My delicious Miso Salmon fillets are lightly marinated in a sweet and savory miso sauce and broiled to perfection for a light and satisfying weeknight meal. Top with optional roasted sesame seeds and green onion slices and enjoy with Japanese ginger rice!
Salmon is truly one of the best choices of fish out there! I love that the fish is readily available, extremely versatile, and makes a healthy protein for any meal. Today I’m going to share my tried-and-true easy salmon recipe—Miso Salmon (味噌サーモン).
Here, salmon fillets are marinated in a mixture of miso, sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and then broiled until succulent, and golden brown. You and your family will love how simple and satisfying it is, especially when served with rice and vegetables.
Table of Contents
Using Miso in Japanese Recipes
Miso (味噌) is a Japanese condiment made primarily from fermenting soybeans, salt, koji (a fermentation starter), and sometimes rice or barley for 6 months to 5 years. If you’re new to miso, read this post.
From miso soup to salad dressing and miso marinated fish, miso is a common condiment that we use every day in Japanese kitchens. The sweet and salty miso also makes a wonderful marinade that pairs particularly well with fatty fish, like cod and salmon.
I have shared the Miso Black Cod recipe made popular by Nobu on the blog. So for today’s recipe, we’ll learn the best way to apply miso treatment in salmon and how you can achieve flavorful, tender fish with a golden top that everyone will enjoy.
How to Make Miso Salmon
The Ingredients You’ll Need
- Salmon: I recommend using a salmon that’s less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick for broiling. If you don’t have a broiler, use wild King/Chinook salmon (thick and high-fat content) makes it ideal for baking. You don’t have to worry about the fish drying out quickly. Farmed Atlantic salmon (very rare to have wild one), however, is a more affordable and wildly available choice.
- Miso: I use white miso (shiro miso) in this recipe for two reasons. One, it is widely available in Japanese and Asian markets and mainstream grocery stores. Two, the flavor profile works well with this recipe. If you have other kinds of miso, you can definitely use it (and I use various miso for this recipe, too). Keep in mind that every brand and type of miso has a different level of saltiness. So adjust the amount accordingly.
- Soy sauce: I use organic kikkoman soy sauce. Please note that Chinese and Korean soy sauce taste differently. If you plan to cook more Japanese food, please consider getting a Japanese soy sauce.
- Sake: I use a $5-8 drinking sake and do not use a cooking sake that contains other ingredients, like salt. Sake is an important ingredient in Japanese cooking (read why it’s important here). If you don’t have it at the moment, use Chinese rice wine or dry sherry.
- Mirin: Just like sake, mirin is another important condiment for Japanese cooking. More about it in this post.
- Roasted sesame oil: We just need a tiny bit for the aroma.
- Garnish: Toasted black and white sesame seeds, and chopped green onion.
The Cooking Steps
- Make the miso marinade and marinate the salmon for 1-2 hours.
- Remove the marinade from the salmon and broil it.
- Serve and enjoy!
Miso Salmon Cooking Tips
It’s a very easy recipe, but make sure to read the following tips to make Miso Salmon successfully on the first try!
- Use skin-on salmon. Don’t remove the skin. It will prevent the flesh from overcooking and drying out. You don’t have to eat it, but keep it on!
- Remove small bones and scales from the skin. It might be off-putting for your dinner guests to find fish bones and scales while they are enjoying the salmon. You can make sure they are completely removed before you marinate the salmon.
- Cut the salmon into individual fillets. Smaller fillets marinade and cook quicker!
- Marinade for 1-2 hours. For a salmon fillet less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick, you can marinate for up to 2 hours. For thick salmon, you can marinate for up to 3 hours. I don’t recommend marinating overnight because miso is quite salty.
- Remove the miso marinade completely. When cooking miso-marinated food, regardless if it’s fish or meat, you must remove the marinade completely because miso burns very easily. Plenty of flavors have been already absorbed into the salmon. If you still want a nice glaze, cook the remaining marinade with water over the stove and drizzle the sauce over the cooked salmon.
- Cook until the flesh of the salmon goes from translucent to opaque, and the salmon flakes nicely and easily with a fork or chopsticks.
If you have been baking salmon all this time, I highly recommend trying the broiling method.
When you broil fish, the infrared energy from the heating element cooks the fish. Broiling is a much faster cooking method and the fish will brown beautifully, keeping the flesh juicy and never dry!
Just be careful. Broiling will likely burn miso, fresh herbs, and other garnishes. You’ll need to keep a close watch on the food to prevent burning.
- Use a heavy baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Do not use parchment paper as it burns under the broiler. I recommend brushing or spraying oil on the foil so the skin won’t stick to the foil after the salmon is done cooking. You can use a metal spatula to separate the skin from the foil. Once it’s cooked, the flesh of the salmon can be easily separated from the skin, by just nudging and scooping up with a spatula.
- Set the oven rack placed in the center position, 9 inches (23 cm) away from the top heating element.
- Set the broiler to high (550ºF/288ºC). My current oven comes with 3 settings (low, medium, and high), but my previous oven did not have a medium setting. Since each oven is different, make sure to control the heat by adjusting the distance of the rack. If you’re new to broiling, you might want to start with a medium setting or keep more distance from the heating element and gradually cook.
- Adjust the cooking by controlling the distance between the broiler and the surface of the food. Unlike baking, you don’t control the temperature in the oven. Broiling is similar to using hotter and cooler zones on your grill.
- Test if the salmon is cooking by flaking the flesh. If it flakes easily, it’s cooked through.
🙋🏻♀️ If your oven doesn’t come with a broiler setting, I included the baking method in the recipe card.
How Do You Know When Salmon is Done?
You can tell when salmon is cooked when the flesh of the salmon goes from translucent to opaque, and the salmon flakes nicely and easily with a fork or chopsticks.
Useful Kitchen Tools
The best method is to use a meat probe thermometer (that comes with your oven) or an instant-read thermometer, especially when the salmon fillets are very thick. With the right tool, you don’t need to guess if the salmon is cooked to the right temperature: It’s perfect every single time.
- A probe thermometer allows you to track the temperature of your chicken, turkey, salmon, etc. in the oven as they cook so you don’t have to repeatedly open the oven door to test.
- An instant-read thermometer is a lot more versatile. You can check the temperature of your deep-frying oil and pan-fried fish or steak.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Wait, you said to cook the salmon until an internal temperature of 125-130°F (52-54ºC). I thought we had to cook it to 145°F (63ºC).
The USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145°F (63ºC); however, the remaining heat will continue to cook the salmon, resulting in well-overcooked fish. There are many discussions online on this topic, and many reputable cooking websites do recommend cooking the salmon to 120-130ºF (49-54ºC).
Q: Can I marinate the salmon overnight?
Miso is quite salty, so I don’t recommend marinating the salmon overnight, especially if the fillet is thin. Also, to marinate the salmon evenly, I recommend cutting a one-pound salmon fillet into two to four pieces. One to two hours is my recommendation. If you feel it’s not flavorful enough, please adjust it to your liking.
Bake vs. Broil the Fish
In case you’re curious, I summarized the differences between broiling and baking fish, and which type of fish is suitable for broiling or baking for your future reference.
When you broil fish, the infrared energy from the heating element cooks the fish. You don’t control the temperature in the oven; instead, you control the distance between the broiler and the surface of the food.
Fish suitable for broiling:
- Fatty fish—salmon (thin-cut; under 1 inch or 2.5 cm), mackerel, and swordfish
- Moderately lean fish—cod, haddock (should be brushed with oil before broiled)
- Thin fish fillet—Japanese fish cut is often very thin (sold at Japanese supermarkets)
When you bake fish, hot air cooks the fish. The heat is carried through your oven by slow-moving natural currents of hot air, which is why baking takes a relatively long time and makes the fish a bit dry. But it can be relaxing as you do not need to pay attention constantly.
Fish suitable for baking:
- Fatty fish—salmon (thick and fatty cut), mackerel, and swordfish
- Whole fish
- Thick and large fish fillets
- Lean and fragile fish—sole
What to Serve with Miso Salmon
For a hearty yet wholesome family dinner, I enjoy serving Miso Salmon with Ginger Rice. The rich flavor of miso-marinated salmon is lovely when matched with the aromatic ginger-infused rice.
Here are other delicious side dishes that you can serve with Miso Salmon.
- Rice: Ginger Rice
- Soup: Kakitamajiru (Japanese Egg Drop Soup)
- Sides: Spicy Japanese Pickled Cucumber and Kinpira Gobo
- Salads: Spinach Gomaae (Japanese Spinach Salad) and Tofu Salad with Sesame Ponzu Dressing
Other Delicious Salmon Recipes
- 2 skin-on salmon fillets (¾ lb, 340 g; ideally, less than 1 inch or 2.5 cm thick)
For the Marinade
For the Garnish (optional)
- ½ tsp toasted white and black sesame seeds
- 1 green onion/scallion (chopped)
- Before You Start: Please note that this recipe requires a marination time of 1–2 hours.
- Gather all the ingredients. Check your 2 skin-on salmon fillets for scales and tiny bones. To check for bones, run your fingers along the flesh surface and sides to feel the hard tips of the bones and pull them out with fish boning tweezers. To check for scales, run your fingers back and forth across the skin and scrape the scales with the flat side of a knife to remove.
To Lightly Marinate
- In a large bowl or flat tray, mix the marinade ingredients: 2 Tbsp miso, 1 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp mirin, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, and ¼ tsp roasted sesame oil.
- If your salmon is not individual fillets yet, cut it into individual portions. The typical American serving size is 6 oz (170g). Place the salmon in the bowl with the marinade, skin side up.
- Spoon the marinade on top and coat the sides and the salmon skin. Cover and keep it in the refrigerator for 1–2 hours (for less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thickness; a thicker cut needs 3 hours). Tip: This is a lightly seasoned miso fish (not miso-marinated fish like Black Cod), so I don’t recommend marinating the salmon overnight since it can get quite salty from the miso.
To Broil (for thin fillets under 1 inch or 2.5 cm)
- Turn on the broiler on High (550ºF/288ºC) with a rack placed in the center position, 9 inches (23 cm) away* from the top heating element. Preheat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the green onions diagonally into thin slices. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (parchment paper will burn) and spray or brush the oil so the salmon skin won't stick.*Tip: When broiling, you don‘t control the temperature in the oven; instead, you control the distance between the heating element and the surface of the food. It‘s similar to using hotter and cooler zones on your grill.
- Next, take the marinated salmon out of the refrigerator and remove any excess marinade completely from the fish; otherwise, the miso may burn during baking.
- [optional] I take one step further and use an offset spatula or butter knife to gently scrape off any excess marinade that my hands couldn't remove in the previous step. Place the salmon pieces skin side down on the prepared baking sheet.
- Broil the salmon until an internal temperature of 125–130°F* (52–54ºC) registers at the thickest part of the fillet, for roughly 10-13 minutes. You do not need to flip the salmon during broiling. If you prefer medium rare, you can stop cooking at 120ºF (49ºC). *Please note that the USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145°F (63ºC); however, the remaining heat will continue to cook the salmon, resulting in overcooked fish.
To Bake (for thick fillets)
- About 20–30 minutes before you‘re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425°F (218ºC) with a rack placed in the center position. For a convection oven, reduce the cooking temperature by 25ºF (15ºC). Next, take the marinated salmon out of the refrigerator and remove any excess marinade completely from the fish; otherwise, the miso may burn during baking.
- Place the salmon pieces skin side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If you‘re using an oven probe, insert it into the thickest part of the salmon flesh. Tip: If you don‘t have a probe, I highly recommend getting a Thermapen instant-read thermometer.
- Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and attach the probe (if using) to the oven. Bake the salmon until an internal temperature of 125–130°F* (52–54ºC) registers at the thickest part of the fillet, for roughly 18–20 minutes. You do not need to flip the salmon during baking. If you prefer medium rare, you can stop cooking at 120ºF (49ºC). Tip: My recommended baking time is 5 minutes per ½-inch (1.3 cm) thickness of salmon measured at the thickest part. *Please note that the USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145°F (63ºC); however, the remaining heat will continue to cook the salmon, resulting in overcooked fish.
- To char (optional): You can broil the salmon to give it a nice char, if desired. Once the salmon reaches the desired internal temperature, remove the probe from the salmon and oven. Then, change the oven setting to Broil on High (550ºF/288ºC). Keep the oven rack placed in the center position, 9 inches (23 cm) away from the top heating element. Then, broil the salmon for 3 minutes or until the surface is blistered and browned a bit.
- Serve the Miso Salmon and top with ½ tsp toasted white and black sesame seeds and 1 green onion/scallion thinly sliced (both toppings are optional). I like to serve this salmon with Ginger Rice. Enjoy!
- Optional: I always discard the marinade (that‘s why I try to use the least amount of marinade), but if you don‘t want to waste it or made too much, you can dilute the marinade with water and cook it for a few minutes. Serve it with the salmon or use it for other dishes.
- You can store the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for a month.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 2, 2014. The post has been updated with revised, clear instructions (still the same recipe) with new step-by-step pictures, final photos, and video in February 2022.