This Mediterranean Salmon Skillet meal features pan-seared salmon, burst cherry tomato couscous, and an olive-pistachio salsa. Made in one pan in right around 40 minutes, this salmon dinner is equal parts nutritious and delicious.
It's rare to find a recipe that's both weeknight-friendly and worthy of company, however this one surely fits the bill. Succulent salmon fillets nestled in a saucy skillet of fennel, tomatoes, and couscous, and finished with a bright, briny salsa.
One bite will have you convinced it's worthy of any restaurant menu.
This recipe takes advantage of salmon’s versatility and its healthy richness by pairing it with ingredients that bring out its best qualities. And while I have many reliable trusty salmon recipes (see Chili-Lemon Sheet Pan Salmon Dinner or Curried Maple Mustard Salmon), this one tastes especially impressive.
Plus, it will make you feel like a total salmon master.
How to Make Mediterranean Salmon
The secret to the perfect salmon sear is to get that skillet nice and HOT and don’t disturb the fish while it cooks. I like to start it skin side-down to develop a nice crust before flipping it.
Just be sure to not OVERCOOK the salmon, or you'll miss out on its natural buttery flakiness. Here are two ways to tell if your fish is done cooking.
- Use an instant read thermometer. Fish is done at 145ºF, but I like to pull my salmon closer to 140ºF and let it rest. The carryover cooking will allow it to reach the optimal internal temperature.
- Alternatively, you can gently press down on the top of the fillet with a fork or your finger, and see if the flesh easily flakes.
- Salmon: You need four 6-oz. salmon fillets for this recipe, which can be wild-caught or sustainably farmed. If purchasing wild, I suggest either King (or Chinook) salmon, which has a higher fat content and richer flavor. Sockeye, on the other hand, is much leaner and easier to overcook.
- Israeli Couscous: Also called pearl couscous, these plump, chewy grains have a quick cook time. Made with semolina flour (much like pasta), they're a versatile, hearty grain option. If you're making this recipe gluten free, you can use quinoa instead.
- Fennel: If you're not a fan of fennel yet, this recipe will certainly convert you. This recipe also calls for fennel seeds in the salsa, which adds licorice-like flavor.
- Bonus: just one cup of fennel offers almost 20% of your recommended daily value of vitamin C. You’ll also find plenty of iron, fiber, and potassium.
- Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes cook into the couscous to create a jammy, sweet, umami-rich sauce.
- Olives: For the salsa, I prefer using a Castelvetrano olive, which is buttery and sweet. Alternatively, you can use Manzanilla olives.
- Pistachios: I love the flavor and richness of roasted pistachios in the salsa. If you can find them already shelled, it helps cut back on prep work.
- Harissa: Harissa has a slightly smoky spiciness with bright acidity and earthy undertones, and is a great shortcut ingredient to achieving big flavor. I love the flavor and spice it adds to this Mediterranean Salmon.
- Lemon: For brightness and zing, you need the juice of 1 whole lemon.
The magic of this recipe lies in its single skillet preparation. Less dishes for the WIN.
Step 1: Sear the Salmon
Pat salmon dry with a paper towel, and season flesh evenly with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high. Once hot, arrange salmon fillets, skin side-down, in the pan, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the skin easily releases from the pan. Gently flip fillets, lower the heat to medium, and cook until the salmon is cooked through and easily flakes with the pressure of a fork, about 3 to 4 more minutes.
Transfer salmon to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Step 2: Sauté Fennel and Tomatoes
Add fennel to the skillet, and cook until brown on the bottom, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, and toss with fennel and oil. Continue cooking until fennel begins to soften and tomatoes are blistered, about 3 more minutes. Stir in harissa, and season mixture with salt.
Step 3: Cook Couscous
Add couscous to the pan; cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add water, and bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until most of the water is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 11 to 14 minutes.
Step 4: Prepare Olive-Pistachio Salsa
While the couscous cooks, prepare salsa by combining olives, pistachios, parsley, garlic, fennel seeds, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, lemon juice, chili flakes, and salt; stir to combine.
Step 5: Add Salmon Back to Skillet
Once the couscous is cooked, remove lid and nestle salmon fillets back into pan. Continue cooking, uncovered, 2 more minutes to warm salmon. Spoon olive-pistachio salsa overtop, and serve immediately.
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover salmon and couscous in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days. Store salsa separately for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm salmon and couscous in a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. If needed, add a splash of water or broth to help rehydrate the grains. Top with leftover salsa after reheating, and you have a delicious salmon dinner in a pinch.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftover salmon and couscous in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 2 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. I do not suggest freezing salsa.
More Salmon Dinner Recipes to Try:
If you give this Mediterranean Salmon Skillet a try, snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. I also really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a rating and review! Lastly, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates.
Mediterranean Salmon Skillet
- Large skillet
- Mixing bowl
- 4 (6-oz.) salmon fillets
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- ½ tsp. black pepper, divided
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium fennel bulbs, cut into ½-inch wedges
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp. mild harissa paste (such as Mina brand)
- 1 cup dry Israeli (or "pearl") couscous
- 3 Tbsp. pitted and finely chopped green olives (such as Castelvetrano olives)
- 3 Tbsp. finely chopped pistachios (preferably roasted and salted)
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
- 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
- 1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
- ¼ tsp. chili flakes
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Pat salmon dry with a paper towel, and season flesh evenly with ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper.Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high. Once hot, arrange salmon fillets, skin side-down, in the pan, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the skin easily releases from the pan. Gently flip fillets, lower the heat to medium, and cook until the salmon is cooked through and easily flakes with the pressure of a fork, about 3 to 4 more minutes. Transfer salmon to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Add fennel wedges to the skillet, and cook until brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, and toss with fennel and oil. Continue cooking until fennel softens and tomatoes are blistered, about 3 more minutes.Stir in harissa and couscous; cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups water, remaining ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper; bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until most of the water is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 12 to 14 minutes.
- While the couscous cooks, prepare salsa by combining olives, pistachios, parsley, garlic, fennel seeds, chili flakes, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt; mix well.
- Once the couscous is cooked, remove lid and nestle salmon fillets back into pan. Continue cooking, uncovered, 2 more minutes to warm salmon. Spoon olive-pistachio salsa over salmon, and serve immediately.