Ritz Crackers Are the Secret to This Lemony Baked Salmon's Crunchy Crust

This buttery-cracker-encrusted salmon is a crunchy, citrusy main.

Cracker-Crumbled Filet of Salmon

Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hr
8 servings

Served with roasted lemon halves and fresh thyme, this cracker-covered salmon fillet is easy to make with an oven-to-table presentation that’s worthy of a special occasion.

“This tastes lovely!” our recipe testers raved. “The salmon is cooked to medium with the thickest part being nice and moist. It’s buttery with subtle hints of garlic, the Dijon flavor is present in the aftertaste, the lemon zest brightens up the salmon, and there’s a subtle hint of heat from the cayenne. Serving it with meyer lemon adds just the right amount of ‘sauce’.”

The salmon is designed to go right to the table from the oven, so plan to roast the panko-crusted salmon once all your sides are just about ready. This is great to serve straight from the baking dish, but if you transfer the fish to a serving platter, use a large fish spatula and summon a helper to ensure the whole fillet transfers safely. 

Frequently asked questions

What salmon is best for this recipe? 

Salmon fillet weights vary, depending on the type of salmon. Sockeye fillets are smaller; large king salmon fillets weigh more like 4 pounds. For this recipe, which calls for a 3-pound salmon fillet, recipe developer Amy Theilen suggests looking for Atlantic salmon (standard fatty salmon), which often weighs between 2 3/4 pounds and 3 1/4 pounds.

What should you serve with this salmon?

This panko-crusted salmon would be right at home on a holiday table with a number of sides. It would also be great with just a side salad — or even served on top of one. 

Notes from the Food & Wine Test Kitchen

The crackers should be finely crush­ed but not to a powder. Start with whole crackers, and crush them by hand by putting them in a zip-close bag and lightly pounding with a mallet or skillet to ensure you get the crumbs to the right size. Pinch the crumble once spread on the salmon for a more rustic browning when baking.

Suggested pairing

Our wine editor recommends a lively, brioche-scented sparkling rosé, such as the NV Domaine Carneros Cuvée de la Pompadour Brut Rosé, to serve with this panko-crusted salmon.


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 3 medium garlic cloves, smashed

  • 3/4 cup finely crushed buttery crackers (such as Ritz) (about 15 crackers)

  • 3/4 cup panko

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, plus thyme sprigs for garnish

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from 1 lemon) plus 3 whole Meyer lemons, halved crosswise, divided

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 (3-pound) skin-on salmon fillet (1 1/4 inches thick), pin bones removed


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low. Add garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is soft and foam begins to stick to pan sides and turn golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard garlic. Scrape off and discard hardened foam from surface of melted butter; pour clear butter into a heatproof dish to yield about 1/4 cup, stopping before you get to the milk solids on bottom of pan. Discard milk solids.

  2. Stir together crushed crackers, panko, minced thyme, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cayenne in a medium bowl until combined. Add melted butter, and stir until well combined. Set aside.

  3. Place an 18-inch baking dish or a large baking sheet in preheated oven; let heat 10 minutes. Stir together cream and mustard in a small bowl until smooth; set aside. Carefully remove hot baking dish from oven; drizzle oil evenly in baking dish, and place fish, skin side down, in center of dish. Sprinkle fish with remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Brush fish evenly with cream mixture. Top fish evenly with cracker mixture, gently pressing crumbs into fish to adhere. Arrange halved lemons, cut side down, alongside fish in dish.

  4. Bake at 425°F for 5 minutes. Without removing baking dish from oven, reduce oven temperature to 400°F. Bake until crumbs turn an even dark golden brown and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of fish registers 120°F, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven, and let rest 5 minutes. (Temperature will continue to rise to 125°F.) Arrange fish and lemon halves on platter, and garnish with thyme sprigs.

Originally appeared in Food & Wine magazine, November 2023

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