Poached Salmon (in Olive Oil) with East-Indian Spices

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon

By Cat, May 2014 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

When wild salmon is in season, I eat it twice a week. So I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it. This recipe has been on my ‘try’ list for some time, and I decided I want to try it tonite, so I’m adapting it here.

Wild salmon is a very healthful fish, providing good Omega-3 fats, and generally not contaminated with heavy metals like mercury – provided it is wild-caught. Its pink color indicates the presence of the anti-oxidant carotenoids astaxanthin and canthaxanthin (from their diet of krill and other tiny shellfish).

I’d like to try poaching in something other than oil, mainly because real olive oil is quite expensive (much commercial olive oil is diluted with unhealthful oils like corn, soy and canola. Your only safe bet is Organic olive oil, or olive oil from specialty orchards in California. The problem I can see with using water or fish stock for poaching is that the flavor of the wonderful spices might be lost. Coconut milk might be a better option, because of its high fat content (see Rebecca Wood’s recipe for Five-Minute Curried Salmon (2)).

Enameled Cast Iron Skillets

However, for my first test (8/24/20; see testing, below), I will do a single piece of salmon (4 – 6 oz) that will fit in my 6″ Le Creuset skillet (enameled cast iron; see photo, right, from Pinterest), so I won’t need so much oil.

Poached Salmon with Indian Spices

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1), originally by Molly Stevens.

The original serves 4; I’ve adapted this for 1 but you can easily multiply the ingredients for more servings.

Ingredients & Equipment

  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Unrefined sea salt
  • ¼ – ½ tsp garam masala 
  • ¼ tsp cumin seed, toasted & ground
  • ¼ tsp coriander seed, toasted & ground
  • pinch cayenne
  • ½ – 1½ cups olive oil (amount depends on size of salmon fillet and size of skillet)
  • 1 center-cut salmon fillet, ¾” – 1″ thick (6 –  7 oz), skin removed
  • 1 lemon or lime wedges
  • Equipment:
  • cast iron skillet
  • small bowl
  • pancake turner
  • cooling rack and baking sheet with sides (like a jelly-roll pan)


  1. Toast the seeds in a hot cast iron skillet until fragrant. Remove from heat and allow to cool before grinding. I use my Revel electric spice grinder from India to grind the seeds.
  2. While seeds cool, remove skin from the salmon. Arrange a rack over a baking sheet with sides.
  3. Remove peel from clove of garlic. Mince the garlic, then sprinkle a pinch of salt over and crush with the side of a wide knife blade. Scrape into a small bowl, then add the spices and toasted & ground seeds, plus ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt. Add just enough of the olive oil to turn the spice mixture into a smooth paste, about ¼ – ¼ tsp.
  4. Rub this mix all over the salmon; let rest at room temperature 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 225°F.
  6. Measure depth of  fillet, then add oil to the skillet, to the same depth. Heat oil over low heat to 120°F, about 2 – 3 minutes.
  7. Place fillet into the oil; if poaching more than one, keep them in a single layer. Then transfer pan to oven without delay.
  8. Poach until a few small whitish droplets rise to the surface of the fish, 20 – 25 minutes.
  9. Remove salmon from oil and place on the rack to drain for a few minutes.
  10. Serve warm, with lemon or lime wedge, and cooked White Rice (such as basamati or Jasmin rice).


8/24/20: Used 5 oz wild caught sockeye salmon fillet; prepared a small amount of homemade Garam Marsala (about 2 Tbsp) of which I’ll use only about ¼ tsp. Mixed that with crushed garlic and then ¼ tsp olive oil; rubbed over fillet (not on skin-side) to rest at 6PM for about 1 hour.  OOPS, I forgot to add the additional toasted cumin and coriander seeds to the spice mix. Oh well. Heated about ½″ deep olive oil, in my small enameled skillet, added fillet and into oven at 6:35 PM; out at 7:05 PM, total 30 min in oven. The longer time likely due to the temp settings  for my oven are not accurate – oven was probably less than 225°F. Result: Delicious; however, next time I will use a bit more of the garam marsala (perhaps total of ½ tsp) if I don’t add toasted cumin and coriander seeds to the mix. I’ve updated recipe accordingly. Served with wild rice, steamed beet and braised broccoli, plus a small greens salad with basil balsamic dressing.


  1. Fine Cooking recipe, originally by Molly Stevens (finecooking.com/recipes/olive-oil-poached-salmon-indian-spices.aspx)
  2. Rebecca Wood recipe (rebeccawood.com/recipes/five-minute-curried-salmon)
  3. Pinterest image of skillets: pinterest.com/pin/422423640020192081/

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