It's easy to master cooking pan-seared salmon with this garlic butter salmon recipe that's so juicy with a bright lemon garlic butter sauce. It's fast and uses simple everyday ingredients!
If you can't get enough of these flavors, try my Quick and Easy Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi or Garlic Butter Steak Bites next.
Why you'll love it
When I first started cooking on my own, I was actually nervous about learning how to cook salmon, but this no-fuss method is so simple that it's now my go-to. This tasty lemon garlic butter salmon is made all in one skillet. There is nothing to be intimidated about, and the tips below will ensure you have flaky, tender, perfectly cooked salmon every time.
Let's talk about that sauce! What could be better than a simple garlic butter sauce for salmon? This recipe is great for busy weeknights, date night, or when you've got company over. It doesn't take much to make salmon taste really delicious. Getting back to the basics is what makes this so special. There's nothing fancy, but it sure tastes good.
What you'll need
- Salmon - most salmon fillets that you buy from the grocery store, Atlantic salmon in particular, will be around 1" thick, and that's what our kitchen based the timing on in this recipe
- Salt & pepper - it's important to generously season each piece of salmon to bring out the flavors
- Olive oil - for pan searing
- Butter - the base of the delicious sauce
- Lemon juice - for brightness and acidity. Always use freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Garlic - I like to mince it with this garlic press since you don't need to peel the cloves first.
- Parsley - it's optional, but it adds a great pop of freshness and more flavor
How to make garlic butter salmon
This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Cut the salmon into four equal sized pieces, pat dry, and season with salt & pepper.
- Heat up the oil and 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet. Cook the salmon skin-side down for about 5 minutes, and then turn the heat down and cook the other side for a few more minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Melt the remaining butter in the pan, and stir in the garlic and lemon juice until the garlic is just cooked.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, and then return the fish. Spoon the sauce over, and garnish with fresh parsley if using!
- Let the fish warm up for 15-20 minutes prior to starting the recipe if you can, and pat it dry before adding the salt & pepper. This helps it not stick to the pan.
- Ensure the pan gets nice and hot before you add the salmon. Don't crowd the pan. It's better to cook the fish in two batches than stuff all the pieces in at once.
- Resist the urge to move the salmon around the pan. It needs to cook undisturbed to get a nice sear. When you go to flip the salmon, if it's sticking, give it a little more time to release naturally.
- I recommend using cooking tongs to quickly and easily flip the salmon. They're also handy for cooking any other kind of fish and meat.
How do you know when salmon is cooked?
- The key to pan searing salmon is to watch the color of the salmon change. The light pink color moves up slowly as it cooks, giving you an idea of how close it is to being ready. It will continue cooking a little after removed from the heat, too. It's easy to overcook salmon, so keep a close eye on the color.
Substitutions and variations
- This recipe has only been tested as written, so make any subs at your discretion. We found the flavors to be well balanced, but that said, you're welcome to change up the quantities (e.g., add more lemon juice or garlic).
- The salmon skin is crispy, keeps the salmon moist, and tastes great when served right away, but you can definitely discard if that's not your thing.
What to serve with this salmon
- Try some restaurant-style Mashed Potatoes for a hearty meal. Mashed potatoes with extra butter and garlic? Yes please.
- Rice or pasta works too. My Garlic Butter Noodles are a quick and easy option if you want to double down on garlicky goodness.
- For a lighter option, my Super Simple Parmesan Arugula Salad is a winner.
Leftovers and storage
- I like to eat seafood fresh, but leftovers will keep for a couple of days in the fridge in an airtight container. I don't recommend freezing this one.
- Warm it up slowly over a low heat in a saucepan. If you reheat too fast and on a high heat, it's liable to dry out.
- Leftovers of this salmon are fantastic served cold in a salad for lunch the next day.
Questions about this garlic butter pan-seared salmon recipe, or did you make it? Let me know in the comments below, or find me on Instagram!
Garlic Butter Salmon
- 1 pound salmon cut into 4 pieces
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter divided
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or more, to taste
- 4-5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley optional
- Take the salmon out of the fridge 15-20 minutes before starting the recipe if you can. Cut the salmon into 4 equal pieces and pat it dry with paper towel. Season each piece generously with salt & pepper.
- Add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter to a skillet over medium-high heat. Allow the pan to heat up for a few minutes.
- Cook the salmon (skin-side down) for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and flip the fish over and cook for another 2-4 minutes (should be cooked through). Transfer the salmon to a plate.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the remaining butter to the pan and let it melt. Stir in the garlic and lemon juice. Continue stirring for a minute or so until the garlic is just cooked (do not let it burn or it'll taste bitter). Take the skillet off the heat once it's done.
- Add the salmon back to the skillet and spoon some sauce over top and sprinkle parsley on if using. Serve immediately. I like to add more fresh lemon juice to mine, so you may want to serve it with lemon wedges so everyone can add more as needed. The salmon skin is nice and crispy (and tasty) if you eat it right away, but you can easily peel it off once it's cooked if you prefer.
- I used Atlantic salmon that was about 1" thick for this recipe. If your salmon is thicker or thinner, you may need to adjust cooking time a bit.
- It's ok if you've got a bit over a pound of salmon, just make sure it's not too much over or the salmon pieces will be crowded in the pan and not cook properly.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
Very good, easy to make and helps get dinner on the table fast without looking like you did.
Thank you so much!!
AM Boles says
Delicious and easy! My fussy salmon eater ate every morsel!
Hi! Lovely recipe. For dietary reasons can’t use this much butter. Is there a tasty alternative you would recommend? Thank you!
Hi Elizabeth! Maybe some olive oil? I'm really hesitant to suggest something without testing since the whole sauce really is based on butter. I often air fry salmon for myself, so that could actually be a great option for you. I don't have a recipe for it on here, but I basically make a little foil "boat" (like with enough of a lip/edge that juices won't spill everywhere but the top is open), spray it with a little olive oil, pop a piece of salmon on it (skin up), spray the fish with olive oil, and then air fry it at 400F until it's done (varies from air fryer to air fryer and depends on the thickness of the fish, but you can experiment a bit). One of my fav healthy ways to enjoy salmon.
I bought salmon steaks for this recipe. How do you crisp the skin since the heat is touching the salmon side not the skin. Should I have bought a filet?
Hi! Yes, this recipe was intended for salmon fillets, but you could use the steaks - no problem. I'd probably just grab them with tongs when they're almost cooked through and hold the skin against the pan and rotate as needed to cook it a bit.
Stephanie K says
I just made this tonight. OMG. Delish! The whole family and a friend LOVED it! Nothing left over. 🙂
Perfect!! I'm thrilled to hear that, Stephanie! 😀 Thanks for taking the time to write me a review.
This recipe is amazing. So easy and tastes better than a restaurant. I’ve made it several times!
Yay!! I'm so happy to hear that, Carla!
My new favorite salmon recipe! It was crusty on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside. It was also very easy. Thank you!👍
Fantastic!! So pleased you enjoyed it. Thanks for your review! 😀
Hello just wanted to let you know my salmon was almost and I was wondering if it’s 297 calories per piece or per salmon Thank you Melissa
Your salmon was almost what? Yes, it's 297 calories per serving... so 1/4 pound per person.
Kathryn Martin says
This is literally thee best salmon recipe I’ve ever tried. I don’t think I will ever make salmon any other way!
Aww I'm thrilled to hear that!! Thanks so much for letting me know. 😀
Sandy Annable says
Making this tonight! Can’t wait to give it a try! Always looking forward to a little different twist for salmon!
I hope you enjoy it, Sandy!! 🙂
Do you leave the skin on the salmon? I want to make it tomorrow!!
Hi Mary! I do... it's all explained in the recipe if you read it through. 🙂 I prefer to keep the skin on since it helps keep it moist while cooking and it's also tasty (but also easy to remove after you've cooked it if you prefer). Hope you enjoy it!
This was extremely easy to make and absolutely delicious! Will be making this again and again. Thanks for an easy and healthy recipe!
I'm so happy you enjoyed it, Isabel!! Thanks for reviewing it! 😀
Hi Natasha, sure wish you would add a "Jump to Recipe" button to your recipes! Thanks!
Hi Barb, the blog posts are full of useful tips that help ensure recipe success. I earn my living through ad revenue, so scrolling for a few seconds if you don't want to read the posts still ensures I get paid for my hard work. 🙂