Lemon Butter Baked Salmon is fillets of seasoned salmon topped with butter and lemon and baked in the oven. This super easy salmon recipe is a winner when it comes to weeknight dinners and Sunday suppers!
The combination of butter and lemon is classic in cooking fish and this recipe is so simple and easy to make you will want to make it often. Even picky eaters won't be able to resist the transformation that butter and lemon can do. It makes all seafood richly scrumptious. The butter adds richness and the lemon brings fresh citrus acidity that complements most seafood.
This dish works with any type of salmon and I typically buy fresh frozen fillets because they are both economical and delicious. But you can use any salmon you like.
And the best part is that the butter and lemon make their own sauce as the salmon bakes, so you don't need tartar sauce!
Pink Salmon versus Red Salmon
Salmon comes in varying shades of pink, orange, and red. Typically the darker shades of orange and red are from specific salmon species like the Atlantic, Sockeye, and Coho.
Pink salmon is a specific species, named for the color of its flesh, and is a delicate to mild-tasting fish with a light texture. While Sockeye salmon, also called red salmon, is bright to dark orangey-red and is richer in flavor. Both fish are high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.
Pink salmon is more plentiful and is also less expensive than red salmon and both pink and red salmon get their pinky orange to red coloring from the shrimp and krill they eat, just like flamingos. Oh, and krill are just little tiny shrimp. So they eat shrimp and more shrimp for those lovely colors.
The real difference is in how long in their life they eat shrimp and krill. Red salmon have a lifespan of 5 years, while pink salmon live only about 2 years.
Red salmon is less plentiful than pink salmon and the demand for it is higher due to its beautiful color and rich flavor, which makes it expensive. But pink salmon is also delicious and in blind tastings, people often preferred the flavor of pink salmon.
Whether one is more nutritious than the other is still debated. I do know that my family prefers darker orange or red salmon and can taste a distinct difference.
What to Look for When Buying Fish
Here are my top four tips for selecting fish to purchase for dinner:
- The fish market should smell like the ocean without a strong fishy odor. If the market has a strong odor, something has gone bad and you should not risk buying anything.
- Fish should look brilliant and not dull. If the skin is still attached it should be bright and shiny with the scales firmly attached.
- If the fish is whole, the eyes should be clear, bright, and bulging.
- Fillets should still have the skin attached for the best flavor.
Why This Recipe Works
There are three main reasons why this recipe works so well, especially for busy days:
- The Flavor - Salmon is a favorite fish in America for its flavor and the classic addition of butter and lemon makes it company-worthy.
- Simple to Make - Just season the fish, lay it in a prepared baking dish, top it with butter and lemon, and bake! This recipe is super easy with simple ingredients.
- Easy Cleanup - Just one cutting board, a knife, and the baking dish make for a quick and easy cleanup.
So... Let's cook!
Here's what you need to make Lemon Butter Baked Salmon :
- Butter-Flavored Cooking Spray - I use butter-flavored cooking spray to further accent the butter in this recipe. But you can use an unflavored spray.
- Salmon Fillets - You will need fresh or frozen fish. I have used fresh frozen pink salmon that is thawed and I have used Atlantic salmon. You can use thin wide fillets as shown above, or thicker and narrow fillets. This recipe is not suitable for canned salmon.
- Butter - You can use salted or unsalted butter here.
- Lemon - Fresh lemon is the best. Choose firm bright colored fruit for the best flavor.
- Salt - Just plain iodized salt for fine sea salt is good for this dish.
- Pepper - Freshly ground black pepper is always my choice. It has a flowery aroma that does wonders for dishes.
- Fresh Parsley or Dill - (Optional) A little bit of green makes this dish look so pretty. But neither parsley nor dill is essential in making this dish.
Please see the recipe card for the exact quantities.
Preheat oven to 425°F and coat the bottom of a 13 x 9” baking dish with butter-flavored cooking spray.
Arrange the salmon fillets in a single layer in the prepared baking dish. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
Cut each tablespoon of butter into 4 thin slices and top each salmon fillet with the butter.
Thinly slice the lemon and place the slices of lemon on top of the butter.
Bake the salmon for 20 to 25 minutes or until the fish has turned opaque. You can cover the fish with aluminum foil or not. If desired, garnish the baked fish with fresh parsley or dill before serving.
My Top Tips
♡ Do not purchase or cook fish that smells. Fresh fish and fresh frozen fish should smell like the ocean. If there is a strong odor the fish is not safe to eat.
♡ If using frozen salmon let the fish thaw in the refrigerator. Because the fillets are thin they will thaw in just a few hours in the fridge. This is best for food safety as fish is very perishable.
Make-Ahead & Storage
Fish generally is not a make-ahead dish and this baked salmon is best if served the same day. However, this baked salmon is also delicious cold and can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 2 days.
More Delicious Main Dish Recipes
Lemon Butter Baked Salmon
- Butter Flavored Cooking Spray
- 1 ½ Pounds Thin Salmon Fillets, about 4
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- ½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 4 Tablespoons Butter, Thinly Sliced
- 2 Lemons, Thinly Sliced
- Chopped Parsley or Sprigs of Dill
- Preheat oven to 425°F and coat the bottom of a 13 x 9” baking dish with butter flavored cooking spray.Butter Flavored Cooking Spray
- Arrange the salmon fillets in a single layer in the prepared baking dish. Season the fish with salt and pepper.1 ½ Pounds Thin Salmon Fillets, 1 Teaspoon Salt, ½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Cut each tablespoon of butter into 4 thin slices and top each salmon fillet with the butter.4 Tablespoons Butter
- Thinly slice the lemon and place the slices of lemon on top of the butter.2 Lemons
- Bake the salmon for 20 to 25 minutes or until the fish has turned opaque. You can cover the fish with aluminum foil or not. If desired, garnish the baked fish with fresh parsley or dill before serving.Chopped Parsley or Sprigs of Dill
Encharted Cook Notes
Nutrition Per Serving
All nutritional information on this site is an estimate. Your results may vary.