A great rub of spices, brown sugar and lemon zest make this easy sweet and spicy salmon a light flavorful dish. Perfect for large crowds or just two.
The spice blend creates a glaze when baked and a very tasty flavor combination.
Our family and friends have seen this spicy salmon recipe many times on brunch and buffet tables at holiday events because it’s an easy recipe, it’s delicious and it works well at room temperature. I can’t ever recall having leftovers.
Mostly, though, I make this easy salmon recipe for a weeknight dinner. If I’m lazy or in a rush, I skip the marinating and get it on the table in 20 minutes.
Ingredients – tailored to your taste
Salmon: Buy a larger filet or individual salmon filets at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick which is less likely to overbake and dry out.
Spice rub: includes chili powder, lemon zest, salt, brown sugar and a touch of cumin and cinnamon.
Marinade: contains orange juice, soy sauce and maple syrup (or honey).
Variations and substitutes
Fish options: The recipe will work just as well with any mild white fish or trout.
Spicy rub heat level: Feel free to hike up the spice level with red pepper flakes, sriracha sauce, chili crisp, gochujang, sambal oelek, peri peri sauce or garlic chili sauce. Use 1-2 teaspoons, depending on your heat tolerance.
Marinade ingredients: You can substitute the orange juice with pineapple juice and the soy sauce with coconut aminos or gluten-free tamari.
Step by step instructions
Don’t overcook the salmon! That is THE most important tip. You want it soft and moist. See FAQs.
This spicy baked salmon recipe is great for making appetizers. Cut the salmon into bite-size pieces and place on thin crackers or cucumber rounds. Finish with a dab of one of the sauces or toppings listed below,
What to serve with baked spicy salmon fillets
Here are a few great options for side dishes:
- curried rice with raisins
- savory peach panzanella salad
- grilled corn salad
- creamed spinach
- herb-lemon potato salad
- hasselback sweet potatoes
- seasoned cauliflower rice
I also love to serve the salmon with one of these simple sauce recipes or toppings on the side:
- yogurt of sour cream mixed with dill or other herbs (here is a herb dip recipe)
- sriracha aioli
- sweet Thai chili sauce (more heat!)
- basil pesto
- If you’re in a rush, skip the marinating step. The salmon will then only take 20 minutes to make.
- Buy a rub used for fish (usually indicated on the jar/tin) or a BBQ rub. I highly recommend adding the lemon zest to it for an extra zing.
This salmon can be cooked, cooled, refrigerated and brought to room temperature the next day, making it a great make-ahead recipe for potlucks, buffets or holiday parties. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. It’s great the next day served over a salad or rice bowls.
The rule of thumb for juicy salmon cooking time is 10 minutes per inch (2.5cm) of thickness. When pierced with a knife it should separate easily and still be juicy and warm pink inside (not dry and flaky white). It’s ready when it is just turning opaque.
The FDA recommends cooking salmon to 145F/62.8C, but in my opinion (and many others), that is way overcooked. The best internal temperature with an instant read thermometer is 130-135F (54.4-57.2C) in the thickest part of the filet. The temperature will rise a bit with a 5-minute rest.
A healthy portion is considered to be 3-4 ounces (85-113g), but most adults will eat 6-8 ounces (170-227g). So it depends on who you are serving!
To grill the salmon, heat the grill to 425F/204C, place it flesh-side up for 8 minutes, then flip and barbecue for another 2-4 minutes. The center should be warm pink and the internal temperature should be about 130F/54C (it will rise when resting 5 minutes).
More delicious recipes for salmon
- pecan crusted salmon
- maple glazed salmon
- salmon bites with spicy chili crisp sauce
- salmon and rice with creamy dill sauce
Or check out our full list of fish and seafood recipes.
If you like this recipe, please leave a 5 star rating 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟in the recipe card below. And if you REALLY like it, consider a review in the comments. Thanks very much!
Easy Sweet and Spicy Salmon (Baked)
- 3/4 pound salmon fillets, Note 1 ~ 2 fillets
- 3 tablespoons pineapple or orange juice
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
Spiced Salmon Rub, Note 2
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I use a bit more)
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 425F/218C
- MARINATE SALMON: Place juice, maple syrup and soy in a ziploc bag or bowl along with salmon. Marinate for 20 minutes. Skip this step if you're in a rush.
- MAKE RUB: Combine all bub ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
- PREPARE SALMON: Remove salmon fillets from the marinade. Discard marinade. Place salmon fillets on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper of foil sprayed with cooking spray for easy cleanup. Generously sprinkle rub on top and sides of salmon (if you have a little extra and your salmon has no skin, cover that too).
- ROAST SALMON AND SERVE: Roast salmon for 10-12 minutes just until it flakes (rule of thumb is 10 minutes per inch /2.5 cm of thickness). Don't overcook! Salmon should be medium with a bit of warm pink in the middle if you don't want it dry. Serve hot or at room temperature with lemon slices or a sauce on top of the fish, Note 3. To grill instead, Note 4.
- Salmon notes: Buy a larger filet or individual salmon filets that are at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick (less likely to dry out). Substitute salmon with any mild white fish or trout if you like.
- Spice rub: Feel free to hike up the spice level with red pepper flakes, sriracha, chili crisp, gochujang, sambal oelek, peri peri sauce or garlic chili sauce. Use 1-2 teaspoons, depending on your heat tolerance. Shortcut: buy a fish or bbq rub and add the lemon zest.
- Toppings (optional): yogurt of sour cream mixed with dill or other herbs, sriracha aioli, sweet Thai chili sauce, basil pesto.
- How to grill salmon (instead of baking): Heat the grill to 400F/204C, place it flesh-side down for 8 minutes (with grill covered) then flip and barbecue for another 2-3 minutes. The center should be warm pink and the internal temperature should be about 130F/54C (it will rise when resting 5 minutes). Because of the sugar in the rub, watch that it doesn’t burn when flesh side down.
- Make ahead:
- Make spice rub days ahead
- To serve room temperature or cold: Cook salmon, cool it then refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
This recipe is adapted from a 1998 Cooking Light Magazine recipe.