This easy salmon with cilantro-lemon pesto is bursting with flavor but is so quick and easy to make. I was able to prep and cook the salmon, pesto and the quinoa pictured below in less than 25 minutes. The recipe includes some step-by-step instructions for preparing each item. So If you can multi-task a little bit, everything can be done without tearing you hair out.
Pesto – Quick, Easy Flavor
Do you find yourself making the same meals over and over? I often feel like I am stuck in a rut and need something different. Making pesto with a variety of herbs and other flavors is a really quick and easy way to bring some interest to your meals. Since the blender or food processor does most of the work, there is minimal chopping and prepping. I love using my mini food processor for this task. It’s the perfect size for making pesto and way more affordable than the full sized ones.
This recipe uses cilantro and lemon but there are so many other possibilities. Use other herbs like dill, parsley and mint. Add a nut or seed, garlic if you like it, green onion, citrus juice and spices to go with whatever you’re making. This lemon basil dressing is a great alternative. A pesto can flavor just about any protein, veggie or starch.
This cilantro lemon pesto is more of a thin, sauce consistency than a typical pesto. I think it works better as a sauce for this recipe.
How to Cook Fish
Fish is a great weekday option because it cooks quickly. The pesto is perfect for any seafood so feel free to use your favorite. Mahi-mahi, branzino, snapper and even shell fish like shrimp or scallops will be delicious.
I like to sear my fish in a pan on both sides to get a gorgeous brown crust. For thinner pieces of fish, you can cook just in the pan. For a thicker piece, start it in the pan to get the top seared, then finish it gently in the oven. Grilling is also a good option for fish. Be sure to wipe a high heat oil on the grate to prevent sticking.
Enjoy this salmon with cilantro lemon pesto with some quinoa that can cook (without babysitting) while you are preparing the pesto and salmon.
Salmon with Cilantro Lemon Pesto
- 4 6 oz. salmon filets or other fish
- 1 Tbsp oil high heat oil like sunflower
- salt and pepper
Cilantro Lemon Pesto
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 Tbsps pumpkin seeds sunflower seeds or slivered almonds
- 2 Tbsps lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- 2/3 c olive oil
Make the Cilantro Lemon Pesto
- Remove the thick stems from the cilantro and discard. It is ok to put the thinner stems into the pesto.
- Place the garlic, seeds or nuts and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor or heavy duty blender. Run until it is finely chopped.
- Add the cilantro, oil and lemon juice and run until it is smooth. Taste. If the flavors do not pop, stir in a couple pinches of salt or a teaspoon of lemon juice.
Cook the salmon:
- If using thick pieces of fish, more than 1" thick, heat the oven to 350°F. Season the salmon with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large, oven-safe skillet (cast iron is preferred) until a splash of water evaporates immediately.
- Add a light coating of high heat oil.
- Place the salmon in the pan, skin-side up and cook for 3-4 minutes or until it is golden underneath. If your fish is 1" thick or less, it should cook in the pan pretty quickly. Flip and cook 1-2 minutes more.
- For thicker pieces, flip and transfer to the oven. Cook an additional 4-6 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness and your preferred doneness.