This baked pesto salmon recipe is flavorful and fast. Utilize the best grocery store shortcut ingredient to make this delicious dinner in 20 minutes!

Shallow white bowl with pesto salmon, pearl couscous, asparagus spears and a lemon wedge.

Somewhere over the years, Foxes Love Lemons kind of became Foxes Love Salmon. I seem to publish more salmon recipes than beef, or even chicken recipes!

But salmon recipes like creamy salmon pasta and grilled sockeye salmon always seem to do well, getting shared widely on Pinterest, and garnering positive reviews and comments. And if salmon recipes are what visitors to this site want to see, I will give you more salmon recipes!

And I can’t blame you if you love salmon. I love it too, and truthfully, don’t we all get tired of chicken recipes sometimes? (although I’ll never turn down a good chicken pizza).

Salmon is a lean source of protein, with a lot of benefits like omega 3’s and anti-inflammatory properties. Culinary-wise, it’s also kind of a blank slate! Just like chicken, it can stand up to almost any flavor you want to lend to it.

While I often serve salmon with noodles, like my salmon pesto pasta, I’m keeping it simple and low carb today, with this baked pesto salmon recipe. If you need to learn how to bake salmon in the first place, I’ve got you covered!

Why you’ll love Salmon with Pesto

  • Salmon is a nutritious fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, while the olive oil in the pesto adds even more healthy fats.
  • With just a few ingredients and minimal cooking time, it’s a last-minute dinner that is still full of flavor.
Small tray with two salmon fillets, bowl of basil pesto, halved lemon and fresh basil leaves, on wooden background.

Salmon Pesto Ingredients

  • salmon – the star ingredient! Find out exactly what to buy under “How to buy the best fish for basil pesto salmon,“ below.
  • nonstick cooking spray – to prevent the salmon from sticking to the pan.
  • salt and pepper – for seasoning the fish to perfection.
  • pesto – prepared basil pesto from the grocery store, made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil, adds big flavor to a simple piece of salmon.

How to buy the best fish for basil pesto salmon:

Just like with salmon stuffed with crab and salmon with my bourbon glaze recipe for salmon, I prefer a thicker, center-cut piece of salmon, and not a thinner, tail-end piece for this baked pesto salmon recipe.

The tail end pieces are really better for a recipe where the salmon is going to be flaked, like salmon cakes.

If you have a grocery store, butcher, or seafood market where you can specify that you need center-cut pieces, that’s ideal for this salmon with pesto sauce (and for a salmon sandwich).

You can use any variety of salmon you like best for this basil pesto salmon, whether that’s Atlantic salmon, sockeye salmon, or something else. Food & Wine’s Guide to Every Type of Salmon You Can Buy will help you learn the differences.

Shallow white bowl with baked fish topped with green herb sauce, tricolor couscous, asparagus, fresh basil sprig and lemon wedge.

How to make Pesto Salmon

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Grab a small rimmed baking pan. I usually line it with foil for super easy cleanup. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray (or rub it lightly with olive oil) so the salmon doesn’t stick.
  3. Place the salmon on the foil and give it a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees F for 18 to 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. If you have an instant read thermometer, the easiest way to check for doneness is to check for an internal temperature of 145 degrees F in the thickest part of the fillet.

Because basil pesto can take on a bitter quality if it’s overcooked, I don’t like to bake the salmon WITH pesto sauce on it. I simply spread the salmon with the pesto when it comes out of the oven. The heat of the fish will warm the pesto for a delicious serving of baked pesto salmon.

Pesto Salmon Baked Home Chef Tips

  • The best prepared basil pesto from the grocery store is usually located near the refrigerated pasta like tortellini and ravioli (not the shelf stable jar of pesto in the boxed pasta aisle).
  • I most often buy the Buitoni brand, which is made with basil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Rana brand is also good for basil pesto salmon.
  • Serve your baked pesto salmon with lemon wedges for squeezing over. The acidity of the lemon brightens up the flavors of the dish even more!
Shallow white bowls filled with pearl couscous, asparagus, and salmon topped with pesto sauce.

What to serve with Pesto Salmon

I served this baked pesto salmon recipe with Israeli couscous because I had some in my pantry, as well as fresh asparagus, because it’s currently in season in Michigan. These are also great side dishes for salmon piccata.

Acini de pepe pasta salad is very similar in shape to couscous, and would also be great here.

Skip the couscous and bulk up the meal with mixed greens with miso salad dressing, for a lower carb meal.

Simple roasted potatoes and sauteed green beans (or green beans and tomatoes) are also a good choice to pair with this salmon with pesto sauce. And maple Brussels sprouts are a great side dish for just about ANY entree!

More filling side dish options that pair great with basil pesto salmon are goat cheese risotto or arugula white bean salad.

White plate filled with roasted fish with basil sauce, couscous and asparagus.

Baked Salmon with Pesto Sauce FAQs

Should salmon be covered when baked?

There’s no need to cover salmon when baking it. Salmon is a naturally moist fish, and it’s less prone to drying out compared to leaner varieties of fish. As long as you don’t overcook it, the salmon will retain it’s moisture without the need for covering.

Should you sear salmon before baking?

While some recipes use this technique, we wanted this pesto salmon recipe to have as simple and straightforward of preparation as possible. By seasoning the salmon and placing it directly in the oven for baking, we save quite a bit of time and effort.

Should I bake salmon at 400 or 450?

Baking salmon at 400 degrees F allows for relatively quick and even cooking throughout the fillet, without drying out the fish.

Shallow white bowl filled with pearl couscous, asparagus, and salmon topped with pesto sauce.

Baked Pesto Salmon

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

This baked pesto salmon recipe is flavorful and fast. Utilize the best grocery store shortcut ingredient to make this delicious dinner in 20 minutes!

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 center cut salmon fillets (5 ounces each)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Spray small rimmed baking pan with nonstick spray. Place salmon fillets, skin side down, on prepared pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer to oven and bake 18 to 20 minutes or until salmon is opaque throughout and internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F.
  4. Remove salmon from oven. Evenly spread pesto over salmon fillets. If desired, slip spatula between salmon skin and flesh to remove skin before serving. Serve with lemon wedges.



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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 415Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 735mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 34g

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