Check out this bold flavorful recipe for salmon bites drizzled with a spicy 4-ingredient sauce featuring coconut milk and chili crisp. Simply delicious!
This versatile dish – ready in about 20 minutes – can play the starring role as a main course, appetizer or filler for tacos and lettuce wraps.
We like to bake these seasoned little morsels, but you can use a pan-sear cooking method instead if you prefer.
Just don’t miss the drizzle of the spicy coconut chili crisp sauce. It’s the crowning glory with a terrific blend of heat, creaminess, a bit of crunch, and hints of sweetness and tang.
What to expect
Dinner in 20 minutes: The dish is quick to make (and even quicker with a couple of good shortcuts). The simple spicy sauce is just stirred together with no cooking needed. Make the sauce and a 5-minute couscous while the salmon is baking.
A fully customizable dish: For example, serve the tender salmon bites as a main meal or appetizer. Make it as spicy or mild as you like. Switch to a fillet or side of salmon instead of cubes. Or serve the coconut chili crisp sauce with shrimp instead of salmon.
Ingredients – tailored to your taste
Salmon: Buy salmon filets, fresh or frozen, at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. A center cut, instead of the tail portion, will be easier to cut into even-sized cubes.
Seasonings for salmon: I use a simple blend of garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Feel free to create your own or buy a dry rub.
Coconut milk: Make sure to buy unsweetened coconut milk, preferably full fat (you are not using much). Light coconut milk can also be used, but it is thinner and less flavorful.
Chili crisp adds so much flavor to the dish. I buy them in a jar at my local Asian grocery store. Check out FAQs on the best brands to buy. You can also make them yourself with this homemade chili crisp recipe by Chili Pepper Madness.
Cilantro garnish: Fresh cilantro adds a lovely fragrant flavor. If you are not a fan, replace it with parsley or chopped green onions.
- Try halibut or mahi-mahi instead of salmon or another firm thicker mild fish.
- Instead of cubing the salmon, leave it in whole fillets.
- You can also use large shrimp – baked for 5-7 minutes in the oven.
- Instead of baking the salmon bites, you can pan-sear them.
- Chili crisp sauce:
- If you don’t want any sweetness in the sauce, use a regular chili sauce. Just keep in mind that the chili crisps add a lot of heat. Or skip the chili sauce if you don’t have any and just combine coconut milk and chili crisp.
- Vary the amount of chili crisp in the sauce to adjust the heat level.
Don’t cut the salmon cubes too small or they will dry out when cooking. I go for at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) or slightly larger and cook them until they are still warm pink inside. This way they stay moist and tender.
- Buy skinless salmon fillets so you don’t have to remove the skin yourself.
- Use a ready-made dry rub to season the salmon.
- Skip removing the skin and cubing the salmon – and keep the fillets whole. They will need to bake for longer though, about 10-13 minutes, depending on the thickness.
Option 1: Prep the ingredients hours or a day ahead – remove salmon skin, cube salmon, blend seasonings and oil mixture for salmon, stir together the sauce ingredients.
Option 2: Make the salmon bites recipe and the sauce an hour or two ahead and serve as an appetizer at room temperature or cold.
What to serve with spicy salmon bites – and how
As a main dish, I like to serve the salmon bites over couscous, white rice, coconut rice or orzo – with extra sauce drizzled on everything! Add a side dish like creamed spinach, roasted bok choy and broccoli, roasted cauliflower with crispy edges or a fig salad.
As an appetizer, serve the salmon with toothpicks or nestled on a mini phyllo cup. Pair the app with any of these vegetarian appetizers. Two good options include rice paper rolls and Asian-inspired eggplant dip.
You can also use the salmon pieces as a filler for tacos and lettuce wraps along with some slaw, mango and/or avocado – topped with the spicy sauce of course. Or in salmon bowls with rice or rice noodles, fresh or pickled veggies and avocado.
Chili crisps, also known as chili oil flakes are a popular condiment in many Asian cuisines. They typically consist of chili peppers, garlic, shallots, and various aromatic spices infused with oil and fried until crispy. They add heat, flavor, and texture to various dishes, from stir-fries and noodles to soups and dipping sauces.
Bon Appetite editors recommend the top 10 chili crisps in a jar. Favorites are A few of their favorites are Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisps (crunchy and spicy but not too spicy), Mẹ’s Way Chili Sauce (includes fish sauce), Momofuku Chili Crunch (very hot, crunchy, umami with some sweetness). Check the ingredients if you are vegetarian (some contain fish sauce, anchovies or dried shrimp).
More easy salmon recipes
- coconut curry salmon
- crispy baked fish
- pecan crusted salmon
- baked fish fillets with cherry tomato sauce
- maple balsamic rainbow trout
- lemon butter herb baked trout
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Recipe for Salmon Bites With Spicy Chili Crisp Sauce
- 1 1/4 pounds salmon fillets, Note 1 (~ 2 fillets)
Salmon seasoning mixture (Note 2 for shortcut)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon each, kosher salt and black pepper
Chili crisp sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsweetended coconut milk, Note 3 full fat is best
- 2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons chili crisp, Note 4 (or less if you like less spicy)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (or more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley
- extra chili crisps on the side
- lemon or lime wedges
- HEAT OVEN TO 450F/232C. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- PREPARE SALMON: If the salmon filets have skin on one side, remove it with a sharp knife. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel, then cut it into cubes at least 1 inch/2.5 cm or a bit larger so they don't dry out while baking. Mix seasoning ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the salmon cubes.
- BAKE SALMON: Lay seasoned salmon cubes in single layer on prepared baking sheet not touching each other. Place pan in center rack of oven. Bake for 5 minutes until salmon is warm pink inside and pierces with a knife easily. It will finish cooking out of the oven. Ideally, the internal temperature will be about 135F/57C. Adjust cook time if salmon cubes are larger (6 minutes) or smaller (4 minutes).
- MAKE SAUCE: While salmon is baking, stir together sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
- FINISH: Transfer salmon bites to a plate and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with cilantro and extra chili crisps if you like (or serve extra on the side). For appetizers, spear salmon bites with toothpicks and use extra sauce as a dipping sauce.
- Salmon options: Buy salmon filets, fresh or frozen (thawed), preferably center cut portion to allow for more even-sized cubes.
- Salmon seasoning shortcut: Use a store-bought rub or your own favorite rub. I suggest using one with less sugar as the sauce has sugar in it.
- Coconut milk: Full fat is best. Light coconut milk is thinner and less flavorful. Many stores now sell small cans of coconut milk of 160 ml. You will use half of this.
- Chili crisps: Buy them at an Asian grocery store or on Amazon. Some good brands are: Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisps (crunchy and spicy but not too spicy), Mẹ’s Way Chili Sauce (includes fish sauce), Momofuku Chili Crunch (very hot, crunchy, umami with some sweetness). Or make them yourself with this homemade chili crisp recipe by Chili Pepper Madness if you like.
- Recipe variations:
- use halibut, mahi mahi or shrimp instead of salmon
- keep the filets whole instead of cubing them (and double the cooking time)
- pan-sear the salmon bites (instead of baking them) in a large skillet on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side or until easily pierced with a fork.
- skip the sweet Thai chili sauce in the coconut chili crisp sauce or use a regular chili sauce instead (keep in mind that chili crisps are spicy!).
- Make ahead:
- Option 1: Prep the ingredients hours or a day ahead – remove salmon skin, cube salmon, blend seasonings and oil mixture for salmon, stir together the sauce ingredients.
- Option 2: Make the salmon bites recipe and the sauce an hour or two ahead and serve as an appetizer at room temperature or cold.
- Leftover salmon can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.