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

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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


  • Arrange the salmon fillets, skin side down on a plate, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • 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.
  • Process until finely chopped, then add the cilantro and basil and process again until smooth.
  • Note: You may need to add a little water if you feel the sauce is too thick.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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