Salmon with Pistachio Pesto

Inline_Salmon with Pistachio PestoThis dairy-free pesto is heavy on pistachio nuts and light on basil. Spiked with garlic and lemon zest and blended together with olive oil, this is a thick, rich sauce that’s more than a little addictive. It’s tempting to eat this pistachio pesto with a spoon, but it’s even better slathered over fatty, pan-seared salmon.

This recipe couldn’t be easier, and it magically transforms a simple salmon dinner into something extra special. Make this, and you’ll feel like a talented chef instead of a home cook who’s stuck in a rut of salmon dinners that are just ho-hum.

With a few variations, this pistachio pesto can lead you to other amazing meals, too. Add a dash of red pepper flakes, and serve a spicy version of the pesto with roasted pork. Use parsley, instead of basil, for a new flavor. Or, thin the pesto out with full-fat Greek yogurt, and drizzle it over roasted vegetables.

Like any nut, pistachios are best enjoyed with a little self-control. Don?t worry, this pesto is so rich you aren’t likely to overindulge in one sitting. That said, pistachios aren’t really a nut to fret over, unless you have an allergy. They’re pretty low in phytic acid, a potent source of prebiotic fiber, and can reduce the glucose response to carb-rich meals.

Not that this is a carb-rich meal. Quite the opposite, actually. Skin-on salmon + pistachio pesto can be a go-to recipe when you want a high-protein, high-fat meal that’s also high in flavor.

Time in the Kitchen: 20 minutes

Servings: 4


pesto ingredients

  • 1 1 ½ pounds skin-on salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces and seasoned with salt (680 g)
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (15 ml)
  • 1 cup raw pistachios (150 g)
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (5 ml)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped or thinly sliced basil (30 ml)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (120 ml)


Pistachio Pesto

Blend the pistachios, garlic and lemon zest in a food processor until very finely ground. With the blade still going, slowly pour the olive oil into the food processor and blend just until combined. Add salt to taste. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350º F/176º C

Heat avocado oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

Place the salmon in the hot skillet, skin side down. Once the fillets are in the pan, do not move the salmon. Cook about 5 minutes, pressing down on the salmon once or twice with a spatula to press the skin against the hot pan.

Put the skillet into the oven. Cook 4 to 6 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Serve the salmon warm or at room temperature, with pistachio pesto dolloped on top.

Feature_Salmon with Pistachio Pesto

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13 thoughts on “Salmon with Pistachio Pesto”

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  1. Looks delish. I think even people who don’t like fish would like this dish. For those unfamiliar with cooking salmon (or any fish), keep in mind that the flavor can go south quite rapidly. Either buy it flash-frozen or find a source where you can get it super-fresh. Good fresh fish shouldn’t taste “fishy.”

  2. I wish I could bring myself to eat salmon, but post Fukushima it’s been off my plate. Whenever I see ‘radioactive’ and ‘salmon’ in the same sentence, it’s to warn me off seafood. Please…somebody, anybody: change my mind!

    1. I’m not trying to change your mind, but I think you’re way overreacting. I don’t know why you’re targeting salmon in particular since there is some radiation in almost everything we eat, not just seafood. According to the experts, the amount is too small to worry about. At some point in time it might become a problem, but as yet it isn’t.

  3. I like this sauce; too bad ate all the pistachios I bought the other day. Another option to cook salmon, is to cook it in 0.5 cm of heated olive oil skin side down, while the pan is covered up, which will also yield a crispy skin and juicy meat.

  4. What would be a good side dish, in your opinion? Also, any ideas on how long would the pesto stay in the fridge?

  5. Its really looks so good and I like this pesto flavor!! Thanks for sharing such an easy and wonderful recipe.

  6. I’ve made another pistachio pesto, but this one works so much better for fish by removing the Parmesan and adding the lemon zest. Delicious! I used the leftover pesto in an egg white omelette with some bits of turkey and that was wonderful as well. The pesto would also work on mild white fish like cod, chicken breasts, turkey tenders, and veggies. Betting it would be especially good on steamed cauliflower.

    1. Do the pistachios have to be RAW. Mine are salted (andI think roasted) still in shells…obviously I would need to take the shells off but are these acceptable pistachios to use? I really hope so!