Easy and delicious sugar seared salmon, served with wilted baby bok choy and a coconut lime sauce. Ready in less than 30 minutes, too!
This Sugar Seared Salmon with Coconut Lime Sauce is one of my favourite easy weeknight meals. It’s such a pretty dish, a great way to enjoy always healthy salmon and greens and with a touch of saucy indulgence from the flavourful coconut lime sauce.
Perhaps best of all? This sugar seared salmon dish cooks up in one skillet and is ready in less that 30 minutes!
Cook’s Notes for Sugar Seared Salmon with Coconut Lime Sauce
I usually use white sugar here, but any sugar will work, such as brown sugar, palm sugar or coconut sugar.
Don’t feel you need to use all of the sugar rub. You want an even, generous sprinkling on both sides of the salmon. I add to the top first, then place in the skillet top side down. While they are cooking, you can sprinkle the other side before flipping.
I love the little tubes of lemongrass and ginger paste that are easily found in the produce section at the grocery store and that’s what I am referring to in the recipe. Of course, you can use grated fresh ginger and lemongrass instead, using just a bit less of the fresh as it will be a little more potent than the paste.
I found dried Kaffir lime leaves at my local grocery recently and was so happy to add them to my spice rack. For Canadians, looks for them at President’s Choice stores in the spice section (in a jar and part of their Black Label collection of spices and herbs). Otherwise, they are easily found online (Amazon has them), if you’d like to add them to your pantry as well.
You could use light coconut milk here if you prefer. It will, of course, make for a less creamy and less thick sauce. You could thicken with a slurry of a bit of cornstarch and water if you like.
Speaking of the sauce, it is probably best described as a “little goes a long way” sauce, so you don’t need to put a ton in the bottom of the bowl (unless you want too, of course :). You may have left-over sauce. It should freeze, if you’d like to save it for a future meal.
Top Tip!I love the caramelized coating that sugar-searing brings to salmon, but it is sugar and it is prone to scorching if the heat is too high. Watch carefully and adjust your heat down if needed. You don’t want the outside to get too dark before the salmon has a chance to cook through. I find a non-stick skillet works well and allows the opportunity to swirl the salmon around in the pan easily, which helps it from over-browning.
Sugar Seared Salmon with Coconut Lime Sauce
- 4 centre-cut salmon fillets
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 6 baby bok choy stem end removed and sliced in half if large
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 tsp cooking oil
- 1/4 cup water or as needed
- 2 Tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Coconut Lime Sauce:
- 1 tsp lemongrass paste or 3/4 tsp peeled and grated stalk
- 1 tsp ginger paste or 3/4 tsp grated ginger root
- 14 oz can coconut milk full fat
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp lime zest
- Juice of 1/2 a small lime
- 2 kaffir lime leaves optional
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Lime wedges
- Chopped fresh cilantro leaves optional
- Cook the Bok Choy: Remove the stalk end of the bok choy and rinse and dry leaves. Cut large leaves in half from top to bottom, if large. Heat a bit of cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and bok choy leaves and cook, stirring for a minute. Add a tablespoon of water or so to the pan and allow to cook off, stirring once or twice while cooking another couple of minutes. Add a bit more water and allow to cook off, cooking and stirring another minute or so or until bok choy leaves are wilted and tender-crisp. Remove bok choy to a plate. Remove skillet from heat.
- While the Bok Choy is Cooking: Prepare the sugar rub by stirring together the sugar, salt and pepper. Gather your sauce ingredients and if you have time, measure them out and have them handy, so your sauce will come together quickly later.
- Cook the Salmon: Moisten salmon fillets slightly with a bit of water, then generously sprinkle top with sugar rub. Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel then return to the burner over medium heat. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in skillet. Place salmon in skillet, with the side with the sugar rub down. Allow to cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes, then cook a further 2 minutes, moving the fillets around in the pan a bit, until the underside is deep golden and caramelized. Sprinkle the top with some sugar rub, then flip over and cook the other side until golden, about 3-4 minutes more. Remove salmon to a plate.
- Prepare the sauce: Keep the browned butter in the skillet and place skillet over medium heat. Add the lemongrass and ginger to the skillet and stir, scraping up any browned bits and cooking for 30 seconds or so. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, turmeric, lime zest, lime juice and kaffir lime leaves, if using. Bring sauce to a boil. Allow to gently boil and reduce for a couple of minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed and to taste. If you feel the salmon needs a warm up, you can set it in the skillet with the hot sauce for a minute.
- To serve: Place wilted bok choy in a little pile in the centre of a shallow serving bowl. Place salmon fillet on top of bok choy. Spoon some hot sauce on either side of the bok choy/salmon. Serve with a wedge of lime and some chopped fresh cilantro, if you like.