This Baked Pecan Bourbon Salmon is topped with pecans and a maple bourbon sauce, and then baked to juicy, flaky perfection.
Any true bourbon lover probably knows that one nut rises above the rest. One nut in particular pairs so well with this earthy distilled spirit, that it’s as if it was made to be soaked in bourbon. Which nut? It is, of course– the nut that graces the top of chocolate bourbon balls– the pecan.
Happily, both pecans AND bourbon pair extremely well with one of my favorite fish– SALMON. This tasty pecan and bourbon salmon is coated in the nutty topping, and then baked to juicy, flaky perfection.
Gathering Ingredients– Salmon
Do you have a favorite kind of salmon? Did you know that different types of salmon will taste… well… different from one another? (And yes, that means that some of you might even think that you don’t LIKE salmon– but just haven’t found the TYPE you prefer yet.)
When you shop for salmon, you’ll probably see both farmed Atlantic salmon AND wild Pacific salmon. If you see salmon at the grocery store, but it’s not clearly marked, assume it’s farmed Atlantic salmon. (I’ve also seen salmon marked as “Norwegian”– this is just another name for farmed Atlantic salmon.)* There are five species of Pacific wild salmon, but the two you’re most likely to find in grocery stores across the U.S. are pink salmon and sockeye salmon.
In general, farmed salmon will be a little fattier than wild salmon, with a milder flavor. Wild salmon will be a little leaner (but still loaded with healthy omega-3s), with richer, wilder flavors.
My absolute favorite is– most DEFINITELY– sockeye salmon. Sockeye salmon is lean, but still full of rich, flavorful oils. It’s firm, and holds up beautifully on a grill, sears perfectly, and is incredibly easy to bake. Plus, in this recipe, where the nuts add another layer of richness, the strong flavor of the wild salmon provides an interesting counterpoint. (Farmed salmon might seem too fatty with the rich nut topping.)
I get my sockeye salmon from Orca Bay, my go-to seafood supplier. If you’re a regular over here at Champagne Tastes, you’ve probably seen Orca Bay’s sockeye salmon before. (I cooked with it here and here.) Orca Bay sources their sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay— the Alaskan fishing hub that sees the world’s largest salmon run each year. And guys, this fish is INCREDIBLE. For this recipe, I used Orca Bay’s Alaska sockeye salmon fillets, and I also love and use their whole sides of Alaska sockeye salmon.
Order Orca Bay Online: Use my Ambassador Code: champagnetastes for 15% off!
Find Orca Bay locally: Use their store finder, or try these vendors: Costco, Ingles, Giant Eagle, Market of Choice, Whole Foods (Northwest Region), HyVee, Dierberg’s, Woodman’s, Acme Fresh, Hen House, Price Cutter, Harp’s, Price Chopper- Kansas City. (Note: if you don’t have one of these stores in your local area, but do have a health food store, check there! That’s where I find my Orca Bay fish.)
Making Baked Pecan Bourbon Salmon
To make this Baked Pecan Bourbon Salmon, start by making a maple and bourbon gastrique. (Don’t let the name worry you– it’s easy!)
First, pour a little bourbon and balsamic vinegar together, and set it within arm’s reach of the stove. Next, you’ll heat a little maple syrup until it starts to bubble. Then, stir, stir, stir until it turns an even darker golden color. Carefully, standing back in case of splashback, pour the bourbon and balsamic mixture into the pot with the syrup. Keep stirring for a couple minutes until the mixture starts to thicken. Take it off the heat.
Next, stir in some finely chopped pecans and breadcrumbs. (You can skip the breadcrumbs if you want, but I think the texture is slightly nicer with them there.) Stick the entire pot in the fridge for 10 minutes (or the freezer for 5 minutes), until it’s cooled and slightly hardened.
Next, use a spoon to layer the pecan mixture on top of salmon fillets. Bake until the salmon is flaky and the crust is golden, and dig into this nutty and bourbon-licious fish while it’s still hot!
A Note on farmed Atlantic salmon: If you buy any type of farmed salmon, look for an aquaculture certification to make sure that it’s been farmed well. You should also be aware that farmed salmon are typically chemically colored through their feed.
Baked Pecan Bourbon Salmon
Easy and rich seafood entrée. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, and the pecan and bourbon topping can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen.
- 2 salmon fillets (~4oz per person) Orca Bay sockeye salmon recommended
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup plain Panko breadcrumbs (optional)
- diced green onion, parsley, and or basil to serve (optional)
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Pat salmon dry, and then sprinkle it with salt. Add salmon to a baking dish or lined baking sheet, and set in the fridge until you're ready to use it.
Next, pour balsamic vinegar and bourbon together and set aside. Keep the balsamic-bourbon mixture within arm's reach, so that you can grab it quickly when the syrup is ready.
Pour maple syrup into a small, heavy bottom pot and turn heat to medium. In about 1-2 minutes, the syrup should start to bubble. Stir it with a wooden spoon until the syrup darkens in color and turns amber (about 3 more minutes). (*Note- The caramelizing syrup will be EXTREMELY hot. Do not touch it or attempt to taste it at this point.)
Carefully, standing back from the pot in case of splash-back, pour the balsamic and bourbon mixture into the pot with the syrup. Stir, and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Take sauce off the heat, and set aside.
Pour the pecans and breadcrumbs into the pot with the bourbon sauce, and stir together. Set the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes, OR the freezer for about 5 minutes, until it's cooled and hardened slightly.
Take the salmon out of the fridge, and the pecan mixture out of the fridge or freezer. Use a spoon to divide the pecan mixture over the top of the salmon, and smooth it out into an even layer. (Depending on the size of your salmon, you might end up with extra topping. Any extra can be put in an airtight container and refrigerated for a few days, or frozen for a few months.)
Bake salmon on the center rack for about 8 minutes per inch of thickness. Top salmon with fresh herbs if desired, and serve immediately.
*Calorie Information was calculated per serving using My Fitness Pal.