Pan-Seared Salmon with Chili-Lime Mayonnaise

The original recipe by Daniel Gritzer from Serious Eats is finished under a broiler. However, we’ve recently been watching an online class from Milk Street highlighting a simple 3-step method which guarantees your fish will be moist, and decided this approach was the way to go.

Heating a skillet over medium-high, then lowering the temperature once the salmon is in the pan ensures a nice sear without the risk of scorching. And finishing the cooking off heat, using just the pan’s residual heat, ensures the fish stays moist and won’t overcook. Just remember not to place the salmon in the skillet with the skin facing down. Make sure the fish goes in flesh side down, and don’t fuss with it once they’re in. Cooking it undisturbed allows the fish to develop flavorful browning.

Pan-Seared Salmon

The topping coats the fish in a thin layer of flavorful mayonnaise seasoned with harissa chili paste and fresh lime, and works with either individual portions of fish or a large party-size fillet. For just the two of us, we cut the recipe in half. If you do not have harrissa, you could substitute either red curry paste or gochujang. Sriracha would give you heat, but your sauce mixture will be thinner because it’s not as dense as the other options.

It’s very likely you will have leftover chili-lime sauce. Don’t fret, it’s great on a crudité platter for dipping veggies, spreading on sandwiches, or as a salad dressing. We used ours a few days later as a topping for grilled hamburgers.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Chili-Lime Mayonnaise

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons harissa chili paste, plus more if desired
  • Finely grated zest of 2 limes plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 2 pounds boneless center-cut salmon fillet, with or without skin and either whole or divided into individual portions
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, harissa, lime zest and juice, and coriander seed. Season with salt and pepper; feel free to adjust flavor and heat level by adding more harissa, if desired.
  2. In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Place the salmon flesh side down in the pan, then immediately reduce to medium. Cook, undisturbed, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
  3. Using a wide metal spatula, carefully flip the fillets, and remove from the heat.
  4. Spread the mayonnaise mixture over the fish fillets and immediately cover. Let stand until the thickest part of the fillets reach 120°F or are nearly opaque when cut into, about another 5 minutes for 1-inch-thick fillets or about 8 minutes if 1¼ inches thick.
  5. Transfer salmon to plates or a platter and serve.

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