Seared Salmon Fillets with Cilantro Pesto

An Asian-inspired pesto made with cilantro, basil, garlic, ginger and jalapeño adds a delicious blend of bold, fresh flavors to simple, pan-seared salmon fillets. Serve it with a side of steamed rice, orzo or couscous to be sure you soak up every drop of the sauce!

Seared Salmon Fillets with Cilantro Pesto

Seared Salmon Fillets with Cilantro Pesto

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

An Asian-style pesto made with cilantro, basil, garlic and ginger is a perfect complement to quick-cooking, pan-seared salmon fillets.


  • 4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets, skin on
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 lime wedges (optional)

For the cilantro pesto:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons fish (or soy) sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
  • Chunk of peeled, fresh ginger (about 1-inch diameter, 1/4-inch thick)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 scallion, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, tightly packed
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped


  1. Arrange the salmon fillets, skin side down on a plate, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Prepare the pesto by adding the vegetable oil, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, ginger, jalapeño and scallion to a blender or the work bowl of a food processor.
  3. Process until finely chopped, then add the cilantro and basil and process again until smooth.
  4. Note: You may need to add a little water if you feel the sauce is too thick.
  5. Taste and adjust the flavor to your liking by adding a touch more fish sauce, lime juice or sugar. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside (makes about 1/2 cup).
  6. Preheat a heavy skillet (nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron) over medium-high heat. Film the bottom with a small amount of oil and add the salmon, skin side down. Cook without moving until the skin is nicely seared and releases easily, 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Carefully turn the fillets with tongs (you can easily remove the skin at this point if desired) and continue cooking to desired doneness, 2 to 3 minutes additional.
  8. Transfer the salmon to a platter and spoon a little of the pesto on top. Pass the remaining pesto at the table and serve with steamed rice and a side dish like our Asian-Style Sautéed Spinach.