15 minutes to the perfect oven baked spicy salmon! The secret to this spicy fish is the tantalizing sauce (or marinade) made of fresh lime juice harissa, garlic, and honey. This easy salmon recipe is next level delicious!
Perfect spicy baked salmon you’ll make on repeat!
There are many ways to jazz up a salmon fillet for a quick fish dinner any night of the week. Because it’s a rich, fatty fish, it takes well to delicious sauces and bold flavors. For this recipe, we're going for a spicy twist!
This is another one to add to the collection of easy salmon recipes. This time, a center cut salmon fillet takes on a secret sauce with harissa chile paste, lime juice, garlic, and a little honey--flavor in every bite!
Once you put the sauce together, which takes literally two minutes, you’ll spread it all over the salmon, cover it with foil, and then stick it in the oven to bake for about 10 to 15 minutes. It can’t get easier than that!
Spicy sauce for salmon
In my opinion, the perfect sauce for a spicy fish recipe is one that hits the right balance of heat, tang, and sweetness, which is exactly what you’ll find in today’s recipe! When you combine harissa paste with Aleppo pepper, you get good heat that’s tamed and complemented by honey and a good splash of lime juice. I love this sauce so much and have used it on grilled salmon as well! It doubles up as a salmon marinade (if you want to let the fish sit briefly while the oven heats) is quick and made of a few simple ingredients. Here is what you need to make this spicy sauce:
- Extra virgin olive oil – I used our Italian Nocellara EVOO because it has the perfect peppery notes to enhance the sauce.
- Harissa paste – Harissa is a Tunisian/North African chile paste made with red chiles, garlic, olive oil, citrus, and warm spices. Homemade or quality store-bought harissa paste will work in this recipe. If using store-bought, adjust the amount of harissa paste to your palate. Some store-bought brands are very spicy, so it's good to start with less harissa paste than recommended in this recipe (as little as 1 tablespoon), taste, and add more if you need.
- Honey – The honey won’t turn this into a sweet sauce; instead, it tames the spicy ingredients, while also allowing them to shine.
- Fresh lime juice – You need the juice of 2 large limes to make the sauce perfectly zingy, plus a few optional lime wedges to serve.
- Minced garlic – 3 to 4 large garlic cloves add the right amount of garlicky goodness.
- Spices – Aleppo pepper, coriander, cumin, ground ginger
How to make baked salmon with spicy harissa sauce
Here’s the step-by-step for how to make this easy spicy fish in the oven (printer-friendly recipe with measurements below):
- Make the spicy sauce. In a mixing bowl, combine ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil with 2 to 3 tablespoons harissa paste, 1 or 2 tablespoons honey, the juice of 2 large limes, 3 to 4 minced garlic cloves, spices (1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, 1 teaspoon coriander, ½ teaspoon cumin, and ½ teaspoon ground ginger), and a pinch of kosher salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside for now.
- Coat the salmon with the sauce. Lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking pan with some EVOO. Pour a little sauce in the center of the baking pan (about ¼ cup). Pat the salmon fillet dry and season on both sides with kosher salt. Place it into the baking pan. Spoon the sauce all over the salmon and spread it well. Make sure all the salmon is coated in the spicy harissa sauce.
- Bake the spicy fish. Cover with aluminum foil and place the baking pan on the center rack of a 375 degrees F heated oven. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon) or until the salmon is almost completely cooked through. Fully cooked salmon will have an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, so take the salmon out of the oven when it is a few degrees lower than that. Remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the foil. Return the salmon back to the oven, this time put it under the broiler briefly (watching it closely) for the top of the fish to gain some color. Test with a fork; salmon is fully cooked when it turns from translucent to opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
- Finish and serve. Remove the spicy baked fish from the oven and serve it with lime wedges and sides of your choice (check out some ideas below).
Tips for the best baked salmon
As with all fish recipes, it’s important to choose a quality piece of fish and to cook it just right so it is not dry. Here are a few tips:
- Try to use wild-caught salmon fillet. If you can, it is always better to go for a wild-caught piece of fish. Sometimes, your best bet is to find it in the freezer section (just thaw the fish ahead of time according to package instructions).
- Use a center-cut salmon fillet. A center-cut fillet will give you a heftier piece that is fairly uniform in thickness, which means the whole piece of fish will cook at the same speed (so no overcooked edges and raw middles!).
- Cover with foil to bake for tender, never-dry salmon. The foil will trap steam and help along the cooking process without drying out the spicy fish.
- Use a meat thermometer. Baked salmon will typically cook in about 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when it flakes easily at the touch of a fork. But it can go from perfectly flaky to overcooked and rubbery in a minute. Take out the guesswork by using a meat thermometer. Fish is cooked when it has an internal temperature of 145 degrees F (with the thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish).
Can I make this spicy harissa salmon ahead of time?
Baked salmon is best prepared and eaten right away. And this recipe does not take a ton of prep work, although if you want, you can prepare the sauce ahead of time and keep it in a mason jar in the fridge for a day or two.
Serve spicy salmon with
I love serving this harissa lime salmon with a side of bright veggies like sautéed asparagus or crispy lemon broccoli. You can also serve it with a side of Greek baked fries or over your favorite grain! And a big salad is never a bad idea. Black eyed pea salad, Shirazi salad, or cooling creamy cucumber salad would be perfect here!
How to store cooked salmon leftovers
This spicy fish dish is best cooked and eaten right away. But, if you have leftovers, they will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
I don’t recommend reheating fish, particularly salmon, because it inevitably becomes dry and rubbery. Instead, you can serve it cold or at room temperature in a salad. For example, you can turn leftovers into a salmon salad!
More easy baked salmon recipes
Spicy Baked Salmon Recipe with Lime and Harissa
- 1 ½ pounds salmon fillet
- Kosher salt
For the honey, lime, and harissa sauce:
- Extra virgin olive oil, I used Italian Nocellara EVOO
- 2 to 4 tablespoons harissa paste, homemade or store-bought
- 1 to 2 tablespoons honey
- Juice of 2 large limes, plus optional lime wedges to serve
- 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- Kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Make the sauce. In a mixing bowl, add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil with the harissa paste, honey, lime juice, garlic, spices, and a pinch of kosher salt. Whisk to combine. Set the sauce aside for now.
- Pat the salmon dry and season on both sides with kosher salt, then place it in a lightly oiled 9” x 13” baking pan. If you like, you can pour a little harissa sauce into the center of the baking pan, and then place the salmon on top.
- Spoon the sauce all over the salmon and spread it well.
- Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil and place it on the center rack of the heated oven.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until salmon is almost completely cooked through at the thickest part (cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your fish. If your salmon is thinner, check several minutes early to ensure your salmon does not overcook. If your piece is very thick, 1 ½ or more inches, it may take a bit longer.)
- Carefully remove from oven and open foil to uncover the top of the salmon. Place it under the broiler briefly, about 3 minutes or so. Watch closely as it broils to make sure it doesn’t over-cook and the garlic does not burn.)
- Remove from the oven and serve with lime wedges to the side.
- Use a center-cut salmon fillet. A center-cut fillet will give you a heftier piece that is fairly uniform in thickness, which means the whole piece of fish will cook at the same speed.
- Use a meat thermometer. Fish is cooked when it has an internal temperature of 145 degrees F (with the thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish).
- Serve it with: Sautéed asparagus or crispy lemon broccoli. You can also serve it with a side of Greek baked fries or over your favorite grain! And a big salad is never a bad idea. (Black eyed pea salad or Shirazi salad would be perfect here!)
- How to store leftovers: This salmon dish is best cooked and eaten right away. If you have leftovers, they will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I don’t recommend reheating fish, because it becomes dry and rubbery. Instead, you can serve it cold or at room temperature in a salad.
- Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients, including extra virgin olive oils (like our Nocellara Italian EVOO) and spices (like the Aleppo pepper, cumin, and coriander in this recipe).