Blackened Salmon in Creamy Cajun Sauce

Blackened Salmon with a flavorful crispy crust smothered in creamy Cajun Sauce on your table in 30 minutes!

This Blackened Salmon is quick and easy and delivers restaurant flavor with minimal effort! The salmon is loaded with blackened seasonings then pan seared to create a charred, boldly seasoned exterior giving way to a
buttery, juicy interior.  The pan seared salmon fillets are smothered in a luscious cream sauce spiked with zesty Cajun spices, onions, garlic and bell peppers.   I’ve included step by step, detailed instructions in the post so you can master this Blackened Salmon recipe, even if you’ve never made fish before! 

top view of easy blackened salmon in a stainless steal skillet

Blackened Salmon Recipe

When it comes to easy, quick-cooking weeknight meals that taste restaurant delicious, salmon is often my answer.   Salmon is juicy, rich, buttery tender and literally takes minutes to cook!

I love re-inventing the friendly fish and couldn’t be more excited about this stellar Blackened Salmon recipe.  It might look fancy, but trust me, it is SO easy!  In less than 30 minutes, you’ll be sinking your teeth into tender, juicy, superbly crusted, spicy, smoky salmon fillets bathed in dreamy sauce.

This Blackened Salmon recipe is as easy as coating the fillets in a spice rub and searing each side.  You then remove the salmon and to the same pan sauté onions, bell peppers and garlic.  Add fire roasted diced tomatoes, chicken broth and heavy cream to the pan to simmer a couple minutes then stir in Parmesan and lime juice.  That’s it!  Ridiculously delicious Blackened Salmon awaits.

What does it mean when fish is blackened?

“Blackened” is a method of Cajun cooking in which fish, shrimp, meat, chicken or pork is coated in a spice rub then seared at high heat.  The seasonings char, deepen in flavor and mingle with the butter to create an irresistible dark crust that is smoky, spicy and irresistible giving way to juicy, tender fish or protein.

far away iew of pan seared blackned salmon on rice in black bowl with sauce

What’s the difference between grilled and blackened?

While both methods can develop a flavorful char on the exterior of the food, blackening always involves coating the protein in blackened seasoning first.  Grilled foods can be blackened, but not all grilled foods are blackened.

Blackened foods, on the other hand, are intentionally cooked at high heat to develop the charred crispy crust.

Where did blackening come from?

The blackening technique was populated by Chef Paul Prudhomme.  Chef didn’t have a grill at his New Orleans restaurant, so he used a hot cast iron skillet to develop the charred crust on his proteins.

What is Blackened Seasoning?

You don’t need to be a chef or own a restaurant to make Blackened Salmon!  It all starts with the seasoning.

Blackened seasoning is associated with Cajun or Creole cooking. It is a robust blend of herbs and spices resulting in a smoky, spicy, earthy, flavor. 

The red appearance on the blackened salmon is from the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.  Please do NOT substitute smoked paprika with regular paprika – the smokiness is everything. 

You can find smoked paprika with the rest of the spices at your grocery store.  I use it in ALL my Mexican recipes, so I promise your purchase will not go to waste. The rest of the blackened seasoning is a mix of common pantry seasonings you probably have on hand already.  You can also customize the heat by using more or less cayenne pepper.

top view of easy blackened salmon in a stainless steal skillet

To make DIY Blackened Seasonings, whisk together:

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

What Salmon Should I Use?

I prefer skinless salmon fillets for this Blackened Salmon recipe because the seasonings themselves create the crispy crust.  Skinless fillets also allow you to rub the blackened seasoning all over your salmon for maximum flavor.   

Choose salmon fillets that are 6-8 oz. each so that the fish will be cooked on the interior by the time the exterior is blackened.  I purchase my salmon fillets at the seafood counter of my grocery store so I can select the size and know they are fresh.  

What Pan Should I use to Cook Salmon?

Blackened Salmon is usually cooked in a cast iron skillet to develop the deep crust but you can use any heavy duty bottom pan.  Stainless still is probably the trickiest because the salmon is more likely to stick.

You can still use a nonstick pan (usually my favorite for salmon) if it is a heavy quality pan like Le Creuset which can withstand the heat and still develop the deep char.

No matter what pan you use, you will want a take care your pan is large enough to accommodate the fillets without overcrowding, otherwise work in batches.

top view of easy blackened salmon on top of a bed of rice in a black bowl

How to Cook Blackened Salmon

Remove Salmon from the fridge:  Never cook salmon cold straight from the refrigerator otherwise it will cook unevenly. Instead, remove the fish from the refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking.

Dry fillets:  Pat salmon dry with paper towels before brushing with oil or butter.  Wet or moist salmon are more likely to stick to the pan and develop a lackluster crust.

Grease salmon:  Brush the salmon with melted butter or olive oil on ALL sides.  If you are using butter, the easiest way is to melt butter in a shallow dish then dip your salmon in the butter to coat all sides.

Season salmon:  Rub the salmon with the blackened seasoning just before you’re ready to cook.  You don’t want to season it early or the  salt will draw moisture out of the fish and it will become dry.

Wait for a hot pan:  A hot pan doesn’t mean high heat, otherwise your salmon will burn on the outside and remain raw on the inside.  Instead, a hot pan means waiting until your pan is hot before anything touches the pan.  A hot pan keeps the salmon crispy on the outside and seals in the moisture.  The crust developed by a hot pan is not only flavorful but helps your salmon from sticking.  Without a golden crust, salmon is impossible to flip over without tearing.

Heat oil:  Once the pan is hot, add the oil and wait until it shimmers before adding the salmon. You want the oil to be hot but you don’t want it so hot that it is smoking. 

Cook salmon:  Add salmon to the pan and cook approximately 4 minutes per side, or until crispy and blackened.

Don’t fiddle:  Let your salmon cook undisturbed so it can sear properly and develop the charred, caramelized crust.  After the maillard reaction takes place, the caramelization will make the salmon automatically detach from the pan. Don’t disturb the salmon before this reaction or it will fall apart.

showing how cook blackened salmon in a stainless steel pan

how long to cook salmon

The cooking time will depend on the type of pan you use, how hot your pan actually is, how thick your salmon is and what temperature you like your salmon.

A general rule of thumb is 3-4 minutes per side but the telltale way is to watch the color on the sides of the salmon.  Starting with the bottom, it will change from raw pink to pale pink along the sides of the fish as it cooks.  Once the color has moved up to the center, it is usually time to flip and cook an additional 3-6 minutes.

You can accurately check the temperature of your salmon with an instant-read thermometer.  Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the salmon: 120F for medium rare, 130F for medium.  I prefer my salmon medium as it will cook for a minute after removing from the pan.

If you like your salmon more than medium (which is flirting with dry salmon) then you’ll want to lower the heat and cover the salmon once you flip.  This will help the salmon cook evenly without drying out.

Take care not to overcook your salmon because it will only remain buttery, juicy and tender as long as it isn’t overcooked.  It is better for salmon to be undercooked than overcooked in my opinion.

far away top view of the best blackened salmon garnished with parsley

What do you eat with blackened salmon?

This Blackened Salmon recipe is so flavorful, it pairs well with simple rice, cauliflower rice, broccoli rice quinoa or even mashed potatoes.  It also goes well with a big green salad, fruit salad, crusty bread or cornbread. 

a piece of blackned salmon on a bed of rice with Cajun sauce and bell peppers

Is blackened salmon good for you?

Blackened Salmon is not only delicious, but good for you too!  Salmon is a nutritional powerhouse.   It is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, protein, several B vitamins, antioxidants and potassium.

Studies show that salmon can help lower inflammation, which may reduce the risk factors for several diseases.  A growing number of studies also suggest that including salmon in your diet might improve brain function and even reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and the risk of age-related memory problems. In addition, this Blackened Salmon will make your taste buds happy.

Looking for more Salmon Recipes?

a fork slicing into a fillet of pan seared blackened salmon

You might also like these Cajun recipes:

Want to try this Blackened Salmon Recipe?

Pin it to your Seafood, Salmon or Dinner Board to save for later!

Find me on Pinterest for more great recipes!  I am always pinning :)!

©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

far away top view of the best blackened salmon garnished with parsley

Blackened Salmon

This Blackened Salmon is quick and easy and delivers restaurant flavor with minimal effort!! The salmon is loaded with blackened seasonings then pan seared to create a crispy, boldly seasoned exterior giving way to a buttery, juicy interior.  The pan seared salmon fillets are smothered in a luscious cream sauce spiked with zesty Cajun spices, onions, garlic and bell peppers.   I’ve included step by step, detailed instructions in the post so you can master this Blackened Salmon recipe, even if you’ve never made fish before! 
Servings: 4 servings
Total Time: 30 mins
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins

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Ingredients

Salmon

  • 4 (6-8 oz. each) skinless salmon fillets
  • olive oil
  • melted butter optional

Blackened Seasoning

  • 2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cream Sauce

Instructions

  • Lightly brush salmon all over with olive oil or melted butter.
  • Mix together all of the Spice Rub ingredients in a medium bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons and rub evenly all over salmon. Reserve remaining spice rub for the sauce.
  • In a large heavy bottom skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat (medium if your stove runs hot). Once hot, add fillets, turn heat down to medium and cook approximately 4 minutes, until crispy and blackened. Flip salmon over and cook an additional 3-6 minutes to your liking (will depend on thickness). If salmon is is browning too quickly, then turn down the heat. Remove salmon to a plate and tent with foil.
  • To the oil left in the skillet (don’t wipe out), add enough oil to equal 1 tablespoon if needed. Heat over medium-high heat. Once hot, add onions, and cook 3 minutes; then add bell peppers, garlic and reserved spice mix and cook 2 minutes.
  • Add half of the chicken broth to the pan (eyeball it) and whisk the remaining chicken broth with cornstarch until smooth. Add to pan along with heavy cream and diced tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a simmer and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  • Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted followed by lime juice. Add salmon back to the skillet and cook a minute or so to heat through. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or cayenne pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly parsley and lime juice if desired.

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78 Comments

  1. S Dykstra says

    I have tried numerous recipes from Carlsbad Cravings and all came out wonderful.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much! I can’t wait to hear what you think of this Blackened Salmon!

  2. Wendy says

    Jen, this looks fabulous and I love that you used salmon without the skin on. I am keeping this recipe for a meal down the road, but I am anxious to try this!! My husband always orders fish blackened and I finally have a recipe that I’m sure rivals any recipe from a restaurant. Thank you so very much for making and posting this recipe! Have a beautiful weekend!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Wendy! I’m excited for you to try it and to see how it compares. I hope you both absolutely love it!

  3. Melinda says

    Hi Jen,
    I made this for my family tonight and it was incredible. My husband said that I have to make it again! Of, course I will!

    • Jen says

      YAY! Thank you so much Melinda! I’m thrilled it was a hit with the family!

  4. Chantalle says

    Hi Jen,
    How are you doing.
    Hope everything is well?
    Can I substitute the roasted diced tomatoes for something else?
    This is very hard to find in the Netherlands.
    Chantalle x.

    • Jen says

      Hi Chantelle, I’m doing great, thank you! Yes, you can substitute them with regular diced tomatoes. I hope all is well with you! xo

  5. Chis says

    Do you think you could substitute another fish like tilapia?

  6. Heather says

    As another option, I made penne (8oz) and cooked just shy of al dente then added to the cream sauce to finish cooking. I put the salmon on top and covered to warm through and it was amazing!!! Your recipes are my go to when I want to cook a sure-fire favorite!

    • Jen says

      I LOVE your addition of penne – fabulous idea Heather! I’m so pleased this Blackened Salmon recipe was a winner and thank you for your kind words and making my recipes!

  7. Dianne says

    Jen, This was a BIG HIT with my family. Love your salmon and other recipes, too.

    • Jen says

      YAY! Thank you so much Dianne, I’m thrilled it was another winner! I’ll try and post more salmon recipes!

      • Aimee says

        This was amazing!!!! I used some cajun seasoning we had on hand and the sauce ended up being a lot spicier than I thought, but we love spicy food so it was perfect for us!! Thank you so much for this recipe, I will definitely be making this again and again!!!

        • Jen says

          Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Aimee! I’m thrilled this blackened salmon is a new repeat favorite!

  8. Jeanne says

    FIVE STARS*****
    This is now one of my family’s favorite salmon recipes. There’s an excellent semi-upscale Louisiana seafood chain in Texas and a few other states beyond, called Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen that would be proud to serve this. My husband kept saying, “Amazing. You’ve got to make this again.” Thanks for creating and sharing this great recipe.

    • Jen says

      Wahoo, thanks Jeanne! I’m honored this salmon is a “5 star recipe” in your book and a new favorite!

  9. Nicole A says

    Blackened Salmon was FANTASTIC!! Thank you for this recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Nicole! I’m thrilled it was a hit!

  10. Summer says

    This recipe is so good! I served it with broccoli and quinoa and we gobbled it all up! Having the quinoa to pick up all of that tasty sauce was perfect. I’m thinking it would also be delicious over pasta or rice. Thank you for the amazing recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Summer! I’m so pleased it was “gobble worthy!”

  11. Anjela says

    Hi! My fiancé rarely eats fish, but he loves this. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe – it was a hit! Looking forward to making it again.

    • Jen says

      That is the ultimate compliment! Thank you so much Angela!

  12. Mai Allison says

    What if I can’t find skinless salmon?

    • Jen says

      You can cook the salmon with the skin on and remove the skin after cooking. Enjoy!

  13. Melanie says

    My family said this is so good they would eat the sauce on a flip-flop. Used fat-free half and half in the sauce instead of heavy cream with no loss of depth or flavor. And agree with adding pasta or rice we used whole wheat. Also if you have to substitute plain diced tomato be sure to add back some type of seasoning like paprika or cajun seasoning. Best thing I’ve made in a long time.

    • Jen says

      I’m so pleased your entire family loved this blackened salmon recipe so much Melanie, thank you! Thanks for sharing your tips as well!

  14. Debra says

    My whole family thinks this recipe is a winner. We would pay to eat food this delicious at a nice restaurant. Thank you so much!

    • Jen says

      Yes! Thanks so much Debra for the ultimate compliment!

  15. Lisa says

    I rarely leave comments but this salmon was great and it went in my favorite folder.
    We had 3 for dinner and flaked the other the next day in a salad. Really good.

    • Jen says

      Awesome Lisa! I’m thrilled this Blackened Salmon is a new favorite, thank you!

  16. Liz says

    This was wonderful. I’m a recipe following gal, did exactly what it said. Perfect. I did add pasta though, didn’t want to waste that great sauce.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Liz, I’m so happy you loved it!

  17. Hawke says

    My family loved this recipe! I couldn’t find any smoked paprika, but I was able to add some Liquid Smoke to the oil and coated the salmon in it. It turned out great!

    • Jen says

      I’m so happy it was such a hit, and what a great idea to add a hint of liquid smoke!

  18. Joy says

    I made this and there were 5 very happy people smiling throughout the dinner. Made a substitute for the cream because of my lactose intolerance, yet the sauce was very delicious. Had people using fingers to get every drop of sauce. Definitely a keeper! Thank you for sharing!

    • Jen says

      That’s awesome Joy! I love hearing it was “finger licking good!” Thank you!

  19. Hannah says

    AMAZING! Hands down the best recipe I have found on Pinterest so far. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jen says

      Thank you for the rave review Hannah! I hope you find many new recipes to love here!

  20. Cassie says

    I’ve made this 2x before as stated with salmon and just tried it with chicken tonight – so so so so good as always. ❤️

    • Jen says

      What a fun twist with chicken- I am going to have to try that!

  21. Christina says

    Five stars! Made this last night with a friend and we both couldn’t stop exclaiming how delicious it was. May never cook salmon any other way again. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for the awesome review Christina, I’m thrilled you both loved it so much!

  22. Audrey says

    This was outstanding! 5 star recipe. The seasoning to blacken the salmon was just right. Excellent flavor without being overwhelming. The creamy sauce, perfect. Made brown rice and added it to the sauce when I added the salmon back in. Cooking instructions are spot on.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for the awesome review Audrey! I’m so pleased this recipe was such a hit!

  23. Alyb says

    This recipe is absolutely delicious it is lick the plate delicious. Followed the recipe, added a can of drained peas thank you so much

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome, I’m so pleased you loved it!

  24. Ann says

    Five stars in flavour and presentation! I used some local salmon fillets and local scallops, and made some extra sauce and served over al dente spaghetti. I have some leftovers that I am looking forward to gently reheating and enjoying. Delicious!

    • Jen says

      Yum! Your entire meal sounds fabulous! I’m so please it was a hit!

  25. Lizzygal says

    This is a perfect salmon recipe, I’ve made it like 10 times and it Impresses
    Everybody, even my son who only tolerate-salmon Loved it.
    I usually make pasta to go in that sauce, makes it great.

    And it’s so easy, Full disclosure, I usually use store bought seasoning on it.

    • Jen says

      That is amazing you’ve made it so many times – more times than me ;)! I love hearing it’s a repeat favorite, thank you so much!

  26. Robin Duncan says

    I made this last night and it was awesome. The rub was the best I’ve ever had – so good that I have printed it out so I don’t lose it when I need to blacken the next thing I cook. This was a restaurant quality recipe! Served with brown rice and some fresh broccoli. YUMMM

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such an awesome review! I’m thrilled you loved this recipe so much, especially the rub!

  27. Katie says

    This was so good! I used Mahi Mahi since we’re not salmon fans and everyone enjoyed it. Definitely will make this again!

    • Jen says

      Thanks Katie, I’m so pleased it was a hit!

  28. Cindy says

    Not a review as I have not tried yet Looks fantastic and blackened is right up our alley. But hubby eats no cheese. Any recommendations to thicken sauce without the cheese? Can’t wait to try,

    • Jen says

      Thanks Cindy! I would increase the cornstarch to 1 tablespoon, enjoy!

  29. Erin Dumont says

    OMG this was amazing! A total crowd pleaser!!Will be making this regularly! More then 5 stars from my family!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Erin, I’m so pleased it was a hit!

  30. Amanda says

    My “go-to” for salmon now! Teenager approved! This is THE BEST blackened seasoning! I double the seasoning recipe and store it a mason jar so I always have some on hand. I usually smear it all over a full, half salmon filet and bake it in the oven at 425 for twenty minutes. Delicious! Thank you for another brilliant creation!

    • Jen says

      Awesome Amanda, I love that this will be on repeat as will the blackening seasoning! It sounds like I need to dedicate a post just to the seasoning!

  31. Gail says

    Fantastic! Will make this again and again. Also served sauce over angel hair pasta. Amazing dish!!

  32. Shanae says

    It was delicious, I added white wine (I added to much cornstach) and seasonings I added cajun with the blackened seasonings! OMG SO GOOD TY

    • Jen says

      Thank you Shanae, I’m so glad you loved it!

  33. MargieB says

    Excellent dish. My husband said that it was Restaurante quality. I had to change a few things. I didn’t have heavy cream so I substituted sour cream with a bit of milk. I also had some baby scallops so I added these at the end. My salmon wasn’t thick so I only cooked 2 minutes per side and it was perfect. Will make this again for sure.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Margie! I’m so pleased it was “restaurant quality” even with substitutions!

  34. Natalia says

    This recipe was fantastic! I added a cup of chopped asparagus with the bell pepper and garlic and increased the broth and cream by 1/2 cup. I served it over red lentil penne and made cornbread muffins on the side.
    I only made 1/2 the salmon and am going to make Cajun chicken to serve with the reserved sauce over spinach and ricotta ravioli later this week. Even so, I will absolutely be making it again! 10/10

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for the 10/10 review Natalia! I love the idea of serving it over ravioli – yum!

  35. Selene says

    So easy to prepare following your instructions and OMG delicious!!! Thank you!

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Selene, I’m so pleased you loved it!

  36. Dllanclos says

    I’m going to try this, but I have one question…. Are you from Cajun Country?

    • Jen says

      I am not, just love the food!

  37. Keyla says

    I made this recipe and im adding it to one of my favorite ways of fixing salmon!!! I made it with pasta on the side and is perfect!! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Jen says

      I love hearing that, thank you so much Keyla!

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