Wondering what goes with salmon? Learn the best ingredient pairings, meal ideas, popular flavor combinations, the best side dishes for salmon, and other helpful tips.
Knowing what goes well with salmon gives you a starting point for putting meals together using the ingredients you already have on hand.
Whether you want to reduce food waste, get more creative in the kitchen, or improve your cooking skills, it starts with understanding what flavors pair well together.
What Is Salmon?
Salmon is a type of seafood different than most fish because they're anadromous, which means they live in both fresh and salt water. Unlike other fish species that live in one or the other, not both.
Salmon is one of the most popular fish in the United States. It's rich in vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
There are several salmon species, but here are the most popular U.S. varieties:
- King (Chinook) - known for their size hence their name. Their average weight is around 40 pounds. Hue can vary in color from red to orange to pink or even marbled. It tastes best when grilled or pan-roasted in a nonstick skillet.
- Sockeye - range from 5-15 pounds, have a bright red flesh, are super flavorful, and tend to be leaner than other varieties. Cook on a well-oiled grill or grill pan brushed with a thin layer of olive oil or sauce, and seasoned with salt, and pepper.
- Coho (Silver) - can reach up to 24 pounds but tends to be smaller in size with a medium fatty content and a mild flavor. It's often cooked whole due to its smaller size. For added flavor, stuff with fresh herbs and citrus.
- Pink (Humpback) - a small fish with light-colored flesh, a mild taste, and low-fat content. The majority of this variety is used for salmon in cans and pouches.
- Chum - small in size, with pale to medium-red flesh. The underdog of salmon varieties and most prized for its roe.
- Steelhead - categorized under salmon, but is actually an ocean trout. It on average is about 8 pounds (can go up to 50), has pinkish-orange flesh, and tastes more like rainbow trout than salmon.
- Atlantic Salmon - more affordable, farmed, mild taste, and often controversial. It ranges in color from pink to orange with a mild flavor and is available year-round.
When To Buy
Wild salmon season runs from April to early October, which is the best time to buy fresh salmon.
Because some fishermen and companies freeze wild salmon immediately after catching it to preserve the flavor and texture, you can buy wild salmon year-round. Look at the seasonal produce guide to see what's in season right now.
What To Look For
Look for fresh salmon that has firm flesh with a bright pink or orange coloring depending on the variety. It should smell like a pleasant day at the beach near the ocean without smelling overly fishy.
Avoid darkening or drying around the edges, dull or gray coloring, dark spots, slimy flesh, or a fishy smell. These are signs it's gone bad and should be discarded.
How To Store
Salmon must be stored cold until ready to use it. After you've purchased your salmon, store it in the refrigerator either wrapped in butcher paper, plastic wrap, or an airtight container.
It's highly perishable and must be cooked within a day or two of buying it.
What Goes Well With Salmon?
Arugula, asparagus, beets, bitter greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chile peppers, corn, cucumbers, daikon, fennel, garlic, ginger, horseradish, leeks, lettuces, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, ramps, scallions, shallots, spinach, watercress, and zucchini.
Apples, coconut, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mango, orange, pineapple, tamarind, and tomatoes.
Cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, kosher salt, licorice, mustard seeds, nutmeg, paprika, pepper, saffron, sea salt, and turmeric.
Basil, bay leaf, chives, cilantro, curry leaves, dill, lemongrass, lovage, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, shiso leaves, sorrel, tarragon, and thyme.
Nuts & Seeds
Pistachios and sesame seeds.
Unsalted butter or vegan butter if dairy-free, heavy cream: use cashew cream or coconut cream if dairy-free, cream cheese: vegan or regular, creme fraiche, and sour cream: use cashew cream with the addition of lemon juice if dairy-free.
Bacon, bass, crab, eggs, oysters, pancetta, pike, roe, scallops, and sole.
Anchovies, apple cider, artichoke hearts, barbecue sauce, beans, breadcrumbs, capers, caviar, Champagne, coconut milk, coconut shreds, cognac, cornichons, curry paste, kelp, lentils, mayonnaise, mirin, mustard: dijon and whole grain, olive oil, olives, polenta, ponzu sauce, port, rice, sake, soy sauce, broth/stock: chicken, fish, or vegetable, sugar: brown and white, tabasco sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, truffles, vanilla, vermouth, vinaigrette, vinegar: balsamic, champagne, apple cider, red wine, rice, white wine, and sherry, wine, and white miso.
Popular Salmon Pairings
- apple + horseradish + rosemary
- avocado + chile peppers + grapefruit
- bacon + cabbage + chestnuts
- bacon + lentils + sherry vinegar
- basil + white beans
- beets + creme fraiche + cucumber + horseradish
- caviar + vermouth
- chervil + chives + leeks + lemon + morels + peas + potatoes
- cucumber + balsamic vinegar
- cucumber + tomato
- cucumber + dill + horseradish
- lemon juice + dijon mustard
- marjoram + peas
- miso + pineapple + tomato + white wine
- mustard + scallions
- orange + tomato
- peas + potatoes
- pineapple + tomato
- potato + watercress
What To Make With Salmon
Salmon is a versatile protein that can be baked, braised, broiled, grilled, marinated, pan-fried, poached, roasted, sauteed, seared, steamed, or eaten raw (sashimi or tartare).
For main dishes, make pistachio or pecan crusted salmon, BBQ salmon bites, fish en papillote, or cooked salmon poke bowls, Dragon bowls are a great clean-out-the-fridge meal and can be made with leftover veg and cooked salmon.
What to Serve With Salmon
Because salmon is a fatty fish, choose side dishes that have some type of light element to balance your meal.
- Warm Potato Asparagus Salad With Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
- Italian Green Bean Salad
- Bok Choy Salad With Sesame Lime Dressing
- Zucchini Corn Salad
- Baby Kale Salad With Crispy Quinoa and Squash
- Italian Artichoke Salad
Vegetable Side Dishes
- Easy Skillet Blackened Corn
- Dairy Free Cauliflower Mash
- Quick Sauteed Broccoletti
- Roasted Red Cabbage Wedges
- Maple Glazed Hasselback Butternut Squash
- Marinated Portobello Mushrooms
- Caramelized Braised Leeks
- Honey Roasted Parsnips and Carrots
- Asian Brussels Sprouts
To grab more inspiration, take a look in your fridge and see what ingredients you have from the above list.