Easy Pesto Salmon

5 from 37 votes

Pesto Salmon is one my favorite easy weeknight dinners, and I love to serve it for guests too. Topped with fresh basil walnut pesto, this is the easiest way and most tasty way to prepare salmon!

The corner of a pesto salmon filet cut off with a fork with roasted tomatoes on a gray plate.
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Pesto Salmon Recipe

When I was in college, I worked at a steakhouse that was on campus. I hadn't worked in a restaurant before, but I quickly learned that my waitress job came with a few important perks.

We were educated in fine dining, both in proper etiquette as well as food choices. I actually really attribute a big part of my love for cooking towards my experience working at the steakhouse.

The quality of the fresh salmon was absolutely incredible and the flavor was just as amazing. Fast forward a few years and, I still love salmon so much. Learning to cook it was a huge win for me so that we can have it at home and not just out at a restaurant!

The homemade pesto brings out a slight sweetness in the tender fillets of salmon and creates the best flavor.

Salmon cooks really quickly and making fresh pesto won't take long at all. You can whip up this dish and a yummy side of roasted fresh cherry tomatoes for a quick easy weeknight meal in no time.

Small white bowl of pesto with a spoon.

Why You'll Love this Recipe

You'll love this recipe, for a few reasons:

  • Salmon is full of healthy fat that is great to incorporate into your diet.
  • Feeding a large group? Then you'll love this healthy meal since it serves 8 very easily!
  • Baking salmon is a fabulous way to prepare it well, whether you're an experienced cook or a novice.

It's perfect for weeknight dinners and special occasions. This would be a great main dish for dinner parties!

pesto ingredients

Ingredients

You'll just need a handful of ingredients to make this baked salmon recipe:

  • salmon filets
  • basil walnut pesto

To make your own pesto, you'll need:

  • fresh spinach
  • basil
  • walnuts
  • olive oil
  • shredded parmesan cheese

Substitutions and Variations

Atlantic salmon and sockeye salmon will have the best flavor and produces the most flakey results.

I prefer my basil walnut pesto on salmon, but kale arugula pesto is just as inviting and savory.

It isn't necessary to season the salmon before baking it, but if you'd like something other than the pesto a little salt and black pepper add a subtle flavor that will compliment the pesto flavor.

My easy pesto recipes will have you wanting fresh pesto every time, but feel free to use store-bought pesto in this recipe!

A little squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a little scoop of minced garlic would both add some incredible flavor to your pesto salmon.

You can switch things up and make teriyaki salmon as well! Or check out some of my favorite salmon marinades.

Three raw salmon filets topped with pesto on a unlined baking sheet.

How to Make Pesto Salmon

Here's how to make this easy salmon with pesto:

Preheat the oven to 400°F (20°C) and spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Make your pesto according to the instructions on my recipe.

Then, place salmon fillets into the prepared baking dish. Season them with salt and pepper. Spread a generous amount of pesto across each filet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until salmon reaches a safe internal temperature of 145°F (60°C).

Remove the baking dish from the oven and over it tightly with aluminum foil. Then, allow the salmon to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve with a good side dish and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

How to Store Leftover Pesto Salmon

Place leftover salmon into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. To reheat, place it into the oven until warmed through.

This easy recipe freezes well too! Store leftover fillets in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.

Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in the oven. For best results, top with extra pesto to add more moisture and flavor!

What to Serve with Pesto Salmon

Serve this healthy meal on busy weeknights with simple and light side dishes. Brown rice and cauliflower rice would pair well, and a simple strawberry spinach salad would be delicious.

If you're a fan of bread with your salmon, then you'll love this cheesy garlic bread. Keep things "fancy" and serve prosciutto-wrapped broccolini and drop biscuits with this easy-baked pesto salmon recipe.

Tips for Success

Salmon can be cooked to different temperatures, just like a steak can.

Unless you are buying extremely high-quality salmon, I'd stick with medium well to well done (or an internal temperature of 125°F or 50°C.) Learn more about salmon cook temperatures.

I highly recommend fresh salmon, not farm raised. However, fresh salmon will almost always be more expensive and sometimes regular grocery stores don't have it.

But, don't get the kind in the frozen section. Think of this as a treat and indulge in the higher quality selection directly from the butcher! Stores like Sprouts, Whole Foods or Trader Joe's will have a variety of qualities to choose from.

Anything from the meat section (not a frozen packaged version) will be preferable to frozen.

There's no need to remove the skin from the salmon filet before cooking, but the butcher should remove most of the scales for you. You can eat the skin once cooked, or just eat the salmon flesh that will easily come off the skin.

Horizontal photo pesto salmon filet with roasted tomatoes on a gray plate.

FAQ

Is it better to pan sear or bake salmon?

One is not necessarily better than the other, but baking salmon is easier. Pan searing takes a little more skill so that you don't dry out the fillets or burn the skin, but it can add more flavor. Baking salmon is pretty fail proof and you can use this method for tons of different recipes!

What oven temp is best for salmon?

Anywhere from 400°F (20°C) to 450°F (230°C) is best when baking easy salmon recipes. Sticking to the lower end and baking for longer can make the skin more crispy and the flavors meld together more.

More Easy Dinner Recipes

Did you make this recipe?

If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! It means so much to me when you try my recipes, and I'd love to know how it goes. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.

The corner of a pesto salmon filet cut off with a fork with roasted tomatoes on a gray plate.

Pesto Salmon

If you're looking for a quick dinner that won't lack in flavor, this pesto salmon is it. Baking salmon in the oven is a quick and easy way to make it perfect every time.
5 from 37 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Madison | A Joyfully Mad Kitchen

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F (20°C).
  • Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Place salmon in the dish. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Spread pesto across the salmon filet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until salmon reaches an internal temperature of 145ºF (60°C).
  • Remove salmon from oven and cover with foil.
  • Let salmon rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

You can cook the salmon whole or filleted. Cooking time may vary.
Substitute jarred pesto or for a nut free version, try this four ingredient nut free pesto.

Nutrition

Serving: 1salmon filet | Calories: 314kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 148mg
5 from 37 votes (37 ratings without comment)

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2 Comments

  1. Your steakhouse experience on campus sounds amazing! What a great place to learn and open your eyes to all things culinary! I never worked in a restaurant (or anything food-related), and sometimes, I wish I had an experience like that.

    This salmon looks absolutely incredible. Adding it to our menu soon!

    1. It really was so amazing! I loved it (even though working in a restaurant is HARD work).