December 21, 2018

Caramel Salmon

Recipe: Mark Bittman

Total Time: 30 minutes

Try this Caramel Salmon recipe from the cookbook Dinner For Everyone.

Mark Bittman Dinner For EveryoneFew techniques are as magical as cooking in a sweet and savory caramel sauce, a technique I first learned while traveling in Vietnam. Melting sugar stresses people out, but the directions in all the recipes are detailed so as to give you confidence. If you’re still nervous, adding an extra tablespoon or two of water at the very beginning will slow the pace. Caramel Salmon is a good place to start since the process is straightforward. Pairing jackfruit with piquant caramel sauce and winter squash for a meatless spin is an excellent way to balance the sharpness of the fruit. Buy jackfruit in water or brine, not syrup. Also, if you like fish sauce but not in the amounts in these recipes, replace some of it with water or a combination of water and soy sauce.


  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 tsp pepper, or more as needed
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar, or to taste
  • 1½ lbs. salmon fillets or steaks
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish


Yield: 4 servings

  1. Mix the fish sauce with ½ cup water in a measuring cup with a pour spout. Put the sugar in a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons water, and stir to combine. Cook, gently shaking the pan occasionally but not stirring, until the sugar liquefies and begins to bubble. When the sugar is all melted, continue to cook and shake until the caramel darkens to the color of iced tea, a minute or 2. Remove from the heat.
  2. Carefully and slowly, standing away from the pan to avoid any spatters, pour in the fish sauce mixture. Return the skillet to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the caramel melts into the liquid. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the pepper and vinegar and mix.
  3. Nestle the salmon in the sauce (skin side down, if using fillets). If necessary, add enough water to bring the sauce about halfway up the sides of the fish. Adjust the heat so it bubbles very gently and cook, using a spoon to baste the top of each piece with sauce occasionally until the fish is almost opaque at the center and flakes without looking dry, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness.

Reprinted from Dinner for Everyone: 100 Iconic Dishes Made 3 Ways—Easy, Vegan, or Perfect for Company. Copyright © 2019 by Mark Bittman. Photographs by Aya Brackett. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.