Roasted Salmon with a Cheat's Vietnamese Caramel Sauce

May 14, 2010
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I've been on a Bill Granger kick recently. His fresh, Asian-influenced recipes are perfect for the warmer weather that's coming our way. This recipe has been adapted from one of his, but with the method simplified a bit and the flavor boosted by the addition of ginger, cilantro, scallions and chili. This cheat's version of a Vietnamese caramel sauce is by no means traditional, but is much easier, with no boiling sugar to fret over. The sweet sauce also makes this dish a big hit with kids. —Kristin

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Kristin is a freelance editor living in Ireland with her husband and two kids.
WHAT: A speedy weeknight dinner, with a sauce you'll want to put on everything.
HOW: Roast your salmon with olive oil, salt, and pepper; make a sauce with soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and lime; garnish with scallions, red chile, and cilantro; and serve it all with steamed rice.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Kristin's salmon is a testament to how a quick, flavorful sauce can liven up any weeknight dinner -- in this case, roasted salmon and steamed rice. We could (and did!) eat it by the spoonful. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • four 7-ounce salmon fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Steamed rice, to serve
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped, to serve
  • 3 to 4 scallions, chopped, to serve
  • 1 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped, to serve
  • Lime wedges, to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the sheet. Brush or lightly drizzle the salmon with the olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 11 or 12 minutes, until the salmon is just opaque in the center.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, ginger and lime juice and stir together, until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is syrupy.
  3. Serve the salmon on steamed rice with the sauce generously drizzled over, then sprinkle over some chopped cilantro, scallions and red chili with lime wedges on the side.
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See what other Food52ers are saying.

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21 Reviews

Kayren August 22, 2021
Thank you so much for a recipe without Onions or Garlic!!!!!
kschurms July 6, 2020
How many times have I made this recipe? Maybe 50? It's my favorite way to make salmon, and it's so easy to make a big batch of the sauce and keep it in the fridge. I do play around with the ratio of soy sauce to fish sauce, usually going heavier on the soy than the fish, since it gives a better texture. I also like to add any or all of these to the sauce: garlic, lime zest, rice wine, red chili flakes, etc.
All of this pairs super well with coconut rice, and sauce goes well with every protein. I've had it with steak, chicken, shrimp, tofu, and all have been amazing.
Kimj June 7, 2020
Really fresh, tasty and quick. I had 2 pieces of salmon plus near 7 oz/200g of King prawns. I baked the prawns at same time and same heat, but I put them in an aluminum container. I substituded dark runny honey for brown sugar (which I didn't have). I really like that combination of sweet, sour and heat which this recipe delivers quickly and easily.
Jo A. February 5, 2020
Can someone please suggest a substitute for fish sauce? Thanks!
Shelley March 27, 2018
I made this for dinner last night and my family loved it - it's the perfect thing for a weeknight. The sauce is amazing - definitely a keeper!
Dina M. May 29, 2015
This was easy and delicious! Sauce is served or spooned on the side, so if you are concerned about sugar or sodium(I am not), you can go light on it--a little goes a long way. My family loved it. Definitely a keeper.
lora789 February 10, 2015
I adore this website!
Surin February 6, 2015
This recipe is so far afield from Vietnamese caramel sauce fish (ca kho to) that it should not try to claim Vietnamese "lineage" -- it'd be like saying ramen noodles with ketchup is a "quick spaghetti!" This looks tasty, but not even close to Vietnamese caramel fish (which, btw, is VERY worth making -- look up Andrea Nguyen's caramel sauce for a non-fussy authentic version!).
Kimj June 7, 2020
Thank you. I enjoyed this recipe, but I'm curious now to chase up your suggestion and try the authentic deal. To be fair to this site, this is described as "a cheat's Vietnamese Caramel".
silverspringcat January 6, 2015
I am a little concerned that this recipe is very high in sodium and I cannot see how that is healthy. How much sodium is in a serving.
KM January 6, 2015
The recipe is high in sugar, too, which is fine ... But maybe not a recipe to highlight for healthy New Years eating!
silverspringcat January 7, 2015
Thanks for that because I completely skipped over the amount of sugar. I would say definitely not a recipe to highlight for healthy eating in the New Year.
Sharon March 9, 2019
Keep in mind that no one is going to drink the caramel sauce. It's to be drizzled over four servings of salmon, as much or as little as you like. Hardly a health hazard. Eat and enjoy.
Megan March 17, 2014
Made this tonight for dinner- what a perfect weeknight dish! So easy and incredibly tasty. It all comes together in less than the amount of time it takes to boil the rice. Beautiful and delicious enough for company as well. We made the full amount of sauce for 1 1b of salmon and were glad to have some extra for drizzling on rice and eating with a spoon! This will definitely become a regular in our weeknight rotation.
Kels M. February 16, 2014
Just made this tonight for dinner and it was delicious! I pulled my salmon out of the oven after five minutes to glaze it with some of the sauce, and again before the last two minutes. It carmelized beautifully and gave the fish a lovely crust.

This sauce is MONEY. Thanks for sharing!
Kimj June 7, 2020
I like that suggestion, thanks
Samantha February 8, 2014
This was really delicious especially for how simple it was. I plan to make this often :)
Sugartoast February 8, 2014
Made it last night for a big dinner party last night (28) and it was a big hit. Very easy to pull of for a crowd and held well through the buffet...
lisabu February 15, 2014
How did you cook the salmon for so many people?
Sugartoast February 16, 2014
Same technique as described in the recipe. I tripled the sauce for two two large fillets (about 4 1/2 lbs each), which we roasted on half-sheet pans at 425 for about 25 minutes or so. Pulled fish from oven, brushed with glaze, and then returned to oven for about 5 more minutes. I poured some of the remaining sauce over the finished salmon once it was plated. Used limes and scallions to garnish.
AntoniaJames February 3, 2014
What a great-looking, nice and straightforward recipe. I look forward to trying it soon. ;o)