Want to make moist and flaky baked salmon with a crispy pesto, Parmesan and Panko topping? This pesto-crusted salmon recipe covers everything from, which pesto and salmon to use, and how to cook it to succulent perfection with tips, variations and serving suggestions. Plus, this is one of those super convenient 5-ingredient recipes on the table in just 20 minutes, perfect for a weeknight dinner.
Salmon is tasty, nutritious and often very quick and easy to cook. For more weeknight-friendly salmon dishes, try my Salmon Teriyaki Noodle Stir Fry, Salmon Pasta Without Cream or Salmon Wellington. You can find these alongside lots of other quick and easy fish recipes on my Fish & Seafood Recipes Page.
The post contains additional information and helpful tips to ensure the recipe turns out great the first time. Please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end if you are in a hurry!
4 reasons why you'll love this recipe
- Quick and easy - this baked salmon fillet with a tasty pesto, panko and Parmesan crust will be ready in 20 minutes.
- Uses 5 everyday ingredients - you can get everything you need to make this recipe in your local store.
- Flavourful - buttery baked salmon, topped with herby pesto, umami Parmesan and crunchy panko breadcrumbs.
- Versatile - with lots of ways to tweak the recipe if you want to change things up.
This recipe just requires 5 everyday ingredients that you will be able to find at your local store:
- Salmon fillets - buy skinless if you can. You cannot get the skin crispy when you bake salmon, so it's best to start without it or remove it with a sharp knife. Avoid using smoked fish as the flavour may be overpowering when combined with the pesto.
- Pesto - you can use jarred, fresh or use the homemade pesto recipe from my Homemade Basil Pesto recipe.
- Parmesan - can be switched for other hard cheeses with a similar flavour profile such as Grana Padano or pecorino.
- Panko breadcrumbs - use store-bought or make your own from scratch.
Which type of salmon to use?
This comes down to personal preference. I tend to use farmed Atlantic salmon because I like its soft flakey texture and it's also the most readily available.
Here are some other options:
- Wild-caught Sockeye salmon: Is known for its rich flavour and firm texture. It can be an excellent choice for baked pesto-crusted salmon as it holds up well to the cooking process.
- King salmon: Also known as Chinook salmon, is considered one of the most flavorful and fatty types of salmon. It's an excellent choice if you enjoy a buttery, rich taste.
- Coho salmon: Is known for its vibrant orange-red flesh, has a balanced flavour and medium-fat content. It can be a good choice for panko salmon when you want a combination of flavour and texture.
Why panko breadcrumbs?
For an extra crispy topping, panko breadcrumbs are the way to go. They're coarser and drier than standard breadcrumbs, so they soak up less moisture during the salmon's baking process. Their larger flakes also adhere well to the salmon, creating that satisfying crunch.
You can easily pick up panko breadcrumbs at your local store, or if you prefer, you can make your own from scratch using Caroline Phelps' comprehensive Homemade Panko Breadcrumbs Recipe featured on Pickled Plum.
- Panko: You can also use breadcrumbs instead, although the topping won't be quite as crispy.
- Parmesan: Swap for Pecorino or use nutritional yeast.
- Try another type of fish like trout, cod or seabass.
- Dairy-free: Using nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan.
- Gluten-free: Using gluten-free panko breadcrumbs.
- Switch up the pesto and try sun-dried tomato pesto, lemon pesto or Thai Basil Pesto instead of regular basil pesto.
- Add red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.
- Sheet pan meal: Bake veggies and potatoes at the same time.
🧑🍳 Recipe steps
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Step 1: Heat your oven to 180C or 300F. Remove excess moisture from the salmon fillets with kitchen paper. Mix the parmesan and panko breadcrumbs in a small bowl and brush a baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil.
Place the salmon fillets into the baking dish facing up, spread them with an even layer of pesto and sprinkle with the panko and Parmesan mixture.
Top tip: Use skinless salmon fillets or remove the skin with a sharp knife before you begin. You can't crisp up the skin when you bake salmon so it's best to remove it.
Step 2: Place the salmon fillets in the oven for 10 minutes then place them under the grill for the final 2-3 minutes to get the topping extra crispy.
Top tip: Salmon is done when the flesh is opaque the whole way through or the internal temperature has reached 50C or 125F.
Step 3: Serve immediately with your choice of sides.
- Remove the skin (or buy skinless salmon fillets) - salmon skin is delicious when it is crispy, but that is not possible when you bake it. It's best to buy skinless fillets or remove the skin before you get started. You can grill the skin separately if you would like and enjoy some crispy skin on the side.
- Adjust the timings depending on the size and thickness of your salmon fillets - Get the best results by checking for doneness instead of following the exact timings in the recipe. This recipe has been tested with salmon fillets that are approx 125g each and 2 cm / ¾ inch thick, but you may need to add/remove some time depending on the size of your fillets. Assess doneness by cutting into one of the fillets to see if the flesh is opaque in the middle or use a fish thermometer to check that the internal temperature has reached 50C or 125F.
- Grill - if you are cooking the salmon fillets in the oven, place them under the grill for 2-3 more minutes to get the topping extra crispy.
🍽 Serving suggestions
Pesto-crusted salmon is very versatile and can be enjoyed with pasta, potatoes, a cool and refreshing Creamy Red Skin Potato Salad, rice, green vegetables like beans or broccoli or with a simple side salad.
The best way is to use a fish thermometer to check that the internal temperature has reached 50C or 125F. If you don't have a fish thermometer cut into the thickest part of the salmon to check that the flesh is opaque and cook for a few more minutes if it is still translucent.
Only if it is sashimi grade. Otherwise, raw salmon can harbour nasty bacteria and pathogens. Ensure your salmon has reached an internal temperature of 50C or 125F or that the flesh is opaque in the middle when you cut into it.
Salmon skin is safe to eat and is very tasty and nutritious, plus it's delicious when it is crisped up under the grill or by pan-frying. You cannot get yummy crispy skin when you bake salmon, so it's best to remove it and grill or pan-fry it separately if you want to enjoy it.
Yes, you can, just ensure you check the weight and adjust the number of servings using the scaling buttons on the recipe card as needed.
This depends on the recipe and taste and texture that you want to achieve. If you're aiming for a crispy, browned top on your salmon, it's best to cook it uncovered. On the other hand, if you want to infuse the salmon with flavours from a sauce you might want to cook it in foil.
When it comes to pesto-crusted salmon uncovered is the way to go to get that crispy topping.
The cooked pesto-crusted salmon will keep in the fridge for 2 days. Ensure you refrigerate it as soon as it is cool. You can reheat it in the oven or microwave or eat it cold.
More quick and easy salmon recipes
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Pesto Crusted Salmon
- 2 Fillets salmon 4.5oz or 125g each (Note
- 1 tbsp panko breadcrumbs (Note 1)
- 1 tbsp Parmesan (Note 2)
- Olive oil for greasing
- 4 tbsp basil pesto (Note 3)
- Heat your oven to 300°F or 180°C.
- Remove any excess moisture from the salmon fillets with kitchen paper.
- If your salmon fillets have skin, use a sharp knife to carefully remove it. (Note 2)
- Mix the Parmesan and panko breadcrumbs in a bowl.
- Brush the surface of a baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil and place the salmon fillets in.
- Spread the pesto onto the salmon fillets then sprinkle them with the panko and parmesan mixture.
- Place the baking tray in the oven for approximately 10 minutes until the flesh is opaque the whole way through or the internal temperature has reached 50C or 125F. (Note 3)
- Optional: Broil the salmon fillets for 2-3 minutes to get the panko Parmesan topping slightly brown and crispy.
- Serve immediately with your choice of sides.
- Salmon: Buy skinless if you can. Feel free to choose a variety that suits your tastes. Read the which type of salmon to use section in the recipe post to find out more about specific varieties that will work well in this recipe. Avoid using smoked fish as the flavour may be overpowering when combined with the pesto. This recipe has been tested with salmon fillets that are approx 125g or 9oz each. You may need to adjust the length of the cooking time and the amount of pesto and panko breadcrumbs depending on the size of your salmon fillets.
- Panko breadcrumbs: You can also use breadcrumbs instead, although the topping won't be quite as crispy.
- Basil pesto: Use jarred, fresh or use homemade pesto recipe from my Basil Pesto Pasta recipe.