Sheet Pan Lemon Salmon with Pesto is an easy, healthy way to get dinner on the table with minimal fuss.
Carrots, fennel and shallots are roasted first, then you add your salmon fillets to bake a little more, and once everything is done you add the easy, flavorful toppings.
And while you could make your own pesto, I’m going to make it even easier by using store-bought pesto!
This baked salmon recipe is gluten-free, grain-free and, depending on your pesto, dairy-free and Whole30-friendly!
(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, I’ll automatically receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)
Sheet pan salmon recipe
Sheet pan dinners are so handy – roasting brings out all the flavor and then cleaup is a snap.
And THIS particular sheet pan salmon recipe is colorful, healthy and easy to put together.
Veggies get roasted, salmon is added and then everything is baked together.
Lemon juice is spritzed, lemon zest mixed with fennel fronds are sprinkled, and pesto is dolloped. Voila! Done.
I know fennel might be a love-it-or-hate-it kinda veggie.
It has a licorice flavor and I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t like licorice.
But roasting fennel tames the licorice-ness and gives it a wonderfully sweet, caramelized flavor with a subtle herbal note (fennel bulbs are, after all, an herb).
Plus it’s secretly a nutritional powerhouse. It’s packed with fiber (feeling full, good for heart health), vitamin C (good for the immune system and making collagen), calcium (bone health), iron (immune health), potassium (all sorts of great benefits), manganese (all sorts of great benefits, too) and more.
See photos after the recipe for how I prepare it for this recipe.
And there’s good ol’ carrots. Naturally sweet and crunchy, they’re also full of health benefits, like helping eyesight, protecting skin from sun damage, supporting immune health and much more.
And then, of course, there’s buttery, succulent salmon. See below for more info on how great salmon is.
What you need for this sheet pan salmon recipe
- 4 (6 oz.) boneless salmon fillets (about 1-1.5 pounds total), with or without skin
- 2-2.5 pounds carrots
- 3 fennel bulbs
- 4 shallots
- 1 (6-8 oz.) tub of store-bought pesto (dairy-free or nut-free, if necessary; see below for more info)
- 1/4 cup + 4 teaspoons, divided, avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more for the salmon
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, for a bit of spice)
- baking sheet (possible 2 if necessary, see recipe)
- measuring spoons (these are my favorite as they actually fit into spice jars)
- a measuring glass
- a cutting board
- a chef’s knife
- vegetable peeler
- a microplane
- a small mixing bowl
- instant read thermometer (optional but recommended)
How to make this sheet pan salmon recipe
Like I said, this lemon salmon recipe is really straightforward.
Heat the oven to 425°.
Peel the carrots and trim off the ends. Cut crosswise into approx. 3″ pieces. Cut any thick pieces in half lengthwise or, if really thick, in quarters. Add to the sheet pan.
Rinse and dry the fennel bulbs but don’t worry if they have some brown spots. Pull the leafy fronds off and reserve (if they look fresh; if they look brown/dry/wilted, just chop them off and discard).
Trim off the fennel stems and discard. Thinly slice off the very bottom of the root end and discard. Stand the fennel up on the root end and slice downward into 1/2″ slices. (See photos below the recipe for step-by-step guidance.)
Toss the fennel onto the sheet with the carrots. It’s okay if some of the pieces separate.
Peel the shallots and slice into 1/2″ wedges. Add to the carrots and fennel.
Toss the vegetables with 1/4 cup oil, 2 teaspoons salt, red pepper flakes (if using) and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Spread everything out into a single layer. If there’s not enough room, divide the mixture evenly between two baking sheets.
Roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes, swapping and rotating the pans halfway through the cooking time (if using 2 pans).
While the veggies roast, pat the salmon with paper towels, drizzle each with about 1 teaspoon oil, and season each with salt and pepper.
Once the veggies are done, toss them around the pans and then scoot them to the sides of the pans to create space for the salmon.
Add the salmon skin-side up if you want the skin to crisp up a bit, or skin-side down if you want the skin to be soft enough to peel off. (If using skinless salmon, this doesn’t matter).
Add the salmon and roast for another 10-13 minutes, depending on their size. You should aim for approx. 5 minutes per half inch of thickness.
Meanwhile, roughly chop the fennel fronds.
Zest the lemon and mix the zest with the fronds in a small bowl.
Cut the lemon in half.
Once everything is done, sprinkle over some fresh lemon juice, the front/zest mixture and the pesto.
Dinner is done! Seems simple but it really lets the main ingredients shine while also adding bright, herbal flavor.
Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days. The easiest way to eat is is to break up the cold salmon with a fork and mix into the veggies, turning it into a cold roasted salmon and veggie salad.
Pop open the pesto
Normally I am all about making your own pesto. It’s easy, it’s fast, and by making your own you can control if it’s dairy-free, nut-free, etc. In fact, this arugula pistachio pesto would be great with this sheet pan salmon!
Either way you make pesto, it’s fantastic: thick, luscious, garlicky and packed with tons of bright, punchy herbs.
You could easily make it while the veggies are roasting – a really simple process that I explain here.
(Speaking of which, have you made any of those 10 toppings you can make while diner is cooking yet? They require minimal time and effort yet deliver major flavor for all kinds of meals.)
This may be heresy to some folks, but for this recipe I think it’s perfectly fine to grab a tub of pesto at the store.
But here’s the trick. First, aim for the tubs of pesto that tend to be refrigerated or chilled near the produce. Those taste a lot fresher than the jarred kind.
Second, there are pestos out there that basically contain the same ingredients you’d use at home – extra virgin olive oil, basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and garlic.
I particularly like Gotham Greens’ pesto for this very reason, and it happens to be made locally near me.
Plus they offer a vegan pesto, which is those same ingredients just minus the Parmesan. Without the cheese it’s not quite as thick, making it really easy to pour or spoon or everything.
Plus it’s dairy-free and Whole30-friendly! So if that’s important to you, try to find a vegan or dairy-free pesto.
There are also nut-free pestos if that’s necessary, too.
The benefits of salmon
I get it. You probably already know this. Salmon is healthy, blah blah blah, right?
But it really is remarkable how great this stuff is.
It’s high in omega-3’s, a necessary nutrient that our bodies can’t make on their own. Omega-3’s help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.
Salmon is full of protein and has more potassium than a banana.
It packs in 7 different B vitamins, including B12, a necessary vitamin for maintaining nerve and blood cells, making DNA and avoiding anemia.
Plus it’s a great natural source of vitamin D, which helps you absorb calcium, something especially helpful for those who don’t consume dairy products and don’t get enough natural sunlight.
Isn’t nature amazing?
Look for salmon that has a bright, shiny appearance. It should barely smell of saltwater, if it smells at all. It should not smell “fishy.”
Other recipes you might like:
- Potato Chip Crusted Salmon
- Pan-Fried or Broiled Salmon
- Sheet Pan Sausage and Peppers
- Sheet Pan Apple Cinnamon Chicken
- Sheet Pan Chicken, Potatoes and Peas
Sheet Pan Lemon Salmon with Pesto
- 2-2½ pounds carrots
- 3 fennel bulbs, with stems and leafy fronds
- 4 shallots
- ¼ cup + 4 teaspoons avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon
- 4 (6 oz.) boneless salmon fillets (about 1½-2 lbs. total), with or without skin (see instructions)
- 1 (6-8 oz.) tub pesto (vegan/dairy-free/nut-free if necessary)
- Heat the oven to 425°.
- Peel the carrots and trim off both ends. Cut crosswise into approx. 3" lengths. Cut any thick pieces lengthwise in half or in quarters if really thick. Toss onto a sheet pan.
- Rinse the fennel bulbs but don't worry if they have some brown marks. Pull the leafy fronds off and reserve. Trim off the stems and discard. Thinly slice off the very bottom of the root end and discard. Stand the fennel up on the root end and slice downward crosswise into 1/2" thick slices. (See photos below recipe for step-by-step photos.) Toss onto the sheet pan with the carrots. It's okay if some of the pieces separate.
- Peel the shallots and slice into 1/2" thick wedges. Add to the carrots and fennel.
- Toss the vegetables with ¼ cup oil, 2 teaspoons salt, red pepper flakes (if using) and lots of freshly ground black pepper. It's okay if some of the fennel or shallots separate. Spread out into a single layer (use 2 baking sheets if there's not enough room). Roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes (swapping and rotating the pans halfway through, if using 2 pans).
- While the veggies roast, blot the salmon with paper towels, drizzle each with about 1 teaspoon avocado oil and season with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Once the veggies are done, toss them around the pans and then scoot them to the sides of each pan to make a space for the salmon. Add the salmon skin-side up if you want the skin to crisp up a bit to eat, or skin-side down so the skin is softer and easier to peel off (if using skinless salmon this doesn't matter).
- Place back in the oven for 10-13 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 135-140°. You should aim for approx. 5 minutes per half inch of thickness.
- Meanwhile, roughly chop the fennel fronds. Zest the lemon and mix with the fronds in a small bowl. If the pesto is the consistency you like, leave as is. If you want it more pourable, stir in water 1 teaspoon at a time until it's to your liking.
- Once the salmon and veggies are done, cut the zested lemon in half and spritz over the pans. Sprinkle the fennel frond/lemon zest mixture over everything. Drizzle the pesto over everything or serve it on the side. Remove the salmon and veggies to a serving platter and dig in.