Za’atar salmon is a quick, flavorful dinner for four when paired with a vibrant lemon herb Israeli couscous. I’ll teach you to make both in this recipe, so you can have this tender, flaky salmon dinner any night of the week.
Salmon is one of the more common proteins in our house. I love to cook it, and love to share recipes featuring it. This za’atar salmon recipe is the latest love on our dinner table because it’s so easy to make, and really tasty served along a lemony couscous side dish.
Za’atar is also a favorite of ours, and I’m really excited to be sharing another recipe that features the tangy spice mixture. I loved it in my sheet pan pomegranate chicken but it’s just as good on fish.
Why you’ll love this meal
- With both the salmon and couscous instructions included, this recipe is a complete meal in one.
- It only takes 25 minutes to prepare both the za’atar salmon and the side.
- Everything in this recipe is pretty easy to find most of the year, making it an excellent staple recipe.
Most of the ingredients here are recognizable, with the exception of maybe za’atar. If you’ve never heard of it, let me tell you how delicious the spice mix is.
It’s common in the Middle East, and while the exact combination of spices vary from region to region, you can expect it to feature floral, earthy, tangy notes.
Those flavors come from toasted sesame seeds, spices like coriander and cumin, herbs, and most importantly sumac, which delivers that well-loved tang. You can find lots of recipes to make your own out there or you can purchase pre-mixed blends.
Aside from za’atar, you’ll also need these ingredients to make the salmon and the couscous.
- Salmon – You see two fillets in the picture, but I actually made this with four.
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper – You’ll need these three for both the couscous and the salmon.
- Israeli couscous – This might be called pearl couscous at your store.
- Water – 2 cups is the right amount to cook the couscous perfectly.
- Onion – I recommend either yellow or white, you’ll need half of one, diced.
- Garlic – a single clove, finely minced.
- Fresh herbs – two tablespoons each of chopped fresh dill and parsley.
- Lemon juice – just one tablespoon is perfect so save the rest of the lemon to make lemon crinkle cookies for dessert!
- Feta cheese – Salty, crumbly feta is nice with the tender couscous. Goat cheese or queso fresco could also be used.
- Pine nuts – toast a quarter cup to make it like mine, or sub in toasted, chopped cashews or almonds instead.
With your ingredients prepped and ready, preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place each of the salmon fillets on it, skin side down.
Brush them with two tablespoons of oil, and season them with salt and pepper. Spread the za’atar spice evenly over the salmon like a crust, and bake them for 12 to 15 minutes. You’ll know the salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork.
While that bakes, make the couscous by first sauteing the diced onion in a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. When it’s translucent and tender, add the garlic and cook for a minute, or until it’s fragrant.
Next add the couscous into the pan with a quarter teaspoon of salt. Stir frequently for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it’s toasted lightly. Then add the water and bring it up to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium low, just hot enough to keep the water simmering for 10 minutes.
When the water has been absorbed and the couscous is tender, take it off the heat and let it cool for just five minutes or so before you mix everything else in.
All that’s left is to stir together the couscous, fresh herbs, pine nuts, feta, lemon juice, and remaining olive oil. Season it with salt and pepper until it’s to your liking, and serve it with piping hot za’atar salmon out of the oven.
If it doesn’t get devoured for dinner on the first night, feel free to store leftovers in the fridge for 2 to 3 days and enjoy it as an easy lunch.
If za’atar is a new spice to you, I highly recommend this recipe as a first. Salmon is lovely with the herby, tangy notes, and the couscous makes the meal perfect! I think you’ll love this recipe or any of my other fantastic salmon dishes on the blog.
- Pesto Salmon with Cherry Tomatoes
- Teriyaki Salmon with Soba Noodles
- Creamy Salmon Wild Rice Casserole
- Salmon Wellington
- Spicy Broiled Korean Salmon
Za’atar Salmon with Lemon Herb Couscous
For the salmon:
- 4 salmon fillets , (6-8 oz. or 170-230g) each
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons za’atar spice mix
- salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
For the lemon herb couscous:
- 2 tablespoons , divided
- 1/2 onion , diced
- 1 garlic clove , minced
- 1 cup Israeli couscous , uncooked
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley , chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill , chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup feta cheese , crumbled
- 1/4 cup pine nuts , toasted
- salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place salmon fillets on it, skin side down. Brush fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the za’atar spice mixture evenly over the top of the salmon and bake for 12-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon fillets), or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
The lemon herb couscous.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sautée onion until transparent, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and sautée until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add couscous and ¼ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2-3 minutes until lightly toasted.
- Then add water and bring back to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until water has been absorbed and couscous is tender. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Add the olive oil, parsley, dill, lemon juice, feta cheese and pine nuts to the couscous and stir gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve with za’atar salmon.