Healthy Ways to Serve Salmon


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Salmon is well known as a source of omega-3 fatty acids that help keep your heart and your brain healthy. It's also rich in B-complex vitamins, a few minerals and can add a substantial amount of vitamin D to your daily intake. Salmon also contains astaxanthin, a carotenoid that's related to vitamin A. Astaxanthin may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Although salmon is rich in omega-3 fats, it's not high in total fats, like red meats. In fact, one 3-ounce serving of salmon has less than four total grams of fat and less than 200 calories, mostly from the 18 grams of protein. That's why most nutrition and diet experts say salmon is good for you.

But sometimes bad things happen to good foods when they're prepared in ways that add calories from extra fats or sugars. So here's a look at six healthy ways to serve salmon, along with links to easy and delicious recipes.


Grilled Salmon

Cooking salmon on a grill is thought to be healthful because it doesn't require the addition of any extra fat, other than a little coating of oil on the grill itself. Salmon is perfect for the grill — especially when you compare it to white fish because the flesh stays firm as it cooks and doesn't fall apart. 

Grilling works perfectly for both salmon filets and steaks. Don't have a grill? A broiler oven should do the trick. But whether you grill or broil your salmon — don't run too far away, it only takes about 10 to 15 minutes of total cooking time.

Pro Tip: keep your grilled salmon dinner healthy by serving the fish with a little squeeze of lemon. Add a big salad made with your favorite greens or any cooked colorful vegetable.


Poached Salmon

Poaching involves cooking the salmon in a liquid that's simmering gently in a skillet on your stovetop. You could use water with your favorite herbs and seasonings or try poaching your fish in wine or broth. The result is a nice delicate salmon that you can serve with a reduced-fat yogurt and dill sauce and your favorite vegetables.

Poaching doesn't take long at all, and your salmon will be ready in just a few minutes. Poached salmon is often served cold, but it can be served warm with a side of steamed green beans.

Poaching your salmon is one of the quickest, easiest and healthiest ways to cook it.

Pro Tip: serve chilled poached salmon with potato salad and asparagus as a refreshing and healthy summer lunch.


Baked Salmon

Both filets and steaks can be baked in your oven using just a few ingredients in a pan or even in parchment paper. Baking is healthful because it doesn't add any extra fat or calories to the fish if you cook it plain or with seasonings. Of course, it's important not to add heavy high-calorie sauces to your fish.

Baking takes a little longer than other cooking methods, with about 20 to 30 minutes in the oven, depending on the temperature you choose.

Pro Tip: serve your baked salmon with Brussels sprouts and walnuts, and a glass of white wine. 


Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon is prepared by first curing the fish in a brine solution, then letting the fish dry a bit before it spends time in the smoke created by burning wood chips in a smoker. It's often served as a snack or used as an ingredient. 

There's no need to buy pre-packaged smoked salmon, even if you don't have a smoker. You can smoke salmon on a grill or even indoors.

Smoked salmon isn't unhealthy, but it doesn't have as much of the omega-3 fatty acids as fresh or canned salmon. And you do need to keep an eye on the recipes that call for smoked salmon.

Pro Tip: serve smoked salmon slices on whole grain crackers with just a little bit cream cheese and a couple of capers on top. 


Canned Salmon

I know that 'processed foods' tend to be frowned upon, but canned salmon is an excellent source of all that salmon-y goodness, and it won't go bad in a week if you forget to cook it. I mean, there's a lot to be said for the convenience of canned fish. 

The key to keeping canned salmon healthful is to choose the right recipes. Combine your canned salmon with fresh ingredients and try to avoid huge globs of mayonnaise, tons of cheese or other high-calorie foods. Simply serve canned salmon on whole grain bread with lettuce and sliced tomato or add it to your garden salad to make a meal of it.

Pro Tip: most cans of salmon also contain bones and skin, which most people don't seem to mind. But if you're like me and totally grossed out over the idea of fish bones in your food, just read the labels.


Raw Salmon

Raw salmon is often served as sushi or sashimi, but you might also find salmon carpaccio, crudo, or ceviche. Fresh salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and has a wonderful flavor.

My favorite is nigiri, or hand-formed sushi — and even better with brown rice. Sashimi is good too, but be careful with some of the maki, which are the rolls, when you order from a menu — they're often served with high-calorie sauces that can overpower the delicate fish.

Pro Tip: buy high-quality sushi-grade salmon if you're serving a raw salmon dish.

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  • United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. "Basic Report: 15210, Fish, salmon, chinook, cooked, dry heat."