How to make perfect oven-baked salmon in under 25 minutes! It’s tender, moist, flaky, flavorful, and perfect for serving with veggies, grains, salads, and more!
If you want to learn how to cook salmon in the oven for restaurant-quality results, look no further. This perfect oven-baked salmon is simple to prepare, requires just a handful of pantry basics, and is ready, kitchen to table, in just 25 minutes!
I’ve already shared a recipe for teriyaki salmon. But I realized I had yet to share my basic, tried-and-tested, delicious, super simple garlic and lemon oven-roasted salmon. The results are super delicious for such a simple ingredient list, but work to achieve perfect salmon baked fillets every time. No need to feel intimidated by salmon again.
Even better, there’s no need for a long marinating period, and it’s practically an effortless method. Just prepare the simple lemon and garlic marinade and brush or rub the fillets. Then bake them to perfection in this easy baked salmon recipe. Serve alongside your favorite veggies and grain for a simple, delicious, and nutritious meal any time!
Table of contents
Baked Salmon Ingredients
This BEST salmon in the oven recipe requires just 4 ingredients and salt and pepper, with optional thyme.
- Salmon: Use either one large fillet or two medium ones. I also use pre-prepared, skin-on, de-boned salmon.
The Most Flavorful Salmon to Buy
For the best quality and flavor (and leaner fillets), I recommend using wild salmon such as Sockeye, Chinook, Coho salmon, etc.
In comparison, farmed salmon has a milder flavor and more fat. Wild salmon contains higher levels of heart-healthy omega fatty acids and several minerals (including potassium and selenium). The only downside is that it’s more expensive.
- Oil: I use olive oil, but any neutral cooking oil will work. Melted butter would also work.
- Lemon: Use fresh lemon juice (not bottled) for the best flavor. Add lemon zest for even more zing.
- Garlic: Adjust the amount to taste. Use garlic powder in a pinch.
- Thyme: (Optional) I love the addition of fresh herbs to this easy baked salmon recipe. Rosemary would also work well.
- Salt & black pepper: Season to taste. I like to use sea salt/kosher salt for the best flavor. For more umami flavor, I recommend using soy sauce instead of salt in this oven-baked salmon recipe.
How To Shop For Salmon
A top tip for making this the best baked salmon recipe is to purchase the best salmon you can.
- When purchasing salmon, make sure it doesn’t smell overly “fishy” (which means it’s not fresh). It should also have a firm, slightly springy flesh when prodded gently. If it leaves an indent or is mushy, AVOID!
- If you’re purchasing a whole salmon, make sure the eyes are clear and bright with no cloudiness.
- If purchasing frozen salmon, ensure it has a tight seal with no broken/ torn packaging. And yes, it’s fine to purchase frozen over fresh – it’s even fresher sometimes as the freshness has been preserved.
- Lastly, avoid any salmon fillets that have added colors and other chemicals.
You can read more about the best and worst types of salmon to buy on the Monterey Bay Aquarium website.
How To Bake Salmon?
Baking salmon is surprisingly simple once you have the right method. Keep reading to learn how to cook salmon in oven for perfect results every time!
Step 1: Prepare the Salmon
First, use paper towels to pat the salmon fillets dry. Then, allow them to come to room temperature on the counter for 15 minutes.
There’s no need to rinse the raw salmon. This will just risk spreading bacteria across your sink and kitchen.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Then, juice the lemon and mince the garlic, adding them to a small bowl with the olive oil. Brush this mixture into both sides of the salmon (or rub with your hands), seasoning it with salt and pepper afterward. Add the herbs (optional).
For more flavor, you can bake the salmon on a bed of or topped with thin lemon slices. This will also help to keep the salmon moist.
Only add the salt right before baking, as it will draw out moisture from the salmon.
Step 2: Bake the Salmon
Bake the salmon, skin-side down, for 12-15 minutes, until the salon is a light opaque pink and flaky. The exact time will depend on the thickness of your fillets.
You can optionally broil the fillets for a minute or two at the end.
Finally, remove the oven-baked salmon from the oven and enjoy with your sides of choice!
How To Tell When Salmon Is Ready?
When cooking salmon in the oven, how long to cook salmon varies based on the thickness of the fillets. You may want to rely on other methods to ensure that your salmon is ready. There are three key signs I look out for:
- Salmon temperature: Use a meat thermometer/Instant read thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the salmon (at its thickest point) has reached 140ºF/60ºC.
Note that salmon is a bit like steak, though, because you can cook it to different levels of doneness. For example, for medium-rare, I’d aim for around 120ºF/49ºC, for medium around 130-135ºF/55-57ºC, or 140ºF/60ºC for medium to well done. Many aim for around 130ºF/55ºC for the most succulent results.
- By look: One of the easiest ways to assess baked salmon is through its color. Once cooked, salmon changes from a darker, translucent pink-red to an opaque light pink on the outside. But it is still slightly translucent in the center.
- By feel: Finally, give the oven-baked salmon fillet a gentle prod in its thickest part with either your finger or a fork. If it separates into tender-looking flakes, it’s ready. If it doesn’t budge/ is still translucent, you need a little longer.
What To Serve With Baked Salmon?
This versatile protein is a wonderful protein to serve alongside all sorts of veggies, grains, and sides, such as:
- Roasted vegetable side dishes:
- Noodles or vegetable stir-fry with noodles.
- Grains: brown rice, Jasmine rice, quinoa, vegetable pilaf, etc. For a lower-carb option, use cauliflower rice.
- Potatoes: roasted, baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes will pair well.
- Salad: Serve these perfectly baked salmon fillets alongside a simple side salad like a garden salad or kale salad.
This really comes down to preference. Foil-wrapped salmon is super juicy as it locks in moisture. However, some people prefer the slightly drier top and skin of baked salmon (while still being flaky and juicy in the middle).
Absolutely, you’ll just need to add more cooking time. I recommend adding an extra 10 minutes before testing its readiness.
You could alternatively allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking.
Technically, yes, it’s “safe” to eat every day. However, if you are eating salmon often, I highly recommend ensuring that it’s sourced responsibly/sustainably and contains low levels of contaminants. In general, wild salmon is healthier in terms of fat levels and nutrient content.
Yes, salmon skin is edible, though some people prefer not to. Even if you don’t plan on eating the salmon skin, I recommend keeping it on the fillets until after baking. This will help hold the salmon together.
If you want to eat it, I highly recommend removing it from the fillet at the end of the cooking process. Then lightly broil it until crispy – delicious!
Based on their thickness and your oven, the fillets will take 12-15 minutes. In comparison, a whole salmon will take between 35-40 minutes. However, use a thermometer in the thickest part of the fish to ensure it’s cooked properly.
More Seafood Recipes
- Salmon and Kale Potato Salad (Smoked Salmon Salad)
- Crispy Baked Coconut Shrimp With Dipping Sauce
- Grilled Salmon Avocado Salad Bowl
- Salted Cod Salad (Buljol)
- Perfect and Quick Air Fryer Salmon
- The Best Lox Bagel
- Tuna Salad Sandwich
If you try this easy baked salmon recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
How to Cook Salmon in the Oven Perfectly
- 1/2 lb salmon fillets 2 medium-sized or 1 large; I recommend using skin-on, deboned wild caught salmon; use Sockeye or Coho or Chinook
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or another neutral cooking oil
- 1 lemon 3 tablespoon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon salt adjust amount to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- thyme or rosemary; optional
Step 1: Prepare the Salmon
- Use paper towels to pat the salmon fillets dry. Then, allow them to come to room temperature on the counter for 15 minutes.There's no need to rinse the raw salmon. This will just risk spreading bacteria across your sink and kitchen.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Juice the lemon and mince the garlic, adding them to a small bowl with the olive oil. Brush this mixture into both sides of the salmon (or rub with your hands), seasoning it with salt and pepper afterward. Add the herbs (optional).For more flavor, you can bake the salmon on a bed of or topped with thin lemon slices. This will also help to keep the salmon moist. Only add the salt right before baking, as it will draw out moisture from the salmon.
Step 2: Bake the Salmon
- Bake the salmon, skin-side down, for 12-15 minutes, until the salmon is a light opaque pink and flaky. The exact time will depend on the thickness of your fillets.You can optionally broil the fillets for a minute or two at the end.
- Remove the oven-baked salmon from the oven and enjoy with your sides of choice!
How to Make Ahead and Store?
- Make ahead: While a long marination period isn't necessary for this recipe, you can leave the fillets to marinate (minus the salt) for up to 12 hours for more flavorful results. Then, allow it to come to room temperature for 15-20 minutes before baking.Store: Allow it to cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can enjoy the leftovers chilled or reheated.Freeze: First, spread the fillets on a tray and allow them to freeze until solid. Then transfer the frozen baked salmon fillets and store them in a Ziplock bag or airtight container for 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before enjoying it once more.Reheat: To avoid overcooked, dry salmon, I recommend reheating the fillets in a skillet. Add a splash of water to the pan, cook over medium-low heat, and have the lid on. This will help to steam the salmon and make sure it’s moist. It will take around 5-7 minutes.
- Baking time varies: How long to cook salmon varies, dependent on the thickness of your salmon fillets and your specific oven. If you’re using a whole salmon fillet (half a salmon), the time will increase by 3-5 minutes.
- Use fillets with skin attached: This helps hold them together while they cook and yields more evenly cooked results. You can easily remove it afterward if preferred.
- Use even-sized fillets: So they cook at the same rate.
- For crispier skin: Pat the skin side with a paper towel before seasoning it. After baking the fillets, remove the skin from the fillets and broil/pan-fry it until crispy.
- If there are any bones in the fillets: I always like to double-check salmon fillets before cooking them, even if they’re labeled as de-boned. The easiest method I’d found is to lay the salmon, skin-side down, over a bowl, which helps make any remaining pin bones easier to find. Alternatively, use your fingers along the fillets to feel for any bumps in the flesh. Then, use tweezers to remove them.
- Cook room temperature salmon: It’s always best to allow it to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before baking for the most even cooking results.
- Be careful not to overcook it: Residual heat will continue to cook the salmon after removing it from the oven. Therefore, I recommend removing it from the oven when it’s 5ºF lower than your aim. Then, allow it to rest for 5 minutes out of the oven before serving — voila!
- Smoked paprika: Add it directly to the marinade for a subtle smoky flavor and wonderful color.
- Italian Seasoning: Swap out the thyme for dried Italian seasoning.
- Honey: The combination of garlic, lemon, and honey is delicious. A sprinkle of brown sugar would also work. Just make sure not to add too much.
- Pesto: Omit the thyme and slather the fillets in pesto, optionally topping it with lemon slices. Alternatively, add a dollop when serving the baked salmon fillets.