Easy and delicious lime and coconut salmon, served with wilted baby bok choy and a coconut lime sauce. Ready in less than 30 minutes, too!

Sugar-Seared Salmon with Coconut Lime Sauce

This lovely 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 coconut lime salmon dish cooks up in one skillet and is ready in less that 30 minutes!

Ingredients and Substitutions

Salmon – centre-cut salmon pieces will work best here. I generally opt for skinless, but you can use skin-on salmon if you like.

Sugar – I usually use white sugar here, but any sugar will work, such as brown sugar, palm sugar or coconut sugar.

Lemongrass and Ginger – 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.

Kaffir Lime Leaves – I found dried Kaffir lime leaves at my local grocery recently and was so happy to add them to my spice rack. For Canadians, look 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 can simply omit if you don’t have them.

Coconut Milk – 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.

Recipe Tips

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.

The lovely coconut lime sauce 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 to, of course :). You may have left-over sauce. It should freeze, if you’d like to save it for a future meal.

Sugar-Seared Salmon with Coconut Lime Sauce

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 in bowl with coconut lime sauce

Get the Recipe: Lime and Coconut Salmon

Easy and delicious, this lime and coconut salmon is served with wilted bok choy and a coconut lime sauce.
5 stars from 9 ratings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 servings


  • 4 centre-cut salmon fillets
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 6 baby bok choy, stem end removed and sliced in half if large
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup water, or as needed

Sugar Rub (you may not need to use it all):

  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Coconut Lime Sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon lemongrass paste, or 3/4 tsp peeled and grated stalk
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste, or 3/4 tsp grated ginger root
  • 14 oz can coconut milk, full fat
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoon lime zest
  • Juice of 1/2 a small lime
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, optional
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

To serve:

  • 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.


Be sure to read the notes above this recipe card, for more tips, options, substitutions and variations for this recipe!
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Course: Main Course
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 591kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 38g, Fat: 41g, Saturated Fat: 26g, Cholesterol: 108mg, Sodium: 1187mg, Potassium: 1106mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 7790IU, Vitamin C: 79.6mg, Calcium: 223mg, Iron: 4.3mg
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