Sous Vide Salmon with Caper Sauce
Sous vide salmon is cooked to perfection and finished off with a zesty caper sauce that adds a burst of flavor to the moist tender mild salmon.
The extra time this sous vide salmon takes to cook is worth it. If you haven’t had sous vide salmon before, you will be amazed with the results.
Salmon normally takes about 20 minutes to get on the table. So I was skeptical about this method of cooking. Would it really make a difference?
I do suggest you experiment with temperature for the level of doneness you prefer. Finding your own sweet spot is important with all sous vide recipes. So, what can you expect? Read on…
What to expect
- The sous vide method is the best way to get the exact doneness you choose from top to bottom.
- No worrying about “is it overcooked?” Remember that it only takes 1-2 minutes to overcook salmon with other cooking methods.
- Guaranteed results. The texture is soft and moist at medium to medium-rare. The color is vibrant. The taste – delicious. Once you find the right temperature for you, you will get perfect salmon every time.
- A nice tangy, lemony finish. This dish does not have a crispy skin like pan-seared salmon. In fact, we remove the skin altogether. Instead, we finish off the salmon with a simple caper sauce that just takes a few minutes to pull together.
- Cooking salmon sous vide takes longer than baking or grilling – at least double the time, not including heating up the water and brining the salmon. This is a downside if you’re short on time.
- No smelly kitchen with this sous vide recipe because the salmon is cooked in a sealed bag and we are not sautéing the fish in a hot pan.
Ingredients – tailored to your taste
Salmon: Use fresh salmon filets at least 1/2 inch/1.8 cm thick. I keep the salmon skin on for cooking as it helps to keep the salmon intact when you remove it from the bag. Sous vide cooked salmon is very delicate and can fall apart easily. If you only have skinless fillets, don’t worry about it. You may just end up with each filet in two pieces. No big deal.
Caper sauce: is made with lemon juice, capers, garlic, parsley and butter.
Variations and substitutions to try:
For the salmon: Instead of salmon filet portions you can use a whole filet cut into smaller pieces. You can also use frozen salmon. Just make sure to defrost it first.
For the caper sauce: You can add other fresh herbs, like fresh dill or basil to the caper sauce to change up the flavors. You can also add lemon zest in addition to the lemon juice to give it extra lemony flavor. If you can’t find capers, substitute chopped green (unstuffed) olives.
Alternative sauces are a basil-mayo sauce, a spicy sweet Thai sauce, sriracha aioli or a maple-balsamic sauce.
Step by step instructions
Tips on salmon temperature and timing
Here are some guidelines from Serious Eats – and from my own experience – so choose the closest you think is best to start, then experiment until perfect. Many experts suggest salmon should be cooked to medium rare – it’s up to you.
- 115F/41C translucent, buttery and starting to flake (I find this too rare)
- 120F/49C very moist, slightly flaky and tender salmon (I’d say this is medium rare)
- 125F/52C – moist, soft, slightly more traditional
- 130F/54C – flaky salmon, less moist, more cooked
- my preference is 125 degrees F
Sous vide cooking time:
The general rule of thumb for salmon is:
- 30-45 minutes for a thickness of 1 inch/2.5 cm or less
- 45-60 minutes for a thickness of 1-2 inches/2.5-5.0 cm)
My salmon is usually somewhere in between so I go with 40-45 minutes.
Tips on Brining
Brining salmon (bathing in salt water) before sous vide cooking is not essential, but a good idea for 3 reasons.
- It firms up the flesh making a better texture.
- Brining helps prevent the white albumen that forms from seeping out.
- It adds flavor.
Brining takes an extra 30 minutes and the instructions are in the recipe.
Sous vide is a French term that means “under vacuum”. It’s a cooking method where food is sealed in a food-safe bag and cooked in a temperature regulated water bath. It’s been used in restaurants for decades but in recent years, sous vide equipment for home cooks has become more popular and affordable.
It is not essential to add oil to the sous vide bag with salmon, but because salmon is so delicate, I find a thin coating of oil on the salmon before bagging helps the salmon slide out of the bag more easily and without falling apart.
Capers are little salty tangy brined flower buds.
A typical serving portion of salmon is 5-6 ounces (140-170g). For bigger eaters, serve 8 ounces (1/2 lb or 226g) per person.
Side dishes that go best with salmon
Try serving this sous vide salmon recipe with a side of green beans with panko crumbs and curried rice with raisins, homemade lemon dill rice-a-roni or lemon herb cauliflower rice for a lower calorie option.
A refreshing tropical fruit salad would be a great dessert.
- Cook the salmon ahead, cool it in the sealed bag in an ice bath and store it in the fridge for 2-3 days. Serve it cold or reheat it.
- To reheat, Bon Appetit suggests doing it slowly (to avoid over cooking) by sous vide in a zipper bag at 100F/38C for an hour. To reduce the time, you can reheat at 118F/48C for 30 minutes or so.
- If you make the caper sauce ahead while the salmon is cooking, hold back the parsley and add it when you warm the sauce just before serving to maintain its vibrant green color.
A few of our best salmon recipes
All these salmon recipes can be made in 20-30 minutes.
- Roasted Salmon Stuffed With Herbs
- Pecan Crusted Salmon
- Canadian Maple Cedar Plank Salmon
- Coconut Salmon Curry
- Salmon Stuffed With Lemon Ricotta
- Easy Maple Lime Salmon
- Maple Salmon with Peach Salsa
If you love sous vide cooking, try our sous vide cod (with bechamel sauce your way). Or check out our best sous vide recipes (with beginner tips).
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Sous Vide Salmon with Caper Sauce
- Sous vide equipment: either a sous vide machine or a sous vide immersion circulator.
- 2 fresh salmon fillets, skin on or off (1/3-1/2 pound/151-227 grams/5-8 ounces each)
- salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoon finely chopped chives (or sprig of thyme)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated (3 teaspoons)
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- PREPARE SOUS VIDE BATH: Fill water sous vide container (leaving room for water to rise when you put salmon in). Set the temperature on the sous vide equipment to your desired doneness. Note 1 (I like 125F/52C for between medium rare and medium). Heat water to that temperature. Tip: start with hot water to reduce heating time.
- BRINE SALMON (OPTIONAL): Brine salmon if you have time (optional but good). Note 2.
- PREPARE SALMON: Rub a teaspoon oil over the entire surface of salmon to make it easier to remove from bag after cooking. (You can skip the oil if you prefer). If you don't brine the salmon, season salmon with salt, pepper. Add chopped chives or a sprig of thyme.To vacuum seal bag (Note 3 to use zipper lock bag instead), fold back top of a sous vide bag about an inch to create a flap (this ensures no food touches the top of the bag where it gets sealed). Insert both salmon fillets in a single layer, ensuring no overlap. Unfold the flap and vacuum seal the bag using a vacuum sealer.
- SOUS VIDE SALMON: When water reaches your chosen temperature, submerge sealed bag with the salmon into the warm water. If using zip top plastic bag, follow directions in Note 3. Timing: °if salmon is 1/2-1 inch (1.3-2.5 cm) thick, cook 30-40 minutes; °if salmon is 1-2 inches(2.5-5 cm) thick, cook 40 – 60 minutes. I usually cook mine for 40–45 minutes.
- MAKE CAPER SAUCE: While the salmon is cooking, heat a small saucepan to medium with oil. Add garlic and saute for a minute, not letting it burn. Add capers and lemon juice. Cook for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in butter and chopped parsley until sauce is smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.
- FINISH DISH: Remove the salmon from the water bath. Cut open gen (or open) bag and gently remove salmon (it will be very delicate). If one side of salmon has skin, flip salmon over and gently peel off skin and discard). Transfer to serving plate, pour sauce over salmon and serve.
- Choose cooking temperature based on guidelines from Serious Eats and my own experience:
- 115F/41C translucent, buttery and starting to flake (I find this too rare)
- 120F/49C very moist, tender, flaky (I’d say this is medium rare)
- 125F/52C – moist, soft, slightly more traditional, medium
- 130F/54C – flaky, less moist, more cooked
- my preference is 125F
- To brine salmon: Brining helps prevent the white albumen (white stuff) that forms from seeping out, firms up the flesh and adds flavor. Fill a ziploc bag with 2 cups/475 ml water and 2 tablespoons salt. Squish around to dissolve salt. Place salmon in a ziploc bag, seal and place in fridge for 30 minutes (or up to 45 minutes). Rinse in cold water and pat dry. Alternatively, salt the salmon and let it sit in the fridge for maximum 30 minutes before cooking it sous vide.
- Alternative to vacuum seal: Instead of vacuum sealing the bag, you can use the water displacement method. Place salmon inside a freezer safe ziploc bag and don’t seal bag. Lower bag into preheated water until top of bag is just above water (water will push air out), then seal bag.
- Portions per person: A typical serving portion of salmon is 5-6 ounces (140-170g). For bigger eaters, serve 8 ounces (1/2 lb or 227g) per person.
- Make Ahead
- Cook the salmon ahead, cool it in the sealed bag in an ice bath and store it in the fridge for 2-3 days. Serve it cold or reheat it. You can also freeze the salmon for 1 month.
- To reheat cold salmon, Bon Appetit suggests doing it slowly (to avoid over cooking) by sous vide in a zipper bag at 100F/38C for an hour. To reduce the time, you can reheat at 118F/48C for 30 minutes or so.
- If you make the caper sauce ahead while the salmon is cooking, hold back the parsley and add it when you warm the sauce just before serving to maintain its vibrant green color
The sous vide salmon recipe, originally posted in 2017, has been updated with new information, tips and pictures.
I find 117-118 to be the ultimate salmon. Anything higher can easily be mimicked with another cooking implement.
For ease of cook + time saving: have you ever brined during sous vide? There is some controversy over “pulling salt through proteins” with longer cook times, but salmon is so permeable anyway. If you’re going to precook the salmon in the sous vide you’ll end up with too much brining, but if it’s for same day consumption you save time.
Finally – the final step of quick sear is critical for the crunch skin and caramelized texture. 30-40 seconds on both sides super hot oil. You won’t be disappointed! Without the sear the salmon straight out of the sous vide can be a little “canned and bland” from a texture perspective (this really goes for most meats to be honest, a high heat crust is still essential).
Thanks for your thoughtful comments Brian. A short brine could be good I agree. I’m afraid I don’t eat the skin so no crisping in this recipe 🙂 The caper sauce is bold enough to avoid any blandness I hope.
You guys are about the only 350mill in a world of 7+bill people who still insist on the Fahrenheit scale. At least show the conversion to the vast majority.
OTT recipe looks good. I will give it a try
OTOH …..try lower temps. 52C is _tops_ for me for salmon. I often cook at 48C.
Actually I live in Canada and use the metric system except for recipes for some reason. You make a good point though. I’ll start adding the metric conversion more regularly.
I recently tried lower temps and loved the results. I’ll be updating the post soon to offer more options. Thanks.