Best Baked Salmon with Pesto Recipe (Easy)

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This Best Baked Salmon with Pesto Recipe (Easy) is bursting with flavor and healthy fats. Ready in 20 minutes! It is an easy and flavorful salmon recipe for busy weeknights.

The tender flaky salmon is slathered in lemon butter before baking and then topped with an amazing and fresh homemade olive oil basil pesto.

Serve with Sautéed Green Beans Recipe (Easy), or Crispy Brussels Sprouts Recipe.

Salmon on a plate with pesto, tomatoes, and garnish.
Beautifully plated pesto salmon and cherry tomatoes
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Best Baked Pesto Salmon Recipe

My other salmon recipes inspired this- Salmon Piccata, or these best-baked salmon recipes: Easy Baked Honey Orange Sesame Salmon, Baked Salmon with Potatoes and Herb Oil Dressing, Healthy Oven-Baked Salmon Steak, and my favorite stuffed salmon recipe.

Easy Baked Salmon with Pesto

This is the very best baked salmon recipe with pesto. So much flavor in every bite!

Enjoy it as a quick healthy dinner recipe on a busy evening, or make it for special occasions on the weekend. It is an all-around delicious way to enjoy salmon.

Make your own pesto- Authentic Italian Pesto Genovese (Basil Pesto), or add a twist with Fresh Arugula Walnut Pesto (vegan pesto). Either of these pesto recipes will add rich flavors to the salmon.

It pairs particularly well with Easy Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Asparagus or homemade fresh pasta. You can also check this What to Serve with Salmon post for more side dishes!

Simple Ingredients

Ingredients for salmon pesto on a marble countertop.
Ingredients for pesto salmon recipe
  • Homemade pesto
  • Salmon filets
  • Butter
  • Lemon juice
  • Lemon zest
  • Pine nuts for topping
  • Cherry tomatoes for topping
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

See the recipe card for quantities.

How to Make Best Baked Pesto Salmon Recipe

This baked salmon recipe with pesto is SO easy to make. After you prepare the pesto the rest of the recipe will only take about 20 minutes. Amazing salmon recipe ready for dinner!

How to make Baked Salmon with Pesto:

  1. Preheat the oven and place the salmon on a prepared baking sheet.
  2. Combine butter lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl, then spoon it over the salmon.
  3. Bake salmon for 12-15 minutes at 400°F.
  4. While the salmon is cooking, make the basil pesto.
  5. When the salmon is done, top it with the pesto, pine nuts and cherry tomatoes. Mangia! (eat)
baked salmon on a baking sheet.
Baked salmon after baking with lemon butter

The Best Baked Pesto Salmon Recipe

This Baked Pesto Salmon recipe is made with a super flavorful homemade pesto and fresh cherry tomatoes. With only 6 main ingredients, it comes together in just 20 minutes.

It’s a stress-free dinner for a busy weeknight, but it is also perfect for serving guests. Everyone will fall in love with the bright, fresh flavors after their first bite!

This baked pesto salmon recipe is an easy recipe to prepare with a few quality ingredients. It is a fresh and flavorful recipe you will crave time and time again!

Salmon on a plate with pesto, tomatoes, garnish and bread.
Plated pesto salmon recipe

TIP: Don’t cook the pesto sauce on top of the salmon it may turn brown and will change the flavor. It is best added on top of the salmon after it is baked! It looks fresher and more beautiful this way.

Wild Salmon vs Farm Fresh Salmon

These days, Atlantic salmon is typically farmed, while Pacific salmon species are primarily wild-caught. 

Wild-caught Pacific salmon are typically considered to be the healthiest salmon. For this recipe, use your favorite variety!

How do you Make Homemade Pesto Genovese?

Homemade pesto is a tasty and fresh sauce traditionally made with basil. You can also make the arugula version. They are super easy to make!

I wrote a full post with step-by-step photo instructions on this traditional homemade Italian pesto sauce that you can pair with…veggies/steak/chicken/pasta/gnocchi/green beans/ANYTHING! 

Fresh pesto pairs well with flaky baked salmon.

It is made with fresh basil leaves, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and pine nuts, the link is also in the recipe card.

Healthy Baked Pesto Salmon Recipe

Salmon is a lean source of protein, with a lot of benefits like omega 3’s and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Baked Salmon with Basil Pesto is a healthy meal you can feel great about feeding your family.

Salmon on a plate with pesto, tomatoes, garnish and a fork.

Substitutions

What fish to Substitute for Salmon– here is a list of your best options.

Tilapia
Cod
Mahi-Mahi
Trout
Sea-bass
Wahoo
Stripped Bass

You will also love this easy cod recipe: Crispy Baked Cod with Panko.

Pesto Salmon Variations

Salmon prepared in this delicious way is simple and authentic to Italian style cooking. if you want a variation- try these ideas:

  • Spicy – add chili pepper flakes while cooking to imbue heat into the dish
  • Deluxe – add fresh burrata cheese on top for a cheesy twist

HOW TO BAKE SALMON IN THE OVEN:

(tips adapted from Gimmie Some Oven)

Bring the salmon to room temperature.

Let your salmon filets rest out on the counter for 15-30 minutes, until they have (at least mostly) come to room temperature. This will help with even cooking.

Season the salmon.

Blot the salmon dry on all sides with paper towels. Then place the salmon skin-side-up* (if you get it with skin) on an oiled baking sheet (or in an oven-proof, non-stick skillet, such as a cast iron pan).

If the ends of the salmon filets are really thin, just fold them under a bit for even cooking.

Brush on all sides (except the bottom) with good quality olive oil or butter. Sprinkle with flake sea salt and a little pepper (you can add other seasons if you wish). Then, bake the salmon skin side up if using skin on variety.

  • Why bake the salmon skin side up? This helps the oils and juices run into the salmon meat rather than off onto the baking sheet. It infuses salmon meat with more flavor. 

Bake.

Then, bake at 350-450°F (depending on the recipe) until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 140°F* (or I like to cook mine until it reaches 135°F*), about 4-6 minutes per half inch of thickness.

You can also test for doneness by inserting a fork or knife in the salmon and twisting it a bit; the fish should be opaque and flake easily.

Transfer salmon to a clean plate.

Remove pan from the oven and transfer the salmon to a clean serving plate.

Then sprinkle each filet with a good squeeze of lemon juice, desired sauce, sprinkle with fresh herbs if you’d like, then… Serve warm! And enjoy!

Salmon on a plate with pesto, tomatoes, garnish and bread.
Perfectly flaky cooked salmon with pesto, tomatoes, and pine nuts

What to Serve with Baked Pesto Salmon Recipe

This baked salmon with pesto is a show-stopping main dish that pairs well with warm Fast Italian No Knead Ciabatta Bread and a good side dish of Italian Fennel, Citrus, Pomegranate and Salad.

A more filling side option is Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Sauce, or Italian Pink Sauce Pasta Recipe (Tomato Cream).

Make a surf and turf dinner with these recipes- How to Cook Steak in a Pan (Perfect Recipe) and How to Cook a Small Prime Rib Roast Recipe.

Don’t forget the dessert! Finish with a tasty Classic Italian Tiramisu Recipe (Authentic) or light Frozen Lemon Dessert (Creamy Lemony Treat).

How to Store

Baked salmon is best the day it is made- at least that is my preference. However, it does make great leftovers. Simply store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

For fresh and best taste- I do not recommend freezing the leftovers.

Top tip

I recommend slicing the salmon filets into individual salmon filet portions before baking to give you nice even, looking cuts for presentation.

You can also ask them to do this at the grocery store fish counter.

What is the internal temperature for baked salmon?

The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 145°F for Baked Salmon. It is safe to eat as low as 125°F. Use an internal thermometer to check the fish at the thickest part of the fillet. Typically, when the fat starts baking out of the salmon and the skin becomes pink/white, it is done.

How long does cooked salmon last in the fridge

According to the USDA, you can safely store cooked salmon in the fridge for three to four days. Enjoy leftover pesto salmon on salads or on top of toasted bread.

More delicious recipes:

Salmon on a plate with pesto, tomatoes, garnish, and a fork.
Easy, fresh, and delicious salmon meal

This baked pesto salmon is perfect for an easy weeknight meal! It is bursting with fresh flavors and makes a healthy dinner recipe.

From my cucina to your table, made with amore, Elena.

Don’t forget to leave a star rating and comment! I love connecting with you through the recipes.

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beautifully plated salmon. Three fillet on a platter with pestoover the top, cheery tomatoes, and pine nuts!

Best Baked Pesto Salmon Recipe (Easy)

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5 from 2 reviews

This Best Baked Salmon with Pesto Recipe (Easy) is bursting with flavor and healthy fats. Ready in 20 minutes! This is the perfect easy recipe for busy weeknights.

  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

For the Salmon

  • 3– 3 ounce Salmon Filets
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, softened (not melted)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup basil pesto (click for recipe)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Garnish

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped

Instructions

For the Baked Salmon

  • Preheat oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Pat the salmon dry and place the salmon on the baking sheet. 
  • Season the salmon with salt and pepper. 
  • In a small bowl, mix together the softened butter lemon juice and lemon zest until smooth. Spoon the butter mixture evenly over the salmon. 
  • Bake salmon fillets for 12-15 minutes or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork and is cooked through. 
  • While Salmon is cooking, make the basil pesto (click ingredient above for the recipe)

To Serve

  1. When salmon is cooked through, spoon a generous spoonful of pesto on top of each salmon filet with a  the basil pesto sauce and garnish with pine nuts and cherry tomatoes. Serve immediately. Mangia! (eat!) 
  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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3 Comments

  1. Delicious and easy! The lemon butter makes the salmon so tender! I did use the pesto and the tomatoes but didn’t have pine nuts … and of course for dessert we had Italian apple cake 😊