My favorite sauce for barbecued salmon

Salmon is a staple food in my kitchen. During salmon season, it will typically appear on the menu at least once a week. We still eat plenty of salmon throughout the year, but the season for wild Alaskan sockeye and king salmon is the peak time to enjoy the very best salmon.

My usual preparation is to soak cedar planks in water for a few hours ahead of time. Place fillets of salmon on the planks, and then center the planks on my Weber charcoal grill, with the charcoal fires on the outer edges of the fire pit, so that the coals are not directly under the cedar planks. The planks will char a little on the edge once they dry out, but salmon cooks fairly quickly and will be done before the planks have any chance to ignite.

If you don’t have a grill, or the weather is not cooperating for grilling, you can simply place the cedar planks on a sheet pan and cook in the oven, or place the salmon on parchment in a sheet pan. Cook about 15-20 minutes at 350F. Don’t overcook salmon! It still has to be moist inside.

The salmon can be treated with any number of seasonings. Spice blends (I am particularly fond of Paul Prudhomme’s Salmon Magic), lemon and fresh herbs, or a thin coating of pesto are all very nice on barbecued salmon. The sauce I like best, though, is this one I am about to share. I got the idea from one of the many barbecue books I have accumulated over the years, and then I adjusted the recipe until I got something very special. Garden tomatoes, garlic, and chilies all contribute a delightful freshness. As does a touch of our backyard honey.

Cedar plank salmon from the grill. Once with pesto and lemon, and one with a spice blend

This recipe makes a little over a quart, plenty for several meals. Store the extra sauce in the refrigerator for up to a month.

This recipe makes a little over a quart, plenty for several meals. Store the extra sauce in the refrigerator for up to a month. Don’t dip your basting brush in the main container, but rather put what you’re going to use immediately in a small bowl and brush from that to avoid contaminating the main container with fishiness. While this sauce is made for salmon, it can be used on other meats and seafood, of course.

Barbecue sauce for salmon

  • 2T unsalted butter
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 head garlic, minced (from my garden)
  • 1 quart canned whole plum tomatoes (or 12 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced) (from my garden)
  • 2T Creole mustard
  • 2T smoked paprika (from my garden)
  • 2T New Mexico red chile powder (not a chili blend, but ground chilies) (from my garden)
  • 2T molasses
  • 2T honey (from my garden)
  • 2T shio koji (optional) (homemade, see my post on koji)
  • 1T white or yellow miso (optional)

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until they are soft, but not browned. Add the tomatoes, and simmer until the tomatoes break down. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer a few minutes more. Use a stick blender, blender, or food processor to process the sauce into a smooth mixture. Cool, and it’s ready to to use.

Do not add salt as the shio koji and miso contain salt. If you don’t use these in your sauce, you may want to add a little salt to taste.

Brush the sauce on the salmon fillets and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour before placing on the grill.

2 thoughts

    1. Enjoy! I used to just keep this on hand during salmon and tomato season, but not it’s a year round recipe with home canned tomatoes. You’ll love it.


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