This quick, creamy Salmon Sauce gets a fine dining touch with the addition of fresh tarragon and chervil. It’s simply an excellent and easy salmon recipe for all those times when you want a touch of luxury with minimal effort!
Creamy Herb & Garlic Salmon Sauce
Here’s a lovely way to serve the world’s most popular fish – smothered in a cream sauce that’s lifted with a good hit of fresh herbs. The luscious sauce is a sensational match with the rich, oily flesh of the salmon. And the best part? You’ll be done in 15 minutes flat!
What you need for this Creamy Salmon Sauce
The trick to making simple sauces taste incredible is to use ingredients that add complexity and savoury depth. In this creamy salmon sauce, these flavour adding ingredients are: white wine, parmesan and stock/broth.
Salmon – skinless is the go-to here, but if you want to make this with a Crispy Skin Salmon, bonus points for you! Use a very shallow bowl-type serving dish, spoon in sauce, then top with salmon skin-side up (ie don’t pour the sauce over the crispy skin, it softens super fast);
Oil & butter – oil for the pan sear, then we add butter towards the end for a little bit of extra flavour. Never pan-sear fish in butter over high heat – it just burns!
White wine – to add extra complexity to this otherwise simple sauce. Anything that’s dry-ish and not overly sweet, fruity or woody will be just fine here – A mild sauvignon blanc is my drinking staple so that’s what I typically opt for.
Other suggestions: Riesling, pinot gris/grigio, semillon, chardonnay (not too woody), verdelho. Even rosé will work – it won’t discolour the sauce.
Non-alcoholic sub: More chicken stock/broth;
Cream – use thickened / heavy cream, the sauce will thicken faster and also it’s got additives that helps stop the cream from curdling when simmering on the stove;
Chicken stock/broth – yep, I know it looks out of place for a salmon sauce but chicken broth is actually quite neutral when mixed with other flavours and works a treat to add depth to this otherwise simple sauce. Without it, the sauce does lack flavour. Sub: vegetable stock;
Parmesan – this doesn’t make the sauce taste of parmesan. It’s used to add salt into the sauce as well as depth of flavour and umami. It also thickens the sauce;
IMPORTANT: You must finely grate your own parmesan to ensure it melts properly into the sauce. Store bought pre-shredded won’t melt properly, and you’ll complain to me that your sauce was gritty!
Garlic – because it makes everything better (and also because we’re making a Herb & Garlic Sauce here 😉);
Fresh herbs – the sauce by itself already has enough flavour in it to serve it plain, but adding fresh herbs really lifts it.
I wanted to give this salmon sauce a fine dining bent, so I opted for a tarragon and chervil combination for the base recipe.
Both these herbs are commonly used in French cuisine, and it lends the sauce a “sophisticated” flavour. Tarragon has a mild aniseed / vanilla flavour, and chervil (also known as French parsley), is like a more delicate version of everyday parsley with a very subtle aniseed note.
And just to keep us grounded, I added a bit of normal parsley too … 😉
Here are a couple of alternatives herb flavourings you can use in this sauce:
Dill – A classic pairing with salmon. A fresh squirt of lemon would also elevate it; or
Chives – For a light onion-y freshness.
How to make Creamy Herb & Garlic Sauce for Salmon
This recipe has a nice flow to it so you’ll have it on the table in 15 minutes – and that includes the prep time! Get the salmon on the stove then while it’s cooking, you can measure out the other ingredients. Low-stress cooking with high returns is the name of the game here!
Pan-sear the salmon in a little oil in a non-stick skillet until it’s cooked to your taste. I like mine medium-rare at most (for melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, my friends!), so that’s 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the other for a ~2.5cm / 1″ thick fillet. TIP: Cook the presentation side first. The first side always comes out prettier :-);
Just before the salmon is done, throw in a little butter. Don’t add butter in at the start of the cook – it will burn;
Then spoon the melted butter over the salmon. Bonus flavour points – think of all the good things that happen as the butter seeps into cracks. We need that butter in the pan anyway – may as well use it on the salmon too!
Remove the salmon and keep it warm, loosely tented with foil. Loose being the operative word here – don’t tightly seal the foil, the salmon will sweat too much and you’ll lose that lovely touch of crispiness on the surface.
Now, Creamy Salmon Sauce time:
In the same skillet with all that buttery goodness remaining, sauté the garlic until golden;
Add the wine and let it reduce until it no longer smells wine-y;
Add cream and chicken stock, then let it simmer for 3 minutes to reduce and thicken;
Stir through parmesan – this will thicken it further, as well as providing the salt in the sauce. See below for a photo of how thick the sauce should be. If it’s much thinner, just simmer a little longer; and
Lastly, stir in the herbs. We don’t want to cook the herbs as such; we want to retain the fresh flavour and colour.
What to serve with Creamy Salmon
Something to soak up all that sauce is pretty essential here!
Creamy Mashed Cauliflower – low-carb alternative. Don’t diss it until you’ve tried it! It’s certainly become the darling of the fine dining world in recent years (although they opt for a fancy little smear, a stark contrast to the large dollop I dish out);
Mashed sweet potato or pumpkin (please remind me to share these);
Though perhaps a bit left field, couscous is always an excellent low effort option for sauce soaking!
As for something green:
French Bistro Salad – keeping in the French(ish) flavour profile of this salmon! This is an excellent light, clean salad to serve alongside rich foods. You find similar salads in bistros all across France;
Spring Salad – filled with spring’s bounty of vegetables: Asparagus, snow peas, green peas and cos lettuce (romaine), with a fresh lemon dressing. Elegant, pretty and refreshing! (PS. The recipe also has goat’s cheese, but I suggest skipping it if serving alongside this salmon);
Green Bean Salad topped with chopped tomatoes and red onion;
Cucumber Salad with Herb & Garlic Vinaigrette – a really good refreshing option; or
A big bowl of leafy greens or any garden vegetables you have, tossed with a French Vinaigrette.
Having just written all that though, to be honest I think a pile of plain steamed vegetables (tossed in a little olive oil with a sprinkle of salt) is really the perfect accompaniment to offset the rich fish and sauce. And there’s plenty of sauce regardless to make any veg infinitely more delicious! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Salmon with Herb & Garlic Cream Sauce
- 4 salmon fillets , skinless (~180g/6oz each) (Note 1)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 15g / 1 tbsp butter , unsalted
Creamy garlic sauce:
- 2 garlic cloves , finely minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (or more chicken stock) (Note 2)
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock/broth , low sodium
- 1 cup cream , heavy/thickened
- 1/2 cup parmesan , finely grated (grate your own, Note 3)
- 2 tsp tarragon leaves* , finely chopped
- 2 tsp chervil* , finely chopped
- 2 tsp parsley* , finely chopped, plus more for garnish
- Season: Pat salmon dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Pan-sear: Heat oil in a large non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add salmon, presentation side down, and cook for 3 minutes until golden brown.
- Flip: Turn salmon and cook the other side for another 2 minutes, until the internal temperature registers 49°C / 120°F (for medium-rare, recommended) or until cooked to your taste (Note 5).
- Butter baste: When it's almost cooked, add the butter. Melt, then spoon over the salmon a few times.
- Rest: Remove salmon onto plate, and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
Creamy Salmon Sauce:
- Sauté garlic: Add garlic and stir for 20 seconds or until light golden.
- Reduce wine: Add white wine, turn up heat to high. Bring to simmer while stirring base of the pan to dissolve all the golden bits into the sauce. Cook 1 minute or until it most evaporates and the wine-y smell is gone.
- Thicken cream & stock: Add cream and chicken stock, then simmer on medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes until reduced and slightly thickened.
- Add parmesan & herbs: Stir through parmesan (this will thicken sauce more), then the herbs. Taste sauce and see if more salt and pepper is needed.
- Serve: Serve salmon with Creamy Sauce, ensuring there's something on the plate to soak up all that amazing sauce! Mashed Potato rates highly. See above video for list of suggestions (including side salads).
- 1 1/2 tbsp dill + 1/2 tbsp parsley (I’d add a squirt of lemon here too)
- 1 tbsp each chives and parsley (as the chives will bring freshness but not that much flavour)
- Rare – 43°C / 110°F
- Medium rare (recommended) – 49°C / 120°F
- Medium – 54°C / 130°F
Life of Dozer
That’s a LOT of water he takes with him every time he gets out of the pool……