Learn how to make baked sockeye salmon using this easy recipe! The rich and bright red fish is ultra-flavorful, especially when cooked with garlic butter and fresh lemon.
Salmon is a staple in my kitchen. Not only does it pair well with endless flavors and side dishes, but it’s also easy to bake in the oven, pan-sear, air fry, sous vide, and more.
This baked sockeye salmon, however, is not your average salmon recipe. It’s perfect for special occasions because fresh wild-caught sockeye salmon is typically only available on the west coast of the U.S. for a short period during summer.
Whenever it would be readily available at the grocery store, my mom would pick up a few extra portions to freeze so we could enjoy it throughout the year!
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What is sockeye salmon?
Sockeye salmon is a variety of salmon found throughout the west coast of the U.S. and Canada (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska). They have a vibrant orange-red flesh and a smaller body compared to other varieties. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, sockeye salmon are also called “red salmon” because their bodies become bright red when they return to their spawning grounds.
Sockeye salmon vs. regular salmon
Most of the salmon that’s available in grocery stores in North America is farmed Atlantic salmon. The filets are thick, pink in color, and somewhat buttery and fishy in flavor. Atlantic salmon can be sold fresh, frozen, or canned.
Sockeye salmon, on the other hand, is harvested almost always in Alaska or in the Pacific Northwest. The flesh is a brilliant orange-red color and very fatty, meaning it’s extra rich in flavor. And while sockeye salmon can be canned, most of what you’ll find in the U.S. is fresh or frozen (according to NOAA Fisheries).
Every bite of this salmon recipe is well-balanced thanks to simple seasonings and flavor enhancers. These are the ingredients you need:
- Sockeye salmon – If you’re already a fan of regular salmon, then you’re going to LOVE sockeye salmon. It’s the second-most fatty salmon (after Chinook), which gives it a rich flavor and texture. Wild-caught sockeye salmon is easy to find along the west coast of North America, from Oregon to Alaska, during the harvesting season from May to September.
- Butter – The butter is melted and mixed with the olive oil and garlic. The delicious garlic butter is poured over the salmon to infuse it with fat and flavor.
- Olive oil – To prevent the fish from sticking to the foil.
- Garlic – Use fresh garlic cloves to give the garlic butter punchy, savory flavors.
- Lemon – The fish is cooked on top of and dressed with fresh lemon slices. The acidity from the lemon adds balance among the rich and fatty fish.
- Salt and pepper – For flavor.
- Dill – For garnish.
Seasonal fish tip
Did you know that salmon and other seafood freezes very well? This is great if certain fish like sockeye salmon, grouper, and Chilean sea bass are only available for a limited time.
Once you buy the fillets, place them in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Label the date to six months in the future and you can enjoy seasonal fish year round!
How to bake sockeye salmon in the oven
These easy-to-follow steps will teach you how to bake salmon and highlight its unique flavor with the simple seasonings. Ready to bake some salmon?
Step 1: Prepare the flavor boosters
Lightly grease a baking tray covered with foil and add half of the lemon slices. Whisk the melted butter, oil, and minced garlic in a small bowl.
Step 2: Season the salmon
Place the sockeye salmon filet on top of the lemon slices in the pan. Pour the garlic butter mixture over top, then garnish with salt and pepper.
Step 3: Bake
Bake the salmon until it’s tender and flaky. Take the fish out of the oven and top it with the remaining lemon slices and the fresh dill. Tent it in foil and let it rest for 5 minutes (this seals in the juices and flavor), then slice and serve.
- Allow the salmon to come down to room temperature before baking. You can do this by letting the filet rest on the kitchen counter for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Like lemon pepper or stuffed salmon, you can make this recipe with frozen salmon but the filet will need to be thawed completely in the fridge before you begin.
- Enhance the flavor by dressing the salmon with a tangy gremolata sauce or fresh herbs and capers, wrapping it completely in foil, and baking as normal. You can learn more about the benefits of baking salmon in foil in my Baked Keta Salmon recipe.
- You’ll know the salmon is done baking when it flakes easily and has an internal temperature of 145ºF.
To store: Keep the leftover baked salmon in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To freeze: Once cool, place the leftovers in an airtight container and freeze it for up to 2 months.
Reheating: Reheat it in the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds or until warmed through.
More salmon recipes to try
You can find fresh sockeye salmon at grocery stores and from fishmongers in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska during summer (May through September usually). Frozen sockeye salmon, on the other hand, is sometimes available year-round depending on where you are in the world.
The baked red salmon is the star of this meal, but you can highlight its rich flavors with the right side dishes. Serve the filet with Greek couscous salad, mashed potatoes, green goddess salad, or asparagus.
Absolutely! Learn how to pan fry the salmon using the instructions in my Pan Seared Salmon recipe.
Grilling sockeye salmon is a great way to infuse a smoky flavor into this buttery fish. To grill, follow the instructions in my cast iron skillet salmon.
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Sockeye Salmon Recipe
- Bring the salmon to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 190C/380F. Line a large baking tray with tin foil and lightly coat it with cooking spray. Add half the sliced lemon to the base.
- Whisk together the melted butter, olive oil, and minced garlic.
- Transfer the salmon to the baking dish. Pour the garlic butter oil mixture over the fish and season with salt and pepper.
- Roll the sides of the foil up slightly and bake the salmon for 17 minutes, or until tender on top.
- Remove the sockeye salmon from the oven, top it with remaining lemon slice and fresh dill, and cover with foil. Let the fish rest for 5 minutes, before serving.
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Tasty way to cook and serve salmon.