Grilled Cajun Herb Salmon with Tartar Sauce
My Grilled Cajun Herb Salmon recipe trumps any other grilled salmon recipe for impressing guests. It’s full of bold, depth, and refreshing flavors. The creamy homemade tartar sauce adds a great contrast to the grilled flavors.
Grilled salmon often intimidates people, but I’m going to teach you the best and simplest ways to make the perfect grilled salmon recipe any time of the year. Salmon is grilled more often than the other fish like tuna or swordfish, but it’s grilled in much the same way.
The first step to grilled salmon perfection! A hot grill. Salmons flesh is fragile and dries out quickly if the heat isn’t high enough. It makes grilled salmon turn into grilled cardboard, not good!
To make these fantastic Grilled Cajun Herb Salmon with Tartar Sauce, you will need the following key ingredients:
I like to use a whole half of salmon fillet to cut it to my desired portion size. When I can find it, I use sockeye salmon because it’s leaner and wild. Any salmon will do though, use whatever is fresh and available in your market.
Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning will provide similar flavors. Use your favorite, but I will always recommend the #1 Cajun seasoning Savory Seasoning.
I love parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, green onions. They all add a refreshing bite to any dish. Feel free to use your favorite herbs for this recipe.
Egg yolks are amazing! Yolks are the key to making a homemade tartar sauce. It will add flavor, color and emulsify the mayonnaise to its creamy consistency.
I love avocado oil for its neutral flavor and excellent health benefits. However, you can use a less expensive olive oil or canola oil for the tartar sauce.
White vinegar adds zing to the tartar sauce. A little goes a long way, so don’t get heavy-handed.
Chopped pickles also add an acidic component to the tartar sauce to cut through the richness of the homemade mayonnaise. Sweet relish can work if you prefer a sweeter tartar sauce.
Cayenne scares many people because of its spicy notes, but it adds great flavor with a small portion. Besides, the acid from the vinegar and pickles will tame the heat.
How to make grilled salmon recipe
Grilled salmon is easy to make and come together in 10 minutes. To make this delicious dish, just follow these steps:
Grilled Cajun Herb Salmon:
4 lbs. sockeye salmon, skinned, bones removed, room temperature
2 sticks melted unsalted butter
3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 ½ teaspoons dry thyme
juice of 2 lemons, more for garnish
½ cup chopped green onions
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Preheat your grill to 400-450°F. Cut the salmon into your desired portion size. In a small bowl, combine Cajun seasoning and dry thyme. Place melted butter in medium size bowl or cake pan. Dip each fillet of salmon in the butter and liberally season it on both sides with seasoning. Place salmon skin-side down over direct heat, cook for 5 minutes, flip and cook for 1 minute, and squeeze lemon juice over salmon fillets.
Remove from heat and cover loosely with foil. In a small bowl, combine green onions, parsley, and fresh basil. Garnish salmon with herbs. Serve a piece of salmon with a generous scoop of tartar sauce and lemon wedge.
Recipe Tips & Tricks:
Here are some of my top tips and tricks to help you make this dish:
- Grilling is about confidence. This recipe uses a very hot temperature. My recommendation is you have your grill clean, a long handle spatula, and a platter ready to go.
- Clean your grill grates with a wire brush when the grill is hot. Then spray them with cooking spray to prevent your food from sticking to the grill.
- Use the direct heat method to grill salmon.
- You always want to cook salmon and any other fish over high heat. It keeps the salmon moist and flaky while grilling.
- Never use frozen salmon for this recipe. The fish will contain too much moisture and will steam instead of the grill.
- It takes around 20 minutes for the grill briquettes to be hot enough to grill.
- Salmon on the grill should be firm, moist, and tender. If you would like to cook your salmon Medium-Rareit’s 125°F; for Medium it’s 135°F; for Medium-Well it’s 140°F; for Well-Done it’s 145°F.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about grilling salmon:
What's the best salmon for grilling
The best salmon for grilled salmon is fresh salmon fillets. Any salmon you can find fresh in your local market will be the best for grilling.
6 types of Salmon
There are six typical salmon that you’ll find in the supermarket.
- King salmon is the best salmon of its high-fat content, giving it a rich color and flavor.
- Sockeye salmon have beautiful deep orange-red flesh. They’re leaner than king salmon and Atlantic salmon but still have a great flavor.
- Atlantic salmon is the most common salmon found in the supermarket because they are farmed raised. High-fat content and good flavor. Atlantic salmon has that infamous fishy taste and smell that may turn some off.
- Coho salmon are the leaner cousin of king salmon. They have a similar flavor to king salmon and bright red flesh like sockeye salmon.
- Pink salmon is lean and mild in flavor. Its commonly used for canned, smoked, and frozen salmon.
- Chum salmon is lean and mild flavored. It’s the most common type of salmon used for frozen salmon options.
How to use a Charcoal Grill
Over the years of grilling, I’ve learned a lot. These tips will help tremendously. I prefer using a charcoal grill, but if you have another grill, these rules apply.
You have the option to use your favorite out of briquettes, lump charcoal, and hardwood. Charcoal briquettes are my go-to because they’re always available, and I love their slow burn. I usually stay away from the flavored hickory, mesquite, applewood, cherry, and oak briquettes.
I do not use lighter fluid when I grill. The amount of chemicals that are in that is doesn’t make it safe for food consumption. Instead, I prefer to use a natural firestarter cubes because it’s made from natural wax, lights fast, odorless, non-toxic, clean, and burns for 12-15 minutes. Firestarters cubes are great because you don’t have to micro-manage the fire as the grill gets hot.
Now, if all else fails, place some newspaper and canola oil on the grill, place your briquettes on it and light the paper. The oil will catch on fire and help light the briquettes. Caution, though, because you will need a lot of oil to keep the fire going.
What's the best grill temperature for grilled salmon?
Grilled salmon should take place over medium-high heat (400-450°F degrees) for about 6-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your grilled salmon.
What side of the salmon to grill first?
To make the best-grilled salmon, you have to know which side to grill first. There are two rules two remember about making grilled salmon.
Cook your grilled salmon skin side down, flesh side up. Cooking fish skin side down is excellent for two reasons 1) the skin side is the presentation side. 2) The skin acts as a non-stick aid against the grill grates. Your skin will get crispy, but your salmon will not be ruined or overcooked if they stick to the grill grates.
Grilling salmon flesh side on a greased grill grates over leads to sticking, and we don’t want our salmon sticking to the grill.
Why only flip the salmon once?
You only flip your grilled salmon once while cooking because it will cook 90-95% on the skin side. Then flip it over to give it a chef’s kiss (quick sear for 1 minute). Salmon is done with a piece that flakes easily when pressed lightly with a fork.
Sides to Serve with Grilled Salmon
Sauces to Serve with Grilled Salmon
Drinks to Serve with Grilled Salmon
As the honorary pitmaster for the day, you need to make sure you have something refreshing while working the grill. Here are some fantastic drinks to serve with your grilled salmon.
Can you make it ahead?
Grilled Salmon: You can grill the salmon one day in advance. Keep in an airtight container for 7 days if you do make the salmon early. I highly recommend that you under cook it. Under cooking your fish will allow you to enjoy your salmon at your desired temperature when you reheat it. You can reheat salmon over the grill by wrapping it in foil and reheat it over the grill for 3-5 minutes. You can also reheat in a 350°F degree oven for 5-6 minutes.
Tartar Sauce: You can make your tartar sauce two days in advance. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 14 days.
Latest Recipe Video:
Common One to One Substitutions:
Don’t have everything you need? No worries. Here are some of the most common substitutions for this dish:
- You can use Atlantic salmon, coho salmon, king salmon, trout, halibut, tuna as a swap for sockeye salmon.
- You can use olive oil, vegetable oil, avocado oil as a swap for canola oil.
- Feel free to swap Creole mustard for Dijon mustard.
- You can also use sweet relish instead of chopped pickles
- Grill Skillet = Grill
Other Salmon Ideas:
Make this recipe, try it out on your family. I can’t recommend this one enough. Grill salmon is quick and easy, healthy but still filling, and yummy without being too complicated. Give it a go! And don’t forget to tag me in the photo you take of your finished dish on Instagram, so we can see how tasty it is. Also, be sure to leave a comment below with feedback about whether or not this recipe was as good as I say it is!
Grilled Cajun Herb Salmon with Tartar Sauce
- 3 lbs. sockeye salmon skinned, bones removed, room temperature
- 2 sticks melted unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
- 1 ½ teaspoons dry thyme
- juice of 2 lemons more for garnish
- ½ cup chopped green onions
- ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons chopped pickles
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- Preheat your grill to 400-450°F. Cut the salmon into your desired portion size. In a small bowl, combine Cajun seasoning and dry thyme. Place melted butter in medium size bowl or cake pan. Dip each fillet of salmon in the butter and liberally season it on both sides with seasoning. Place salmon skin-side down, over direct heat, cook for 5 minutes, flip over and cook for 1 minute, and squeeze lemon juice over salmon fillets.
- Remove from heat and cover loosely with foil. In a small bowl, combine green onions, parsley, and fresh basil. Serve salmon a piece of salmon with a generous scoop of tartar sauce and lemon wedge.
- In a food processor or blender add the egg yolks and Dijon mustard, blitz on high for 10 seconds. Turn the machine on high, and slowly pour in oil, until mayonnaise is smooth and thick. Add the lemon juice, water, salt, cayenne, pickles and parley. Pulse 3 times until all ingredients are combined. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serve warm salmon with herbs and a generous serving of tartar sauce.
Made this recipe? Take a picture and tag me on Instagram (@kennethtemple_) or Facebook (@ChefKennethTemple)!