Lemon Butter Salmon with Rice Pilaf
Learn how to make lemon butter salmon with rice pilaf for an easy weeknight dinner! Hearty, nourishing, and full of flavor—this tastes like a gourmet experience, but it’s quick and easy enough for beginners. Pan seared crispy skin salmon, served in garlic lemon butter sauce, PLUS a side of vegetable rice pilaf. And you can make it all in under an hour!
For more easy salmon dinners, try my Easy Air Fryer Salmon Recipes!
Benefits of Salmon with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Anti-Inflammatory. Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3s: an essential fatty acid that can reduce chronic inflammation and support brain health. Of all the parts of the fish, salmon skin has the highest concentration of omega-3s—all the more reason to make lemon garlic butter salmon with skin-on filets!
- Nutrient-Rich. Salmon is also rich in key nutrients like vitamins B12 and B6, as well as essential minerals like selenium, niacin, and phosphorus. Plus, a 4-oz filet contains almost 25g protein!
- Flavorful & Satiating. Pair the rich, savory flavor of crispy skin salmon with lemon butter sauce, and you’ve got a delicious meal your body and taste buds will love! The healthy fats in this meal make it more satisfying—in terms of flavor and our hunger levels.
- Quick & Easy. Best of all, you can make this entire meal of salmon, sauce, and pilaf in less than an hour. No fancy cooking techniques required!
What is the best method to cook salmon?
Pan searing or pan frying is the best cooking method for crispy salmon with garlic lemon butter sauce. I use a nonstick pan, or you can use cast iron. Pan frying is the quickest and tastiest method—giving you a tender, flaky filet with irresistibly crispy skin in minutes! If you don’t care for crispy skin, you can also cook a classic pan seared salmon (with or without skin), a blackened salmon filet, or a baked salmon filet to use in this meal.
What flavors go well with salmon?
- With its rich, salty, savory flavor profile, salmon goes well with all sorts of flavors:
- Salty & Savory—like soy sauce, Dijon mustard, capers, or even sriracha.
- Sour & Pungent—like the lemon and garlic in this lemon butter sauce, as well as ingredients like lime, shallot, or ginger.
- Rich & Creamy—like butter, parmesan, yogurt, or mayonnaise.
- Aromatic—like parsley, dill, sage, or rosemary.
- Sweet—even sweet flavors like honey, brown sugar, coconut, orange, or balsamic can pair wonderfully with salmon!
Garlic Lemon Butter Salmon Dinner Components
- Crispy Salmon Filet. Pan sear skin-on salmon filets with the skin side down to get a deliciously crispy texture! If preferred, you can also cook skinless filets, grilled filets, or even baked filets to use in this meal.
- Lemon Butter Sauce. Keep the sauce simple with just butter and lemon, or maximize the flavor by including some garlic and fresh parsley.
- Vegetable Rice Pilaf. A simple, nourishing side to pair with this lemon butter salmon recipe—and my personal favorite! Feel free to serve with any accompaniments you enjoy.
Do you eat salmon skin?
Yes, salmon skin is safe to eat, and it’s one of the most nutrient-rich parts of the fish! However, the healthfulness can vary depending on the quality of the salmon. Higher-quality filets that are wild-caught or sustainably farm-raised tend to be more nutritious and lower in pollutants. Lower-quality filets, like typical farm-raised salmon, tend to be lower in nutrients and absorb more pollutants like PCBs and methylmercury.
How to Make Lemon Butter Salmon on Stove Top
- To make this easy salmon dinner, all you’ll need is a stovetop, a set of pans, and an hour or less!
- Cook rice pilaf. To start, get the rice pilaf cooking, or whichever side dish you plan to serve.
- Make sauce. While that cooks, you can make lemon butter sauce for the salmon in just 10 minutes. (It’s best to use the sauce within 20-30 minutes of making it.)
- Sear salmon. Finally, you’ll need just 10 more minutes to pan fry salmon filets to crispy skinned perfection.
- Assemble meal. Serve the salmon in lemon garlic butter, with a side of that easy pilaf, and dinner is ready to enjoy!
Watch how to make this entire salmon dinner on the stove top in my Crispy Salmon & Rice Pilaf video!
Easy Vegetable Rice Pilaf
Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce
Crispy Skin Salmon Recipe
Quick Weeknight Salmon with Rice Pilaf
With all of your components prepared, this easy weeknight dinner is served! Compose your plate with a generous helping of rice pilaf, and drizzle that deliciously crispy salmon with garlic lemon butter. Savory, satisfying, and ready in 60 minutes or less.
Lemon Butter Salmon with Rice Pilaf
- 2 skin-on salmon filets (4-6oz each), King, Coho, or Atlantic
- 1-2 Tbsp avocado oil (or light olive oil), enough to cover bottom of pan
- salt & pepper, to taste
Lemon Butter Sauce for Salmon
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 tsp minced garlic, (or shallot)
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, (optional)
- ¼ tsp salt, to taste
- ⅛ tsp pepper, to taste
Easy Rice Pilaf
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 1 Tbsp butter, (or oil)
- ⅓ cup onion, diced
- 1¾ cups vegetable broth, (or chicken)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp citrus zest, (orange, lemon, lime)
- 1 Tbsp citrus juice, (orange, lemon, lime)
- 10-12 oz frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
- Start by preparing rice pilaf, or whichever side dish you prefer.
- Remove frozen mixed vegetables from freezer and thaw at room temperature ~30 minutes.
- Melt butter or heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.
- Add onion and rice and cook 4-5 minutes—until onion is softened, and rice is fragrant and toasted/browned.
- Add broth, salt, citrus zest & juice to saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover pan. Allow to cook for 15 minutes without removing lid.
- While the pilaf cooks: Set a timer for 15 minutes. Remove salmon filets from fridge and allow to sit at room temperature, then prepare lemon butter sauce if desired.
- After 15 minutes, check to ensure rice is tender and liquid is absorbed; if not, cover and cook 2-3 more minutes.
- When rice is cooked, stir in thawed frozen veggies.
- Remove pan from heat and allow to sit, covered, for another 5-10 minutes.
- Yields ~6 cups rice pilaf. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.
Lemon Butter Sauce for Salmon
- In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, until lightly golden brown with a nutty aroma.
- Add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes, until garlic begins to brown.
- Add lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook about 1 minute.
- Remove sauce from heat and set aside. Serve on fish within 20-30 minutes of making.
- When sauce is ready: Proceed to pan fry salmon filets.
- Make sure salmon filets rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before cooking.
- Pat filets dry using paper towels. Season on skin side with salt only. (No pepper on the skin or it will burn!)
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. Check to see if the pan is ready by doing a water test: sprinkle a splash of water onto the pan, and the water will sizzle/dance when the pan is hot enough.
- While the pan heats: Check on pilaf if/when needed to add vegetables and remove from heat.
- When pan is heated, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer.
- Heat oil until it bubbles slightly, then add salmon filets skin side down. (Be careful so the oil doesn’t splash and burn you! I use tongs. to gently place filets in pan.) Use a spatula to press down salmon filets to prevent them from curling as they cook, so the skin stays flat against the pan.
- Sear salmon skin side down for about 5 minutes, depending on size of filets. (Mine were about 1-inch thick.) Cook until skin is crispy and fish is cooked ~¾ of the way up the sides of the filets—color will change to lighter pink as it cooks. Season flesh side with salt & pepper before flipping.
- Flip and cook 20-30 seconds on the other side—or longer for a more well-done filet. (For reference, salmon is cooked to an internal temperature of 125°F /51°C for medium doneness, or up to 145°F / 63°C for well-done.)
- Remove filets from pan immediately.
Whole Meal Assembly
- Serve crispy salmon warm with fresh lemon butter sauce and rice pilaf for a quick weeknight dinner! Best enjoyed immediately.
- Add variety to this meal by serving with different sides, or even a different sauce.
- Yields 2 servings of salmon with lemon butter sauce, and 6 servings of vegetable rice pilaf.
What sauce goes with salmon?
- Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce. Of course, crispy skin salmon with lemon butter is my favorite pairing! But you can also serve this salmon dinner with a different sauce and change up the flavors:
- Sriracha Mayo.
- Honey Mustard Sauce.
- Sweet Balsamic Glaze.
- Teriyaki Sauce.
- Mango Salsa.
What goes with salmon as a side dish?
- Rice or Pasta. I love to serve lemon butter salmon with vegetable rice pilaf as a side, or you could try spinach rice or an orzo pasta salad.
- Roasted or Sauteed Vegetables. Roasted baby potatoes, sweet potato, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, green beans, or beets are all delicious options to serve with salmon. Or, stick to the stovetop and saute chopped veggies or a batch of seasoned sauteed spinach.
- Vegetable Mash. Mashed potatoes are a classic side, or try a savory sweet potato mash or even a cauliflower mash.
- Salad. Serve seared salmon with a simple salad, or even over a plain bed of greens that will soak up the lemon garlic butter sauce!