(Recipe) Salmon’s Best Friend

glazed salmonGiven the amount of salmon consumed in my health-conscious household (particularly by my spouse), I’ve tried or invented countless sauces, glazes and marinades while experimenting with cooking methods like steaming, pan roasting, sauteeing, grilling, smoking, cooking in our beloved combi-steam oven and serving raw in a crudo treatment.   Several of these recipes are posted on this blog. (Look under fish/seafood.) While all of them have been enjoyable, there’s one recipe that soars above the rest in terms of ease, fewer calories and — particularly — unbeatable flavor: a miso marinade/glaze/sauce that marries with salmon as happily as Barak does with Michelle.misoMiso  — use the least-sweet white version for this recipe — is widely available in markets and Asian groceries.  It’s a thick paste made from fermented soybeans and is a basic ingredient in Japanese cooking. It keeps for a long time when refrigerated so one container lasts and lasts.

Miso-based mixtures have long complimented various proteins, particularly seafood.  I think it’s because soy products have lots of umami (a savory “fifth taste”) that goes well with some of the other tastes (salty, tart, sweet) when combined in a marinade or sauce.  There are lots of miso sauce recipes floating around and after perusing many, I invented my own, keeping in mind how nicely salmon tastes with a bit of sweet and a touch of tart.

miso sauce-3My miso sauce comes together in minutes in a food processor and features black sesame seeds, ginger, garlic, scallions and cilantro.

My recipe has some Asian ingredients but doesn’t taste distinctly Asian. Consider it a Japanese/Chinese/American hybrid that can serve as a marinade or a sauce.  I use it as both in this recipe. Without the scallions and cilantro, it could also become a glaze, since it has a little sugar. (In glazes, high heat melts the sugar in the mixture to create a shiny coating.)

While white sesame seeds work just fine (as seen in the lead photo), I prefer the look of the black seeds, which have a pretty contrast with the pink fish.  I store sesame seeds and nuts in the freezer so they’ll stay fresh.

After making the sauce (which happens quickly in a food processor), there will likely be some left unless you’re making a large quantity of salmon.  The miso sauce is great with other types of fish and I suspect it would be good with chicken and other proteins, too.   It’s lovely with grilled salmon but enjoyable as well with roasted salmon.

miso sauce-4Top the cooked salmon with a little pickled ginger for enhanced looks and taste.

Miso Ginger Marinade/Sauce for Salmon

The instructions below call for grilling the salmon but broiling or roasting work fine, too.


  • Salmon filets
  • 1/4 cup white miso (fermented soybean paste- available at health food stores, Whole Foods and Japanese markets)
  • 1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine – available at Japanese or Asian markets)
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 2 T toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onions
  • 3+ T roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 T sesame seeds (ideally, use black sesame seeds, which look good)


Put the garlic and ginger in a food processor and process until chopped.  Add the miso, mirin, soy, vinegar, brown sugar, sherry and sesame oil and process until smooth.

Add the green onions, cilantro and sesame seeds. Process for a few seconds to chop the vegetables. Remove from processor and put into a container.

Prepare salmon filets (remove pin bones) and 30 minutes before cooking, generously spread marinade/sauce over the filets. (You’ll definitely have leftover sauce.)  Grill for approx. 3-4 minutes a side.  Add more sauce before serving, if desired.  Garnish with Japanese pickled ginger.  It’s tasty with rice.

Ingredient sources:  White miso is available at Whole Foods and at Asian markets.  Sesame oil is at most markets in the Asian section.  You can find all the Asian ingredients (miso, mirin, sesame oil, sesame seeds) at Nak’s Oriental Market in Menlo Park.


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