This easy Spicy Tangerine Salmon recipe features salmon fillets that are pan-fried to perfection then finished in a bright and lively tangerine sauce. Serve over white rice with steamed veggies for a delightfully flavourful and healthy weeknight meal.
I love this tangerine-glazed salmon! It’s so simple, fast and flavourful and feels really healthy and light. With only 15 minutes of hands-on time, you can have a healthy dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. Perfect for busy weeknights.
Spicy Tangerine Salmon
Whenever we order Chinese takeout, a dish of orange chicken is a must. The little bits of crispy chicken coated in a ginger and garlic-spiked orange glaze are absurdly addictive. Thankfully, the simple sauce is quite easy to replicate at home so I have been trying it with all kinds of different proteins.
Of course, it’s fabulous with crispy chicken, but pan-frying a few batches of small chicken pieces takes a bit of time. Enter salmon fillets. They are healthful, require little time to cook and are great at beautifully soaking up all kinds of sauces. Pan-seared for a few minutes a side, then finished cooking in the simple spicy tangerine sauce, this salmon dish is fast, easy, and so tasty!
I use fresh tangerines for the glaze which gives it deep, complex flavours, but oranges will work as well. We like this sauce quite spicy, but adjust it to your taste if you don’t love heat.
Have your sides ready before you start cooking the salmon so dinner can be on the table as soon as the salmon is done. We like the spicy tangerine salmon with white rice, cauliflower rice, couscous, or even mashed potatoes. A simple steamed veggie, or a salad keeps it all easy and light.
Ingredients And Notes
The ingredient list seems a little long but most are for the sauce which consists of bottled ingredients you likely already have. Tangerines are plentiful and delicious this time of year so I always grab them by the crateful.
- Salmon – Here we are using 4 salmon fillets. Pan-frying salmon is a quick way to cook them but you can broil the salmon if you prefer (instructions will be in the recipe card).
- Avocado or olive oil – For pan-frying the salmon. Avocado oil is great here because of its neutral flavour but olive oil will work just fine.
- Garlic – I love this dish with quite a bit of minced garlic, reduce it to taste if you wish.
- Fresh ginger – Adds delicious flavour and a bit of spicy “zing” to this dish. Fresh ginger is also a great way to boost you immune system this time of year.
- Tangerine (or orange juice) – Orange juice will work just fine here but tangerine juice is a little tangier with more complex flavour.
- Tangerine peel – To deepen the tangerine flavours. You can lave the peel in small pieces or slice it into thin strips. Just make sure the peel has no white pith or it will taste bitter.
- Toasted sesame oil – Adds a nice nutty flavour to the sauce.
- Rice vinegar – A bit of vinegar-y tang keeps the sauce from being too sweet or cloying.
- Spicy chili sauce – I use sambal oelek, but you can use any chili sauce you like; sriracha, or red pepper flakes will also work. Use as much or as little as you prefer.
- Low-sodium soy sauce – Use tamari for a gluten-free option.
- Honey – Two tablespoons of honey help thicken the sauce into a wonderful, not-too-sweet glaze.
- Cornstarch – Just a tablespoon to help thicken the sauce. You can also use arrowroot or even omit it for a slightly less glaze-y sauce.
How To Cook Spicy Tangerine Salmon
Be sure to adjust the cooking time for the salmon fillets as needed. Thinner salmon fillets will cook a lot quicker than thicker, chunky salmon. If you’re not into salmon, substitute boneless chicken thighs or breasts, both of which will take a few extra minutes to cook through.
- In a container, marinate the salmon with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Let sit while you prepare the sauce and other ingredients.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the tangerine juice, tangerine peel, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, honey, chili sauce, and cornstarch.
- Pat the salmon dry with paper towels (this is so the excess marinade doesn’t cause splattering). Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the salmon pieces, skin-side down, pressing gently on each salmon for a few seconds. Cook, undisturbed, until skin is crispy and the flesh has started to turn opaque up the sides of the salmon, about 3-4 minutes. Flip the salmon and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. It’s okay if salmon isn’t completely cooked at this point, it will finish cooking in the sauce.
- In the same pan, over medium heat, add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the sauce, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Add the salmon back into the pan. Use a spoon to coat each piece of salmon with the sauce. Simmer until the salmon is cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve with a side of fluffy white rice and steamed veggies, if desired.
What Is The Best Pan For Pan-Frying Fish?
In a perfect world, I would recommend a non-stick pan for pan-searing fish. Unfortunately I don’t use regular non-stick pans and ceramic coated pans have not proven to be great, in my experience. My choice is stainless steel or cast iron.
For this recipe, I like to use stainless steel which is great for distributing heat quickly and evenly. Cast iron also works but it must be well-seasoned so the fish doesn’t stick. In addition, because this sauce is very acidic, I prefer to use a stainless steel pan.
Unless you add a lot more oil, I would avoid light-coloured enamel-coated pans. In my experience, the fish always sticks. Dark-coated enamel, such as these Le Creuset skillets should work fine.
If you already own and use a non-stick pan, go ahead and use it here. It will ensure the salmon doesn’t stick at all and make the whole process a little easier, particularly if you’re a bit new to cooking fish.
Room temperature salmon is ideal for pan-frying. If you place fridge-cold salmon on a hot skillet, it will shrink quickly and stick to the pan. Remove it from the fridge at least 20 minutes before you are ready to cook it.
Press gently on the salmon while cooking on the skin-side. As soon as you place the salmon piece on the pan, use a fish spatula to press down on it. This will prevent the skin form buckling or shrinking as much.
Don’t overcook the salmon. Pan-seared salmon does not overcook as quickly as roasted. That said, you still want to make sure you don’t overcook it or it will be unpleasantly dry.
Buy skin-on salmon, if possible. Crispy salmon skin is delicious, and good for you. Skin-on salmon also makes it easier to cook the salmon as it provides a safety layer between the flesh the hot pan. If you really don’t like the skin, just peel it off when serving the salmon.
Broil the salmon. If you would like the salmon to be a little more charred, throw it under the broiler for 2 minutes once you flip it flesh side-up. Make sure to have the broiler pre-heated so the salmon isn’t overcooking while it waits to go under the broiler. If you aren’t using an oven-safe skillet, line a small sheet pan with foil and transfer the salmon pieces to the sheet pan.
As mentioned, we almost always enjoy this spicy tangerine salmon with a side of white fluffy rice and some steamed broccoli.
Here’s a few other sides you could serve it with:
- Cauliflower rice, quinoa, or this cauliflower mash
- Mashed potatoes (sounds odd with an Asian-style dish, but actually very delicious)
- Brown, black, or fried rice
- Sautéed or steamed bok choy
- Chinese green beans
More Fish Recipes To Try
- Blackened Fish with Mango Avocado Salsa
- Salmon Rice Bowl
- Fish en Papilliote
- Fish Tostadas with Pineapple Salsa
- Baked Salmon with Red Chimichurri Sauce
Spicy Tangerine Salmon
For The Salmon
- 4 6-ounce skin-on salmon skinless is fine too
- 1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon avocado or olive oil
For The Sauce
- 1/2 cup tangerine or orange juice
- peel from 2 tangerines (or 1 orange) cut into thin or thick strips
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1-2 teaspoon chili sauce I use sambal oelek or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- Optional garnish: sesame seeds sliced green onions
- Place the salmon in a glass container where they will lay flat. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce and sesame oil and drizzle evenly over the salmon. Let sit while you prepare the sauce and other ingredients.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the tangerine juice, tangerine peel, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, honey, chili sauce, and cornstarch. Do not add the garlic and ginger. Set aside.
- Pat the salmon dry with paper towels (the drier the salmon the less it will splatter). Heat 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or olive oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the salmon pieces, skin-side down, pressing gently on each salmon for a few seconds. Cook, undisturbed, until skin is crispy and the flesh has started to turn opaque up the sides of the salmon, about 5 to 6 minutes. At this point it should be releasing easily from the pan. Use tongs to carefully flip the salmon and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. It's okay if salmon isn't completely cooked at this point, it will finish cooking in the sauce.
- In the same pan, over medium heat, add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the sauce, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Add the salmon back into the pan. Use a spoon to coat each piece of salmon with the sauce. Simmer until the salmon is cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with a side of fluffy white rice, steamed veggies, and garnish with sesame seeds and chopped green onions, if desired.