Sweet and Spicy Salmon

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This Sweet and Spicy Salmon is coated in a delicious homemade spice rub and then can be pan seared or cooked on the grill. Ready in less than 10 minutes.

397 CAL 6g CARBS 25g FAT 35g PROTEIN
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This pan seared Sweet and Spicy Salmon with a homemade spice rub is one of my favorite quick and easy dinners. Serve it with a Cucumber Avocado Salad or an easy 10 Minute Cabbage Stir Fry.

One of my favorite spice combinations is sweet and spicy. I cannot get enough of that flavor combination, especially with seafood.

I'm not sure why seafood specifically but there's something about it and the combo of sweet sugar and spicy pepper that is just so good. We also love that combination in these Crispy Asian Salmon Bowls.

For this salmon recipe, I created a simple spice rub using dried spices most of us have on hand. All you need to brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, ginger, and sweet paprika.

Sweet Spicy salmon with a spice rub crust and a quinoa salad on the side.

Side Dishes Serve with Sweet and Spicy Salmon

This is where you can feel free to go crazy. So many good sides would go with this salmon recipe.

  • When I made this salmon the first time, I paired it with some simple braised kale, sprinkled with a little cotija cheese.
  • You could also try steaming or braising another hardy, leafy greens like collard greens, spinach, or even Swiss chard. I like to add a little lemon, red pepper flakes and some crumbled feta to the finished product.
  • Roasted veggies of nearly any sort would pair perfectly with this salmon dish.
  • A simple side salad would go great with this seafood dish.
  • Try making a side of white or brown rice or quinoa with a little Italian seasoning and olive oil for flavor.
  • This Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice is to die for and goes really well with seafood of all sorts.
  • Parmesan Zucchini Noodles are a great, low-carb side that goes with really most anything.
  • How about some garlic naan or toasted pita bread on the side? Just have half with a spritz of olive oil or margarine.
  • Roasted red, russet, or sweet potatoes go great with salmon too.

How to make a dry rub for salmon?

A dry rub is...you guessed it...dry. So, unlike a marinade (which is a wet mixture), a dry rub is a dry mix of spices that you literally pat or rub onto your meat or seafood. It creates a nice texture to your protein and as it sears and adheres to the outside of your meat, it ensures you get a taste of all the flavorings with every bite.

I like to first spray my seafood (or chicken or beef or pork) with cooking spray or a little olive oil to help the spices adhere before rubbing the mixture all over the protein. I suggest cooking it pretty soon after you rub the spices in and not let it sit in the fridge too long or the spices will start to get wet from the meat and no longer be, well, a dry rub if you know what I mean.

Here's the recipe for my favorite sweet and spicy rub for salmon. You can play with the portions to have more or less heat, more sweetness, extra garlic, etc.

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar 
  • 1 tbsp chili powder 
  • 1 tsp ground cumin 
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger 
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1/8 tsp pepper 

Pan seared salmon with sweet and spicy rub on a plate with a fork.

How do you grill salmon?

Once I have all my spices mixed together and rubbed onto the salmon, it's ready for the grill.

I like to grill salmon over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes per side. I will adjust this cooking time slightly depending on the thickness of the salmon and what kind of grill I am cooking on. If you are worried the salmon will stick to your grill, use cooking-spray-coated aluminum foil on the grill first or oil your grates before you heat up your grill.

You want the fish to be flaky and cooked through, but not undercooked and rubbery in the middle.

How to pan sear salmon?

Pan searing salmon is a great way to quickly cook salmon so it has a nice crunchy outside and is perfectly cooked inside. Start by bringing the salmon to room temperature. This really helps to ensure the salmon cooks evenly and quickly. 

Then heat a heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat. Add the salmon, skin side down, and gently press down on the salmon. This will prevent the skin from curling. Let the salmon cook for 4-5 minutes until it is becoming pink and opaque on the sides. Then flip and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes for fully cooked salmon. If you prefer medium cooked salmon, turn the heat off when you flip the salmon. It will continue to cook from the residual heat.

The Recipe
Sweet and spicy salmon with a spice crust on a plate with salad in the background.

Sweet and Spicy Salmon

397 CAL 6g CARBS 25g FAT 35g PROTEIN
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  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 36 oz salmon filets (wild if possible)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

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In a small bowl, mix together all of the dry spices.


Spray each piece of salmon with cooking spray and rub the spice rub onto the fish.


In a pan: Using a saute pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the salmon, skin side down, and cook on one side for 4-5 minutes. Flip the salmon and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until done to your liking. For medium cooked salmon, turn the heat off when you flip the fish and let it continue to cook in the pan for 2-3 minutes.


On the grill: Place the salmon on the grill skin side down. Cook for 4-5 minutes until it is becoming pink and opaque on the sides. Flip and cook for 2-5 minutes to the level of doneness you prefer. For easier flipping, place the salmon on foil to be sure it won't stick to the grill.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 6 oz. (179g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 397
Calories from Fat 228
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 25g
Saturated Fat 6g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 94mg
Sodium 173mg
Total Carbohydrate 6g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 5g
Protein 35g

* 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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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
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