Chipotle peppers in adobo are like that one accessory in your closet that changes the whole course of your day.
They’re the gaudy sunglasses that hype your confidence at a sleepy Sunday brunch. The brilliantly beat-up Converse sneakers that swell the swag of your jean shorts and tee. The big and funky jewelry that levels up your other boho bling.
Are you with me?
I’m not telling you to drape yourself in chiles and call your closest friends for a night on the town. Survey says, 10 out of 10 stylists don’t recommend wearing jalapenos as earrings.
But I am telling you that this chipotle lime salmon is a game changer in the world of simplified gourmet eats, which I define as recipes that take thirty minutes or less to prepare, use only a few ingredients, and leave you licking the plate.
Now, take a seat. You’ll want to settle in for this salmon lesson.
Utilizing just one bold, intensely-flavored ingredient alongside a simple protein can transform an otherwise forgetful meal into something worth writing home about.
If you’re unfamiliar with chipotles in adobo, let’s cover a few basics.
First, it’s not often you’ll find yourself in a scenario where you crack open and use the entire can.
Unless you’re making fish for fifty, you’ll want to use this feisty ingredient sparingly.
Case in point: this recipe feeds four and calls for a mere single pepper – or half of one if you want to take it easier on the heat.
Don’t let that scare you, though, as the complex flavor is surprisingly balanced thanks to the acidic liquid used to marinate the peppers in the can.
Chipotles, which are smoked, dried jalapenos, become rehydrated when they’re canned in a tangy, tomatoey adobo sauce. Made with vinegar and spices, this stuff packs a punch and can be used dozens of ways.
And though I’ve clearly yanked the chipotle pepper out of its can, shoved it to center stage, and invited everyone to give it a standing ovation, let’s not forget that fresh lime plays an important supporting role in today’s recipe.
It’s tart, bright, and brings a refreshing zip of acidity to the fiery sauce. I call on the zest as well to really bump up that sharp, citrusy flavor with its flavorful essential oils.
I also mellow the heat with a little sweet – and not just because it rhymes!
Honey’s sticky consistency helps the sauce cling to the fish, and its sweetness balances the chipotle’s spice.
If you find cilantro does nothing more than leave a soapy-tasting residue on your tongue, don’t let me stop you from tossing it aside. But for those of us who love the herb’s fresh, citrusy personality, the more the merrier.
It also adds a nice pop of color to the finished dish.
What’s the cooking method for this speedy entree once the sauce is complete? It’s as effortless as brush, bake, brush. Easy enough, right?
Now go strut your salmon.Print
Bright lime zest and honey cut through the smokiness of chipotles in this easy oven-roasted salmon dinner that comes together in a snap.
- 2 limes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo, plus 1 teaspoon sauce from the can
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 6-ounce skin-on salmon fillets
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, divided (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Zest and juice one lime and slice the other into wedges. Set aside.
- In a small food processor or high-speed blender, add the olive oil, chipotle pepper and adobo sauce, honey, lime juice, and lime zest. Pulse until the pepper is broken down and then blend the sauce until smooth. Set aside.
- Pat the salmon dry and season both sides with salt. Place the fillets skin-side down on the prepared baking sheet.
- Spoon about half of the chipotle-lime sauce onto the fish, spreading it to coat the tops of each fillet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the flesh easily flakes with a fork. Remove from oven.
- Stir 1 tablespoon cilantro into the remaining sauce. Using a clean basting brush, brush the top of the fillets.
- Divide the salmon among plates and garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve immediately with the lime wedges.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Fish
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Seafood
Keywords: chipotle, lime, adobo, salmon
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Gather, Prep, and Measure Ingredients
Measure the olive oil. Remove one of the chipotle peppers from the can and measure 1 teaspoon of the sauce. Save the rest for use in another recipe, but be sure to transfer to an air-tight or freezer safe container and toss the can.
If you like spicy flavors but don’t want too much heat, use only 1/2 of a chipotle pepper. To make up for the textural difference, you can add 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 tablespoon minced sweet onion to the sauce.
Measure the honey. Zest and juice one lime. You will need about 2 teaspoons of zest and about 2 tablespoons of juice. Slice the other lime into wedges to be used as garnish and set them aside.
Get the salmon out of the fridge and measure the salt. Mince the cilantro.
Step 2 – Make the Chipotle-Lime Sauce
Combine the olive oil, chipotle pepper and adobo sauce, honey, lime juice, and zest in a small food processor or high-speed blender.
It’s important to use a smaller food processor or blender to puree the marinade as opposed to a larger one where the small quantity of ingredients may not blend smoothly.
Pulse until the pepper breaks down and then blend until you have a smooth sauce. Set aside.
Pat the salmon dry with paper towels and season both sides of the fish with salt. Place the fillets skin-side down on the prepared baking sheet, with a little space in between each.
Evenly spoon and spread about half of the chipotle-lime sauce onto the fillets. At this point, you could either proceed with baking the salmon or cover the pan, refrigerate, and allow the fillets to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour before cooking. If marinated for any longer than one hour, the fish may become mushy.
Step 3 – Bake, Brush with Remaining Sauce, and Serve
Bake the salmon until the flesh easily flakes with a fork, for about 15 to 20 minutes. You may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of your fillets.
Combine 1 tablespoon of the cilantro with the remaining sauce, and use a clean pastry brush to coat the top of the fillets.
Garnish with the remaining cilantro, and serve with the lime wedges.
Rein in That Heat
If you dig a little spice but all this hot jalapeno talk is scaring you, there are plenty of ways to use chipotles in adobo sauce while adjusting the heat to your liking.
As suggested in the recipe, you can use half of the chipotle and add a few savory aromatics to make up for the difference in texture.
You can also skip the teaspoon of liquid in the can that’s called for and use water, chicken broth, or vegetable stock instead.
This will mellow the spiciness without sacrificing any flavor since even half a chili still brings a ton of smoky notes.
No matter the amount you choose, don’t toss the goodies left over in the can! I like to puree, dollop into an ice cube tray, and freeze. You now have little spice bombs available to drop at your disposal.
Eater discretion is advised.
Share your saucy suggestions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Sometimes, a squeeze of tart lime is all a dish needs to find its dazzle. Stock up on the citrus and let it shine in these recipes next:
- Chili Lime Chicken with Black Beans and Rice
- Vegan Cauliflower Buffalo Wings
- Cilantro Lime Grilled Corn
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on May 12, 2014. Last updated on August 15, 2022.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”