Make pan-seared salmon the easy way with this recipe! If you’re after that restaurant-quality crispy skin, learning how to cook salmon in a pan like a pro will elevate your weeknight dinner routine for life.

A close up of 4 pan seared salmon filets in a skillet.
Photo Credits: Ali Redmond

You can make delicious pan-seared salmon with shatteringly crispy skin in just about 15 minutes! The trick is to get the pan nice and hot, place the salmon skin side down, and then leave it alone. The skin will crisp up beautifully and release easily from the pan once cooked through. As a bonus, the skin protects the fish from the high heat so the flesh gently cooks to buttery-tender perfection.

Beyond this easy (I promise!) technique, I dial up the flavor of my pan seared salmon with savory Mediterranean spices like dried oregano, paprika, and garlic powder. Fresh lemon and arugula lift the flavor, making for a light, healthy, and satisfying meal that’s fancy enough for date night but quick enough for a busy Wednesday. I love this easy salmon recipe and I know you'll love it too! 

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredients for Pan Seared Salmon
  2. Ingredient Spotlight
  3. How to Cook Salmon in a Pan
  4. Do You Eat Salmon Skin?
  5. What to Serve with Pan Seared Salmon
  6. The Many Wonderful Ways To Cook Salmon
  7. Pan Seared Salmon Recipe
Ingredients for pan seared salmon including 4 salmon filets, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, olive oil, lemons, and arugula.

Ingredients for Pan Seared Salmon

You only need fish, oil, and salt to cook salmon in a pan, but an easy dry rub brings incredible depth with just a minute or so of extra time. Here are the ingredients: 

  • Salmon filets: Look for skin-on salmon filets about 4-ounces each, or slice a large piece into four equal portions.
  • Seasoning: Dried oregano, garlic powder, and paprika give the fish an aromatic, deeply savory quality. Salt and pepper enhance the flavor. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil prevents the salmon from sticking to the pan. Many are nervous about cooking with olive oil over high heat, but it's a very stable oil as long as you use an extra virgin variety.
  • Lemon and fish go together like peanut butter and jelly. A simple hit of lemon juice is an essential seasoning, lifting the savory flavor. I wouldn't go without it, but lime juice can work well too.
  • Baby arugula adds a fresh peppery flavor, but is optional.
Pepper bundle from the Mediterranean Dish shop, with Urfa Biber, smoked spanish paprika, sweet spanish paprika, and Aleppo pepper.
Pepper Bundle from The Mediterranean Dish shop.

Ingredient Spotlight

Paprika causes endless confusion for such a common household spice. Should you use sweet, smoked, or just plain or “paprika”? Are they interchangeable at the end of the day? While every type of paprika is made from ground red peppers, the variety of peppers and process is slightly different. 

Standard paprika, also labeled “sweet paprika,” is rather subtle. It adds color and aroma more than anything, with a very mild heat you’d hardly notice. Hot paprika is similar but made from hotter peppers so it packs a relatively bigger punch, though I’d still describe it as mild spice-wise. Smoked paprika is, well, smoky, and quite dominant so it’s not ideal for swapping with the sweet version.

Even though paprika is not as in-your-face bold as dried chili flakes, it adds an incredible nuance to dishes, enhancing their flavor while asking for little of the spotlight. 

  • THE BIG PICTURE: If a recipe calls for paprika, assume it’s sweet paprika or simply “paprika.” Each version has its own flavor profile so swapping one for another will significantly impact the flavor of your dish. It's best to use what is called for in the recipe.
  • TRY IT: Find smoked Spanish paprika, sweet paprika, and more at our spice shop
  • BEST SUBSTITUTE: People often say cayenne pepper, but keep in mind that cayenne is quite a bit spicier than smoked or sweet paprika. I prefer to substitute something like Aleppo pepper or Urfa Biber for their milder flavor profiles. Should you use cayenne reduce the amount called for in the recipe by ⅔.
A close up of a pan seared salmon filet on a plate with a fork, lemon wedge, and a side of arugula in front of the rest of the salmon in a skillet and a glass of water.

How to Cook Salmon in a Pan

Though it seems fancy, the trick to pan searing salmon is to do less. As tempting as it is to move the salmon, this causes the skin to rip. Simply step back and let the salmon do its thing and I promise it will release from the pan!

  • Season the salmon. In small bowl, mix together 1 ½ tablespoons oregano, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, and ¾ teaspoon paprika. Use paper towels to pat the fish very dry on all sides and sprinkle all over with salt and black pepper, then rub the spices all over the flesh side of the fish.
  • Preheat the pan and oil. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. When the skillet is hot, add enough oil to coat the bottom (about 2 tablespoons) and wait for the oil to shimmer but not smoke. 
  • Sear the salmon. Once shimmering, turn the heat to medium-low and add one salmon filet with the skin-side down. Press the top with a fish spatula for about 10 seconds, which prevents the skin from curling. Add the remaining salmon filets, one at a time, pressing each with the spatula for 10 seconds.
  • Don’t disturb the salmon. Cook until the skin is golden and crispy, about 4 minutes. If the skin is sticking to the pan, allow the fish to cook a little longer. This, in essence, is how to cook salmon in a pan. Easy!A close up of 4 pan seared salmon filets in a skillet.
  • Flip until cooked through, about 15 seconds. Transfer the seared salmon to a large rimmed plate. Immediately zest on one of the lemons over the top of the fish, slice the lemon in half, and squeeze the juice over the fillets.A close up of 4 salmon filets being pan seared in a skillet. Two are flesh side up, and two are skin side up.
  • Make arugula salad. In a medium bowl, add the baby arugula, a pinch of salt, the juice of ½ of the remaining lemon, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine.An overhead photo of arugula in a bowl.
  • Serve. Serve the crispy skin salmon with arugula and lemon wedges on the side.A close up of a pan seared salmon filet on a plate with a fork, lemon wedge, and a side of arugula next to a glass of water.

Do You Eat Salmon Skin?

YES! When it is delicious and crispy, you can definitely eat that skin. Most people don’t think you can or don’t want to because many cooking methods can leave skin soggy. But you will get none of that here! Crispy skin salmon is like eating the golden skin of a whole roast chicken. So delicious!

A close up overhead photo of a pan seared salmon filet on a plate with a fork, lemon wedge, and a side of arugula.

What to Serve with Pan Seared Salmon

You have the fresh element covered with the simple arugula salad or roasted broccoli, so I like to throw on a grain for some heft and added nutrition.

Citrus and crispy skin salmon are such a great match, so I often go for Greek Lemon Rice, but even simple Basmati Rice is always comforting and delicious. If you love spice, serve with Zhoug (Spicy Cilantro Sauce) for drizzling.

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The Many Wonderful Ways To Cook Salmon

4.89 from 17 votes

Pan Seared Salmon

The Mediterranean Dish
4 salmon filets in a skillet after being pan seared. Next to this is a bowl of spices, a juiced lemon half and a towel.
This 15-minute crispy pan seared salmon will quickly become a go-to dinner! Prepared Mediterranean-style and served with a simple arugula salad.
Prep – 10 minutes
Cook – 5 minutes
Cuisine:
Mediterranean
Serves – 4 serves 4
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • 4 4 ounce skin-on salmon filets (about 1 pound salmon, or a large piece sliced into 4 filets)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 5 ounces baby arugula for serving (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Season the salmon. In small bowl, mix together the oregano, garlic powder and paprika. Use paper towels to pat the fish very dry on all sides and sprinkle all over with salt and black pepper, then rub the spices all over the flesh side of the fish.
  • Preheat the pan and oil. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. When the skillet is hot, add enough oil to coat the bottom (about 2 tablespoons) and wait for the oil to shimmer but not smoke.
  • Sear the salmon. Once shimmering, turn the heat to medium-low and add one salmon filet with the skin-side down. Press the top with a fish spatula for about 10 seconds, which prevents the skin from curling up. Add the remaining salmon filets, one at a time, pressing each with the spatula for 10 seconds.
  • Don’t disturb the salmon. Cook until the skin is golden and crispy, about 4 minutes. If skin resists lifting (or if it’s sticking to the pan), allow the fish to cook for a little bit longer until you are able to lift up easily, which should take no more than 6 minutes in total.
  • Flip until cooked through, about 15 seconds. Transfer the seared salmon to a large rimmed plate. Immediately zest on one of the lemons, slice it in half, and squeeze the juice all over.
  • Make arugula salad. In a medium bowl, add the baby arugula, a pinch of salt, the juice of ½ of the remaining lemon, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine.
  • Serve. Serve the crispy skin salmon with arugula and lemon wedges on the side.

Notes

  • Shop this recipe: Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including the olive oil, oregano, and paprika used in this recipe.
  • Salmon is ready when it flakes easily with a fork at the thickest part. If you’re using a thermometer:
    • Rare: 110°F (43°C)
    • Medium-rare: 120°F (49°C)
    • Medium: 130°F (54°C)

Nutrition

Calories: 92.3kcalCarbohydrates: 18.3gProtein: 6.2gFat: 1.5gSaturated Fat: 0.3gSodium: 47.1mgPotassium: 772.6mgFiber: 6.9gSugar: 3.6gVitamin A: 4340.9IUVitamin C: 21.3mgCalcium: 346.6mgIron: 5.7mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. Bill Assad says:

    Hi Suzy!
    I hope this finds you well and happy this day!
    Thank-you for the fine recipes and for the cookbook that I purchased a few months ago.
    I am always sitting down at my computer when getting your email recipe /meal suggestions. Good thing because you are such a Knock Out!
    Much Love,
    Bill Assad

  2. Susan says:

    5 stars
    Crispy and delicious

  3. Camille says:

    Excellent recipe. It came out perfect and the mix of spices are great. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. JohnO says:

    5 stars
    Excellent procedure! Simple, fast and perfect outcome. Thanks

  5. Diana K Hix-Watford says:

    5 stars
    I waited for weeks to try this recipe as my husband doesn't eat any fish. When my daughter was over, I had it. What a perfect blend of flavors and a fantastic way to eat the crispy skin (and I do mean crispy) It was absolutely fantastic! Thank you Suzy for another great recipe.

    1. Suzy says:

      You are very welcome, Diana! So glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Jon says:

    I love to pan fry salmon like this. I often marinate the fish in a splash of some quality anchovy fish sauce and tamari for a slightly oriental twist. The tamari caramelises too giving great flavour.

    1. Suzy says:

      Ooo! Yum! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Gary says:

    5 stars
    Great recipe Suzy.....One tip however would be to SCORE the skin with a very sharp knife. Depending on the size of your salmon filet just make diagnoal cuts (3-4) but DO NOT cut into the fish too deep, The goal here is to just penetrate the skin so as the cooking will be a bit quicker AND your presentation of the fish will look......professional. Just my two cents Suzy!

    1. Suzy says:

      Very interesting! Thanks for the tip, Gary!

  8. Lynn C. says:

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! Great flavors! This recipe will be in our weekly rotation.

    1. Suzy says:

      Wonderful! Thanks, Lynn!

  9. Ellen B says:

    5 stars
    Each of Suzy's salmon recipes is different, and ALL are yummy, healthy, and accessible, so you can have salmon weekly and not repeat recipes!

  10. Vikki says:

    5 stars
    Delicious salmon, whole family loved this tasty dinner!

    1. Suzy says:

      Awesome, Vikki! So glad you liked it

  11. Erin says:

    5 stars
    This was a great recipe! The amounts for the herb mix were perfect, and I really appreciated the direction for a proper sear to get the skin crispy. I'd never done that before! It turned out really well. I'll be doing this one regularly, for sure. Thank you! Love your recipes.

    1. Suzy says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Erin!

  12. Jim says:

    I have a whole Costco bag of Skinless salmon filets. Will this recipe's pan frying technique work with skinless filets, or is there a tweak that can get the advantage of pan-searing without the skin?

    1. Suzy says:

      You can try it, Jim. But I personally prefer skin-on salmon for this particular recipe. If you need to use up the salmon fillets, maybe try this baked lemon garlic salmon.