Brown Sugar Chili Rubbed Salmon with Avocado Crema

brown sugar cayenne salmon

Do you ever make a meal and just know, I mean know—with absolute certainty—that somewhere in the Hamptons, Ina Garten would be, like, super proud of you? That even if she were completely absorbed in splitting vanilla beans for homemade extract, she would totally side-eye your dish and smile?

brown sugar cayenne salmon

This is that meal.

It’s got a caramelized lime, for heaven’s sake! She’d be positively smitten.

brown sugar cayenne salmon

What I love about it, and what I think you (and Ina) will, too, is that the brown sugar-chili rub gives the salmon a spicy-sweet quality, and a smokiness when it’s nearly blackened in a hot pan.

brown sugar cayenne salmon


brown sugar cayenne salmon




avocado crema

The crema—a silky blend of avocado, sour cream, lime juice, parsley, and garlic—creates a cooling balance.

avocado crema


brown sugar cayenne salmon


brown sugar cayenne salmon

The golden brown color that develops on the pan-fried lime slices makes the whole presentation beautiful—truly the kind of thing you’d feel proud to serve to guests.

Enjoy, my friends!

Brown Sugar Chili Rubbed Salmon with Avocado Crema

Yield: 4 Servings

Calories per serving: 340

Fat per serving: 20.4g


    For the crema:
  • ½ avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (the juice of roughly 1 lime)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, stemmed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • For the salmon:
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 4 5-ounce salmon filets
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced into rounds


  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the avocado, sour cream, lime juice, garlic, parsley, and salt, and pulse until smooth. The consistency should be similar to cake batter--thick yet spreadable. To thin it if necessary, add a tablespoon or two of water and pulse to incorporate. Cover and set aside until ready to serve. The crema can be made up to 1 day in advance if covered and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, chili powder, salt, and the cayenne pepper. Lay the salmon on a work surface and sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly over each filet, rubbing it into the flesh on all sides.
  3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium high heat. Add 2 of the salmon filets (skin-side-up if they have skin on) and cook, undisturbed, until the underside is crisp and just beginning to blacken, about 4 minutes. Flip the filets and cook an additional 4 minutes, until the fish feels firm to the touch. Remove to a plate immediately. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add the remaining 2 filets of salmon and repeat the cooking process. Once all of the salmon is cooked and transferred to a plate, add the lime slices to the now-empty pan and cook just until they begin to caramelize, about 30 seconds. Flip and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
  4. To serve, divide the salmon filets among four plates and spoon 2 generous tablespoons of crema over each. Press a caramelized lime slice into the crema to garnish.


Nutrition Information for 1 Serving: (1/4th of entire recipe): Calories 340, Total Fat 20.4 g, Total Carbohydrate 11.6 g, Dietary Fiber 1.6 g, Sugars 9.3 g, Protein 28.9 g

Adapted from Ellie Krieger


  1. says

    I have a similar recipe for a salmon rubbed with brown sugar chili rub, but I always grilled it in a special pan, which needs a ton of cleaning. I’m so glad to find out that it works well in a regular pan! Also, the avocado crema looks like a beautiful contrast that I can’t wait to try!

  2. Jen says

    Salmon and Avocado is one of my favourite combinations even though they sound like they wouldnt go together. I never thought about brown sugar chilli rubbed in though. Thanks for the heads up – Im off to the mall to get some bits ha ha.

  3. says

    AGHHH!! I’ve only just got the smell of Salmon out of my house. Now I have to make this tonight!! Here’s to another week of stink house!

  4. Shelley B says

    My husband made this for me last night. It was really good. I especially liked the avocado crema and we made enough to have leftovers. I’m currently eating it on my black bean and chicken quesadilla. Nom, nom.

  5. Mary Crawford says

    Thank you, Andie, for another fab recipe! I made this for my husband (who, to his credit, is willing to try just about any ‘health food’ I put on the table) and he LOVED it. We’re so excited about this dish that we’re going to prepare it for his parents – and debut it at Sunday Dinner (a big dealio in the house). Your recipes make food fun again – which is so important when you’re on a quest to change your lifestyle for the healthier.

  6. Kristen says

    This looks amazing, but I’m not a huge Salmon fan. Does anyone have any ideas what other fish this might work well with? I was thinking Halibut?

  7. Lynn says

    Holy crap, how did I miss this? I cannot wait to try it. And heavens, yes, Ina would be proud. Stealish, even. 😉 We’ll keep an eye on the food network for recipe poaching! 😉

  8. says

    Andie, I made this recipe this week, and it was beyond delicious!! After taking my last bite, I looked down at my plate and thought “I wish there was more!!” (Of course, I didn’t really need more–I made this will roasted zucchini and brown rice and was perfectly satisfied). But it was so good! Thank you!

  9. says

    Oh my goodness Andie. Made this tonight and it was amazing! My new favorite recipe. Genius. I’m thinking about making it again tomorrow. Is it bad form to lick the crema bowl?

  10. Vuthear T. Pakasi says

    Hi, I came across this recipe on Pinterest. I made it last night and it was delicious, quick and easy. I will definitely be making this again. Thank you!

    ~ Tia

  11. Maya says

    Did anyone else’s fire alarm go off while making this…? :/ I must have done something wrong. I had it on med heat and once the brown sugar melted, it burned, really “blackening” it and sending smoke everywhere! I cooked it 4 minutes+ on each side but the inside wasn’t cooking fast enough, so I ended up mincing the salmon up in the pan, adding brown sugar and chili powder to it! It was great and tasty, once it was over :)

  12. JoeyfromSC says

    WOW! This looks HEAVENLY!! lol..Thanks so much for the great recipe!!

    I am really love your blog so much and am glad to have found it!!

  13. Rita says

    OMG! Made it with some wild Alaskan salmon I caught myself!
    It was delish…
    Rita from Indiana ( which was colder than Alaska today

  14. Stephanie says

    My computer is showing some weird code letters where it says how many avocados are needed. Can someone help me out and tell me how any avocados are called for? Making this tonight for dinner!

    Thank you!!

    • Stephanie says

      Another question! Can do I this on the grill? I’m assuming I can, but should I modify anything? Thanks!

      • says

        Hey Stephanie!

        Sorry–that symbol is weird; I’ve got to fix it! It’s 1/2 an avocado! And also I’ve never tried this recipe on the grill but I think it’s best in the pan so that you really brown all of the salmon evenly. I know I know–the grill is the greatest, but I think the pan helps here to get that real blackened/seared quality.

        If you do try the grill, let me know how it goes!

        Thanks for giving it a shot!!


  15. OLWomen says

    That is simply great Andie, i just got here while searching for a fish and avocado recipe to include in my diet plans. This is just amazing, would be preparing this weekend before i recommend this to my visitors.

  16. Michele says

    Oh yes, this is outstanding!!!! Thank you sooooo much for sharing your recipe! I can’t wait to make this again!

  17. Michele says

    I made this last night. It was wonderful!! It isn’t often that my husband continues to rave about dinner… It was that good!
    Thank you very much for sharing your recipe!


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