This 15-minute Pesto Salmon recipe is loaded with garlicky pesto butter and fresh lemon juice. It’s the perfect meal for busy weeknights.
It goes great with creamy mashed potatoes, or if you enjoy pesto as much as we do, you should try our pesto pasta salad.
Table Of Contents
If you love healthy and deliciously flavored dishes that are easy to make, then this Pesto Salmon is for you. I just love that it can work for a quick dinner or be an elegant main course served to guests.
- TASTE: This salmon is buttery, garlicky, and lemony, with a layer of herbaceous basil pesto sauce on top. These flavors are so tasty together.
- TEXTURE: Tender, flaky salmon and a smooth pesto butter sauce make this dish absolutely delicious.
- TIME: This Pesto Salmon recipe comes together in less than 20 minutes and that’s including the cook and prep time!
- EASE: It requires only 6 ingredients and is super simple to make!
What You’ll Need
- Basil pesto– You can make your pesto sauce or buy it from the store. Just make sure to purchase the fresh one that’s in the refrigerated section.
- Unsalted butter– Make sure it’s softened to room temperature.
- Garlic– Only use fresh. The powdered stuff won’t work here.
- Salmon filets– You can use wild-caught king salmon or Atlantic, both are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- Lemon juice– This adds a nice little tang that you don’t want to skip.
Add-ins and Substitutions
- Make it lighter- If you want to make it healthier, you can swap the butter for olive oil, but it will need to be drizzled instead of scooped onto the salmon filets.
- Substitute a whole filet- You can easily make this pesto salmon recipe with a full salmon filet. Just spread all of the pesto butter on top of the entire filet.
- Make it dairy-free- To make this recipe without dairy, use plant-based butter or olive oil for the butter, and choose a pesto that doesn’t have cheese or whey. Or make your own!
- Add tomatoes and Parmesan cheese- This zesty Pesto Salmon tastes yummy when baked with halved cherry tomatoes and topped with this salty, nutty cheese.
How to Make Pesto Salmon
- Mix up the butter pesto– Add the softened butter, basil pesto, and grated garlic to a small bowl and stir using a fork.
Pro Tip: You can easily make this pesto salmon recipe with a full salmon fillet. Just spread all of the pesto butter on top of the entire fillet. You may need to bake it a little longer though.
- Season the salmon– Place the salmon filets on a baking sheet lined with foil. Season the salmon with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
- Top with pesto butter– Then add the pesto butter on top. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 10 minutes. Serve.
- Use unsalted butter- As the pesto is already seasoned, it’s best to use unsalted butter to better control the salt level. You can add it to your preference when you salt the salmon.
- Grate fresh garlic cloves- Doing this adds the best flavor and aroma to your pesto butter. Garlic powder and even pre-minced garlic just aren’t as good.
- Don’t overcook the salmon- You want to cook it until it’s pink and easily flaked when scraped with a fork. To avoid drying it out, use an instant-read thermometer to make sure it doesn’t exceed an internal temp of 145 degrees.
- Store extra pesto butter- If you love the flavor of this pesto butter mixture, make extra and store it in the fridge. You can spread it on fresh bread, add it to baked potatoes, or put it on a toasted homemade bagel.
Pesto is good in moderation. While it’s high in fat and calories, it contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and good fats that are good for cell health and your heart. So enjoy it occasionally, but not every day, to reap the health benefits while not overdoing it.
When you cook salmon fillets in the oven, they take 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The cook time will vary depending on how thick your salmon filets are, so it’s best to check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer to be sure they’ve reached 145 degrees.
This Pesto Salmon tastes delicious with all kinds of side dishes, pastas, and grains. It’s so versatile! Here are some great ways to serve it.
- Pasta: Enjoy this salmon with Easy Pasta Primavera Cheesy Baked Orzo, Garlicky Israeli Couscous, and Penne Alla Vodka.
- Potatoes: Serve your Pesto Salmon with a side of Super Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Scalloped Potatoes, Air Fryer Baked Potato, or Parmesan Roasted Potatoes.
- Greens: Pair this dish with Crispy Air Fryer Broccoli, Roasted Air Fryer Vegetables, Spinach Pomegranate Salad, or Cabbage Cucumber Salad.
- Grains: Place your salmon on a bed of Wild Rice, quinoa, farro, or Wild Brown Rice.
Make This Recipe in Advance
Make ahead: You can prepare the pesto butter days in advance and store it in the fridge. You can also cook the salmon a day ahead and store it in the fridge, reheating when you’re ready to serve.
Storing: Store any leftover Pesto Salmon in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. Reheat it low and slow to avoid drying it out, warming for about 15 minutes at 275 degrees.
Freeze: You can freeze this salmon dish in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw and then reheat in the oven. You may want to add some extra pesto butter to moisten and flavor the salmon filets.
More Scrumptious Salmon Dishes!
Full Recipe Instructions
- 1/4 cup Basil Pesto
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1-2 garlic cloves pressed
- 28 oz salmon fillet or four (7 oz fillets)
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- In a bowl combine 1/4 cup basil pesto, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 1-2 pressed garlic cloves using a fork.
- Like a baking sheet with foil and lay the salmon fillets on top. Generously season with salt and pepper and squeeze a little bit of lemon juice on top. (About 1/4 Tablespoon per fillet).
- Scoop out the butter pesto using a medium-sized cookie scoop and place 2 scoops on each fillet.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 10 minutes. Serve with a squeeze of extra lemon juice on top.
- How to make it healthier- If you want to make it healthier, you can swap the butter for olive oil, but it will need to be drizzled instead of scooped onto the salmon fillets.
- Make it with a whole salmon fillet- You can easily make this pesto salmon recipe with a full salmon fillet. Just spread all of the pesto butter on top of the entire fillet. You may need to bake it a little longer though.
This recipe was originally posted on Jun 29, 2015, we’ve tweaked it a bit since then.
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Hi Linda! 🙂 Glad to hear you loved this pesto salmon recipe! Thank you for your feedback! 🙂
Can oranges be
Used instead of lemon,because of allergy to lemon
Hi Loretta, I would not recommend using orange for this pesto salmon. I would just recommend omitting the lemon. Let me know how it goes 🙂
Hi! Had lots of fresh Pesto on hand and had just learned about Pesto Butter and found your recipe. I would never have thought it would include more garlic but the one clove grated was just right. I would add a little salt as I used unsalted Kerry Gold butter which I highly recommend. And, yes, we put it on the Salmon and died and went to heaven – it was so good! Thank you!
I am so glad you loved the pesto salmon Joan. Thank you for taking the time to write your kind recipe review 🙂
It’s one-of-a-kinf meal. Pesto with salmon! You must try this recipe! Thank you for sharing, Dina!!
Thank you so much Silvia! Very happy to hear you loved this Pesto salmon so much 🙂 Thank you for your feedback and I hope you find many more delicious recipes on my blog 🙂
Melissa Zind says
Never had pesto with salmon, MAN have I been missing out. This is a great recipe, quick and easy. (We almost always have some pesto in the freezer) I added a little shredded parm to the mixture, then put it on top rack broil for a minute or so just before it was done and it was amazing. Thank you for a quick great meal.
Hi Melissa, thank you for your kind comment! I am glad you enjoyed this pesto salmon and I like your shredded parm and broil addition 🙂 I hope you find more recipes from my blog that you can enjoy!
I have a jar of almost empty pesto jar and was wondering what to do with it. This pesto salmon is perfect! Love the addition of butter in pesto. Genius! Can’t wait to try it.
I always make sure I have at least 1 or 2 jars of pesto in my store cupboards. I’ve never used pesto on salmon but this looks absolutely scrumptious! I wonder if this recipe would also work with red pesto?
Hi Julia, this pesto salmon would taste amazing with red pesto! I hope you love it 🙂
this is great recipe. Thanks. Tell me about how long this can be kept in fridge, or is it better to just make a batch as you need it. Does the frozen butter thaw runny or do you have to do anything special before using it from freezer?
Thank you, Jay! The butter can be kept in the fridge for about 1 1/2 weeks. That’s if it’s wrapped tightly. You can scoop the refrigerated pesto butter straight from the fridge and place it on top of the salmon fillets. The oven will take care of all the thawing and baking all in one.
Michelle Fleming says
Can you grill this dish??
Hi Michelle, I wouldn’t recommend grilling this dish because the butter will melt and leak everywhere.
I was hoping to do this on a stone baking dish on the grill. Do you not think the butter would melt?
Hi Lisa, if its in a baking dish it should work just fine 🙂
Can you freeze the pesto butter if you haven’t used it all
Hi Amanda, you can most definitely freeze the extra pesto butter.
I just made this for my picky boyfriend. I didn’t have lemon juice, but I can’t even remember what I substituted instead. He loves it!! Thank you.
Nice! That’s awesome Kayleigh!
Margaret French says
What if I added dill on top of the salmon.
Hi Margaret, it’s all personal preference 🙂
This was wonderful. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Mary!
Slay Queen Kinya says
I’m sad that I didn’t discover this recipe 2 years ago. Sooooo good!!!
Thank you Kinya!
Thank you Misha!
Sooooo…we had this at Katie’s house last week and it was delightful. I found myself putting pesto on my shopping list 😉
Katie made this salmon? 🙂 Awesome! I didn’t really like pesto first time I tried it. I feel like it kind of grows on you. Well at least that’s how I started liking it. Now I love it!
Thank you Valentina:)
Katy | Her Cup of Joy says
I love baked salmon, it’s so easy to make. The addition of the pesto makes it even more delicious!
Salmon is pretty much my go to food for dinner. You can prepare it in so many different ways 🙂
Hi, is pesto taste like a bunch of ground up herbs? It looks delicious!!
Thank you Anna 🙂 Pesto is blend of crushed basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and oil. Its in a liquid form because of the oil.