Pesto Salmon

Swipe right for a salmon dish that has it all: delicious, heart-healthy, and simple enough to make on a weeknight! Meet Pesto Salmon.

Pesto Salmon

You know that feeling when you want something filling but healthy? And oh yeah, you only have an hour for dinner? Enter this Pesto Salmon recipe. Versatile yet easy, it is simple enough for a Tuesday night or elegant enough for having company over. Baked salmon is nothing new – but the salmon on top is a great way to spruce up a simple dish. Whether you use homemade pesto or storebought, the bright flavor (and color) of the basil pesto is a game-changer.

This Pesto Salmon ticks off all the boxes: the flavor from the fish is rich and tasty, while the pesto and pine nut combination on top definitely adds that “it” factor that will keep you coming back to this recipe again and again. Plus, the texture variety is a bonus – the velvety, smooth salmon is topped by the crunch and chew of the pesto and nut topping. From countertop to table in less than an hour, you will love this recipe.

Wild-Caught vs. Farm-Raised Salmon

Standing in your grocery store with a package of salmon in your hand, take a second to look at it closely before tossing it into your cart. It will either be labeled wild-caught or farm-raised. While all salmon has health benefits, including those good Omega-3 fatty acids which combat inflammation, aid cellular function, and help cholesterol, there is a difference between wild-caught and farm-raised. If you can get wild-caught, it is the better choice. It is leaner, cleaner, and tastier than farm-raised. If you don’t see any wild-caught in the fresh seafood section, check out the frozen options.


  • 6 ounce salmon fillets
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons basil pesto store-bought or homemade
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts lightly toasted
  • Lemon zest for garnish
Pesto Salmon

How to Make Pesto Salmon

Step 1: Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare quick salmon soak with 3 tablespoons of kosher salt in 4 cups of lukewarm water. Salmon soaks for 15 minutes.

Pesto Salmon

Step 2: Oil the baking dish, pat dry salmon, place in dish. Season each fillet.

Pesto Salmon

Step 3: Cover dish with foil, bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil, bake for 5-7 more minutes until salmon flakes easily.

Pesto Salmon

Step 4: Top each fillet with a tablespoon of basil pesto. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Pesto Salmon

FAQs & Tips

How to Make Ahead and Store?

You can assemble and brine the dish up to 1 hour before (definitely rinse after brining for this long). Other than that, Pesto Salmon is best when baked and served right away. For leftovers, simply let the fish cool and place everything in an airtight container. You can refrigerate for up to 3 days (but the pesto may turn dark green when exposed to any air). You can freeze just the salmon portion for up to 1 month.

Why brine fish?

In Step 1, the brine that you soak the salmon in helps it retain moisture as it bakes and gives it a nice, flaky texture. Plus, it helps eliminate the white albumin (just a protein – it’s nothing bad but looks kind of weird) that sometimes oozes from salmon. Brining is an easy, fast way to up your game with any baked or roasted meat and works especially well with salmon. You can brine up to an hour ahead, but 15 minutes is plenty. Rinse the fish after brining.

Do I leave the skin on the salmon when baking?

Yes! Doing so helps the structure of the salmon filet stay in one piece and also aids in retaining that moisture once baked. You can easily remove the skin before serving if you wish by grabbing it with the edge of a paper towel and inserting a thin spatula between the skin and the filet. They will separate easily once the salmon is cooked.

Is pesto good for you?

While pesto does contain a fairly high amount of fat (from the oil and nuts in it), it is the good kind of heart-healthy fat, and you’re not using cups and cups of it in this recipe. It is about a tablespoon per serving, so is definitely a moderate amount.

Is this recipe low carb and/or gluten free?

Yes, it is both. However, watch what side dishes you serve with it to keep the entire meal low-carb and/or gluten free. But this dish overall is a great choice for eating within those limits.

Pesto Salmon

Serving Suggestions

Pesto Salmon is amazing with baked potato and a green salad. Simple yet amazing. If you want something heartier, try a pasta on the side like our Easy Goat Cheese Pasta or some angel hair pasta tossed with butter and garlic. This dish is so versatile that you can definitely keep it simple or take things up a notch to elegant and refined.

Pesto Salmon
Pesto Salmon

Pesto Salmon

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Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 317 kcal


  • 4 salmon fillets, preferably wild-caught
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons basil pesto store-bought or homemade
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts lightly toasted
  • Lemon zest for garnish


  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a quick brine for your salmon, dissolve 3 tablespoons of kosher salt in 4 cups of room-temperature water in a shallow dish. Brine for 15 minutes.
  • Oil the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil. Remove the salmon from the brine, pat dry with paper towels and arrange in the prepared dish. Season each fillet.
  • Cover the dish with foil (to lock in moisture) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for another 5-7 minutes, until the salmon flakes easily. The ideal internal temperature is around 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • To dress-up, spread a generous tablespoon of basil pesto over each fillet and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and a hint of lemon zest.


Calories: 317kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 35gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 506mgPotassium: 851mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 372IUVitamin C: 0.02mgCalcium: 46mgIron: 2mg
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