This delicious Baked Lemon Pepper Salmon is made with just 5 ingredients in under 15 minutes! This salmon is full of flavor, easy to prepare, and family friendly.
When it comes to quick, healthy, and easy - salmon is always at the top of the list. It's a staple protein in our weekly dinner rotation. So I am always looking for new ways to prepare it.
Enter lemon pepper seasoning! This simple spice blend made with dried lemon zest and black pepper is the perfect partner for salmon. Plus it means we can make a flavor-packed dinner with just 5 ingredients and virtually no prep time.
So let’s talk about Lemon Pepper Salmon. It’s zesty, slightly spicy from the black pepper, and rich from the addition of a bit of melted butter. It’s cooked in the oven until it's perfectly cooked and flaky. It pairs great with roasted veggies, grains, pasta, and more.
Plus it’s easy to convert this salmon recipe into a sheet pan meal! Just add some quick-cooking veggies (instructions below)
What Makes This Dinner A Winner!
There are so many reasons to love this lemon pepper salmon, but here are the top three!
- Just 5 ingredients - stress-free, quick and easy dinner at its best!
- Ready in just 15 minutes, including prep time!
- Easily converts to a sheet pan meal! Make your side dishes right alongside the main course. Find more on that below.
Ingredients and Easy Swaps
Here’s everything you need to make this delicious baked lemon pepper salmon.
- Salmon: This recipe works well with any type of salmon, including wild salmon (cooks more quickly) and farmed-raised salmon. Skin-on salmon is best so the fish holds together as it cooks. If using frozen salmon, make sure it is fully defrosted. Use individual salmon filets or a larger filet.
- Lemon: Adding fresh lemon slices and fresh lemon juice enhances the flavor of the lemon pepper seasoning. That bright, freshness kicks things up a notch.
- Butter: I love the rich flavor that butter adds to fresh fish, but olive oil or ghee works just as well.
- Lemon pepper seasoning: The combination of black pepper and lemon zest is what really flavors this dish. Lemon pepper comes in many different varieties, so make sure to choose one with a flavor you enjoy. If your lemon pepper doesn’t contain salt, make sure to season the salmon with kosher salt.
- Paprika: Paprika adds a touch of sweetness and smokiness to the dish. It can be skipped or you can swap in smoked paprika for a smokier option.
Can this be made with another type of fish? Sure! This recipe also will work with Mahi Mahi, cod, halibut, tilapia, steelhead trout, haddock, or swordfish. Just adjust the cooking time. It also works with shellfish like shrimp and scallops.
Side Dish Ideas for Lemon Pepper Salmon
- Vegetables: Go with classic asparagus, roasted green beans, or roasted mushrooms. It also tastes great with garlic sauteed spinach or sauteed broccoli.
- Grains: Serve this with rice, quinoa, or garlic Parmesan cauliflower rice.
- Salad: For a light healthy meal, pair this with an easy Spinach Salad or Arugula Salad.
- Potatoes: It’s hard not to love a delicious roasted potato. Consider making these crispy Roasted Potatoes or Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes. During winter months, I love serving it with Garlic Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes.
Make it a Sheet Pan Meal
If you are looking for a truly stress-free dinner, turn this lemon pepper salmon into a sheet pan meal. Here’s what to do.
- Choose a quick-cooking vegetable: This includes zucchini, asparagus, green beans, small broccoli florets, small cauliflower florets, or broccolini.
- Season the veggies: Toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add some lemon pepper seasoning if you like or keep things simple with garlic powder.
- Arrange in a single layer: Place the salmon wrapped in foil on one end of a large baking sheet. Add the vegetables in a single layer on the other side.
- Roast: Bake everything together! The vegetables will cook at the same time as the salmon, creating a delicious one-pan meal.
- Want potatoes? Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Roast them for about 20 minutes. Flip the potatoes and add the salmon and any other vegetables to the sheet pan. Then roast for 12-15 minutes until the salmon is cooked to your liking. Use two sheet pans if needed to keep everything in a single layer, this ensures everything roasts instead of steams.
- Quick side dish idea: Serve this with microwave or pre-cooked rice, quinoa, beans, or a bagged salad.
Additional Cooking Methods
This lemon pepper salmon can also be prepared in other ways. Here’s how:
- Air Fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees. Cook the salmon in the foil for 7-10 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
- Grilling: Place the salmon in foil on a preheated grill. Cook for 8-12 minutes, with the lid closed, until cooked to your liking. Do not flip.
- Pan Seared: Squeeze half of the lemon over the salmon filets and season with lemon pepper seasoning and paprika. Heat about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the salmon, flesh side down, and cook without moving for 3-4 minutes until it is crisp and golden. Flip carefully and cook an additional 2-4 minutes until cooked through to your liking. During the last minute of cooking, add the butter to the pan and spoon over the salmon. Drizzle any remaining butter on top when serving. Serve with fresh lemon slices.
Tips for Cooking Perfect Salmon
- Always pat the salmon dry with a paper towel so there isn’t any extra moisture. This helps it cook evenly.
- Salmon can be served anywhere from medium rare to well done. If you prefer your salmon on the more well-done side, it should flake easily with a fork at the thickest part.
- According to the FDA, salmon should be cooked until the thickest part reaches 145 degrees. Many people find this to be very firm and slightly overcooked. Cook’s Illustrated recommends 125 degrees for farmed salmon and 120 degrees for wild.
- For medium salmon, which means flaky but not dry, 135 degrees is a good option.
How to Choose Lemon Pepper Seasoning
The key to making this recipe truly delicious is the lemon pepper seasoning. In an ideal world, I always recommend making your own lemon pepper seasoning. It’s made with real ingredients and the flavor is so delicious.
If you don't have time to make your own, here are some good store-bought options. Look for something with real lemon, real black pepper, minimal preservatives, and minimal artificial flavor enhancers.
- Homemade lemon pepper seasoning
- McCormick Culinary Lemon and Pepper Seasoning: This has a lot of tang from the addition of citric acid, and tastes a little unnatural. I prefer a more natural, subtle flavor but have found that many lemon pepper fans love that extra zing.
- Simply Organic Lemon Pepper Seasoning: This easy-to-find store brand is made with actual lemon peel, black pepper, sea salt, and garlic. If you want something natural, this is a really good option. It can be slightly heavy on the pepper.
- Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Seasoning Blend: This spice blend comes in a grinder with dried lemon peel, salt, black peppercorns, onion, lemon oil, and citric acid. It is black pepper-forward, so if you want a lot of lemon flavor, you may need to serve some extra lemon on the side.
- Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper: If you want to control the sodium level, which can be high in store-bought options, this is a strong option. It has a lot of extra herbs and spices though so it won’t taste as traditional.
If you are lucky enough to have some leftovers, here are some ways to use them.
- Make salmon patties (cakes) by swapping in this tasty lemon salmon for canned salmon.
- Serve over this Lemon Broccoli Pasta
- Make a delicious salmon salad with greens and veggies
- Make lemon pepper salmon sandwiches with a hearty roll, lettuce, tomato, and creamy ranch dressing
- Make tasty grain bowls with quinoa or rice, roasted veggies, and a drizzle of your favorite sauce or dressing.
- Make tasty salmon tacos with corn salsa for a completely different dinner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions about making this tasty salmon dish.
The white stuff that comes out of salmon is called albumin and it is a protein that sometimes comes out of salmon when it's cooked quickly or at high temperatures. It is tasteless and harmless. Cooking the dish skin side down when searing and making sure the salmon is at room temperature before cooking can make it less likely that the albumin will show.
Salmon pairs well with a variety of herbs including oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, and chives. In this recipe, they can be added with the lemon pepper seasoning or added after cooking as garnish.
Lemon Pepper Salmon
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Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. Place it in a baking dish. Optional, this is especially good if cooking on a larger pan or dish where the salmon doesn't fit snugly. Place a large piece of foil on a baking sheet. Place the salmon, skin side down on the foil, and gently fold the foil up around the salmon. It doesn't need to be covered completely, just lightly wrapped in the foil.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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