Perfect Poached Salmon

An ideal summer main dish – this largely hands-off recipe (no hovering over a hot stove!) is equally delicious hot or cold.

Poached salmon is a classic that I think has unfairly been eclipsed by grilled or seared preparations. The silky texture of perfectly poached salmon marries beautifully with simple sauces or a cool summer salad. It is just as easy to make a single serving for yourself as it is to make 8 for a party, so scale as needed! Offered here with my two favorite no-cook summer sauces, one hot and one cold, this recipe will become a go-to in your kitchen for years to come!

Perfect Poached Salmon

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy
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This method poaches the salmon sooooo gently to avoid pushing out the albumin (that ucky white gloop on the outside of salmon when it’s cooked too quickly), which happily makes for a really easy, largely hands-off recipe. If you don’t already have a ziplock bag of aromatics saved in your freezer for making stocks, gravies, and poaching liquids, start one!, but I do provide substitutions below. The two sauces offered here are both delicious on many other summer dishes: Maître’D sauce can be made with any dried or fresh herbs and is perfect slathered on top of steak or any other freshly grilled meat, and the yogurt-dill sauce, dairy-free simplicity itself, is lovely with about just any fish or as a veggie dip!


Poached Salmon

  • 1 4- to 5-ounce salmon filet, skin-on
  • 1/2 of a lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 large handful of aromatics, such as carrot leaves, tops and peels, celery leaves and bulbs, parsley stems, scallion green tops, leek green tops, outer onion layers, etc.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 whole peppercorns
  • Water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Maître’D Sauce (a.k.a. Maître d’Hôtel, buerre composé, or compound butter)

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Dairy-Free Yogurt Dill Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons plain coconut yogurt (my fave is Anita’s!)
  • Zest of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt


For the Poached Salmon

Place lemon slices, aromatics, bay leaf, peppercorns, and pinch of salt in a small sauté pan and cover with enough water to come at least halfway up the side of the pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Lightly sprinkle salt and freshly ground pepper on top of salmon filet.

After 5 minutes of simmering, strain out solids in a colander placed over a bowl to reserve the liquid. Discard the aromatic solids.

With the burner off, immediately add the poaching  liquid back to hot sauté pan. Gently place salmon skin side down in the hot liquid, making sure it is standing it upright. The poaching liquid will only come about halfway up the side of the salmon filet. Cover immediately and let sit covered for 18-20 minutes with no heat on at all.

Check the salmon for doneness at 18 minutes but re-cover for another 2 minutes if not done – the salmon will be firm to a gentle finger poke on the top. You can also check the temperature with an digital meat thermometer: 125° F for farm-raised Atlantic salmon or 120° F for wild-caught Pacific salmon.

Remove the salmon from the poaching liquid and lightly brush with extra virgin olive oil for a touch of flavor and a mouth-watering shine!

For the Maître’D Sauce

Add Dijon mustard, tarragon, and pepper to the room temperature butter. Stir together and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes for the dried tarragon to soften.

Smear over hot poached salmon just before serving. If made with dried herbs, any extra sauce can be stored, wrapped, in the refrigerator for several weeks.

For the Yogurt-Dill Sauce

Finely chop fresh dill without stems, finely zest half of a lemon, and stir into dairy-free plain yogurt of your choice.

Serve over chilled salmon and sprinkle a pinch of salt on top – don’t add the salt earlier, as it will draw the water out of the non-dairy yogurt and make the sauce too soupy! If you want a thicker sauce, strain it in a double-layer of cheesecloth or a clean flour sack dish towel for 10-15 minutes.

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