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This lemon cream salmon is a skillet preparation that takes just 15 minutes and delivers a delicious dinner or lunch. Tender salmon and a creamy lemon garlic sauce are perfect with rice, pasta, or veggies.
Ever since I started getting good quality salmon delivered from Wild Alaskan Seafood company, I’ve been really loving all the ways I can make delicious meals fast.
This lemon cream salmon was inspired by my favorite way to make fish – in a hot pan on the stovetop. I love making dishes like my cast iron salmon or this grouper recipe because it’s SO FAST and always delicious. This recipe enhances that technique by making a pan sauce that simmers with the fish as it finishes.
You’re left with a tender, medium salmon filet in a garlicky, lemony, creamy sauce that you’ll want to spoon over the top and devour every bite.
Ingredients & Substitutions
It’s just a handful of easy ingredients to make this come together in a snap. I’ve also shared my best tips for swapping or prepping them if you don’t have exactly what’s called for.
- Skinless salmon filets – I’m using sockeye salmon, which is absolutely delicious if you can get it. I actually skin them myself which is super easy to do.
- Use a sharp, thin knife to cut a corner of skin away from the filet. Place SKIN SIDE DOWN on a cutting board.
- Grip the edge of the skin and wriggle your knife, keeping it flat against the cutting board to separate the skin from the filet.
- Lemons – I’m using meyer lemon because it’s the season and I basically find them irresistible. But any fresh lemon will work. We’ll be using the zest and juice, so fresh is preferred. But, if you only have bottled juice that will work for the sauce, you’ll just be missing out on seasoning the filets with zest.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic is necessary for the lemon cream sauce. Slice it thinly instead of mincing or pressing it to prevent burning.
- Salt & Pepper – Seasoning the salmon and the sauce is what makes this perfect.
- Heavy Cream – This is great for quick pan sauces because the fat content makes it less likely to separate (curdle) at high heat. You can use half and half, but lower the heat, and understand it won’t thicken the same.
How to Make Pan Seared Salmon with Lemon Garlic Cream Sauce
This is NOT a complicated recipe, I promise! But I do have a few tips to make sure your salmon is cooked perfectly and the pan sauce is as flavorful as possible.
- Use a good pan – I prefer my cast iron skillet for this, but stainless steel would also work. I like a good sear on my salmon, but nonstick can work if that’s what you have.
- Preheat over high heat – To cook the salmon quickly and get it to the right temperature, I like to start over medium high. When the salmon hits the pan, I turn it down to medium and let it cook without moving for 3-4 minutes.
- Reduce the heat after the flip – Once you’ve got that top sear, flip and turn the heat down to medium low. That helps prevent the sauce from reducing too fast.
- Add the sauce ingredients quickly– I add the lemon juice and cream to the pan at the same time and stir or swirl the pan to mix it. Then let the fish simmer in the sauce as it thickens. It should only take 2 minutes or so for both to be ready.
- Don’t overcook the fish– It’s pretty common for me to see recipes that cook salmon until it’s well done. You DON’T need to do that. Salmon is safe (and delicious) at 145°F. I pull it from the pan at that temp and it usually cooks another 5°F which is perfect for me. You can cook it longer, but too much longer and your fish will dry out.
This lemon cream salmon is so good that we usually serve it simply. A pot of rice, mashed potatoes, lemon pepper potatoes, or pasta is all we need with a big spoonful of sauce over the top. I do recommend some asiago bread or garlic bread rolls to soak up extra sauce!
I’m not a big fan of reheating fish, so I generally only cook the amount that we’ll eat at one meal. It cooks pretty quickly, so I don’t mind whipping it up fresh. But that’s a personal preference.
To store leftovers, keep them in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stove to prevent the fish from drying out.
I hope you love this quick and easy, creamy lemon garlic salmon! Check out one of my other seafood recipes while you’re here too. Happy Eating!
Lemon Cream Salmon
- 2 4 ounce salmon filets skinless
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Slice the garlic into thin pieces and zest and juice the lemon to get 1 tablespoon of juice.
- Preheat a cast iron (or stainless steel pan) over medium high heat with the oil.
- Season the salmon on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon zest.
- Place in oil and let sear for 2-3 minutes.
- Turn the pan down to medium low and flip the salmon. Add in the butter and garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add in 2 tablespoons of cream and the lemon juice and let simmer for 1-2 more minutes until the salmon is cooked to 145°F (medium) or to your liking.
- Take off the heat and stir in remaining cream and taste the sauce, season to taste and serve.
Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.