Crispy Pan Seared Salmon and Arugula Salad
How to Pan Sear Salmon – Easy Meal Prep Salmon Salad
For a quick healthy dinner on a weeknight, whip up this crispy pan seared salmon salad in 10 minutes or less! I’ll show you how to pan sear salmon with the skin on for this satisfyingly simple salmon arugula salad.
Salmon is one of the healthiest proteins we can eat—in large part due to its rich omega-3 content—but it can be tricky to cook. Some people think they don’t like the taste, but more often people just don’t know how to cook salmon filets. Luckily, this crispy pan seared salmon is one of the easiest methods! (If you know how to do it right...)
Sure, you can pop a salmon filet into the oven, with just about any spread or sauce slathered on top, and it can turn out delicious. But, salmon is a delicate protein—meaning it’s easy to overcook and quick to dry out, especially in the oven. Instead, learning how to pan sear salmon allows you to enjoy a juicier, crispier filet!
All it takes is a hot pan, some cooking fat, and about 2 minutes to sear on each side of the filet. Quick as that, you’ve got crispy pan seared salmon ready to serve as you please! I think it’s especially delicious served as part of a salmon salad over greens, like in this salmon arugula salad recipe, but you can also serve it with roasted veggies, pasta—whatever you like.
Salmon Salad Meal Prep Components
For meal prep purposes, salmon generally isn’t an ideal protein choice. Much in the same way that it’s a delicate protein to cook, it also doesn’t last as long stored in the fridge. (About 3 days, typically.) But, there are still ways to incorporate salmon meal prep meals into your healthy routine!
In general, I think of meal prep as a spectrum, ranging from minimum prep to maximum prep. A maximum prepper prefers to prep everything, all of their meals for the week, so they’re ready to eat when they want them. Minimum preppers, like myself, prefer to do less work on prep day, and to enjoy freshly cooked meals throughout the week.
So, instead of prepping and cooking everything ahead of time, minimum preppers would just prep basic components that they can use to quickly cook meals during the week. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, depending on what works best for our lifestyle, schedule, budget, etc.
Maybe you want just your breakfasts and lunches fully prepped and ready, but can take the time to cook a fresh meal for dinner. Find what works for you! For this crispy pan seared salmon salad recipe, I’ll show you how to prep the components of the meal—in the minimal prep style—so you can quickly throw together a 10 minute dinner during the week.
Roast Butternut Squash & Store
When I made this salmon arugula salad recipe, I used roasted butternut squash as one of my salad components. It’s tasty served cold, and adds some healthy, starchy carbs to my salmon salad meal! You could also use sweet potato cubes or another roasted veggie that you enjoy cold, and you can roast it ahead of time on your prep day.
You’re welcome to use a whole squash and prepare it yourself, but I almost always use pre-chopped cubes to save me some time and effort. Pre-chopped cubes do cost more per oz, but it’s worth it to me!
To roast butternut squash, simply season the cubes with oil, salt and pepper (or whichever seasonings you like). Then, pop the tray in the oven at 425°F for 20-30 minutes, until tender, and allow to cool before storing! This way, you can keep your roasted squash in the fridge, so it’s ready to add onto your salmon salad at the time of serving.
The other components for your meal prep salad can be thrown together at the time of serving. I will leave arugula stored in the bag or container that I purchased it in, and I’ll slice red onion while my crispy pan seared salmon is cooking. (If you’d rather slice your red onion on prep day, go for it!)
Cut & Portion Salmon Filets
If you’re making your salmon salad with farm-raised salmon, your filets may already be cut and portioned—maybe even with the skin off. But, if you’re using wild-caught salmon, you’ll likely have larger filets with the skin on that need to be cut into smaller portion sizes. Do this on prep day to save time throughout the week!
The portion size depends on your preference—3 to 5 oz is standard. Usually, I just eyeball it, and I cut my salmon filets with kitchen shears since they do the best job of slicing through the skin. Once portioned, I typically store my salmon filets in individual zip-top bags or an airtight container with a paper towel in it to soak up excess moisture.
That’s what I do when using fresh salmon filets, although recently I’ve been using frozen salmon filets. (Thanks to my Butcher Box subscription—which sends me individual, pre-portioned frozen filets!)
Frozen salmon is actually very easy to work with, just transfer it to the fridge to thaw for about 24 hours before you want to cook with it. And, frozen salmon is a fantastic option for meal prep because it’s so easy to store without going bad!
How to Pan Sear Salmon with Skin On
Personally, I prefer to use wild-caught salmon, so I’ll be showing you how to pan sear salmon with the skin on. But, the method will also work with farm-raised salmon, though the cook time may be slightly different. (Learn more about the differences between farm-raised and wild-caught salmon!)
On the day or weeknight that you’re ready to cook, grab your fresh/thawed and portioned filet. For a crispy pan seared salmon filet, start by seasoning your salmon with a bit of salt and pepper. Then, heat a pan over medium-high heat and melt some ghee—or a different cooking fat, but I think ghee works best.
Once it’s hot, place your seasoned salmon filet into the pan skin side up and allow to sear for about 2 minutes. Set a timer if needed! Then, flip the filet and sear for another 2 minutes. (If you have a thicker salmon filet, or if you prefer your salmon cooked more well-done, you may want to sear it for an extra minute or two.)
And just like that, in about 5 minutes, you’ve got a crispy pan seared salmon filet ready to serve on a bed of greens!
Crispy Pan Seared Salmon Salad Ingredients
Either while your salmon is searing or after it’s cooked, toss together your other salmon salad components. I’m keeping this salad super simple: just a few handfuls of arugula, a few tablespoons of sliced red onion, and about ½ cup of the cold, roasted squash that I cooked on my prep day.
I give those veggies a toss, then drizzle on a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar as my dressing. If you’d like to serve your salmon salad with a different dressing that you enjoy, go for it!
It’s all so quick and easy, I’ll just throw together that arugula salad while the salmon filet is still on the pan. Once my crispy pan seared salmon is cooked to my liking, I transfer it straight from the pan onto the salad. A fresh, healthy dinner that’s hot and ready to eat in under 10 minutes!
Jazz it up with any other toppings if you like. Some lemon wedges for an acidic element, sliced avocado for creaminess, crunchy sunflower seeds, a fried egg or poached egg for added yolky goodness—get creative!