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    Brown Sugar Salmon Recipe with Soy Sauce and Bourbon

    Published July 31, 2018. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    Try this insanely delicious brown sugar, soy sauce and bourbon marinated salmon that is served up with a sauté of vegetables.  Hands down this are the easiest and most flavorful seafood recipe you will ever make.  With equal parts brown sugar, soy and bourbon marinade you can make as much or as little of it that you would like.

    While the best results always come by marinating overnight you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much flavor you can pull from this marinade in only 2 hours.

    brown sugar salmon recipe

    How to Make the Marinade

    pan seared marinated salmon fillets

    There is no doubt that marinades can bring about some really intense flavor into proteins or vegetables.  While I absolutely love salmon just seasoned up with salt and pepper and pan-seared, I also like to have some fun marinating it and this brown sugar soy sauce marinade is a sure-fire winner.

    The marinade consists of equal parts light brown sugar, soy sauce and bourbon (or whiskey is cool too), that’s it.  So, if you have 2 small pieces of fresh salmon fillets then maybe do a third cup each of those ingredients.  If you have a whole side of fish, then maybe it’s a cup or 2 of each of those ingredients.

    When it comes to cooking with wine, beer or spirits the general rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t drink it by yourself then don’t flipping cook with it!

    The most important thing to remember when making this marinade recipe is to whisk it really well to ensure the brown sugar completely incorporates into the marinade.  If you don’t whisk it well then you will have a salmon that will taste like salty whiskey, which may be cool if you’re trying to get drunk but not if you’re trying to enjoy this dish.

    cooked salmon fillets served with vegetables

    How to Marinate

    brown sugar soy salmon

    Whenever you are marinating salmon or any protein it’s important that it is completely coated in the marinade.  If the marinade is an oil base then the protein absolutely does not have to be completely submerged because of the viscosity of the oil.

    When using more vinegar and liquid-based marinades it is important that they completely cover the protein.  If you don’t have enough marinade, then only use half of the fish is going to taste like something while the other half does not.

    I personally like to marinate in plastic bags because they are malleable and can be formed to any section of my refrigerator to ensure the salmon is completely covered.  For example, sometimes I put in the corner of the refrigerator and stack a bunch of things around it so that the bag seems way deeper than it really is.

    caramelized salmon fillet

    How to Cook It

    bourbon salmon

    Since there is soy sauce in the marinade you have to instantly know that it will cause the salmon to get a really dark caramelization on it.  This can be tricky because you definitely don’t want it to cook so long that it burns because the over caramelization can kind of have a nasty flavor.

    This salmon recipe has a bit of an Asian twist to it so heat up some sesame oil in a pan over medium-high heat until it begins to lightly smoke and then add in the salmon.  Turn the heat down immediately to medium and cook it for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

    I eat salmon medium to medium-well internally so don’t flip out if it’s undercooked.  However  if you need to cook this thing throughout then my suggestion is to turn the heat to medium-low after you put it into the pan and cook it for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cooked throughout.

    How to Serve It

    fresh cooked vegetables

    To accompany the salmon I whipped up some really tasty quickly sautéed vegetables consisting of edamame, peas, baby carrots, and sprouts.  They are super light and flavor and literally go excellent with this.

    I haven’t tried it but I’m thinking this brown sugar marinade recipe would go pretty dang good with chicken or steak.  I may be wrong, but it may also be really tasty.  Give it a shot!

    sauteed vegetables with baby carrots, edamame, peas and sprouts

    Let's Cook - Chef Billy Parisi

    Brown Sugar Salmon Recipe with Soy Sauce and Bourbon

    Looking for a great fish recipe? Try this delicious and easy to make Brown Sugar Salmon Recipe with Soy Sauce and Bourbon.
    Servings: 6
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Marinating Time: 1 day
    Total Time: 35 minutes


    For the Salmon:

    • 5 6- ounce fillets of fresh salmon
    • 1/2 cup of bourbon
    • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
    • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil

    For the Vegetables:

    • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
    • 1 teaspoon of finely minced ginger
    • 2 finely minced cloves of garlic
    • 5 baby carrots sliced long ways
    • 1 cup of edamame
    • 1 cup of peas
    • 1 cup of sprouts
    • 1/2 cup of chicken stock
    • 1/2 cup of sliced green onions
    • sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
    • sesame seeds for garnish optional


    • Pour the bourbon, soy and brown sugar into a medium-size bowl and whisk very well until completely combined and then transfer it to a plastic slider bag with the salmon and toss around and marinate in the refrigerator overnight or up to 48 hours and 2 hours minimum.
    • Once the salmon is done marinating, remove from the bag and set aside.
    • Add the 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add in the salmon. Once the salmon is in the man turn the heat down to medium.
    • Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side for a medium to medium-well internal temperature.
    • When it’s finished cooking, remove from the pan and set aside.
    • Vegetables: In a large hot sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, brown the ginger and garlic, about 1 to 2 minutes. Once brown, add in the carrots and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
    • Next, add in the edamame, peas and sauté for a further 3 to 4 minutes. Finish with chicken stock, sliced green onions and salt, and pepper to taste and braise for 3 to 4 minutes. Finish by tossing in sprouts.
    • Serve the salmon on top of the braised vegetables and garnish with sesame seeds.


    Calories: 317kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 18gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 1150mgPotassium: 607mgFiber: 4gSugar: 24gVitamin A: 1438IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 62mgIron: 2mg
    Course: Main
    Cuisine: Asian