Pan Seared Salmon with Rosemary-Walnut Sauce delivers a restaurant-quality, dairy-free dish in just 30 minutes. Serve with your side of choice for a heart-healthy meal the whole family will love. This recipe post is sponsored by California Walnuts. I was compensated for my time, however all opinions are my own.
Pan Seared Salmon with Creamy Walnut Sauce
Whether you're entertaining a crowd or trying to get weeknight dinner on the table, this recipe fits the bill. I mean, what's not to love about golden, crispy salmon served in a luxuriously creamy sauce? And perhaps the best part of all is that the sauce actually contains NO cream. So what's the secret ingredient, you may ask?
Walnuts! Creamy, blended walnuts with a slew of aromatics, rosemary, and lemon zest. It's the perfect accompaniment to flaky salmon fillets, however pairs with essentially ANY protein. Serve it alongside a whole grain (farro, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, etc.) and fresh vegetable, and dinner is a guaranteed win.
How to Make Crispy Pan Seared Salmon
This cooking method works best with skin-on fish with a higher fat content. It achieves the quintessential crisp on the outside, while keeping the inside moist and flaky. Plus, it helps prevent overcooking since you're able to monitor the degree of doneness more closely. Here's how to master it:
- To start, bring your fish close to room temperature. This helps ensure more even cooking throughout the fillet.
- Heat oil in a skillet (I prefer cast-iron) over medium-high, and place the fish skin-side down in the pan.
- Press the fish down firmly with a spatula to prevent the ends of the fillet from curling up.
- Cook until the salmon is about 75% cooked through, which should take roughly 5 minutes. You'll know it's ready to flip when the flesh turns from translucent to opaque up the sides.
- Gently flip the fillets, turn the heat OFF, and continue cooking until desired degree of doneness (about 2 more minutes for medium-rare). To ensure the fish doesn't overcook, it's a good idea to remove the pan from the burner and let the residual heat finish cooking it.
Note: It's perfectly fine if the salmon appears slightly translucent still in the center. It means your salmon is juicy and not overdone. You'll know it's good-to-go when the flesh easily separates when flaked with a fork.
Which Kind of Salmon is the Healthiest?
All salmon is a healthy option because it provides heart-healthy (1) omega-3 fatty acids. However, I suggest choosing wild salmon when available. Salmon is in season from May to October, so this is when you can expect to find the best selection. However, during summer and winter months, frozen wild salmon is the next best thing.
My personal favorite is King salmon, also known as Chinook. This variety has a high fat content, which makes the flesh super buttery and rich. Coho salmon is also a good choice, which will have a more delicate texture than King, but similar flavor.
If you purchase farm-raised as opposed to wild, look for the phrase “sustainably-farmed” on the label. This is generally a more responsible and environmentally-sound way to control overfishing. And thankfully, there are plenty of sustainable Atlantic salmon varieties available, but it can take some research to identify them. You can seek up-to-date information on sustainability by checking the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.
The Best Cream Sauce for Salmon
This may be one of the most luxurious cream sauces I have in my current arsenal. It's rich and aromatic with a woodsy, herbal backbone and bright top notes. It's also extremely easy to make, and only calls for a handful of ingredients. And, perhaps the best part about is that it's a cream sauce WITHOUT heavy cream.
In lieu of heavy cream, which is a rich source of saturated fat, this sauce achieves its creamy character from blended walnuts. I suggest toasting the walnuts in the skillet first, which helps release their oils and unlock even more nutty flavor. This only takes about 5 minutes, however keep a close eye to prevent burning.
Also in the mix is shallots, garlic, sherry vinegar, broth, rosemary, and lemon zest. The sherry vinegar adds complex flavor caliber without the cloying astringency of some other vinegars. I also love the way it compliments rosemary, however if you prefer a different herb, you can use fresh thyme instead.
Are Walnuts Good for your Heart?
February is Heart Month, which is the perfect time to try a new heart-smart recipe. Walnuts are certified through the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check program as a heart-healthy (2) food, making them an ideal choice. For more than 25 years, published research has been exploring how eating walnuts affects various factors related to heart health. These include cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and plaque formation.
Walnuts are the only nut that provide an excellent source of the plant-based omega-3 ALA (2.5g/oz). Omega-3 ALA is a key player in heart health, and may help reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, one study found that when combined with a low saturated fat diet, eating walnuts could help lower certain risk factors for heart disease.Give this nutritious, downright delicious meal a try for a sure-fire crowd pleaser. And be sure to snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. Also, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates!
More Healthy Salmon Recipes to Try
Salmon Skillet with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce
Turmeric-Glazed Salmon and Bulgur Skillet
Crispy Salmon with Indian Spices and Jeweled Rice
Pan Seared Salmon with Rosemary-Walnut Sauce
- ½ cup walnut halves
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ cup chopped shallots
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar (sub white balsamic vinegar)
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 4 6-oz. fresh salmon fillets
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- Cooked orzo, farro, pearl couscous or grain of choice for serving
- Place walnuts in a large skillet and heat over medium until nuts smell toasted and fragrant, shaking pan often to prevent burning, about 5 minutes. Transfer walnuts to a blender, and return pan to stove.
- Add 1 Tbsp. oil to the pan, along with shallots. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, until aromatic. Stir in rosemary, ½ tsp. salt, and vinegar; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until harsh vinegar smell dissipates. Add broth and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in lemon zest, and carefully pour mixture into blender with walnuts. Blend on HIGH until smooth and creamy; set aside.
- Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to pan and increase heat to medium-high. Season salmon with remaining ½ tsp. salt and black pepper. Place salmon skin side down in pan; cook, undisturbed, pressing gently on fillets with a spatula to ensure skin is in full contact with pan, until skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Gently flip, turn off heat, and continue cooking until fish is opaque in the center, about 2 more minutes for medium-rare.
- Pour walnut sauce into skillet and add garnishes of choice (chopped walnuts, fresh herbs, lemon zest, etc.) Serve with grain and/or vegetable of choice.
- Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. (FDA) One ounce of walnuts offers 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid.
Wow, this walnut sauce is so creamy! I wouldn't believe it hadn't cream in it if I hadn't made it myself. Ate the dish with orzo and roasted Brussels sprouts.
Hi Marit- I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review.
Any suggestions for seasoning or adding flavour to orzo (or grains)? Or is the walnut sauce enough?!
Hi Mary, I actually cook orzo the same way I do rice. You can use water or stock (I use vegetable stock for more flavor), and use the same ratio as rice: 1 cup orzo, 2 cups liquid), and let it simmer until all the broth is gone.
Looks soooo delicious! I’m definitely making this salmon recipe for dinner very soon!
I hope you do, Carol!! It's unbelievably delish.