This pan-seared salmon is served with a dairy-free lemon risotto made with seafood broth, Arborio rice and lemon zest. Optionally, add saffron for extra flavor and color!
One of my absolute favorite “fancy” meals is pan-seared salmon served on a bed of risotto.
Whenever I see salmon and risotto on a restaurant menu, I can’t resist!
Recently, though, our restaurant meals have been limited to take-out and I’ve been missing that “fancy dinner” experience. So I decided to make salmon risotto at home!
This meal is a variation of my lemon shrimp risotto, and is made with seasoned, pan-seared salmon served with creamy, dairy-free lemon risotto.
What is Risotto?
Risotto is a slow-cooked Italian rice dish.
You start by toasting the rice, and then gradually hydrate the grains with flavorful broth.
What Kind of Rice Should I Use for Lemon Risotto?
For this risotto, we’re using Arborio rice.
You can find Arborio rice in most grocery stores, or it’s easy to order Arborio rice online.
Where Can I Get Seafood Stock?
You can buy seafood stock at the grocery store, but it can be a little harder to find than other stocks and broths.
Can I Skip the Saffron?
Saffron is fairly expensive, and if you don’t have it (or don’t want to buy it), the risotto will still be absolutely delicious.
That said, if you’ve got saffron on hand (or want to splurge), this is a perfect way to use it!
You can order saffron online or find it in the spice aisle at your local grocery store.
How to Make Lemon Salmon Risotto
Start with the rice.
You’ll begin by cooking a diced onion in a large pan. When the onions soften, add a little garlic.
Next, add the rice. Toss the rice in the onions and toast it for just a minute or two.
Add the saffron and chili flakes.
Pour a little wine into the pan and simmer until the wine is absorbed.
Begin ladling in small amounts of stock.
Each time you add stock, wait for all the liquid to be completely absorbed before adding more.
Check to see if the liquid is absorbed by pushing some rice to the side. If liquid rushes in, keep cooking. If it doesn’t, add more stock.
Continue adding warm stock until the rice is tender and the liquid is completely absorbed.
Add lemon zest and juice to the rice. Turn off the heat, cover the rice, and start cooking the salmon.
How to Pan-Sear Salmon
Start by patting the salmon dry. Sprinkle a little paprika and salt onto the fish.
Melt butter and oil in a heavy pan. I use this Lodge 12″ carbon steel skillet.
Add the fish skin-side down to the pan.
As the salmon cooks, keep an eye on it. As the salmon cooks, it will turn opaque from the bottom up.
Flip the fish.
Continue cooking the salmon until the sides are completely opaque. Remove the fillets from the pan and set them aside.
Squeeze a little lemon juice into the pan, and stir, stir stir. Scrape up any bits of fish that stuck to the pan.
Pour the pan-sauce into the risotto.
Scoop the risotto onto plate and serve the salmon on top of the rice. I like to serve it along with a crisp glass of sparkling wine and a haricot vert salad.
Pan-Seared Salmon with Lemon Risotto
- 3 cups seafood stock Or use vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- ¾ cup Arborio rice
- ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes Use ½ teaspoon for a little more heat.
- small pinch saffron (optional)
- 1 cup dry white wine Or use an additional 1 cup stock or broth
- 1 lemon, zested + juiced
- extra sea salt, to taste (optional) Amount of salt needed will depend on how salty your stock or broth is.
- 8 ounces salmon (2 fillets)
- ¼ teaspoon paprika (optional)
- pinch salt + pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Heat stock in saucepan over medium heat until hot, and then keep warm on low heat.Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pan (such as a wok) or a Dutch oven. When the oil begins to ripple, add the diced onion and cook 3-4 minutes until the onions soften.Add garlic to the pan and cook 1 minute.
- Add rice and stir 1-2 minutes to toast.Add the chili flakes. If using saffron, add it now.
- Lower the heat to medium-low. Add white wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until wine is completely absorbed (4-5 minutes). Ladle about ½ cup of stock into the pan, and stir every few minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.Test to see if you're ready to add more stock: Use a spatula or spoon to pull the rice across the pan. If the space immediately fills with liquid, the rice isn't ready. When the space stays dry, the rice is ready for more broth.
- Continue adding the stock in ½ cup batches, stirring until the liquid is totally absorbed before adding more stock. Continue until you're out of stock and the rice is tender but firm.Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- Pat salmon dry. Rub the flesh-side of the salmon with paprika (if using). Sprinkle fillets on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Add olive oil and butter to a heavy pan. Melt butter over medium heat.Place the fillets skin-side down in the pan and cook 2-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. (If your salmon fillets don't have skin, it doesn't matter which side you cook first.) As the salmon cooks, the flesh will begin to turn opaque from the bottom up. When the fish has cooked halfway through, it's ready to flip.Avoid touching the fish until the fish is ready to flip.
- Use a thin metal spatula to test the fish. If you can slide the spatula under the fish without the fish sticking to the pan, it's ready to flip. If the fillets won't release, give them another 30 seconds. They'll release when they've finished cooking.Cook fish another 2-4 minutes until done. Timing will depend on the thickness of the fillet. (Watch the sides of the fillets to see when the fish is done cooking. It's finished as soon as there are no more translucent patches and it's fully opaque.)
- Transfer the fish to plates, leaving the excess butter in the pan. Cover fish to keep warm, or set fish in a 200ºF oven.Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the lemon juice to the pan, stir with a wooden spoon, and allow the juice to reduce for about a minute, then turn off the heat. Pour the pan sauce into the risotto and stir.Plate the risotto first and top with the salmon. Serve immediately.
- If adding saffron, the risotto will be a deep orange color.
- If omitting saffron, you can (optionally) add a dash of turmeric to add a golden yellow color to the dish. Add the turmeric near the end of the cook time along with the shrimp.