Baked Salmon in Lime-Coconut Cream Sauce (ปลาแซลมอนอบกะทิ)

Baked Salmon in Lime-Coconut Cream Sauce (ปลาแซลมอนอบกะทิ)
You see, I just posted something on the blog a couple of days ago, and I should have waited a few days to publish another post. Ideally, this post would have featured a recipe for something sweet — a dessert, perhaps — because I just posted a savory recipe. Also, since the last post was a seafood recipe, posting another seafood recipe right after could make it look like I’m seafood-bombing my readers. But since this blog is driven by very little forethought and a lot of giddiness, this is what you get.

I took this photo just seconds after I’d taken the fish out of the oven. Look closely and you may notice that the cream sauce was still bubbling. I had to tell you about this baked salmon. And I had to tell you now.

Vicky of Things I Made Today serves this with mustard spinach.

4.9 from 7 reviews
Baked Salmon in Lime-Coconut Cream Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Thai
Serves: 3-4
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 salmon fillet, weighing about 1¼-1½ pounds
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 limes
  • 3-4 bird's eye chilies (more or less depending on your heat tolerance)
  1. Pour ½ cup of coconut milk into the middle of a baking dish (see notes). Place the salmon fillet, skin side down, right on top of the coconut milk pool.
  2. Rub 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce on top of the fish; let it marinate briefly in the refrigerator while you prepare other ingredients.
  3. Mix the remaining fish sauce and the remaining coconut milk together; set aside.
  4. Set the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  5. Cut one lime crosswise into very thin slices. Juice the other lime; set the juice aside for later.
  6. Cut the kaffir lime leaves into very thin strips; set aside.
  7. Cut the chilies thinly crosswise; set aside.
  8. When the oven is ready, take the fish out of the refrigerator and pour the coconut milk-fish sauce mixture all over it.
  9. Arrange the lime slices on top of the fish and sprinkle the kaffir lime leaves and chilies all over it.
  10. Bake the fish, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or just until it's cooked through.
  11. Remove the fish from the oven. Drizzle a tablespoon of the reserved lime juice over the fish. Adjust the amount of lime juice to taste. Taste the sauce to see if more fish sauce is needed. If so, add more.
  12. Let the fish cool down slightly before serving.
  13. If you have some cilantro on hand, chop some up and sprinkle it on top of the fish. If not, don't sweat it.
  14. Serve the fish with rice.
Use a baking dish that is just big enough for the fish to sit comfortably in it with some room on the sides. A pan that is too large and wide will cause the coconut sauce to spread out too much. This means much of it will evaporate in the oven and may even burn around the edges. We want the fish to be enveloped in (or to be embraced by) the sauce and absorb as much of it as possible. We don't want the fish to lie there on a thin layer of liquid that spreads all over the place.


44 Responses to Baked Salmon in Lime-Coconut Cream Sauce (ปลาแซลมอนอบกะทิ)

  1. R. Saunders February 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    I am bummed that this blog post just came up, because I had salmon this week and did something else with it, but would have tried this recipe, because I had the ingredients.

    However, something perked my curiosity concerning this recipe.

    How would you make this dish in a Thai setting, because ovens are not ubiquitous in Thailand.

    Would you just poach it, or pan fry, and make the sauce separately?

    There is one dish I had in Thailand where the whole fish would be come out in a miniature Thai decorative chafing dish with a sterno underneath it and the sauce was similar except that it was more like Tom Yam base without the coconut milk and was heavy on the lime.

    It wasn’t tom yam(though it would surprise me if the mother stock and poaching liquid wasn’t the same), because the sauce was a sauce instead of like a soup.

    I wonder if that could be a similar technique without the baking factor.

    • Leela February 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

      Actually, the original plan was to make a pot of tom kha salmon. Unfortunately, I was two herbs short of a proper tom kha. Hence the change of plan.

      To answer your question, I wouldn’t steam the fish as I’d like the sauce to reduce and thicken up a bit — something that’s unlikely to happen in a moist environment like a steamer. I would probably marinate the fish with fish sauce just to get some flavor into the flesh, then pan-fry it. While waiting for the fish to cook, I’d probably mix some coconut milk with more fish sauce and some chopped/bruised herbs and pour over the fish just before it’s cooked all the way through. By the time the fish is done, the coconut milk will have reduced somewhat and formed a slightly thicker sauce. I’d add the lime juice off the heat. Then I’d serve the dish with rice and a side of nampla prik. Just making things up as I go here …

      • Korteztk February 6, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

        Thanks so much for this recipe. I like salmon and coconut milk, so together with the other ingredients they just have to be great. I think I’ll try the pan fry method when I attempt the recipe.


      • Ryan February 7, 2013 at 10:23 am #

        What about fashioning a lid out of parchment paper?

        • Leela February 7, 2013 at 10:36 am #

          You could, if you’re concerned about the salmon drying out. However, if you follow the instructions on how to choose a baking dish, the salmon will be sitting in a pool of sauce and, from my experience, has never dried out when baked uncovered this way. Besides, the lime slices also form a protective blanket of sorts. Also, I want to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken up a little. Covering the pan keeps that from happening.

  2. Claire February 6, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    *drool* Holy cow! (or salmon as the case may be!)
    That looks/sounds absolutley INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!!
    off to the shops – I know what Im having for dinner tonight

  3. Amber February 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Oh wow! This looks delicious. I think I just need to buy a kaffir lime tree, I’m too far away from the proper market to keep the leaves fresh for any amount of time. Also- love the tablecloth/placemat it’s sitting on!

    • Leela February 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      Amber, you could totally leave out the kaffir lime leaves, and it would still be great. But if you can find them at the market, buy a bunch, wrap them in a layer of paper towel, put the whole thing in a freezer bag, seal the bag tightly, and freeze them for 2-3 months. They keep very well that way.

      • VivZilla March 19, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

        Ohhh thanks for this tip on the lime leaves. I’ve bought some to make this dish and was wondering what to do with the rest of the bunch.

  4. Meaghan February 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    And with this, dinner for tomorrow is set. Yum!

  5. Mary February 6, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Hi Leela,

    I am new to your blog and well….my eyes popped when I saw this entry – can’t wait to try it. MMMmmm! Thank you!

  6. Janet February 7, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    We made this for dinner as soon as your post was published (we’re driven by a lot of giddiness, too!). We didn’t have the lime leaves, so we sprinkled some shredded fresh mint leaves on the fish just before we served it. This is delicious. Definitely a keeper.

    Note to others who may be eating a paleo diet like we do: this recipe is paleo-friendly. Simple serve it with steamed vegetable instead of rice.

    • Korteztk February 7, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      I eat paleo, in a way. If you don’t mind, you can eat shiratake as a rice substitute and still have “noodles.”

      • Joel February 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

        I love shiratake…a reference on one of Leela’s articles turned me on to it. When I make curry I use it instead of rice, just mix it into the wok at the end. I also make my curry a little thicker than is traditional, so it sticks to the noodles perfectly.

        • Leela February 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

          Joel, have you tried lightly-steamed zucchini ribbons as a noodle substitute? Pretty good.

          • Kortez February 7, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

            Leela, what tool do you recommend using to make the zucchini ribbons? That sounds like an excellent idea!

          • Leela February 7, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

            Kortez – A vegetable peeler works great. The thickness of the “noodles” is consistent. You determine/control the width.

    • meaghan February 8, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      Husband and I have been paleo as well for about 2 years. I have just recently gotten into thai food, and it’s wonderful how easily thai food can be made paleo. We made this for dinner last night, and it was fantastic! Served it over a bed of cauliflower rice and drenched it with that wonderful sauce! Simple and delicious taking little time and effort.

  7. Eileen February 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Wow, this salmon sounds so good! Good thing I have a filet waiting for me at home. 🙂 The combination with strong lime and chiles sounds fantastic!

  8. Alyssa | Queen of Quinoa February 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    LOVE the looks of this recipe. And it seems so simple to make, with only a few ingredients. It would be absolutely delicious served over quinoa! I’m definitely sharing this one 🙂

  9. Sharon February 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    Leela – you have the most beautiful personal style of writing, thinking and presenting your work. I think your site is THE most elegant and informative and aesthetic I’ve ever viewed : )

    • Leela February 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      Sharon – *on the floor bowing*

  10. meaghan February 8, 2013 at 10:51 am #


    I know I just commented how delicious this was in above comment, but I wanted to thank you for all your hard work on the blog. I just found it about two weeks ago, and I think I’ve perused every single recipe you have as well as printed off a majority of them. My husband and I have been following the paleo diet with a lot of success, and I’m thrilled that thai food is so compatible with our lifestyle. My husband has loved every single dish I’ve made so far. I’ve made tom kha gai, your pork skewers, matsamman curry, and this dish so far. They have all been winners. I actually have made tom kha gai twice already, doubling this last batch so I could bring some to my mother. Delicious recipes, easy to execute, and wonderful descriptions on the history and culture behind the dishes. I am blessed to have a small international grocery store here in Evansville, IN where I can get all the fresh herbs necessary for successful thai cooking.

    • Leela February 8, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      This made my day week. Thanks, Meaghan.

  11. Sarah Broadbent February 9, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    Getting ready to make this for my friends and family tonight. So excited. I’m going to add lemongrass and galangal to make it what you were originally aiming for, I’ve been hanging for Tom Kha for weeks. I have no doubt it will be amazing just like all your other dishes.


  12. Paradox February 9, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    Wow looks great.. I absolutely love กะทิ, but I’ve never tried it with salmon. Thanks a lot for the recipe

  13. Kevin @ Closet Cooking February 10, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    Nice and simple, healthy and good!

  14. Jenny February 10, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    This looks awesome I would like to add lemongrass would I just add it thinly sliced with the chili or bruise it and take it out at the end.
    Also could I include Ginger slithers or would that change the flavor too much.
    Cheers from Australia

    • Leela February 10, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

      Jenny, either way is fine. If you like eating pieces of lemongrass, then use only the bottom part of the stalk. Trim off the tough end, then slice it from the bottom up very, very thinly and stop where the purplish rings stop. That part is good both to eat and for infusion. The remaining part of the stalk is too tough to eat but great for infusion. You can bruise it up, add it to the coconut milk, then fish it out at the end. In fact, that’s what I would do.

      I wouldn’t use ginger in this. I would use galangal, however.

  15. Carlin February 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    Just finished this and it was excellent! I did toss the lime leaves in the freezer a week or so ago and they were fine for tonight. Easy and tasty. Thanks.

  16. Frank February 11, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Just made this dish. Wow! Thank you, Leela! What a fantastic, simple recipe. I think this one is going into rotation. 🙂

  17. KortezTK February 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    My wife met a friend in D.C. tonight and went to Jaleo, a Spanish tapas restaurant, so I decided to make this dish.

    It came out really well. I used a convection oven. The sauce reduced somewhat because of the convection, and there was a nice crust on the salmon with a nice moist center for the salmon.

    I visited Thai Market a couple of days ago and they had kaffir limes, so I used those limes for the lime juice. This dish is a winner. My wife, who is Japanese, normally only likes salmon sushi, sashimi, or salmon cheeks, but I think she will like it when I make it for her.

    You know, with your great blog, knowledge of Thai food, Leela, and your stories, I can only wonder how much better your cooking is than mine. Have you ever considered a SheSimmers food line? I bet it would be a huge success!

  18. Beer March 5, 2013 at 3:22 am #

    Thank you so much for this great recipe, I’d try this recipe yesterday and it was so greattttttt !……. Enjoy it so much 🙂

  19. Kajsa March 13, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    This was really good!!! I will defenitly cook this again and next time I won’t be a coward with the chili. I also think the sauce would work great with white fish.

  20. Paniolo March 19, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Made this last night … so good! I did add Galangal and Lemon Grass to the sauce. Served it with your Nam Prik Pao Asparagus, Brown/Red Jasmine rice and Nam-Pla Prik on the side. Making me hungry again just writing about it!

    Thanks for your blog!

  21. VivZilla March 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    Just made this. When I tasted the sauce out of the oven I was a bit concerned about the spiciness but once it all mixed up with the rice it was fine. Definitely will up the chilli next time.

  22. Charday G. March 26, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    READ THE NOTES! I used too much coconut milk and it wasnt cooked as well as you mentioned. Still turned out great, but next time I will continue to read all the way to the bottom… like they taught us in school 🙂 Thank you!

  23. Pakapong March 28, 2013 at 4:58 am #

    Salmon and Coconut milk. Omg ! It look very tasty.

  24. LivLaughEat May 25, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    Thank you for this recipe! I just made it tonight and everyone loved it – including my picky 2 year old. He had 3 servings!

  25. Pascii November 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    I did not have any limes or lime leaves on hand so I made it with lemons and chopped lemongrass.
    It was to die for.

  26. Maria @ Foodpix photography January 6, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    Healthy and delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe

  27. Bill June 14, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    i think tghis may be tommorows dinner! i have a kaffir lime tree, ould you use the limes from it?


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