If you're looking for a quick and easy way to prepare salmon, steaming is a great option in about 20 minutes. Not only is it a healthy cooking method, but it also takes just minutes to prepare. Let me show you how to make simple steamed salmon that can be served hot, warm, or chilled, and paired with a variety of delicious sauces and dressings.
Whether you're an experienced cook or new to the kitchen, steamed salmon is practically foolproof. Think of it like poached salmon. Read on to learn how to make tasty steamed salmon in no time. Steaming: it's for more than vegetables and rice!
Why You'll Like This recipe
I have roasted, seared and oven finished, sautéed, baked in parchment, poached, even grilled salmon. Then, I made steamed salmon.
- You can have dinner on the table in minutes.
- Serve steamed salmon hot, warm or even chilled (think salmon salad).
- One of the most simple cooking methods.
- Serve with a variety of sauces.
- Steamed fish is a healthy choice.
For the Salmon
- Salmon: Wild salmon is the best choice but not always available due to seasons. For the best choices in salmon, check out this salmon buying guide. Tell the fishmonger what you want. Don't just take what ever they want to give you (especially at today's prices). I prefer center cut pieces that are thicker and more even to the tail pieces. If what's in the case doesn't look good, ask if they have any more they can cut for you.
- Seasoning: Sea salt, ground black pepper, granulated garlic (optional).
See the recipe card for measurements.
For the Steaming Liquid
Creating an aromatic, flavorful steaming liquid is an easy way to add a light boost of flavor to your steamed salmon. Combine cold water with:
- Fresh lemons, sliced or juiced.
- Crushed garlic cloves.
- Fresh herbs like thyme sprigs, fresh tarragon, fresh parsley, bay leaf.
- Dried herbs, thyme, Italian seasoning, Herbs de Provence, dill, bay leaves.
- Chopped leek, shallot, or white onion
- Sliced fennel or fennel fronds
- White wine or white dry vermouth (optional).
Chef's Tip: Use what you have to create the steaming liquid. Always use lemon, garlic and some herbs, and add the other items if you have them.
Recipe Substitutions and Variations
What seasonings go well with steamed salmon? Try these:
- For seasoning variations, try lemon pepper, everything but the bagel, this smoky favorite dry rub recipe or a homemade taco seasoning blend.
- To skip the wine, substitute either vegetable broth or more lemon juice with water. You need enough liquid to come up to the bottom of the steamer basket.
- Use dried herbs instead of fresh. Use 1-2 teaspoons (in the steaming broth).
If you love salmon, try this easy smoked salmon dip.
Start with salmon that is closer to room temperature rather than freezing cold out of the refrigerator. Let it sit unwrapped for 30-45 minutes on the counter.
Step 1: Skin Off or On
Decide whether you want to steam salmon with the skin on or off. Either is fine.
Unlike seared salmon which gets crisp, steamed salmon skin is rubbery and gummy.I t's not something you'll likely want to eat. If you leave the skin on it's peels off easily right after steaming.
If you want to skin the salmon, see step-by-step photos below or ask the fish counter to do it for you.
Step 2: Check for Pin Bones
Many stores remove them for you. If not, remove them yourself. Gently rub your fingers over the sides and top of the fish. If you feel pin bones, remove them with small pliers or tweezers. Get ones that you keep in the kitchen just for this task. Fly fishing pliers work terrific.
Step 3: Seasoning and Set-up
You need a large cooking pot with a tight fitting lid, like a Le Creuset 5 ½ quart Dutch oven. To hold the salmon during steaming use a folding stainless steel steaming basket.
The silicone baskets work well too (be sure it opens flat), as does a bamboo steamer basket or steam oven.
What seasoning goes well with steamed salmon? Start with the simple basics of salt and pepper. I add granulated garlic. Also good are lemon pepper and everything but the bagel blend.
Step 4: Steam Salmon Fillets
Place the steaming liquid ingredients into the pot, add the lid, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. The water level should just reach the bottom of the steamer rack (basket), about an inch of water.
Turn the heat down to medium heat. To prevent steamed salmon from sticking to the steamer basket give the basket a spritz of non-stick spray to insure easy release. Add the steamer basket to the pot.
When steam is coming out of the lid, carefully place salmon filets into the basket.
- How long should you steam salmon for? Steaming salmon takes about 8 minutes depending on thickness of filets.
- How do you know when steamed salmon is cooked? Filets are done when the internal temperature reaches 145°F. Timing depends on the thickness of the fish. The salmon filets will be a light pinkish-orange color and firm (but not hard) to the touch.
When salmon is steamed, move it to plates for serving or for cooling and refrigerating with a flexible fish spatula.
How to Skin Salmon
Step 1: Skinning the salmon is optional. Either ask the person at the seafood counter to do it or do it yourself. I use a flexible knife called a filet knife but a thin, sharp, long knife works.
Slip the knife edge between the skin and the salmon flesh. Holding the knife parallel to the cutting board with the knife blade slightly up, grab the skin with your fingers and push (slice) away from you to the end of the filet. If it's too slippery, use a paper towel to hold it. Next, trim the bloodline if desired.
The bloodline is the purple area you see on the skinned side. It can be strong tasting, which is why many people think they don’t like salmon. Try trimming out the bloodline for milder flavor. Leave it or trim it, it's up to you.
Portion the salmon filets. If your salmon filet has a thick end and a flatter, thinner end, not to worry. Fold it under to create a more evenly thick piece of fish.
Chef's tip: If it's a larger piece of salmon, portion it first, then it's easier to skin.
What are some side dishes that go well with steamed salmon?
Serve salmon fillets with brown or white rice, or quinoa. For a vegetable, serve it with steamed or roast asparagus, basic broccolini, or green beans.
This steamed salmon recipe is terrific chilled and served atop a main course salad (like a salmon Caesar), or try steamed salmon in a classic South-of-France salad called a Nicoise (nee-swahz). It's fantastic in summer.
You can simply serve steamed salmon with lemon wedges, but there is so much more you can do. Here are sauce ideas for delicious salmon:
- Quick creamy aioli: Mix together a little mayo, chopped fresh dill, fresh lemon juice, a little Dijon mustard.
- For a terrific lemon, caper, Dijon vinaigrette, use this recipe.
- Creamy Citrus Mango Sauce
- A dollop of fresh basil pesto (or thinned for a dressing)
- A tropical pineapple-mango salsa
- Preserved Lemon Sauce
- Go Greek with this easy Tzatziki sauce with Greek yogurt.
- Traditional tomato salsa (great in summer).
- An easy horseradish sauce (see this post for my recipe). Add some chives for color.
- For an Asian accent, try a toasted sesame oil and soy sauce combination sprinkled with green onions.
Cooked steamed salmon lasts 3 days in the refrigerator, making it a pretty good choice for meal prep. It's just as delicious the next day.
It's a protein called albumin. It's liquid in the flesh and turns white (coagulates) upon cooking. Too much of it means your salmon might be over cooked. A little bit is normal. And it's totally safe to eat.
Absolutely. Salmon is a high quality protein source, 34 grams in 6 ounces of raw weight salmon. Farmed vs. wild vary slightly. Salmon is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats and selenium, important for DNA synthesis, thyroid hormone metabolism, and reproductive health. Plus, it's a rich source of B12. Read this terrific article for more information.
More Fish Recipes
Steaming salmon is an easy way to get this heart healthy fish into your diet. Looking for more fish recipes?
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Simple Steamed Salmon
- 1 ¼ - 1 ½ pounds salmon filet cut into 4 equal pieces, skinned or not
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic optional
- 1 lemon for serving
- non-stick spray I use avocado oil spray
Steaming Liquid (use all of these or what you have)
- 3-4 cups water
- 2 large garlic cloves peeled and crushed
- ½ bundle fresh Italian parsley long stems trimmed
- 1 lemon sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup white wine or white vermouth optional
- 1 handful fresh thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 shallot, sliced or ½ small white onion or leek
Prep the Salmon Fillets
- Cut salmon filet into four equal pieces. Skin the salmon or leave it on for removal after steaming. See photos in post for help removing the skin. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic.
Make the Steaming Liquid
- Add water and all of the rest of the steaming liquid ingredients to the pot. It should come just to the bottom of your steaming rack. Bring to a boil with lid on, then turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes to infuse a bit.Note - Use half of the steaming liquid ingredients under the rack and the rest with the salmon if you'd like.
Steam Salmon Fillets
- Spray steamer rack with non-stick spray. Add any of the lemon slices and herbs you 'd like to the rack and place the salmon filets on tops. Lift the rack into the steaming pot. The liquid level (about 1-inch) should come just to the bottom of the rack.) Steam salmon for about 8 minutes or until salmon reaches 140°F-145ºF internally when measured with a digital thermometer. Timing will depend on the thickness of your salmon. Serve warm or chilled with sauce of choice. Ideas and links below.
My all favorite way to enjoy Fish!!!
Thanks for the DETAILS! Like tucking in the thinner belly side and seasoning the water! I’m giving it a go this weekend in my bamboo steamer and I know it’s going be a beautiful and stress free dinner party. I hope this finds you in good spirits. Cheers.
I followed (mostly) Glenn's mom's recipe. Didn’t have the black beans. It was really good. I did it with the Kasilof River coho salmon my husband caught a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t want to mess it up for sure! Thanks, Glenn's mom.
Chris Cannock says
Try Steamed Salmon with a Butter, Lemon and Caper Sauce. It really is tasty and also gives a lift to green Vegetables.
Hi, how long to steam a filet of salmon (1.5kg)? Thanks
Sally Cameron says
Yvonne, looks like you talking about and entire filet, a side of salmon. It will depends on the thickness of the fish. Best way to tell is to use a digital thermometer. It should register 145°. Steaming salmon goes quick. Keep your notes in a kitchen journal. Hope that helps.
Nice and simple recipe. Was a bit skeptical about the length of time but it worked beautifully!
Sally Cameron says
I know, right? It goes so quick.
David Curtin says
I used a 2 tier steamer you can do the veg under the salmon on top I fry them altogether at the end in butter just to coat them to add flavor with onion salt and garlic granules and Pepper , delicious quick meal !!!
Followed directions but middle of salmon was raw after 6 min :(. Not sure what I did wrong
Sally Cameron says
Hi Matt. Hmm, that is strange. Sorry you had that experience and thank you for telling me. I hope you just let it go longer until it was done. Fish is done when it reaches 145°F in the center (good to know) and use a digital cooking thermometer. I do this all of the time with salmon. Is your water really boiling and creating steam? Can you see it coming out from under the lid of the pan? It could be the thickness of your fish compared to what I get. Was your fish cold from the fridge?I use a 4-5 quart pan and a folding steamer rack. Hope you will try it again and please let me know so I can try to help you!
I am going to try this tonight! I bet it would be yummy with this salad dressing I make! Delicious as a sauce!
Do you discard the broth or is it served over the salmon?
Sally Cameron says
Hi Judy, good question. Discard it. It did it's job.
Hi, it sounds delicious indeed, but can you steam a whole fish using a fish kettle?
In this case for how long should we steam the fish?
Sally Cameron says
Hi Jao. I've not done a whole salmon that way. This is quick and easy for portions of salmon, easier to manage than a whole fish. But if you have one of those big oval special pans with a steamer rack just for steaming fish, it should work fine. Place the liquid and herbs in the bottom, add the rack on top, place the whole filet on top, cover and steam. You don't want the whole fish, skin, bones, and all. Does that make sense?
Thanks, that was pretty good
We just tried it without thyme (just run out of it) but still tastes outstanding! I think the broth makes it juicy and yummy in every bite! Thanks for sharing!
Sally Cameron says
And so easy too, right? Use the herbs you have. I cook with a lot of thyme. If you do
n't have fresh, use dried. The ratio from fresh to dried is 1 tablespoon of fresh = 1 teaspoon of dried.
Linda M says
I don't cook but this recipie made me feel like I do Delicious and healthy too!
Sally Cameron says
It is SOO easy! You can do this! Try it!