This salmon pesto pasta recipe comes together fast and makes an elegant meal that's great for a quick weeknight dinner. You can either use jarred or homemade pesto.
This salmon pasta with pesto took me a couple of tries to get right. Pesto can be quite oily, so I had to be careful with what I cooked the salmon in as well as how much cream I added. I think cream makes pretty much any sauce taste better, but I will say that for this recipe you can just leave it out if you prefer. Pesto can be quite strong, and the cream mellows it out a bit.
I prefer using homemade pesto in this recipe, but I totally get that it's not always practical or convenient to make it (like when it's not basil season, for example). I rarely buy jarred pesto, so I don't have any particular brand loyalty at this point, but I recommend using something you love since the pesto flavor really shines in this recipe.
Love pesto? Try my Creamy Pesto Shrimp Gnocchi.
Recipe notes & tips:
- You can buy salmon with the skin on or already removed. If you bought salmon with the skin on and don't want to eat it, you can simply peel it off after you've done the searing step.
- I don't recommend subbing the cream for anything else like half-and-half or milk because the acid in the sauce is likely to make it curdle. Coconut milk will make it too oily, so just leave the cream out if need be (you can always add more pesto to the sauce if you want).
- Some jarred pestos can already be quite lemony, so keep that in mind. You may not need to add the extra lemon juice to the recipe.
- Feel free to use any kind of pasta for this recipe.
- If you're looking to add some extra veggies to this pesto salmon pasta, chopped asparagus would be a nice addition. You could sear some for 5 minutes or so (until it's tender crisp) after you've seared the salmon, then add it back into the pan at the same time as the salmon.
More salmon pasta recipes you'll love:
- Easy Smoked Salmon Pasta
- Lemon Dill Salmon Pasta
- Garlic Butter Salmon Pasta
- Salmon Pasta with a Creamy Garlic Sauce
Will you give this creamy salmon pesto pasta recipe a try?
Questions? Leave me a comment below. If you made this recipe, tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram so I can see it!
Salmon Pesto Pasta
- 1 pound fresh salmon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- Flour for dredging
- 1/3 cup chicken broth or dry white wine
- 1/3 cup pesto (click for my recipe or use your fav jarred variety)
- 1/4 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice optional
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese optional
- 8 ounces uncooked pasta
- Boil a salted pot of water for your pasta and cook it al dente according to package directions.
- Sprinkle the salmon with the garlic powder and some salt & pepper. Coat it in flour on all sides.
- In a skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon for about 3 minutes/side until lightly golden.
- Take the pan off the heat. Remove the salmon to a plate and set aside. Pour the fat out of the skillet, but leave the nice browned bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pan (don't wipe the pan out).
- Add the chicken broth and pesto and return the pan to the burner. Cook for about 30 seconds while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add in the cream and lemon juice and let the sauce bubble for about a minute. Add the salmon back in and break it into pieces with your spoon. Reduce the heat and let it gently cook for another 5 minutes or so (the sauce will thicken up as well).
- Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.
- I don't recommend subbing the cream for milk or half-and-half because the sauce won't be the same, and they are likely to curdle. You can leave it out if you need to.
- The lemon juice is optional because some jarred pestos already have lemon in it, and the sauce can end up too tangy.
- 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.
Love this recipe SO much! What an easy, after-work meal! My family loved it & I am not one to repeat recipes very much... But this is going in my repertoire! I substituted cream for fat free half-and-half, and turned out perfect!
I'm thrilled to hear that! 🙂
Angela Loney says
This was amazing! I want to make this for a friend who just had a baby but need to make it the day ahead, how would you recommend doing this? Freezing and then thawing the next day? Just refrigerating? Do you have re-heating instructions?
I would just reheat it slowly over a low heat so the sauce doesn't break. 🙂
Soooooo good. I live the flavor of the salmon and pesto. My husband said it should be in a restaurant menu
I'm thrilled to hear that, LeAnn!! Thank you! 😀
I made this for a small dinner party tonight. Not only were there no leftovers our guests were scraping tiny bits from the bowl and serving spoon. Your recipes always make me look like a good cook …though I do give you credit 😊 Thanks!
That's so nice to hear haha! I love that. 😀 Thanks for your review!
Christina Gaudreau says
This is FABULOUS! My husband, son and I practically licked our plates. Lol I wouldn't change a thing about it. Yum!
Miranda @ Salt & Lavender says
Haha I love that! Thanks so much, Christina!
This was a hit for dinner last night. The only thing I would change next time is to reduce the ratio of chicken broth to pesto. I would prefer to have a little more of the pesto flavor.
I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Yup, you could definitely tweak it a bit next time.
Hello, Has anyone tried freezing the left overs, how did that turn out?
I've made this recipe 5 times in the past few weeks since I discovered it. We've had it with salmon, pork sausages, steak, shrimp and chicken, and it was absolutely delicious every time. Want to try paneer some time too. I've been adding baby spinach and brocolli which is great. This one is a go to for my family now. Thanks!
I love those ideas!! So happy it's a new favorite, Carly! 🙂
Just made this. YUM 😋 it was delicious and my hubby gave 9.5 out of 10 cos I didn’t have Parmesan 🤣
Definitely be making this again. I did add onion n mushroom 👍
Haha I'm so glad it was a hit!
This was delicious!! I added asparagus and our family devoured this dish. Thank you!
That's great!! Thanks for your review, Rochelle!
Holly D. says
This is easily one of the most delicious recipes ive ever made! <3 I also added some lemon zest at the end. CHEFS KISS!
I'm thrilled you enjoyed it, Holly!! 😀 Love the lemon zest idea!
A weeknight rotation in my house. I’ve made this several times and my whole family loves it. I even double the sauce and noodles sometimes to ensure leftovers. Also, so easy to add veg to. We’ve tried and loved spinach, asparagus, and broccoli so far.
That's so nice to hear, Jordan!! Thanks for taking the time to write me a review. 😀
I used leftover cooked salmon fillets, 2% milk and light sour cream, equal amounts. I just heated up the pesto, milk and sour cream very slowly after adding it cold in a pan. No curdling, delicious!
Glad it worked out!
Could you sub mahi mahi for salmon?
It was amazing with mahi mahi! And so easy to make with great directions!
Miranda @ Salt & Lavender says
That's wonderful to hear, Adam!!
Made this tonight—and honestly, salmon and pesto are a match made in heaven. I substituted carrot noodles at the last minute (hubby and I both need to monitor our carb intake—we aren’t as young as we once were), and what a yummy surprise. Other than that, I followed the recipe to a tee. This goes on regular rotation! Tasted far more decadent than it actually was.
Excellent!! I'm so happy you two enjoyed it. 😀
Hello may I ask how come the finished pasta looks a lot "drier" than the second last picture? Is it because of the cream? New to cooking 🙂
Hi Timothy! So, I believe that the only difference between the finished photos and the one of the salmon in the pan is that it's been tossed with pasta and plated. Exact same ingredients (like the cream was already in the shot with the pan, if I recall correctly). The sauce will coat the pasta, and so there's less to collect at the bottom of the pan/bowl/etc. In general, cream does make sauces thicker, though.
This was delicious !!!! I added asparagus and actually melted a little cream cheese instead of heavy whipping cream and that also worked great! Perfect simple recipe 🙂
Yay!! Glad you enjoyed it and were able to tweak it.
Can sour cream be used
I'm worried it may curdle. I'd cook it over a very LOW heat. It'll also taste more tangy than the recipe is intended, but I think it could be tasty. Let me know if you try!
Have you tried this without heavy cream? Thinking of cooking it tonight and am out of heavy cream so I will either temper and warm my milk or do away with it completely. Not sure what my best bet would be!
I think you could get away without using the cream. I'd just leave it out, and I am sure it would still be tasty. 🙂 Maybe add a splash of white wine if you need it to have a little more liquid.
Holy COW this was delicious. Took your advice and added asparagus. My “turns his nose up at fish” husband went back for seconds and said it was the best way he’s eaten salmon. 5 stars!
Miranda @ Salt & Lavender says
Thrilled to hear that, Kat! Glad your husband enjoyed it as well.
This was absolutely delicious. And fast and easy to make. My kids and I loved this!
Thrilled to hear that! Thank you. 🙂
This was amazingly good. I seldom comment on recipes but this one was too good not too. I added a little more pesto because I used a little more pasta and it was delicious. So much so I got very little to eat myelf, so have to make it again!
I'm so happy you enjoyed it, Patti! Appreciate you taking the time to write me a review.
I enjoyed this recipe for how easy and quick it was to make. I didn't have heavy cream so I added in some feta cheese and a few handfuls of spinach. It was delicious. Thank you.
You're very welcome!
Delicious and so easy! Skipped the cream, used wine instead of broth and it turned out great!
Big hit with everyone and appears to be a “fancy dish” which I will use with company in the future! Thanks for sharing.
You're very welcome!!
I used whole wheat linguini, added asparagus, and it was a hit with my family. Everyone loved it. Question: I would like to fix this for some house guests but don't want to be cooking at the last minute. Do you think I could fix this earlier in the day and then reheat?
I'm so happy you enjoyed it, Peggy! That's a tough one. I'm a little concerned that the salmon could dry out and the sauce might not reheat great. I would maybe do a test run just to see... but I'd warm it up slowly on a low heat if you do try.
Delicious!!! Followed the recipe exactly and added the asparagus that the article recommended. Would def recommend adding it for some texture. This was delicious and will add to our regular rotation!
I'm so happy you enjoyed it, Brittany! 🙂
Taylor George says
I’ve made this several times and it’s always a hit with my husband! He’s usually very honest when he doesn’t like a meal I make and tonight he said “This is a top 5 meal!” So, you’re definitely getting a five star rating from him! We added some roasted asparagus and it was even better than previous times. Thanks for the awesome recipe!
I'm so happy to hear that!! Thank you!! 🙂
Linda Gerrard says
This was a wonderful Valentine’s Day dish. I added broccolini for a side and garlic bread. It was a wonderful combination of flavors. I was happy that I had some homemade pesto in the fridge ready for this dish.
I'm thrilled you enjoyed it!! 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to review the recipe, Linda!
Linda Gerrard says
You are most welcome! I shared it on Instagram and tagged you as well. Fantastic recipe!
This was phenomenal! As if I wasn’t already sold on the five star reviews that came before me (which I was!), wow! Flavorful, simple & quick, and elegant. A restaurant quality meal that is a quick keeper!
Served with both steamed and oven roasted asparagus as a side.
Thank you so much!! I'm so pleased you liked it, Sarah! XO
Amazing! Cant wait to try it, used it for an assignment to do with healthy eating and such. Sounds delicious!
Lola O says
This was fast and bloody delicious.
Awesome!! Thank you!
OMG! Fabulous idea! Left out the cream, used leftover salmon and zucchini noodles plus whole wheat pasta!! Delicious!!!😊
I'm glad you were inspired by this one! 🙂
Hubby doesn’t like salmon, I love it. He likes this dish. Now we’re both happy.
Now that's what I like to hear!! 😀
Darlene A. says
This was absolutely delicious!! I did substitute coffee cream for the whipping cream and it worked out great! This will be on my table again soon!!
So glad to hear it!
Mare for dinner tonight and it turned out perfectly! Tack så mycket!
I made this recipe with pollack (white lake salmon) and added tomatoes and garlic. It was delicious, plus quick and easy to cook! Would definitely recommend
That's awesome!! I haven't had pollack in ages.
Joan Stickles says
Fabulous! Will make again and again. Did not flour salmon, just sautéed for the same amount of time.
I'm so happy you enjoyed it!!
Lovely! Simple to make and packed with flavour
So glad you enjoyed it!!
Loved the recipe! We added some diced up tomatoes and fresh basil leaves on top for color and flavor.
Awesome!! Thanks for commenting, Larry!
We loved this! We took your suggestion on adding asparagus so we had a one dish meal. Will make again!
So glad to hear that!! XO
Loved, loved, loved this recipe!
Has anyone tried adding fresh vegetables? Cherry tomatoes? Peas? Spinach?
I'm so happy to hear that!! I think that any of those veggies would work 🙂
Hi, Can this be served cold or is there a similar recipe that can be served cold?
Hi! Hmmm... there's cream in this one, so I'm not sure if it would be good cold. I do have a chicken pesto pasta salad that you could replace the chicken with salmon (maybe try smoked salmon)? https://www.saltandlavender.com/chicken-pesto-pasta-salad/
Matt Robinson says
Making this soon for my salmon-obsessed boys!
Let me know how it goes, Matt! 🙂
I made this and followed the recipe to the T , even buying and using heavy whipping cream and not the half and half that I had in the refrig. I had lots of basil and made my own pesto. This was one of the best recipes and tastiest I have made lately...thanks
Wonderful!! I'm so glad it worked out so well, Cathy. Thanks for taking the time to comment! XO
This recipe was super easy to make and so good! I added lemon juice and you’re right, it did end up a tad too tangy since I used a jarred pesto. Loved it anyway and will make more of this 😉
I'm so glad you enjoyed it!! Yeah, I was kinda surprised how tangy the jarred pesto I tried was.
So easy and delicious! Can easily be scaled to make larger or smaller. This is a restaurant-quality dish!
I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Amy! Thanks for leaving a review! XO
Salmon and pesto...who knew it would be so good?!! Loud yums were heard all the way around when I served this and my husband even volunteered to do the dishes. Hooray and thank you!
Ooh that's awesome!! I am so glad to hear that. Thanks for leaving me a comment! 🙂
What do you think about canned salmon as a substitution?
I think you could give it a try if you're looking for a quick pantry meal, but it definitely will taste different.
Mary jo says
Amazing ! can't wait to try it <3