Easy enough for a lazy weeknight meal and fancy enough for company, this lemon soy foil packet salmon only takes 5 minutes to assemble and is the perfect dinner for any occasion!
We’ve been trying to mix up our mealtimes a little more lately. Mike and I gravitate toward a lot of chicken and pasta, so it’s good to have some meat-and-veggies meals on hand for a lighter option. Specifically, we’ve been making a lot more fish recently — especially salmon, my favorite.
What’s not to love? It tastes like salmony, buttery heaven on a plate, and it’s got all those omega-3 fatty acids which are pretty cool, too.
So there are all these fun recipes out there for salmon but I love this one so much and it’s SO EASY I haven’t yet brought myself to try any other one yet.
I’m not even kidding. It’s this basic 5-ingredient foil packet salmon recipe, every time. Pretty much since I was a kid. You can thank my mom for this one.
It literally takes less than 5 minutes to prepare, so even when I’m feeling lazy or exhausted after work, I have no excuse not to make this foil packet salmon.
I don’t even measure anything when I make this. I did test measurements for you, just to double check quantities, so these measurements are good to go — but once you get a feel for the recipe, feel free to chuck the measurements out the window and just eyeball it.
This foil packet salmon is hard to mess up. Just don’t overcook it – a little glossy on the inside is perfect.
It’s just salmon, cooked in foil with butter, soy sauce, and lemon juice, with a little thyme on top. Sometimes simple is best.
If you don’t have fresh thyme, you can use dried or just skip it all together. And if you keep frozen salmon around (see the next section), this can easily be a super quick “pantry dinner.”
Just thaw your salmon overnight in the fridge — or if you’re like me and forget, thaw it quickly in a bowl of cold water.
What kind of salmon should I use?
What, there’s more than one kind? Yeah, I know!
When I go to the fish counter I usually see a soft orange fish labeled farm-raised, and a rich, beautiful red-orange one that is usually a little pricier and says it’s wild-caught.
In my head, wild caught = better, right? I’ve heard all sorts of terrible things about farm-raised fish.
But salmon is already expensive, so usually I’d get the farm-raised, unless I was feeling extra special or the wild-caught was on sale.
And then I was surprised when the wild-caught salmon tasted different, and even more surprised that I didn’t like it as much in this recipe.
WELL, you guys. I’ve had a lesson recently from my pescatarian food blogger friend, Sarah, over at Champagne Tastes.
That wild caught salmon? It’s actually a whole different kind of salmon, sockeye, which is a heavier, almost gamier taste than farm-raised salmon.
And farm-raised salmon? It’s not all bad! In fact, you can look for a little seal that says “Best Aquaculture Practices” (BAP) and you know it’s sustainably farmed.
Since even the farmed salmon doesn’t grow ’round these here parts, the “fresh” kind from the fish counter has been previously frozen, so you may as well just buy it frozen to begin with. You’ll save it from the freezing-and-refreezing thing which breaks down all the cells, especially if you tend to throw your “fresh” salmon in the freezer when you get home.
If you’re interested, you can read Sarah’s whole guide to cooking salmon – what you need to know, all the different kinds (not just the two I mentioned!), and more! She knows All The Things.
All this knowledge is great, because the farmed salmon is cheaper, the frozen kind was even less expensive than buying from the counter, and (most importantly) the farmed kind tastes better in this recipe than the sockeye.
It’s mild and buttery and pairing it with butter, soy sauce, lemon, and thyme in this foil packet salmon recipe is just the most melt-in-your-mouth thing ever.
What should I serve with my foil packet salmon?
In fact, that’s exactly what I did when we had a friend unexpectedly over for dinner recently. I made the broccoli salad when I got home from work. Then I just set up the rice in the cooker (5 minutes) preheated the oven, and put together my foil packet (another 5 minutes).
When she arrived all I had to do was hit go on my rice cooker and throw my sheet pan in the oven five minutes later. That meant less time in the kitchen and more time hanging out in the living room catching up with our friend. And we still ended up with an elegant meal I was proud to serve company!
I’ll also be posting a recipe soon for the asparagus you see in the photos – another easy side dish you can make right on the sheet pan with the salmon.
Lemon Soy Foil Packet Salmon
- 12 oz farm-raised salmon about 1 inch thick (look for a BAP symbol on the salmon for sustainable farming practices!)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme recommended, but optional
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cut a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil (if you just have regular aluminum foil, that's okay too) and place on a baking sheet. Arrange three half-tbsp slices of butter in a line on the foil, then place the salmon skin-side down on top of the butter. Arrange three more half-tbsp slices of butter on top of the salmon.
- Begin curling up the sides of the foil to make a little bowl around the salmon to catch the liquid. Drizzle soy sauce and lemon juice over top of the salmon and arrange thyme, if using, on top of the fish.
- Finish curling foil over top of the fish and pinch together the edges to seal the foil packet.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness of salmon. Do not overcook or it will be very dry! Salmon should flake apart easily and be slightly glossy in the middle when you flake it apart.
- Flip your salmon over and peel off the skin. If desired, you can scrape off the grayish part that's between the skin and the orange fish as well. It tastes fine, but if you're going for a more pristine presentation, you can remove it.
- Spoon sauce over top of the salmon. Garnish with thin slices of fresh lemon and thyme, if desired. Enjoy!