Brown Sugar Salmon Recipe

Even non-salmon lovers may be converted by this delicious, easy-to-make dish.

This is now our favorite way to cook salmon. The sweet brown sugar and cumin flavors of the rub, with just a tinge of heat, offset the salmon beautifully. If you are careful to cook the salmon to the right temperature, it is always juicy and delicious.

I used to cook this dish using a cedar plank, and smoking it in my Green Mountain Pellet Smoker  at 400 for 15 minutes. But the flavor of the rub is so rich that I always suspected it would taste darn near as good in the oven. Finally, I tried it, and it worked out beautifully. I can't tell the difference in flavor, and it's now much faster and easier to make.

This recipe is a blend from different sources, most notably using a variation on the 3-2-1 Rib Rub from Chef Jason Hill. It's also super easy to make for an evening meal, ASSUMING THAT:

  • You make a big batch of the rub and have it sitting in your cupboard ready to use. Why not? It's delicious and can also be used on ribs.
  • You have fresh salmon, or have it pre-cut to portion size in the freezer, for quick defrosting.

I use a food thermometer to ensure the salmon is always juicy, flaky, and flavorful.

TOTAL TIME: 35 min

  • Prep:      20 min (assumes rub is made in advance in bulk)
  • Cook:     15 min

YIELD:    4 servings

LEVEL:  Easy




  • Shopping: I buy the cheapest farm-raised stuff from Costco, then slice it, saran-wrap it, put all pieces into a zip-loc bag, and freeze it at home. It thaws extremely fast in the microwave.
  • Rub - I buy my spices in bulk from Amazon.
  • Defrost - I like to thaw the salmon in advance, then put it in the refrigerator until ready to prepare. This helps the fish come to a more even temperature, ensuring it will cook more consistently throughout.


Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees on Roast.

On a cutting board, rub olive oil on each piece of salmon. Apply the Brown Sugar Rub liberally to all sides. By liberally, I mean apply it several times until no more will stick. Press it into the fish so it moistens from the olive oil, as seen in the picture above. 

Place the fish on a non-stick cookie sheet or roasting pan. You want the thickness to be as uniform as possible so all the fish is cooked the same. I like to overlap the thin portions (see photo).

Bake until the fish internal temperature reaches 125 to 130 degrees, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook it, or the fish will be dry and less flavorful.

More Photos

Apply the rub liberally.

By "liberally", I mean apply it several times. It will moisten from the oil each time. Press it into the fish to help it pick up the oil.

I like to overlap the thin ends to ensure even cooking.

Goes great with mashed potatoes. or, just serve with a salad for a low-carb meal. Also good for leftovers.