Balsamic BBQ Salmon

I love cooking fish the air fryer - it's quick, easy and the fish maintains its moisture. Adding the BBQ sauce at the end of cooking and topping it with some mango salsa at the end delivers a meal that will make you think about summer BBQs no matter what time of year it is.

Jump to Recipe (but you'll miss the tips and tricks...)
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Quick and Easy BBQ Sauce

I have good news and good news for you! The first good news is that this recipe for Balsamic BBQ Salmon is so quick that you need to make the BBQ sauce before you even start cooking the salmon. The second good news is that the BBQ sauce for this recipe is made in just a few minutes and only has five ingredients! 

Ingredients on a wooden counter - ketchup, dry mustard, white balsamic vinegar, molasses and a peppermill.

BBQ Glaze for Salmon

The BBQ sauce that you make for this recipe serves as a glaze for the fish and it bursts with flavor. The salmon gets a head start cooking in the air fryer for 5 minutes and then you add the glaze. Just another 5 minutes under the hot air of the air fryer is enough time to glaze the salmon and give it not only a bang of BBQ flavor, but some great color too. 

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Four salmon fillets in an air fryer basket with a saucepot of BBQ sauce and basting brush next to it.

The Best Way to Cook Salmon

There are lots of different cooking methods you could use to cook fish, but if you’re looking for the quickest and most mindless way to do it, look no further than your air fryer. The air fryer keeps the fish from splattering all over, so it’s nice and tidy. The air fryer also traps the fish in the direct line of intense hot air. As a result, it cooks quickly and has less time to dry out. With most foods you cook in an air fryer, you need to flip them over halfway through the cooking time, but you don’t need to do that with fish. That makes the whole process even easier! 

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Balsamic BBQ Salmon in an air fryer with a red checkered napkin nearby.

How Long to Air Fry Salmon

The answer to this question is the same as for any other food – until it is done. That was the answer I always heard from my first year culinary instructors (by second year, we learned not to ask this question!). The less belligerent answer is that how long something takes to cook really depends on what it is and how big it is. Salmon fillets come in different sizes and the larger (or thicker) the salmon fillet, the longer it will take to cook. There’s a good rule of thumb to follow when cooking fish, however: fish fillets that are 1-inch thick will take 10 minutes at 400ºF. So, take a look at the thickness of your fish fillet and if it is 1-inch thick, know that it will take 10 minutes at 400ºF. If it’s a little thicker than 1-inch, it will take a couple of minutes longer. Cook it at 380ºF and you can also plan for a couple of additional minutes of cooking time. Pretty simple. Basically, the salmon should feel firm to the touch when it has cooked through.

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Balsamic BBQ Salmon on a white plate with lettuce and mango salsa, a spatula and red checkered napkin near by.

Salmon Comes in Different Shapes and Sizes

You’ll notice that the salmon fillets in these photos are a square shape, rather than skinny rectangles. That’s because I cut them myself. I prefer to buy salmon in a large piece and cut it down into portion sizes myself because then I can decide how big or small a portion I would like. I can also create a square fillet out of the widest part of the fish, rather than a super skinny thin fillet that is hard to manage and tends to cook unevenly. If you’d like to learn more about how to cut your own portions of salmon, click here

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A dinner plate with potatoes, lettuce and salmon with mango salsa.

What to Serve with Salmon

You can really serve any number of vegetables with this balsamic BBQ salmon, or even just serve it over a vegetable salad. Some plain basmati rice would be nice, or some air-fried potatoes and green beans since you already have the air fryer working. This balsamic BBQ salmon is particularly nice with a mango salsa, giving it a summery feel. You could buy mango salsa, but it’s very easy to make yourself too – you can find a recipe and video here

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A dinner plate with a salmon dinner on it and a red checkered napkin.

 

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Salmon with Balsamic BBQ Sauce 

  • Prep Time: 5 m
  • Cook Time: 15 m
  • Total Time: 20 m
  • Servings:
    4

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets 1½-inch thick
  • olive oil
  • salt and coarsely ground black pepper
Balsamic BBQ Sauce:
  • ¾ cup tomato ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the air fryer to 380ºF.
  2. Make the BBQ sauce by combining the ketchup, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and simmer the sauce for 15 minutes. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

  3. Rub the salmon filets with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the salmon fillets, skin side down inside the basket or tray. Air-fry the salmon for 5 minutes.

  4. Brush the balsamic BBQ sauce on the salmon fillets and air-fry for an additional 5 minutes. The salmon should feel firm to the touch when finished and the BBQ sauce should be nicely browned on top. Transfer the fish to serving plates and top with some mango salsa, if desired.
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