This baked whole salmon fillet with citrus and fennel is the perfect meal for a holiday or feeding a crowd. Baking salmon in foil with citrus and fennel keeps it moist, juicy, and very flavorful. This surprisingly easy salmon recipe serves 10 and is ready in under an hour!
Three things make this dish a star: moistness, contrasting textures, and flavor combination. The fish stays moist wrapped in foil with liquid and sautéed vegetables. The crunch of the vegetables is a nice contrast to the soft, flaky fish. The mix of flavors with these simple ingredients is outstanding. The fennel has a hint of licorice flavor, and it blends nicely with the subtle sweet taste of orange, wine, and thyme.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Perfect for feeding a crowd
- Can be prepped ahead of time
- Baking in a foil packet keeps salmon moist and juicy
- A whole salmon looks special on the table or buffet
I like to serve a whole baked salmon for holidays and dinner parties. The whole salmon makes such a beautiful presentation on a platter or wood board. It's a no-stress dish because it can be assembled the day before and then baked just before guests arrive.
I adapted this recipe from Ina Garten's Salmon and Fennel recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
See the recipe card below for a complete ingredient list and measurements.Jump to Recipe
- Fennel bulb - Pick a fennel bulb that is heavy for its size and firm. Save the fronds. If the fronds were already taken off your bulb, don't worry- you can omit them.
- Sweet onion - You can also use a yellow or white onion if needed.
- Carrots - Carrots add an extra textural element to this dish and add a pop of color.
- Orange juice and zest - One orange is needed. Citrus is a great compliment to the taste of fennel.
- Dry white wine - Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio are both good dry wines for cooking. Use something you would drink.
- Whole salmon filet - Remove any pin bones before cooking. You can choose to leave the salmon skin on or remove it.
What Kind of Salmon Should I buy?
When it comes to choosing salmon, the options can be confusing. There are different varieties of salmon and also different ways they are raised.
The two main types of salmon available are wild caught or farm raised. Wild salmon is usually better in quality than farm raised salmon, but it can also be more expensive. Farm raised salmon is more affordable but often raised in crowded conditions and given antibiotics.
Atlantic salmon is the most common salmon you will see widely available in the grocery store and is always farm raised. Other varieties of salmon include Chinook (king salmon), Coho, and Sockeye salmon which are usually wild-caught and from the Pacific Ocean.
The term “organic” when applied to salmon is really a misnomer since the USDA does not have any criteria for organic salmon farming. If you buy farmed Atlantic salmon, look for ones that are sustainably raised without antibiotics.
No matter which type of salmon you buy, always make sure you are buying fresh salmon. When I buy salmon from the farmers' market or a fish counter, I ask what day the fish was caught or what day the fish came into the store. Also, fresh fish has a neutral or salty sea smell and should not have a fishy smell.
How to cut fennel
Fennel is a great vegetable to pair with salmon. It has a crunchy texture and a hint of licorice flavor. The bulb can be sliced, and the feathery fronds can be used also.
To cut fennel, first trim off the top stalks and fronds. Save the fronds for plating later. The stalks can be used in stocks.
Next cut the bulb in half from the stalk side through the root end, then cut into quarters. Remove the firm, thick, inner core from each quarter, and any browning layers.
Now you are left with the edible part. Shave for salads or slice. This recipe calls for a julienne cut about ¼ inch wide and 3 inches long.
Step by Step Photos
See the recipe card below for complete directions.Jump to Recipe
This recipe is deceptively easy! Sauté some vegetables, wrap the salmon and vegetables in a foil packet, and bake.
First sauté fennel, onions, and carrots for about 5 minutes, then add in orange zest and juice, wine, thyme, and fennel fronds to the sauté pan. Cook for another 5 minutes to reduce the liquid and soften the vegetables further. Set this aside to cool while you prepare the fish.
Season both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper, then make your foil packet.
Add half of the cooled vegetables to the the bottom of the foil packet, and put the salmon on top.
Cover the fish with the remaining vegetables and juices, and then enclose the fish in the foil packet by folding the foil edges up and over the fish.
If you want to make this dish ahead of time, you can refrigerate the prepared fish until you are ready to cook. If you do refrigerate it ahead of time, remove the salmon about 20 minutes before you are ready to start baking so it's not so cold when it goes into the oven.
Bake the salmon at 375°F until it becomes opaque and solid light orange in color. This should take about 18-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of salmon.
Alternatively, you can use an instant-read thermometer in the center of the thickest part of the fish. Cook to an internal temperature of 125 to 130 degrees F for medium-rare or 135 to 140 degrees F for medium doneness.
When done allow the fish to rest about 5 minutes. Arrange fennel fronds on a serving platter and slide the whole salmon on top. Spoon the vegetables and juices around and on top of the fish. Garnish with orange slices.
Serve immediately, or the fish will "hold" for about a half hour.
- Use wild-caught salmon, or look for salmon that is free from antibiotics and sustainably raised.
- Prepare this dish the night before a party to save time.
- Use an instant read thermometer to cook salmon to the perfect temperature.
- Baking time will depend on the thickness of the fillet.
This foil packet method is great for cooking moist and tender salmon. You can change out the vegetables and herbs to create different variations of this recipe.
- Use lemon juice and lemon zest instead of orange and add additional fresh herbs like fresh dill. Garnish with fresh lemon slices.
- Add a scoop of garlic butter to the foil packet before baking.
- Change up the vegetables. Asparagus, green beans, and tomatoes would all be delicious.
This is the best baked salmon recipe, especially for dinner parties and holidays. You can prepare this dish up to one day ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook to save time.
Prepare the recipe as usual up through assembling the salmon and vegetables in the foil packet. At this point you can store it in the refrigerator. Take the salmon out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes prior to cooking and allow it to sit at room temperature. Then bake as normal.
Storage and Reheating
How to store: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
How to serve leftovers: Cooked salmon doesn't reheat well because it is likely to dry out. Instead, take the salmon out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before eating so it will be close to room temperature. This salmon is really tasty in a sandwich. Serve in a brioche bun or challah roll with the vegetables and avocado; it's really outstanding. Top the salmon with Green Tahini sauce or dill sauce for extra deliciousness.
More Dishes for a Crowd
- Za'atar Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Herbs
- Butternut Squash, Pomegranate, and Arugula Salad
- Strawberry Salad
- Potato Latke Muffins (Mini Potato Kugels)
- Apple Noodle Kugel
Frequently Asked Questions
Total time will depend on how big the salmon is, but baking a whole salmon filet at 375°F should take 18-25 minutes.
Baking salmon in a foil packet helps to prevent drying out. It will keep the salmon moist and juicy while in the hot oven.
Baked Whole Salmon Fillet with Citrus and Fennel
- 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb sliced into julienne strips about ¼ inch wide and 3 inches long (about 1 pound)
- 1 small sweet onion sliced into julienne strips about ¼ inch wide and 3 inches long
- 3 medium sized carrots sliced into julienne strips about ¼ inch wide and 3 inches long
- 1 teaspoon plus 1 large pinch kosher salt divided
- 2 tablespoons orange zest about 1 orange
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice about 1 orange
- ½ cup dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc
- 2 ½ tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
- 3 ½ pound whole salmon fillet bones removed, skin on is fine (with fairly even thickness to promote even cooking)
- Several grinds freshly cracked black pepper
- Fennel fronds and orange slices for for garnish
- Sauté the fennel, onions, and carrots with olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes. Season with a large pinch of salt. Stir periodically. Then add the orange zest and juice, wine, thyme, and fennel fronds to sauté pan and stir. Sauté for about 5 minutes more until the liquid significantly reduces and the vegetables start to get tender. Set aside to cool.
- Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.
- To make the foil packet: Take out a half sheet baking pan long enough to accommodate the whole fish. Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is twice the length of the baking sheet, and lay the foil centered on the baking sheet. If your fish is almost as wide as the foil, use an additional piece of foil, and place it on the baking sheet perpendicular to the first piece of foil. You need enough foil to fully enclose the salmon in a foil packet.
- Spread half of the cooled vegetable mixture on the foil-lined baking sheet. Lay the fish on top of the vegetables. Cover the fish with the remaining vegetables and juices. Bring up the edges of the foil around the fish, and Seal up the foil packet so that the salmon is enclosed fairly tightly. Refrigerate the fish until ready to cook.
- 20 minutes before cooking time, take the fish out of the refrigerator, and let it sit out so it isn't so cold. Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Cook the salmon until the dark orange, opaque flesh turns solid, light orange. Check your fish early for doneness just in case so it not overcooked. Cooking time will be about 18-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Peel back the foil and use a fork to peek into the thickest part of the fish. Cover up where you peeked with sautéed vegetables when serving, and no one will ever know.
- Or use an instant-read thermometer in the center of the thickest part of the fish. Cook to an internal temperature of 125 to 130 degrees F for medium-rare or 135 to 140 degrees F for medium doneness. Remove the fish from the baking sheet, and let rest for 5 minutes. The fish will likely continue cooking about 5 degrees more once out of the oven, so take out just before the desired final temperature.
- Spread several fennel fronds as garnish on a large serving platter or attractive wood board. Slide the whole fish onto the platter with a large spatula, and spoon all the vegetables and juices over the top. Decorate with with sliced oranges if desired. Serve immediately, or the fish will "hold" for about a half hour.
- The FDA recommends cooking fish until 145 degrees F, but that will likely be very firm and dry. I prefer to cook to 125 to 130 degrees F for medium-rare or 135 to 140 degrees F for medium.
- If you should be lucky enough to have any leftover salmon, serve the salmon cold in a sandwich made with fresh brioche bread and topped with the cooked veggies and sliced avocado. I must say that eating this sandwich made me feel like I was dining in a fancy French bistro. I savored every bite.