Sautéed Caramelized Salmon


Put the word caramelized in front of anything and you have everyone’s attention, for good reason. Sautéing thick, fresh salmon fillets coated in sugar puts my favorite fish over the top. And it’s on the table in just minutes!

Apparently, I’ve become quite predictable over the years. Whenever I get home from having lunch or dinner with friends, my husband and kids ask, pretty much in unison, “So how was the salmon?” Inevitably, if it’s on the menu, there has to be a real showstopper for me to order anything else. Can’t resist those omega-3s!

I’m a huge fan of wild-caught, coho salmon. It’s mild flavor and medium texture are perfect for this recipe, and actually ideal for a variety of preparations. Coho is less fatty than king salmon and not as firm as sockeye, with a more palatable price tag to boot.

Coho Salmon Fillets

The coating is a blend of white and brown sugar, salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Dial it up if you wish, but in this case I’ve found less is more. Because this is such a quick recipe, there’s no need to coat the salmon ahead of cooking. The fish will absorb the sugar and you’ll want to add more to get the caramelization, which will result in an overly-sweetened piece of otherwise great fish.

Coho Salmon Fillet Coated in Sugar Mixture

When firing up the stove, you want the oil in your skillet to shimmer before adding the salmon. It needs to be hot to get a good, caramelly crust. We prefer the salmon cooked medium so it’s literally 3 minutes on the flesh side, 1-2 minutes skin side. That’s it. Done. Dig in!

Caramelized Salmon | Give it Some Thyme

If you’re still craving other quick, delicious dinners, check out our Tequila Lime Shrimp Tacos, Sesame Beef Stir Fry, Sea Salt & Vinegar Chicken Tenders and Mocha Rubbed Sirloin. Cheers!

Caramelized Salmon | Give it Some Thyme
Caramelized Salmon
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
15 mins

This Caramelized Salmon has a five-ingredient rub that forms a sweet crust encasing the fillet's delicate flesh.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Fish
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Kim Peterson
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 5-6 salmon fillets, 1-inch thick, deboned with skin (about 2 lbs)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Garnish: sliced green onion and parsley
  1. Mix the first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub mixture into top and sides of salmon fillets.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon, flesh side down, and lemon, cut side down. Cook 3 minutes, flip salmon, and cook skin side 1-2 minutes more for medium doneness. Fish should flake, but not be totally cooked through and dry. Cook the salmon in batches if needed; don't overcrowd the skillet. Serve with a squeeze of caramelized lemon juice, sliced green onion and parsley.

* Republished post with updated photos.

Caramelized Salmon - Give it Some Thyme

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