Crispy pan seared salmon smothered in a luxuriously creamy, curried spinach sauce. The pan seared fish is crispy on the outside, yet tender and juicy on the inside. A deliciously easy, restaurant quality meal that is perfect for weeknights and ready in 30 minutes!
Why this salmon recipe...
Ready in 30 minutes, this one pan dish is the perfect weeknight meal for busy folks who want a quick meal without compromising on taste. Nothing beats the taste of freshly seared heart healthy salmon with that crispy skin and juicy pink meat drizzled in creamy curried spinach sauce. This recipe gets you restaurant quality results without any special equipment or training. Its so easy - you just sear the salmon and set aside, make the cream sauce, slide the salmon back in and you're ready for some finger licking goodness.
Ingredients & Substitutions
The secret to the creamy sauce is a combination of milk, cream cheese and parmesan. I like flavoring the sauce with pepper flakes for heat and a little garlic brown butter. The lemon, sugar, curry powder and black pepper gives the sauce that special pizazz. Ribbons of spinach in the creamy sauce add texture.
Here are some substitutions in case you don't have some of the ingredients on hand or have dietary restrictions.
- Cream cheese - creamy goat cheese and/or mascarpone cheese.
- Milk - evaporated milk, a combination of half n’ half and water. Almond milk and coconut milk will also work - although you might have to add a little more parmesan to thicken the sauce.
- Curry powder - easily substitute with your choice of fresh or dried herbs like sage or your favorite Italian seasoning. If you use fresh herbs, sauté them with the garlic brown butter; if using dried herbs, add with the milk.
If you find the thought of crisping fish skin a little daunting, you are not alone. After several kitchen disasters, many resulting in a disastrous pile of fish mush, I finally figured out a pretty foolproof process that works. Solving this dilemma would not have been possible without the directions and explanations that I found in articles from Bon Appetit, Serious Eats and Cooking Light. By the way, two of these articles are by J. Kenji Lopez Alt. I am such a huge fan of his work!
Steps for perfectly crisp salmon skin
- Pat the fish dry with a paper towel - dry fish crisps a lot faster because excess water makes the fish steam not sear.
- The oil needs to be really hot- fish cooks really quickly so you want to sear each side as quickly as possible. The fish may overcook and have an oily aftertaste if the oil is not hot enough.
- Put the fish skin down first - Fish shrinks and curls as it cooks so frying the fillets with the skin down first helps the skin stay flat on the skillet leading to a beautiful flat, crispy finish.
- The skin is crisp and the fish is ready to be turned when it lifts easily from the skillet - if the skin sticks, don't try to scrape it off with a spatula - it will slide off once it is crisp.
The secret to perfectly cooked, super juicy salmon
Because fish is so delicate it can quickly overcook. Overcooked salmon is particularly unforgiving, becoming rather firm, very dry, and an opaque orange all the way through. All fish including thicker cuts like salmon continue to cook for a few minutes even after you take it off the stove.
So how do you know when the salmon is perfectly done? If the flakes just start to separate along the white lines of the fillet, when you press down with a fork, you're done. Remove the fish from the heat and serve immediately.
How to make One Pan Salmon in Creamy Spinach Sauce
- Rub the salmon with paprika and salt. You can substitute the paprika with cayenne or chili powder for more heat.
- Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, put the salmon fillets on the skillet, skin side down. Allow the skin to crisp - about 3-4 minutes. The skin is perfectly crisp when the salmon can be easily flipped over - the skin only sticks when it is still soft. Fry the remaining sides until golden brown – about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove the salmon from the skillet and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add the butter keeping the heat at medium. Once melted, add the garlic until lightly golden. At this point you should smell the delicious fragrance of garlic brown butter. Add the shallots and sauté for about 3-4 minutes. When the shallots are transparent. Add the tomatoes and fry for about a minute. Slowly, add the milk, cream cheese, parmesan, black pepper, pepper flakes, curry powder, sugar and parmesan and stir. Once the mixture is smooth, add the spinach and stir – it should take about a minute to wilt. Drizzle with lemon juice. If the sauce seems too thick add some water and thin the sauce. If too thin, add heavy cream or more parmesan. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- Slide the salmon fillets into the sauce, skin side up. Do not spoon the cream sauce on top as the skin will lose its crispiness. Simmer the salmon for 3-5 minutes or until cooked through.
What to serve with Salmon in Creamy Curried Spinach
This delicious salmon dish goes with a variety of sides like Caesar Salad, spinach salad with warm bacon and figs, mashed potatoes or steamed sweet potatoes. The creamy sauce naturally complements a variety of pasta like orzo, fettuccini or bow tied pasta. One of favorite ways to serve this dish is with a side of freshly baked Two Hour Artisan Bread. I love soaking and scooping out the sauce with crusty bread.
Frequently Asked Questions
I've found that a splash of water is the best way to thin the sauce.
Use heavy cream, half 'n half, evaporated milk or a combination for a thicker, richer sauce. If you've already cooked the sauce with milk, adding some heavy cream and doubling the amount of parmesan to ½ cup will also thicken it.
The sauce can be made up to one day earlier and stored in the fridge. When ready to serve, just heat the sauce over a stovetop on medium heat.
You could make the salmon ahead of time too but you results may not be optimal as you could overcook the fish. The salmon whether with crispy skin or not, is really best fried, right before serving.
Any type of white meat fish such as cod, halibut, branzino, works. I have also had great success with scallops, shrimp and chicken!
Absolutely. Note - coconut milk does not really add any additional flavor because of the parmesan.
This recipe easily lends itself to multiple variations - here are some of my favorites:
Tuscan Salmon in Creamy Spinach Sauce with Sun Dried Tomatoes - Omit the curry powder and substitute your favorite Italian seasoning. Add sweet-tart sun dried tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes.
Salmon in Creamy Artichoke Spinach Sauce - Omit the curry powder and substitute with your favorite Italian seasoning. Add about 12 ounces of drained, marinated artichokes (from a jar) when you add the spinach.
Pan Seared Salmon in Creamy Spinach and Goat Cheese - Add 2 additional cups of spinach and about a quarter cup of goat cheese into the cream sauce.
Salmon in Creamy Curried Spinach Sauce
- large skillet
- ¾ pound salmon cut into 3 fillets
- 1 teaspoon paprika powder
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 3 cloves garlic smashed and sliced
- 2 shallots thinly sliced
- 1 tomato cubed
- ½ teaspoon pepper flakes optional, to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper fresh ground
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 ¼ cups milk or coconut milk
- 2 ounces cream cheese
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 4 cups spinach
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cilantro finely sliced for garnish, optional
- Rub salmon with paprika and salt.
- Add olive oil to a large skillet and heat on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, put the salmon fillets on the skillet skin side down. Once the skin is crisp - about 3-4 minutes (you will know because the salmon will easily flip over and the skin will not stick to the skillet), fry the remaining sides until golden brown - about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove the salmon from the skillet and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add the butter. Once melted, add the garlic until lightly golden. Add the shallots and sauté for about 3-4 minutes. Once the shallots are transparent, add the tomatoes and fry for about a minute. Add the milk, cream cheese, ½ of the black pepper, pepper flakes, curry powder, sugar and parmesan and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth. Add the spinach and stir – it should wilt within about a minute. Add the lemon juice and remaining pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
- Slide the salmon fillets into the sauce skin side up. Do not spoon the cream sauce on top as the skin will lose its crispiness. Simmer the salmon for 3-5 minutes or until cooked through. Garnish with cilantro.
- Be careful not to overcook the salmon. If the flakes just start to separate along the white lines of the fillet, when you press down with a fork, you're done. Remove the fish from the heat and serve immediately.
NutritionA single serving of this recipe has about 450 calories, 33.1 grams of protein, 29.3 grams of fat, and 17.1 grams of carbohydrates. This recipe yields approximately three servings. The nutritional information is intended as a general guideline. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should independently verify it using your preferred tool.
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