Whether you want a hearty and healthy dinner, seafood your house party guests will fall in love with, or simply some protein to eat tonight and snack on leftovers tomorrow, salmon makes for the perfect meal for pretty much any occasion.
Rich in protein and packed with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is not only ridiculously good for you, it’s also amazingly delicious. To make it even better, we’re going to share our best ideas for sides that taste great with salmon; no matter if you like yours fried, seared, baked, poached, sous vide, or smoked.
From blanched and sautéed greens to roasted vegetables and bagels, here’s the 11 best sides that go deliciously well with salmon.
1. Blanched Broccoli
Wondering what vegetables go with salmon? Broccoli should be on top of your list. Broccoli pairs really well with salmon as the freshness and earthiness of the broccoli balances out the fishiness and fattiness of the salmon.
There’s more than one way to cook broccoli. You can steam, sauté, and roast them. I’ve tried each and every way and, by far, my favorite is blanching. Blanching is a technique in which you scald vegetables in boiling water for a very short time, then take them out and plunge them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
Here’s how to make blanched broccoli:
- Cut the broccoli into 1 to 1½-inch florets. Make sure they’re more or less the same size, so that they cook evenly;
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a tablespoon of sea salt to it;
- Add the broccoli florets and cook for 1 to 1½ minutes;
- Remove the florets from the boiling water. Put them in an ice water bath;
- They’re ready to serve as soon as they’ve cooled down.
This is where I like to squeeze lemon on my broccoli and season them with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
2. Sautéed String Beans
Another side dish that salmon goes great with are string beans. Also called “snap beans” and “green beans,” string beans can taste exceptionally well when you cook them right.
Mistake number one professional chefs and home cooks make alike when cooking string beans are… not cooking them enough. As the late Marcella Hazan, also known as the Godmother of Italian cooking, once shared in an interview for Epicurious:
When I was teaching, let’s say that I was cooking some string beans and they were in the boiling water and people would say, “Marcella, they must be cooked.” So I said, “Let’s taste it,” and I took it out and they were crunchy.
And they said, “They are cooked now.” I said: “Yes? Do you taste the string beans? Let’s see what happens if we cook it a little longer.” After a little longer, they were not mushy at all but they were cooked. And they said, oh, now they are different, they are really string beans.”
Cooking brings out the taste. If you cook vegetables too little because you want them crunchy, they all have one thing in common: They taste like grass.
— Marcella Hazan
Cook string beans the right way:
- Wash the string beans. Trim them to 3-4 inches in size;
- Blanche the string beans for 3 minutes in salted water. Throw in an ice bath and let them cool down;
- Add extra virgin olive oil to a large skillet. Preheat on medium-high temperature;
- Add the string beans to the pan. Sauté them until they’ve turned crisp and dark green;
- Somewhere about 30 seconds to one minute before they’re done, add the minced garlic and stir;
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Some of you may ask, “but why are you adding the minced garlic last?” We’re doing this because garlic does best when cooked briefly.
A cooking time of 30 seconds to one minute is “just enough” to infuse the string beans with the aroma and taste of garlic without burning the mince. Trust me, burned garlic will ruin this dish, no matter how well you cooked the string beans.
Serve the sautéed string beans alongside your salmon and wow your family or friends.
3. Baked Potatoes and Baby Carrots
No. 3 on our list of sides that go with salmon are baked potatoes and baby carrots. Crispy and salty on the outside and fluffy and tender on the inside, these baked veggies pair deliciously well with salmon.
How to make the best baked potatoes:
- Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C);
- Before baking, scrub the potatoes thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt. Pat them dry with a paper towel;
- Cut the potatoes in halves. Arrange them on a Dutch oven or a cast iron skillet. Add the baby carrots;
- Spray, sprinkle, or brush the potatoes and baby carrots with extra virgin olive oil. Season them with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper;
- Bake for 45-50 minutes and serve.
How can I tell when my baked potatoes are ready? The potatoes are baked when their internal temperature reaches 210°F (100°C). You can check their readiness with a meat thermometer. If you don’t have a meat thermometer handy, just use your fork. Run a fork through a potato. If it easily pierces through it, they’re done.
Go to the grocery store shopping for potatoes and you’ll probably come to the same question that I came to…
What potatoes are best for baking? The best potatoes for baking are starchy like King Edward potatoes, or floury like Désirée potatoes. King Edward potatoes are known for their soft and fluffy texture. Désirée potatoes don’t hold moisture well on their skin, which makes their exterior crispy and crunchy when baked.
4. Grilled Asparagus
Simple, tasty, salty, and distinctively bitter, grilled asparagus is an amazing side for salmon. It’s also really, really easy to make.
How to make grilled asparagus:
- Rinse a bunch of asparagus in cold water. Pat the asparagus dry with a paper towel and season them to taste with sea salt and black pepper;
- Cut off the lower part since it’s too tough to eat and chew. Leave about ⅘ or ⅚ of each asparagus for grilling;
- Put on the grill (or sauté in a preheated skillet) for about 5 to 10 minutes;
- Continue until all sides of the asparagus are neatly charred, but they’re still moist and tender on the inside.
Optionally, you can top the grilled asparagus with a poached egg and serve with grilled cocktail tomatoes and mushrooms on the side.
5. Sautéed Mushrooms
Sautéed mushrooms are one of those deceptively simple meals. One or two mistakes, and you’re left with soggy, sippy, watery, and flavorless mushrooms.
Thomas Joseph from Everyday Food on YouTube shares his tips and tricks for making golden brown sautéed mushrooms packed with flavor:
The trick to making the perfect sautéed mushrooms is to cook them on a high heat. Mushrooms are made of about 80% water. When you cook them on a low or medium temperature, you risk to steam, but not sauté them. For a good sauté, you need to get the water out quickly.
Which mushrooms to buy in the supermarket for a sauté? White button mushrooms, criminis (sometimes called “baby bellas”), portobello mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, chanterelle mushrooms, and morel mushrooms are great ingredients for a sauté.
For his sauté recipe, Thomas Joseph recommends a mix of criminis and white button mushrooms. You can make any mix you want and you can make it as diverse as you want for yours.
Sautéed mushrooms recipe:
- Clean the mushrooms thoroughly under running water to wash away any dirt;
- Cut the mushrooms into equal-sized quarters (if the mushrooms are small, you can also cut them into halves);
- Brush your frying pan with extra virgin olive oil. Preheat on high heat. You want your pan and the oil to be really hot;
- Add the mushrooms to the pan and let them cook for 2-3 minutes. Resist the temptation to stir during that time. If you start to stir the mushrooms immediately after you’ve added them to the skillet, you’re going to draw out the moisture preemptively;
- Once the mushrooms are golden brown on one side, stir and turn. Let their other side cook for 2-3 minutes as well;
- Turn off the heat. Optionally, melt a small cube of butter in the pan with your mushrooms for some extra flavor. If you want to go really exquisite, prepare some garlic butter and use it for this step;
- Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with chives and/or parsley. Serve warm.
Follow Thomas’ way of making sautéed mushrooms—and you’ll always get mushrooms that are golden brown, crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside. This mushroom side pairs truly well with most salmon main courses.
6. Avocado and Egg Toast
Next on our list of sides that go with salmon is avocado and egg toast. It’s essential that you use ripe avocados for this recipe.
How can I tell when an avocado is ripe? Look at the color of its skin. Avocados with a darker color are usually riper than the ones with a greener color. Next, put the avocado in the palm of your hand. Gently squeeze, but don’t apply your fingertips as you can harm the avocado. If the avocado yields to firm but gentle pressure, it’s ripe. If it’s tough, it’s not ripe yet and will take 3-4 days. If it’s mushy, it’s already past ripe.
Make delicious avocado and egg toast:
You’re going to need avocados, rye bread or whole-wheat bread, soft-boiled eggs, salt, pepper, and lemons.
- Cut and peel the avocado in small chunks in a bowl. Season with salt, black pepper, and a little lemon juice to your taste;
- Toast rye bread or whole-wheat bread. Spread the avocado on each toasted slice of bread;
- Peel the soft boiled eggs. Cut them in halves. Add as many as fit comfortably to each slice;
- Sprinkle salt and pepper on the toast. Optionally, garnish with pine nuts and serve.
People are going to love this healthy and delicious side dish next to the salmon.
7. Pumpkin Soup
If summer is going by too fast and it’s already a little chilly outside, why not help your friends and family cozy up with a thick and creamy pumpkin soup?
Pumpkin soup is a great starter for salmon dinner because its softness and sweetness will balance out the salmon’s crispiness and saltiness (especially if you’re serving grilled salmon).
Our tried-and-tested pumpkin soup recipe:
- Buy 1-2 roasted pumpkins from the grocery store;
- Cut the pumpkins in half, then remove the pumpkin seeds using a spoon;
- Brush the flesh of the pumpkins with extra virgin olive oil. This will help keep the moisture inside;
- Season with sea salt and black pepper. Place on a baking tray covered in baking paper and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 45-60 minutes;
- When the skin is tender enough to pierce easily with a fork, you know the pumpkins are done;
- Take the pumpkins out of the oven and let them cool for a 10-15 minutes;
- Scoop the baked pumpkin and put it inside a blender. Add extra virgin olive oil, coconut milk, a teaspoon or two of honey, vegetable or chicken stock, and minced garlic;
- Blend into a creamy and consistent mixture. Transfer to a pot and cook on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and dried unsalted pumpkin seeds. Serve to your guests as a warm starter when it’s rainy and cold outside.
8. Browned Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts? As a side for salmon? Really?!
Brussels sprouts get all the bad credit because most people make one critical mistake when cooking them: they leave them whole instead of cutting them in halves. Here’s why this matters.
As Dan Souza from America’s Test Kitchen explains in the YouTube video below, cutting the Brussels sprouts in half not only causes a chemical reaction that releases their flavor when cooking, but also leads to a 9 times bigger browning area (and browning tastes great):
Browned Brussels sprouts recipe:
- Start with a cold skillet. Lay the Brussels sprouts cut-side down to maximize what Dan calls “the brownable surface area;”
- Add plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Browning requires good contact, which requires plenty of cooking oil;
- Turn on the heat and pop on the lid for about 5 minutes. Some of the water contained in the sprouts will turn to steam and cook the parts that aren’t in direct contact with the pan;
- After 5 minutes, remove the lid and continue to brown for about 3 minutes;
- Season with sea salt, black pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Follow the science behind this technique and the recipe to back it, and Brussels sprouts will become one of your family’s favorite meals.
9. Mediterranean Mixed Salad
Delicious, nutritious, and really easy to make, the Mediterranean mixed salad will go great with salmon; grilled, sous vide, or cold smoked.
Head to the grocery store and buy a mix of salad greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
What greens are best for mixed salad? Our favorite greens for this recipe are arugula, kale, romaine salad, escarole, or leaf lettuce. For a healthy and tasty salad, combine two or three greens.
What tomatoes should I use for a salad? You can use pretty much any tomato variety for a mixed salad. Go for cherry tomatoes or cocktail tomatoes if you like the sweeter kind. Or Heirloom Red Beefsteak if you like the juicier kind. It all comes down to what you and your family like the most.
Make a Mediterranean mixed salad:
- Clean the salad greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers thoroughly under running water to wash away any dirt;
- Spin the greens in a salad spinner to drain any leftover water. This will help the dressing stick to the salad leaves;
- Tear the greens for your salad by hand. You don’t really need to use a knife here as it can harm the greens;
- Peel the cucumber, cut it in ½ lengthwise, then cut into small and equal sized pieces;
- If you’ve bought big tomatoes and like your tomatoes peeled, now is the time to do so;
- Cut the tomatoes in equal sized pieces and add to your salad;
- Dress the salad with some extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and sea salt;
- Toss and serve.
10. Roasted Vegetables
Roasted vegetables are a great side to serve with salmon in cold weather. And, like most sides on our list, they’re incredibly easy to make.
Look for your favorite vegetables to roast in the grocery store. That can be potatoes, carrots, and leeks. Or tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, and onions.
Clean the vegetables under running water and cut them into smaller pieces to maximize the roasting area. Cover a baking tray with baking paper and arrange the vegetables on it. Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with a spice or two like thyme or rosemary.
What’s the best temperature for roasting vegetables? Always use high heat for roasting. The best temperature for roasting vegetables in the oven is between 400°F (205°C) and 450°F (230°C).
11. Lox & Spinach Bagel
There’s something about a lox and spinach bagel that can’t be put into words… you have to try and see for yourself. A staple of American Jewish cuisine, the lox and schmear originated in New York in the early 20th century, when street vendors were selling salt-cured lox from their pushcarts.
What’s the difference between lox and smoked salmon? Smoked salmon is cured or brined, then smoked. Lox is only cured in a salty brine and never cooked. Lox came about in the American Jewish community as a way to preserve salmon during transport before fridges were around.
To make a lox and spinach bagel, cut a bagel in half, then spread each side with cream cheese. The best cream cheese for making bagels that you can buy in any grocery store is Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Over the cream cheese, layer baby spinach and lox slices.
Serve chilled. Your guests won’t be able to get enough of this bagel.