olive oil on your salmon and use clean fingers or a cooking brush to coat the flesh of the salmon. Sprinkle on the rub heavily on each piece of salmon until coated. You can let the rub sit on the fish for 30 minutes, or for 24 hours if you want to prep it in advance, or you can cook it immediately. I do find that at least 30 minutes of sitting helps with the flavor.

Step 4: Bake your Salmon in the Oven

You’ll bake your salmon until it reaches the desired doneness in a 400 degree oven. This high-temperature helps create a nice crisp exterior while keeping the center moist. Salmon cooks quickly and it’s important to not overcook salmon. I always err on the side of less time and check it often to make sure I’m not overdoing it.

You can also cook your salmon at 425 degrees, but shorten the cook time to not overcook it.

baked salmon with sweet smoky rub

What is the Correct Baked Salmon Temperature?

For thinner pieces like ours, which were about an inch thick, about 8-9 minutes is enough. For thicker pieces, you can add a few minutes. You can tell when salmon is done because it will turn from sort of translucent to opaque. It also depends on how you prefer your salmon. I like it medium—so it’s still moist in the center, but not raw.

To tell the temperature, insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the fish. Once it hits your desired doneness, remove from the oven and let it rest.

  • The FDA suggests that the baked salmon temperature reach 145 degrees to kill any bacteria that might be in the fish. This results in very firm, dry if you ask me, fish. And I’m under the belief that eating salmon should be enjoyable, not miserable.
  • You can cook salmon to 120-125 degrees for medium-rare. This can be nice if you prefer your salmon on the softer, rarer side. Just make sure you’re getting your salmon from a great source when cooking this way.
  • Ideally, 130-135 degrees results in a medium finish. This will give you a moist salmon that’s not rare, not overcooked and pretty dang perfect.

Remember that once you take it out of the oven, the temperature will go up a bit, which is why we don’t want to overcook it.

baked salmon with sweet smoky rub

Baked Salmon with Sweet & Smoky Rub

This simple and delicious baked salmon has a sweet and smoky rub that everyone will love.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 lbs salmon (coho or sockeye, but anything will work) cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp brown sugar light or dark will work
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl, mix all seasonings together until combined.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and place each filet on the pan.
  • Drizzle salmon with olive oil and spread with clean fingers or a brush. Heavily sprinkle the seasoning on and let sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle of the oven.
  • Bake salmon for 8-11 minutes until it reaches desired doneness. Personally, I like it medium, so I aim for 8-9, but if you have a thicker piece or prefer it more well-done, cook a bit longer.
  • Remove from skin and enjoy.
Keyword easy dinners, healthy dinners, salmon
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Pairing Suggestions for Baked Salmon

One of our favorite baked salmon meals is simply adding a grain and a vegetable to the side. It’s elegant, classic and so delicious without being fussy.

I love pairing it with this simple roasted broccolini with garlic and shallots—the shallots are SO good in there! Put some pearl cous cous on the side and you’ve got yourself a well-balanced, healthy meal your family will love. You’ll love it to too because it comes together so quickly!

Add this one to your weeknight rotation for something that’s simple, nourishing and delicious!

BTW, Mediterranean salmon with orzo, and ancient grain bowls with salmon.

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