Buttermilk-Poached Salmon

published Jan 11, 2020
Buttermilk-Poached Salmon

A quick, foolproof method for cooking salmon at home.


Prep15 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 28 minutes

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Credit: Olive & Mango

If you think salmon is difficult to prepare, you’ve probably never tried poaching it before. We’re here to change that.

Poaching is a gentle, hands-off cooking method that’s perfect for anyone who’s nervous about cooking fish at home. You simply bring a liquid to a simmer and cook your fish in it until opaque. The old-school technique is practically foolproof because the liquid never comes to a full boil, so your fish isn’t likely to overcook or dry out — even if it’s left in the poaching liquid for a bit too long.

While most recipes poach salmon in stock, broth, or water, we came up with a recipe that uses a rather unexpected ingredient to achieve a delicious and totally unique result.

Credit: Olive & Mango

Why You Should Poach Salmon in Buttermilk

Though you may associate it with pancakes and waffles, buttermilk is actually the perfect poaching liquid for salmon. Salmon loves bright acidic flavors, and buttermilk is full of sharp tang. This recipe cooks salmon in two parts buttermilk and one part vegetable stock, and calls on lemon slices, garlic, bay leaves, and shallots to infuse the poaching liquid with flavor without a ton of effort. (You don’t even have to chop the garlic or shallot.)

As the salmon cooks, the poaching liquid might curdle slightly — don’t be nervous if this happens. Once the fish is done cooking, you’ll reduce the poaching liquid, strain out any curdled bits, and serve it alongside the salmon for the easiest sauce ever. It’s bright, citrusy, and fresh.

While the salmon is delicious served all by itself, we also like to break it into large pieces and serve it on top of salads, cooked grains, or toasted bread. If you want to prepare it in advance, you can pack the sauce separately and add a few tablespoons to the salmon right before serving.

Buttermilk-Poached Salmon

A quick, foolproof method for cooking salmon at home.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 28 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium shallot

  • 2 cloves


  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1

    (1-pound) skinless salmon fillet, pin bones removed

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    full-fat buttermilk

  • 1 cup

    low-sodium vegetable broth

  • 5 sprigs

    fresh thyme

  • 2

    bay leaves

  • 1 teaspoon

    Dijon mustard


  1. Peel and halve 1 medium shallot lengthwise. Lightly smash 2 garlic cloves. Cut 1 medium lemon into 1/4-inch thick slices and remove any seeds.

  2. Season both sides of a 1-pound skinless salmon fillet with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Place the salmon in a large straight-sided skillet or medium pot and cover with 2 cups full-fat buttermilk and 1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock. (It’s OK if the salmon is not fully submerged.) Add the shallot, garlic, lemon slices, 5 sprigs fresh thyme, and 2 bay leaves.

  3. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low so the poaching liquid is barely simmering. You'll see some white scummy foam collecting on the surface and the liquid will curdle. Cover and cook until the salmon is pale pink, opaque, and firm when pressed, 11 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes.

  4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the salmon onto a serving plate. Remove the shallot, garlic, lemon slices, bay leaves, and thyme, and reserve for garnishing if desired.

  5. Add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard to the poaching liquid and place the pot back onto the heat. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the poaching liquid is milky and reduced by half, 9 to 11 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Serve the sauce spooned over the salmon. Garnish with the reserved aromatics if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The salmon can be poached up to 2 days in advance. Store poaching liquid and cooked salmon separately in airtight containers in the fridge.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 days.