One Pan Blackened Salmon with Creamy Spinach Orzo

This easy one skillet salmon dinner combines whole blackened salmon fillets with a delicious creamy spinach parmesan orzo — with only one pan to wash! Family-friendly, classy enough for a date night, AND on the table in 30 minutes!

You can also use leftover salmon (see details in the tips and tricks section!)

Blackened salmon fillet over bed of creamy orzo and spinach in a white pasta dish, topped with parmesan cheese.

My family makes blackened salmon on the grill almost weekly, so I keep a big batch of blackened seasoning in my spice drawer at all times. Our kids love the salmon, but often we have a bit salmon leftover.

I invented this orzo recipe to use up a leftover half a salmon fillet for lunch, and it was so good I went googly-eyed for a minute, made my husband have a taste, and immediately put it on our dinner menu to make again.

A one-pan meal

I almost posted this recipe as I made it the first time: Using leftover or freshly-made grilled salmon, a pot of orzo, and sauce made in a skillet. I had pictures taken and everything.

But using the grill AND the stove AND two pots and a colander was… a bit overwhelming, even for me.

So I tested it again until I could simplify this recipe into a single skillet on the stove.

One pan blackened salmon with creamy orzo and spinach in a cast iron skillet.

Now you can have a beautiful blackened salmon fillet, served atop a creamy bed of risotto-like orzo and spinach, plated like you’d find in a classy bistro — and you only have one pot to wash. BINGO!

RELATED: More bistro-style recipes

This salmon orzo recipe is date-night-worthy but also family-friendly — the four-year old and the one-year old both love this dish! And it’s a one-pan meal that doesn’t feel like a one-pan meal. Can’t get any better than that!

One pan blackened salmon with creamy orzo and spinach in a cast iron skillet.

Oh, and if you’re making this salmon orzo skillet for date night, I need to mention: You’ll have about 15-20 minutes of mostly hands-off cooking time at the end of this recipe. That’s enough time to enjoy a starter course and a glass of wine while it cooks. I think that calls for some crostini appetizers!

RELATED: How to make crostini: Tips, troubleshooting, and toppings

Ingredients

  • Salmon fillets: Don’t worry about descaling it or removing the skin, we’ll take care of that in the recipe!
  • Blackened seasoning: I keep a jar of homemade blackened seasoning in my spice drawer, but I’ll break down the individual spices for you if you just want to make this salmon orzo recipe. Beware, though — it’s so good you’ll want a big jar for next time! My blackened seasoning includes paprika, kosher salt, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, pepper, onion powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper.
  • Melted butter: To make the spices stick to the salmon.
  • Orzo: Using rice-shaped orzo pasta makes this dish feel elegant and risotto-like.
  • Fresh spinach: Roughly chopped, so pieces are more homogenous with the texture of the pasta. Regular or baby spinach will work.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese: For the sauce, and a little extra to garnish. It’s best to get a chunk and grate it yourself because freshly grated cheese melts into your sauce much more smoothly! Pre-shredded cheese usually has anti-caking agents that make your sauce chalky. However, Belgioioso brand shredded parmesan cheese in the bag (not the tub) does not list anti-caking agents in the ingredients and you can find it at Target.
  • Heavy cream and milk (or half-and-half)
  • Water
  • Butter and Flour: To make a roux for the base of the sauce.
  • Fresh garlic
  • Kosher salt
One pan blackened salmon with creamy orzo and spinach in a cast iron skillet.

How to Make Skillet Salmon with Creamy Spinach Orzo

Check out the recipe card at the bottom of the post for the full ingredient list and detailed directions.

Step 1. Season and sear the salmon. This gets the top nice and golden and the skin cooked enough to peel off.

Step 2. Make the sauce and add the orzo.

Step 3. Add the spinach and salmon. The salmon will finish cooking in the pan with the orzo!

Step 4. Dish it up and garnish!
Garnish with a little extra parmesan or a sprinkle of blackened seasoning!

Tips & Tricks

  • For better melting cheese: Freshly grate your own cheese for the sauce, since commercially grated cheese contains anti-caking agents that prevent it from melting as well.
  • Check your salt: The amount of salt may vary in pre-made blackened seasoning compared to different brands or the homemade version I’ve linked in the recipe. You may want to skip the added salt in the sauce and then add salt to taste.
  • Use up your leftovers: This is a great recipe to use up leftover salmon, if they have a neutral or flexible seasoning like salt and pepper, lemon, or blackened seasoning. If you have 4 oz. leftover salmon, make the orzo as-is and flake the salmon into it (will serve 2 as a pasta dish). If you have 8 oz. salmon or more, double the orzo and sauce!
Creamy parmesan spinach orzo with flaky leftover blackened salmon.

What to serve with this dish

This one-pan salmon orzo skillet dinner is a full meal on its own, but you can serve it with a green salad or an appetizer! I recommend these:

More one-pan meals

Looking for more complete dinners in a skillet or sheet pan? Check out these weeknight winners!

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Blackened salmon fillet over bed of orzo and spinach in a white pasta dish, garnished with parmesan cheese.
5 from 1 vote

One Pan Blackened Salmon with Creamy Spinach Orzo

This skillet dinner combines whole blackened salmon fillets with a delicious creamy spinach parmesan orzo — with only one pan to wash! Family-friendly, classy enough for a date night, AND on the table in 30 minutes!
Print Recipe Save Recipe
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Cajun, Southern
Yield: 4
Calories: 597kcal
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:20 minutes
Total Time:30 minutes

Equipment

  • Cast iron skillet or sauté pan with lid

Ingredients

For the pasta

  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 4 tablespoons butter divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons homemade blackened seasoning or use recipe below (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup dry orzo
  • 5 oz fresh spinach roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese freshly grated

Blackened seasoning

  • 2 teaspoons paprika or smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions

Sear the salmon

  • Mix together blackened seasoning spices in a small bowl, or use a few tablespoons of homemade blackened seasoning. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the seasoning for the orzo.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Drizzle butter over the fleshy side of the salmon fillets, and make sure the fleshy side is fully coated. Sprinkle blackened seasoning over the buttered side until fully coated, and pat down with dry fingers to make sure the spices adhere to the fish.
  • Preheat skillet over medium heat and add a tbsp olive oil. Sear salmon skin side down for one minute, then flesh side down for one minute. Remove salmon to a plate. Note: Medium high heat in my cast iron skillet will make the spices VERY smoky. Don't heat it up too high for this step!

Make the orzo

  • Reduce heat to medium low and let the pan cool for a minute or two, especially if using cast iron. (We don't want to burn the butter or garlic!) Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and melt. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add flour to the skillet and stir until mixture forms a smooth roux. Cook for a minute or two so the flour loses its raw taste.
  • Add in milk, cream, and water, whisking sauce until smooth after each addition. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (about medium low heat).
  • Add orzo, 1 tablespoon remaining blackened seasoning, and salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Stir in grated parmesan until it melts smoothly into the sauce. Add spinach and stir until wilted.
  • Peel the skin off the salmon fillets, taking care not to break the fillets. This should come off very easily since we seared the skin side for a minute. Nestle the salmon fillets into the orzo and cover the pan. Cook on low for 6-8 minutes, or until salmon is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.
  • Divide the orzo into four dishes and top each serving with a fillet. Garnish with a sprinkle of blackened seasoning or a bit of extra grated cheese (I love a microplane zester for this!). Enjoy!
Tried this recipe?Mention @pinchmeimeating or tag #pinchmeimeating on Instagram!

Nutrition

Calories: 597kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 125mg | Sodium: 1505mg | Potassium: 997mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 4827IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 250mg | Iron: 4mg

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