Salmon Rub Recipe: A Smoky Seasoning You'll Love!

Nicole Austin

Our best salmon rub recipe relies on paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, brown sugar, and more.

When I was a kid, my mom made salmon loaf. I’m not here to talk about that because it was a traumatizing recipe from my childhood that convinced me for years that I was destined to hate salmon.

Then one day, my dad cooked some salmon on the grill and urged me to try it.

Eager to be right about my hatred for this pink fish, I tried a bite… and… I was wrong.

Don’t tell my dad that I said that, though.

Salmon Rub Recipe Photo

Since my newfound love of salmon sans-loaf came to exist, I have experimented with multiple ways to prepare salmon, mostly defaulting to cooking salmon in the oven.

Fish can be a pretty delicate protein to prepare, especially if you plan to marinate salmon, a process that takes less than half an hour. Because of this, I have found myself leaning more toward seasonings and rubs for salmon because I think it’s much more foolproof… and I love that crisp crunch.

Here are some of the perfect ingredients for making a salmon rub, and a recipe for a simple and delicious spice rub you can make with items you may already have on your spice rack. 

Making your own seasonings is easier for a home cook than you think! And this one requires minimal ingredients and will quickly become a pantry staple in your home. 

Why Should I Eat Salmon?

Salmon has a smooth, rich flavor that is mild and delicate, making it a popular choice for people who want to eat more fish but aren’t a fan of the pungent “fishy” aroma that comes with so many other varieties.

Tip: If you don’t care for the fishy smell or taste of any fish, soaking the filet in a dish of milk for about 30 minutes will help reduce the strong aroma and flavor.

Beyond this, salmon is a very healthy protein — it is very low in saturated fat and has high levels of essential vitamins and minerals, such as:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Phosphorous
  • Iodine
  • Choline
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Biotin
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Salmon is a recommended food on anti-inflammatory diets and is often on sale at grocers and meat markets, making it an affordable option.

We recommend adding salmon to your regular diet, and at least bi-monthly on your shopping list.

Salmon Rub Recipe Picture

What Should I Season My Salmon With?

You can season your salmon with various toppings, using multiple methods.

  • Salt and pepper is the simplest seasoning for salmon, and sometimes that does the trick. If you want a nice flavor that isn’t fussy and doesn’t add any heat, extra flavors, or calories, opt for salt and pepper. I use this when trying to eat clean, or when I am going to use the salmon in another dish and do not want to overpower its flavor.
  • Salt, pepper, and other seasonings. This is what we will be focusing on in this recipe. Paprika, chile powder, garlic powder, and other basic seasonings can be used individually or in combination to make the perfect salmon rub. Choose flavors that complement your dish, such as those listed in our Spicy Sesame Salmon Avocado Bowls recipe. (This is one of our favorite recipes!) 
  • Store-bought rubs. Maybe you don’t have time or energy to throw together a dry rub, or maybe you just don’t feel like it- no shame here! We all cut corners sometimes. Many grocers carry premade seasoning blends that pair perfectly with whatever protein you’re looking to make, like a suya spice blend. You can find an excellent premade blackened seasoning and experiment with simple recipes like our 3-Ingredient Blackened Salmon
  • Marinade. When looking for the perfect salmon marinade, avoid very acidic mixtures that will break the meat down quickly and create a mushy fish. I recommend trying our Roasted Teriyaki Salmon, a great introduction to this fish for people who already know and love teriyaki chicken
  • Glaze is a good option that can be incorporated with other seasonings to further customize or improve flavors. This is a great introduction to recipe experimentation for beginners, as the glaze provides a protective barrier that prevents the fish from drying out as it cooks. Miso Glazed Teriyaki Salmon is a flavorful, addicting recipe for those looking to try glazed salmon.
  • Sauce, such as our Lemon Basil Butter Sauce can be added at the end of your cooking time to enhance the flavors of your salmon without making it taste too strong or ruining the texture. This works great when you’re baking salmon. Cream-based sauces are also excellent for salmon since they compliment the fattiness of the fish.
Salmon Rub Recipe Image

Tips for Cooking the Perfect Salmon

Follow these tips!

  • Start with the best fish. Choose salmon that is firm and bright colored, with shiny skin and resilient flesh. Press on the fish and look for the meat to spring back- if the indent remains, take a pass.
  • Plan for enough. When making salmon dinners, choose 5-6 oz of fish per person. You can use less if the salmon is not served as a filet but rather as part of a recipe. Check the amount the recipe calls for and how many it serves to see if you need to double the recipe.
  • Dry your salmon before cooking.
  • Let the seasoning rest on the fish for at least 45 minutes and up to several hours before cooking. If you don’t have time, prepare it immediately before cooking.
  • Always preheat a thin layer of olive oil until it shimmers when searing salmon in a pan. This will keep your skin from sticking and set the proteins in the fish. Turn the temperature down to medium-low or medium heat before placing the meat in the pan.
  • Place the fish in the pan gently and press down on the filet for about ten seconds to avoid curling as the salmon cooks.
  • Cook your fish skin side down for 90% of the cook time before turning it over. Aim for an internal temp of 120°F. After this, you need only about 15 seconds to cook before transferring your fish to a paper towel-covered plate and letting it rest for a couple of minutes.
  • Squeeze a fresh lemon over your finished salmon for the best flavor (or add lemon zest!).
3-Ingredient Blackened Salmon Pic

Our Best Cajun Blackened Seasoning

Use this for salmon you plan to add to a salad or sandwich for a burst of big flavor that will leave a lasting impression!

You will need:

  • 1 ½ Tbsp paprika
  • ½ Tbsp black pepper
  • ½ Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Stir to combine and store in an airtight container.

Salmon Rub Recipe Pic

Our Best Salmon Rub

Use this homemade salmon seasoning mix to sear the perfect salmon in a flavorful way!

You will need:

  • 2 Tbsp smoked paprika or sweet paprika (choose based on the flavor profile you’re looking for)
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp mustard powder

Stir together in a small bowl to combine and store in a dry place in an airtight container.

Pair with a drizzle of honey for a unique flavor and texture.

If you don't like spicy flavors, cut back on the chili powder and add more paprika, or consider adding a little chipotle powder for extra layers of flavor in the spice mixture. You can fine-tune this recipe for the perfect balance on your salmon fillets, depending on your personal preferences and also what you're cooking. 

After all, the flavor profile of Japanese recipes will vary pretty considerably from Mexican recipes, or other cuisines that call for a seasoned salmon dish!

Jerk Fish Tacos with Pineapple Slaw Pic

Need more fish recipes? 

Cajun Grilled Cod Photo

Salmon Rub Recipe: A Smoky Seasoning You'll Love!

  27 Servings


  • 2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika, or sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Chili Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mustard Powder


  1. Measure out ingredients.
  2. Stir together in a small bowl to combine thoroughly.
  3. Store in a dry place in an airtight container.
Homemade Spices
, , , ,
Related Recipes:
Salmon Recipes, Seafood Recipes, Seasoning Recipes, Fish Recipes, Homemade Spice Recipes
Recipe Yields:
9 Tablespoons
Prep Time:
Total Time:
Related Post:
Author: Nicole Austin
Recipe Yields: 9 Tablespoons
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 2 minutes

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1/3 Tablespoon
Servings Per Recipe 27

Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 0
Calories 5

% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
  Saturated Fat 0g
Sodium 42mg
Total Carbohydrate 1g
  Dietary Fiber 0g
  Sugars 0g
Protein 0g

* Percent Daily Value are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
** Nutrition Facts are estimated based on ingredients and data provided by Fat Secret. Please consult a doctor if you have special dietary needs.

Nicole is a self-published author of fiction novels, and a lover of food and spending time in the kitchen with her six children. She lives in coastal Maine where she loves exploring new recipes especially those that can save time, money and wow a crowd.

Show Comments