Onion Crusted Wild Salmon

Grill up a tasty salmon topped with onions and tulip poplar honey to eat hot or cold, fresh or even a day old.

From "The Fresh Honey Cookbook"

  • “The Fresh Honey Cookbook” is inspired by honeybees, the food they pollinate, and the golden sweetener they produce.
    Photo by Johnny Autry
  • “The Fresh Honey Cookbook” is inspired by honeybees, the food they pollinate, and the golden sweetener they produce.
    Cover courtesy Story Publishing

Total Hands-On Time: 1 hr 35 min

Preparation Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 1 hr 20 min

Yield: 4 servings

Beekeeper, chef, café owner, and spokesperson for the National Honey Board Laurey Masterton offers honey-tasting tips and vibrant recipes that deliver amazing dishes in The Fresh Honey Cookbook (Storey Publishing, 2013). Masterton encourages a deeper appreciation of honeybees through fascinating glimpses into the life of a hive. The following excerpt is from the “June: Tulip Poplar” chapter.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: The Fresh Honey Cookbook.

My friend Sally comes from an island in the Pacific Northwest, where she grew up having salmon roasts on the beach, cooking the fish on cedar planks. She described her father’s recipe to me, which included his secret herb concoction. Though I never tasted his version, I created my own. No beach? No worries. My version is cooked over a smoky charcoal fire in your yard.

While the salmon is delicious hot, the flavors continue to improve over time, making this an excellent next-day item or the basis for a wonderful chunky smoked-salmon salad.


• 1 cup Hardwood grilling chips (Hickory, Maple, and Alderwood are good options)
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoon Johnny’s Seasoning Salt (see below)
• 2 tablespoons honey, preferably tulip poplar honey
• 4 medium sweet onions (for example, Vidalia or Walla Walla), sliced
• side wild Alaskan salmon (about 3 pounds), skin on

Seasoning Salt
If you cannot find Johnny’s Seasoning Salt, you can make a reasonable facsimile by combining the following:

• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon granulated garlic


1. About 1-1/2 hours before eating, light a charcoal fire in your grill. Allow the coals to burn down to a medium heat before beginning to cook. Or, if using a gas grill, prepare a medium fire when you are ready to cook. Soak a handful of wood chips in water while you cook the onions.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add the seasoned salt, honey, and onions (you’ll have a big pile of onions, but they will soften and shrink). Cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are very well cooked and resemble a thick mash almost like paste, about 45 minutes.

3. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the grill. You may wish to put it on a piece of aluminum foil (being careful not to cover the grill surface completely with the foil) to keep it from sticking to the grill, but if your grill is well seasoned, you can skip this step. Smear the onion mixture on top of the salmon. Close the grill cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

4. Open the lid and add the soaked wood chips to the coals. This will make a smoky fire. Close the cover of the grill and allow the fish to smoke for another 15 minutes or more, depending on the thickness of the fish. To test, gently poke the fish with your finger. I like my fish on the underdone side, so I take it off the grill while it still feels soft. If you like your fish more well done, continue to cook until the meat is firmer.

5. Transfer the fish to a serving platter and loosely cover with foil. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, and then serve.

More from The Fresh Honey Cookbook:

Rack of Lamb with a Coffee and Avocado Honey Crust
Pork Tenderloin with Orange Blossom Honey Mustard
Cranberry Honey Pie

Excerpted from The Fresh Honey Cookbook, © by Laurey Masterton, photography by © Johnny Autry, used with permission from Storey Publishing. Buy this book from our store: The Fresh Honey Cookbook.

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