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Published January 16, 2023. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This tasty brown sugar salmon recipe is simple-to-prepare and cooks in under 10 minutes for the perfect weeknight meal. You will love the big flavors in this easy-to-cook salmon dish.
I love salmon, but sometimes it’s just hard to remember to put it into my weekly recipes. If you love it and want to try out some new dishes, then definitely make my Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches or Honey-Garlic Salmon.
Brown Sugar Salmon
Brown Sugar Salmon is a simple dish where brown sugar is infused into a sauce or marinade that is cooked with or served with salmon. There are many possibilities and will likely be prepared differently depending on who is making it.
This recipe specifically was one that I learned in the restaurant industry back in Missouri. It originally called for equal parts brown sugar, soy, and bourbon. However, I always thought the bourbon flavor was too strong, so I would deplete it. The flavors in this dish are incredible and the same marinade can be applied to chicken or pork.
- Salmon – I always prefer to use fresh wild-caught salmon. However, thawed frozen salmon will work as well.
- Brown Sugar – some packed light brown sugar will add sweetness and balance out flavors in the marinade.
- Soy Sauce – Use a good soy sauce for this. I usually get whatever is organic and on sale.
- Bourbon – Any good bourbon will work for this. Of course, if you only have whiskey, then that will work, also.
- Oil – I like to use sesame oil when searing this, but peanut oil will also work well
How to Make Brown Sugar Salmon
Pour the bourbon, soy, and brown sugar into a medium-sized bowl and whisk very well until completely combined then transfer it to a plastic slider bag with the salmon and toss it around and marinate in the refrigerator overnight or up to 48 hours and 2 hours minimum.
Once the salmon is done marinating, remove it from the bag and set it aside.
Add the 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat and heat until the oil just begins to smoke lightly. 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. Be sure to watch closely as the brown sugar and soy will want to burn rather quickly. It can go from caramelization to scorching very fast.
When it’s finished cooking, remove it from the pan, and set it aside.
What to Serve it With
You could serve this salmon with a myriad of side dishes, from cooked rice to a side of vegetables. Here’s what I did:
- In a large hot sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, brown 1 teaspoon of peeled fresh chopped ginger, and 2 finely minced garlic cloves, which takes about 1 to 2 minutes. Once brown, add 5 baby carrots sliced in half longways and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Next, add 1 cup of edamame, and 1 cup of peas, and sauté for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Finish with ½ cup of chicken stock, ½ cup of sliced green onions, sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper to taste, and braise for 3 to 4 minutes. Finish by tossing in a handful of sprouts.
Make Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: This recipe is meant to be eaten right away. However, you can make it up to 30 minutes ahead of time. Keep it warm before serving.
How to Reheat: Add the desired number of salmon to a pan and cook in the oven at 350° for 4-5 minutes or until warmed. You can also heat it in the microwave until warm. Heat the sauce separate from the salmon in a small-sized sauté pan over low heat until hot.
How to Store: Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This will freeze covered for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.
Chef Notes + Tips
- You can grill the salmon instead of cooking it in a pan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side.
- Feel free to use thawed frozen salmon.
More Salmon Recipes
Brown Sugar Salmon Recipe
- 1/3 cup bourbon
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2/3 cup soy sauce
- 6 6- ounce fillets of fresh wild-caught skinned salmon
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- Pour the bourbon, soy, and brown sugar into a medium-sized bowl and whisk very well until completely combined, 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 it from the bag and set it aside. Discard the marinade.
- Add the 3 tablespoons of sesame oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat and heat until the oil just begins to smoke lightly. Add in the salmon.
- Once the salmon is in the pan, turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side for a medium to medium-well internal temperature. Be sure to watch closely, as the brown sugar and soy will want to burn rather quickly. It can go from caramelization to scorching very fast.
- When it’s finished cooking, remove it from the pan, and set it aside.
After reading this recipe I decided to try it, even though I didn’t have the minimum amount of time to marinate the salmon. I ended up using Jameson black barrel whiskey and marinating it for about 1.5 hours (best I could do). It was fantastic. The sauce.. I will be using again, on ice cream or something, I don’t know.. but my son said “this is the best salmon you’ve ever made”. I will plan ahead the next time and marinate it longer, but, in the end, that didn’t matter, it was delicious!
So glad you liked it!
This dish was beyond delicious and far exceeded my expectations of it. Its a keeper in my recipe file for sure.
Amazing recipe. Even my granddaughter who hates fish absolutely loved this. This recipe is a definite keeper!!
Is the sesame oil toasted or raw? Thanks!
You can use either
What wine would go with this? A pino? This seems pretty hearty.