Pan Fried Salmon with Pesto Cream Cheese Sauce

Pan Fried Salmon with Pesto Cream Cheese Sauce is a delicious and healthy meal. Flaky salmon with a rich and flavorful cream sauce is sure to be a favorite.

overhead view of salmon with pesto cream cheese sauce and two lemon wedges on a plate

Salmon is one heck of a fish. Its mild flavor and meaty texture give creative cooks lots of options when it comes to cooking. Pan-frying salmon is always a popular choice because the technique allows excellent results in a minimal amount of time. Pan Fried Salmon with Pesto Cream Sauce is a restaurant-worthy dish that you can get on your table in less than 20 minutes!

The Skinny on Salmon Skin

Most people know that salmon is chockfull of Omega-3, but most of that healthy fat your body craves comes from the salmon’s skin. To get the most from your salmon, you need to eat it with the skin. While it is true that there are some concerns about mercury accumulating in the skin, this is a bigger concern for farmed salmon. A study by Indiana University shows that wild-caught salmon is healthier generally contains fewer toxins than raised salmon.

How to Cook Salmon With the Skin On

Take the salmon filets out of the fridge about ten minutes before cooking to let them come up to room temperature. Dry the fillets and make three or four light cuts diagonally across the skin with a sharp knife in both directions. Scoring the skin like this helps the fat to render and the skin to crisp up.

Heat a saute pan on a medium-high burner. While waiting for the pan to come to temperature, season the flesh side of the salmon liberally with salt and pepper. When the pan is warm, pour enough of neutral oil, like canola, into the pan to cover the bottom. When the oil is shimmering, use tongs to place the salmon fillets skin-side down in the pan.

Don’t touch the fish too much while cooking

Don’t play with the fish, but you can help ensure even cooking and extra crispy skin by pushing down evenly on the top of the fish with a spatula. Let the fish cook for about five minutes or until the skin releases from the bottom of the pan. Flip the fish onto the other side for about 3 minutes or until it develops a slight golden color.

Remove the salmon fillets and place them on a paper towel with the skin-side up. Dab any extra oil from the fish and then transfer them to the serving plates skin-side up. Place a dollop of the pesto cream sauce on top of each fillet and serve while warm.

Tips for Serving and Storing This Pan Fried Salmon Recipe

  • Don’t overcook your salmon. The fillets are cooked when the fish comes apart easily at the thin white lines. When in doubt, take the salmon off the heat. Slightly undercooked salmon is a lot tastier than when it overcooks.
  • Reheat in the oven. Place salmon into a baking dish along with a little water. Cover and heat on low for about 10 minutes or until warm. Since the skin won’t be crispy, it is better to remove it before serving.
  • Serve the pan fried salmon with a vegetable. Sautéed spinach or grilled asparagus are perfect side dishes. Stay away from anything too starchy, like potatoes.

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two servings of pan fried salmon with pesto cream cheese sauce

Salmon with Cream Sauce

Are you looking for a new way to prepare salmon? Salmon is such a wonderful protein to prepare. It can be cooked quickly. I often buy it frozen at Costco. I keep it in my freezer and defrost it when I want to make a quick meal at home.

I love the individually frozen pieces of salmon at home. I defrost them by placing them in a sink of warm water submerged under a plate. This will generally defrost salmon in about 20 minutes. Then it takes another 10 to 15 minutes to pan sear, and you will have dinner in no time.

This recipe features a simple cream sauce made of cream cheese and pesto. This sauce is flavorful and quick and easy to make. You can turn ordinary salmon into something special in no time.

You can try this pesto recipe if you want to make your own homemade pesto.


Here’s a list of what you need:

  • Salmon
  • Cream cheese
  • Half and half
  • Pesto
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
ingredients for pan fried salmon with pesto cream cheese sauce

How to Make Salmon with Pesto Cream Cheese Sauce

  1. Bring salmon to room temperature before cooking.
  2. Heat a large skillet with oil over medium-low heat.
  3. Season fish with salt and pepper
  4. Place salmon skin side up in the skillet.
  5. Cook until golden brown and flip over to the other side, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
    frying two pieces of salmon in a skillet
  6. In a small pot, add half and half, pesto, and cream cheese.
  7. Stir and cook over low heat until the cream cheese sauce is heated and well-combined.
    pesto cream cheese sauce in a pan
  8. Spoon the pesto cream cheese sauce over the salmon.

Pan-fried salmon with pesto cream cheese sauce is low carb and keto-friendly.

salmon with pesto cream cheese sauce on a plate

Favorite Low Carb Recipes

Check out more of my easy seafood recipes and healthy low carb recipes here on CopyKat!

overhead view of salmon with pesto cream cheese sauce and two lemon wedges on a plate

Pan Fried Salmon with Pesto Cream Cheese Sauce

Enjoy pan-fried salmon with a savory cream sauce. 
5 from 4 votes
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Cream Cheese, Pan Fried Salmon, Salmon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 455kcal


  • 1 pound salmon cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons half and half
  • 2 tablespoons pesto


  • Bring salmon to room temperature about 15 minutes before cooking.
  • Heat a large skillet with oil over medium-low heat.
  • Season fish with salt and pepper, and place salmon skin side down in the pan. 
  • Cook until golden brown on one side, and flip over on the other side, this should take about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
  • In a small pot, add half and half, pesto, and cream cheese. Stir together well over low heat until the cream cheese sauce is combined well.
  • Spoon about two tablespoons of the pesto cream cheese sauce over the salmon.
  • You may want to serve with a lemon slice along with the fish.


Calories: 455kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 128mg | Sodium: 595mg | Potassium: 643mg | Fiber: 0g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 985IU | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 1.1mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of's Dining Out in the Home, and's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Tina McIntosh

    This sounds wonderful, I love this idea and cream cheese is one of my favorite foods…Im gonna try this one this weekend since salmon is my favorite fish….I eat cream cheese and smoked salmon on sourdough bread all the time as a snack…

  2. Kay Perepchuk

    5 stars
    thank you and love the idea of a featured product ingredient….I’ve been trying get a handle on garlic. Here’s the thing..Macaroni Grill serves the best ever spinach salad with roasted garlic or pan fried? I’ve debated whether to learn to make this salad myself. I’ve already tackled the incrusted goat cheese part. Why debate you ask? My hubby “King” will announce; now I won’t need to take you there again. So sad!

5 from 4 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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