Seared Salmon with Avocado Salsa

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Salmon with avocado salsa seems like some weird nouveau creation divorced from environment or reality… but if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

To be sure, salmon and avocado don’t seem like they ought to go together: They’re both soft, both fatty, and let’s face it, when you think salmon you think Alaska, not Southern California’s avocado country. But they do co-exist in nature, right here where I live in Sacramento.

Seared salmon with avocado salsa on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Sacramento is just about as far north as you can grow an avocado; not sure about the specific variety, but I have a couple friends who grow them here. As for salmon? Well, back in the day the Sacramento River system was home to one of the largest king salmon runs on earth. It’s still a big run on good years, and the last few have been good.

Scores of variations of salmon with avocado salsa exist, and I could have probably come up with something fancy. But I didn’t. Nope, this is the kind of dinner I do on a typical work night: Simple, and it really does come together in about 30 minutes.

And while I decided to serve it carb-free (for no reason other than I had had a big lunch earlier that day), you could also break up the salmon and make tacos. As always, I’d advise making your own corn tortillas or flour tortillas if you do because, well, they are so much better.

I got the inspiration to make salmon with avocado salsa from Gaby Dalkin’s book Absolutely Avocados, which is, as you might expect, an avocado cookbook. Gaby has her own version of this recipe in her book; hers has lots of bell peppers in it.

Any salmon will work with this recipe, as will trout. If you are not in a salmon area, try this with grilled bluefish or mackerel, or amberjack, jack crevalle, tuna or wahoo. Speckled trout is another good option. Inland, you’re looking at trout, catfish or walleye.

A word on salmon skin. Lots of people seem to be frightened of fish skin. In some cases, that’s justifiable. Not with salmon, though. The method of cooking I show you below will make the skin as crispy as a cracker — just be sure it’s been scaled before you do this. If you serve your salmon skin-on, the skin faces up so it stays crispy.

And yes, you can of course make this with skinless salmon, which I did for the picture.

Seared salmon with avocado salsa on a plate
5 from 7 votes

Salmon with Avocado Salsa

I use wild king salmon for this recipe, because that's what I catch. But any salmon or large trout would work, as would any other big piece of fish, really. I like this salsa with striped bass, mahi mahi and yellowtail a lot, and I bet it would be good with halibut, red snapper, cobia, redfish, walleye or black seabass, too. Don't skimp on the soak time for the red onion, unless you like the bite you get from raw onions. The acid in the lime juice really helps tame it.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon fillets, skin on or off
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons high smoke point oil such as canola, safflower, grapeseed or rice bran oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • Juice of 2 limes, about 1/4 cup
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 to 3 hot green chiles, such as serrano, minced
  • 1 Roma or other plum tomato, diced
  • 2 avocados, cut into chunks
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions 

  • Take the salmon out of the fridge and salt it well while you start the salsa. Soak the red onion in the lime juice; this helps remove that sulfurous taste of raw onion. Let the onion soak and the salmon sit out for 20 minutes while you chop everything else.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan large enough to cook all the salmon fillets. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels. If you are using skin-on pieces, use a butter knife to scrape the skin -- this dries it out even more so the skin gets extra crispy. Lay the salmon down on the hot pan skin side down (or on the side that used to have the skin). Adjust the heat so the fish is sizzling like bacon: Neither an inferno nor a lazy pop. Let this cook undisturbed for 2 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, put the onion and lime juice into a large bowl and add the garlic, chiles, diced tomato, avocado chunks and cilantro. Add salt to taste.
  • Use a soup spoon to baste the salmon with the hot oil. Do this on each fillet until the meat tightens a little and turns completely opaque, about 30 seconds per fillet. If you like your salmon cooked all the way to the center, repeat this process a couple times. Do not flip the salmon. Let the salmon cook for a total of 6 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick it is and how well you like your salmon. A thin salmon fillet, such as a pink salmon or a small sockeye or silver, will take only 6 minutes or so total. A really thick piece of king salmon or Atlantic might require a little more than 10 minutes.
  • Carefully remove the salmon from the pan with a spatula; it should come right up, or stick in only one or two small spots, and place it crispy side up on the plate. Give everyone some salsa on the side and open a beer.

Notes

If you want a starch to go with this meal, I'd suggest rice. Or you can break up the salmon and throw it and the salsa into a tortilla and make salmon tacos.

Nutrition

Calories: 359kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 35mg | Sodium: 75mg | Potassium: 866mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 391IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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17 Comments

  1. Made with SC mahi. Was delicious. Could really taste the fish in a way that often gets masked by spices.

  2. I don’t know how such a simple recipe can taste as amazing as this does. I have made this several time for my family and it’s just perfect.

  3. I made this a month ago, my wife and I have been craving it ever since. She loves Salmon, and said this was the best Salmon she had ever had in her life. Gonna make it again tonight.

  4. Tried this recipe out tonight with my freshly caught Alaskan coho fillets. Turned out great!! Would do it again.

  5. We tried this one tonight with brown trout and it was great! I’ve done salmon/trout with avocado before, but I liked the was the fish was cooked. The skin was nice and crispy. Yum.

  6. Thanks for the avocado love Hank!!! And I want to come salmon fishing with you in Sacramento next time!!

  7. I made this the other night. The salsa was amazing. You mention the other types of fish that it would be good with. I must disagree. I think it would be great with *anything*, not just those. I haven’t tried it yet but I think it would make a great omelet filling too… I liked the bit of crunch on the salmon also.

  8. Hank,
    Can you tell us more about you catching the king salmon please? And how do you preserve your surplus fish?
    regards
    Jack

  9. This sounds too good to be true — I think I live and die for avocados and I absolutely love salmon although I have to buy it. This recipe is a must try for me. Thanks for this posting, I can’t wait to try it.

  10. Looks great! Glad to hear the salmon are running strong again this year. Now how to convince my husband to stop cycling and go fishing like he did last summer? Hmmm….. 🙂