Salmon en Papillote (Salmon in Parchment)

salmon in parchment paper pouches opened and topped with lemon and fennel and dill
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Paper-thin zucchini and shaved fennel slices make a fragrant bed for this brilliantly easy, elegant baked salmon en papillote perfumed with dill and lemon. 

A Quick Dinner, Fit for the Queen

Baking fish en papillote lets you show off a little for your friends and family, without breaking a sweat. Presented at the table, the puffy packets release a powerful plume of fragrant steam when punctured—by you, or by your dinner guests—hinting at the perfectly-tender, herby fish and vegetables inside. Cooking salmon in parchment paper—in this case, alongside all of our favorite summer flavors—is an easy skill to get the hang of, we promise. Let us walk you through it! 

salmon in parchment paper pouches opened and topped with lemon and fennel and dill with a fork

What is Salmon en Papillote? 

En papillote simply means “in paper” in French, so “salmon en papillote” describes the classically French method of cooking salmon in parchment paper. For our salmon en papillote recipe, you wrap each portion of salmon in a little parchment paper packet along with some sliced zucchini and fennel bulb, dill, lemon and a little olive oil and then bake it. All the juices released by the fish, citrus, veggies and herbs are tightly sealed in the parchment packet as it bakes, and all those gorgeous, verdant flavors steam together, imbuing the salmon with their heady fragrance. 

How to Wrap Salmon in Parchment Paper:

All puffed up and fragrant, just billowing with steam, salmon in parchment paper looks so elegant when served that it gives the impression that it’s complicated to prepare, but it's really not. Wrapping the salmon in parchment paper is quite simple. A lot of people cut the parchment into a heart shape, but we simply cut a large oval and it worked just fine. Here’s how to make salmon en papillote

  1. Cut a piece of parchment paper (or foil) into a large oval shape, keeping in mind that in order to create a packet, you’ll be folding it in half around your fish and vegetables. 
  2. Fold the parchment sheet in half to make a clean, sharp crease in the paper, and open it back up. 
  3. Fill the parchment packet (or foil is OK, too). Working near the crease that you made—but clearly on one side of it—lay your thinly-sliced zucchini and fennel down first, then top them with a salmon fillet (skin side down). Top the salmon with dill, lemon slices, salt, pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil. 
  4. Fold it up! Make lots of little folds about every inch, working at 45-degree angles and aiming for a tight seal and a half-moon shape.  Moist heat inside the parchment packet is what cooks the salmon, and a tightly-sealed packet is the key to creating that lovely, steamy cooking environment.
ingredients for salmon in parchment paper zucchini, lemon, olive oil

What is the Best Salmon to Buy? 

Although cooking en papillote is a technique that works beautifully for many kinds of fish—you could easily try our salmon en papillote recipe with cod or halibut instead of salmon—we’re partial to salmon for it’s meaty flavor and super healthy fats. However, all salmon is not created equal! Here’s what you need to know about buying salmon for this recipe: 

  • A note on seasonality. May-October is salmon season in the U.S., and that is when you can expect to find the best stuff most widely available. 
  • Variety. From Coho to King, to super-meaty Copper River salmon, most any variety of wild salmon that looks bright pink and marbled with at least a little fat will be delicious in the salmon in parchment recipe. 
  • Wild vs farmed. Wild salmon is usually better than farmed—better tasting, better for you, better for the environment. However, recommendations are changing all the time, and it can be hard to keep up. Responsibly farmed salmon can be a better choice than irresponsibly caught wild salmon. When in doubt, you can always consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site, or you can download their app for real-time recs at the grocery store!
  • Cutting salmon into fillets. Once you’ve selected your salmon, have the person behind the fish counter cut it into fillets for you—no need to mess with that at home! 
salmon in parchment paper pouches opened and topped with lemon and fennel zucchini

How Long to Bake Salmon en Papillote? 

One of the beautiful things about our easy salmon en papillote recipe is how quickly it cooks! Moist heat—which is what’s created inside the parchment packet as the fish and veggies release their delicious juices and steam the fish—is a quick heat. Depending on the thickness of your salmon fillets, pull them out after 10-12 minutes in a 375°F oven. They’ll continue to cook a bit inside the pouch until the parchment is cut or torn, so serve immediately.

salmon in parchment paper pouches opened and topped with lemon and fennel lemon

Tools You’ll Need: 

Other Salmon Recipes We Love: 

Quel Est Son Goût?

In other words, how was it? We’d love to know! Snap a photo of your salmon en papillote and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you share it with. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

Salmon en Papillote (Salmon in Parchment)

Serves 4

Ingredients

1.5 lbs salmon, cut into 4 pieces
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 head fennel, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 tsp dried dill
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
parchment paper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut parchment into 4 large ovals 15” by 10” inches. And fold in half.
  3. On half of each parchment layer on ¼ of the zucchini, ¼ the fennel, 1 piece of salmon, sprinkle with ¼ tsp salt, ¼ pepper, ¼ tsp dill, lemon slices, drizzle with ¼ cup olive oil and a few pieces of fennel fronds. Repeat with the three remaining salmon fillets.
  4. Close the parchment by folding the other half over the prepared salmon and carefully roll the open edges toward the center.
  5. Set pouches on a baking sheet and bake on the center rack for 12 minutes.
  6. Open carefully using a fork and serve.