In this easy weeknight dinner recipe, salmon fillets are seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and thyme, then baked.
All they need are 12-15 short minutes in a 425F oven and they emerge perfectly cooked, moist and tender! Leftovers are great too, especially when flaked over a salad.
I make salmon often and have many different recipes for this fish on this website. It's my favorite fish, with tuna coming in at a close second. I much prefer it to mild white-fleshed fish such as cod or halibut.
In my opinion, the only secret to perfectly baked salmon is to avoid drying it out! This fish is so wonderfully flavorful. As long as you don't overcook it, you'll emerge from the kitchen with a delectable, tender fish that everyone is going to love. Here's a good recipe for you to try.
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this tasty salmon recipe. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
Salmon fillets: I like to use skin-on fillets. If at all possible, try to get sustainable fish.
Olive oil: A delicious oil, but if you're unsure about cooking with it, you can use avocado oil instead. It has a higher smoke point.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you might want to reduce the amount you use.
Garlic powder and dried thyme: Make sure they are fresh! A stale spice can easily ruin a dish. Speaking from experience...
Baking salmon in the oven is so easy. The oven does all the work! The detailed instructions are included in the recipe card below. Here are the basic steps:
You start by coating the fish fillets with olive oil:
Then you sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and spices:
Now, place the fish on a parchment-lined rimmed baking dish and bake it, uncovered, until cooked through.
There's no need to cover the fish in foil when you bake it. Its internal temperature should reach 145°F and you should only keep it in the oven until it reaches this temperature. You don't want to overcook it.
The USDA says that you should cook fish to medium (145°F). If you don't have a thermometer, you can check with a fork. The center of each fillet should be opaque and flaky. If it's still translucent and resists being flaked with a fork, it's not done yet.
Frequently asked questions
For even cooking, it's best to cut a big chunk into individual, 6-oz portions. It IS possible to bake a large piece, but then you do run the risk of the edges becoming overcooked while the middle is still raw. So I prefer to use smaller pieces.
Not long! You don't want to dry it out. Generally speaking, you should bake 6-oz fillets in a 425°F oven for just 12-15 minutes.
The only way to know for sure that the fish is done is to use a thermometer. So for example, if your fillets are significantly larger than 6 oz, they will need more time in the oven. Especially if they're thick.
This is completely a matter of personal preference. Personally, I love the skin. In fact, I enjoy the skin on all fish as long as it's crispy.
So I tend to prefer skin-on salmon fillets. But the recipe is the same whether the fish has skin or is skinless.
Yes. Simply increase the baking time to about 20 minutes for 6-oz fillets. In fact, baking fish from frozen often helps avoid drying them out. However, you should only do this with smaller, 6-oz fillets.
Bigger fillets will likely be undercooked in the middle if you cook them from frozen. And when cooking from frozen, it's especially important to check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer or to use a fork to make sure the center is opaque and flaky.
I don't usually serve this dish with a sauce. Unlike poached salmon, which has a very mild flavor and can benefit from the addition of sauce, baked salmon is very flavorful on its own, especially when cooked with the skin on and when not overcooked.
Rarely, when I make steamed asparagus, microwave asparagus, or roasted asparagus to go with this dish, I make hollandaise sauce to drizzle on both.
Variations and substitutions
I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you'd like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:
- Coat the salmon in melted butter instead of olive oil.
- You can vary the spices you use. In addition to garlic and thyme, consider using onion powder and paprika.
- Sometimes I serve the salmon with lemon wedges so that people can squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top of their fish.
Recommended side dishes
There are so many sides to choose from - this is a very versatile main dish. But since I bake it in a 425F oven, I like to serve the fish with a side dish that I can cook in the same oven. So I often serve them with one of the following:
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. I don't like reheating the leftovers - they often end up too dry. So I flake them and use them cold as a salad topping the next day.
But if you prefer to reheat them, do so very gently. Cover the fish pieces and reheat them in the microwave on 50% power, turning often, until heated through.
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How to Bake Salmon
- 4 (6 oz) wild salmon fillets, skin on or skinless, about 1 inch thick
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon sea salt)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking dish with parchment paper.
- Run your finger across the salmon fillets to check for bones. If your fish have bones in them, remove the bones with fish bone tweezers (I found mine on Amazon).
- Brush the salmon fillets all over with the olive oil. Arrange them on the baking dish, skin side down. Sprinkle with the kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and thyme.
- Bake the salmon until opaque and cooked through, and internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. Depending on your oven, this should take about 12-15 minutes. Serve immediately.