Friday, September 14, 2012

Recipe for Grilled Salmon Packets with Tomatoes, Olives, Garlic, Thyme, and Saffron

Grilled Salmon Packets with Tomatoes, Olives, Garlic, Thyme, and Saffron
This recipe for Grilled Salmon Packets is something I've made many times for guests.

(For Phase One Fridays I highlight Phase One recipes from the past that have been my personal favorites.   I first tried this recipe for Grilled Salmon Packets with Tomatoes, Olives, Garlic, Thyme, and Saffron right after I finished my house renovations and had a brand new deck and grill, and it's something I've made for guests many times since then.)

This was the first recipe I tried when I finally got my grill out of the neighbor's garage, where it's been stored (for a worthwhile reason). I'd been anticipating trying some of the grilling recipes I've longingly saved, and as soon as I took a bite of this salmon cooked in foil with tomatoes, olives, garlic, thyme, and saffron, I knew this was a recipe I'll make over and over. Not only does it have so many flavors I love, but it was so easy that you can have it on the table in 20 minutes. And no worries if you don't have the optional saffron, I'm sure this combination will taste wonderful without it.

Start by combining diced tomatoes, Kalamata olives, olive oil, garlic, thyme, saffron, and a bit of salt and pepper. (I made two pieces of salmon to try the recipe, so this is half the amount you'll have. One great thing about this recipe though is how easy it would be to make just one or two servings, depending on how many people you're feeding.)

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, made from the dried stigma of the Saffron Crocus. Although it's expensive, it's used in very small amounts, so a tiny container like this will flavor many dishes. It has a slightly bitter, musty flavor that's hard to describe, but which is beloved around the world for seasoning rice, chicken, seafood, and traditional dishes like Paella.

Salmon is placed on foil, then topped with the tomato-olive mixture. I sprayed the foil with olive oil before I put the fish on.

Then loosely fold over the top pieces and ends of the foil to make a flat packet to sit on the pre-heated grill. You won't be turning them over, so you don't have to be too careful about the wrapping.

The packets take about 8-10 minutes to be done, plus another couple of minutes resting time, and there's a lot of flavorful juice, so serve them inside the foil.

Grilled Salmon Packets with Tomatoes, Olives, Garlic, Thyme, and Saffron
(Makes 4 servings, but this recipe can easily be modified to make just the number of servings you need; recipe adapted slightly from Fine Cooking Grilling 2008.)

4 pieces salmon (recipe called for skin-on, but I used salmon pieces without skin)
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes)
1/4 cup diced Kalamata olives (about 20 olives)
1 T finely minced garlic
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves (other herbs could be substituted, but I would not use dried thyme)
small pinch saffron, about 15-20 threads (saffron is optional, but use it if you have some)
1/4 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning salmon (I used sea salt)
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat gas or charcoal grill to high (you can only hold your hand there for 1-2 seconds at that temperature.) If you don't have a grill, I think these packets could be cooked in a hot oven. I'd use a temperature of at least 450F for oven cooking.

While grill heats, combine diced tomatoes, diced olives, minced garlic, chopped thyme, saffron, salt, and fresh ground black pepper, then stir in olive oil.

Tear piece of foil big enough to completely wrap the salmon with a bit extra to fold over and seal. Spray or brush foil pieces with olive oil. Place a piece of salmon in the center of each piece of foil and season with a small amount of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Spoon 1/4 of the tomato-olive mixture over each piece of salmon. Fold up sides of foil, then fold together in the center and fold over ends so each salmon piece is sealed inside the foil packet.

Put packets on grill and cook on high for 8-10 minutes. I opened one after 8 minutes and thought it was not quite done, so I turned off the grill and let the packets sit on the hot grill for 1 more minutes. Let salmon rest about 2 minutes, then fold down sides of foil and serve each piece of salmon in the foil.

Printer Friendly Recipe

South Beach Suggestions:
This is a perfect entree recipe for any phase of the South Beach Diet, or any other low-glycemic eating plan. For phase one, serve with something like Pureed Cauliflower with Garlic, Parmesan, and Goat Cheese. For phase two or three, this would be great with Georgette's Really Lemony Greek Pilafi.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Versions of Grilled Salmon You Might Like to Try:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Grilled Salmon with Asian Dipping Sauce from Kalyn's Kitchen
Herb-Encrusted Grilled Salmon from Kalyn's Kitchen
Grilled Salmon with Sun-dried Tomato, Olive, and Caper Relish from Kalyn's Kitchen
Easy Grilled Salmon from Simply Recipes
Miso-Marinated Grilled Salmon from Andrea's Recipes
Saucy Grilled Salmon from Inspired Bites
Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa from Laylita's Recipes
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

More to Chew On:


  1. Oh my goodness! So many of my favorite flavors in one package - can't wait to make this one!

  2. That looks scrumptious. I love my salmon and that combo with olives, garlic and thyme is one I have done before too. Saffron is a guarded spice in my home...taken out for special occasions as you are right...tis durn expensive! I use it in my special biryani

  3. Kalyn, not only does this dish look absolutely delicious, but I love that there's no pots and pan to clean up!

  4. This is my kind of dish. I often make a salmon tagine with a chermoula of olives, tomatoes, and garlic. To add the slightly smoky flavor from the grill would make it even more delicious -- and very similar to your recipe. I'm bookmarking this one.

  5. The best salmon that I ever made was in a packet with lemon and capers. I would love to try it with the tomatoes and black olives.

  6. Cora, that's just how I felt when I saw the recipe, and it was even better than I expected!

    Trish, I use it very sparingly here too, but it really was great in this dish.

    Italian Dish, didn't think about that, but yes, another plus!

    Lydia, salmon tagine sounds fabulous. I bet you'd like this too.

    Joanne, the sound of salmon in a packet with lemon and capers is enticing me. That sounds wonderful too!

  7. What a great idea. The packets remove my usual anxiety about fish sticking on the grill and falling apart. On my cooking video site, CookusInterruptus posted a video where she (Cynthia Lair) bakes salmon wrapped in nori. Another great packet idea! Thanks for this one.

  8. That looks and sounds delish! I love cooking with foil packets on the grill. It's a great way to combine flavors for fantastic dishes without having to spend hours marinating. I cannot wait to try this.

  9. I'd like to try this but I'll probably leave the saffron out. Its something I've never used and would probably not use again but who knows, I might get wild and crazy and try it with the saffron. This recipe looks great and I'm eager to try it. Eating plain baked salmon is getting old!

  10. StreamingGourmet, love the idea of salmon wrapped in nori too. This must be the easiest way imaginable to cook fish on the grill!

    Sarah, I loved it!

    CookinsForMe, as I said, I think the saffron is definitely option. However, it does give it that extra "over the top" flavor if you decide to try it. And saffron is expensive, but you use the tiniest amount, so it goes a long way.

  11. I am generally a fan of really simple salmon only because we get such amazing fish this time of year, but I think this deserves a try. Plus I could totally make it in the oven!

  12. great time for grilled salmon. We enjoyed some over a salad last night. We'll have to try it with herbs in foil next time!

  13. We love making packets for the grill. I usually do all veggies but I want to try your salmon version! Looks fantastic. Glad you got your grill back:)

  14. This sounds tasty - but when one seals food in foil and places it 'on the grill' to my way of thinking, there is no real reason or need for the grill. Just as well prepare it in the kitchen oven.

    When using a grill for cooking, seems to me anyway, is to use the tool for that which it is designed - searing food on hot grates, maybe over wood or charcoal, or to add smoke flavor with indirect cooking. All of this is exposing the meat, fish, veggies, fruit to the heat and to the fire or smoke. Sealing in foil is well - baking in foil. Cook it indoors OR SEAR THE FISH FIRST and place in the foil to finish.

    But that's just me. Maybe.

  15. Katerina, give it a try and I bet you'll like it, especially if you like saffron.

    Vintage Mixer, don't skip the tomatoes and olives too.

    Maria, I am happy indeed to have the grill back.

    CB, since this recipe came from Fine Cooking Grilling, you would have to address your concerns about the purity of the recipe with them. I liked it, and to each her own when it comes to cooking, I'd say. (And I don't think it would be the same in the oven. The hot fire right under the fish, cooked it quickly while leaving the tomatoes and olives less cooked. The oven wouldn't give that effect.)

  16. Kalyn, this sounds fabulous! This would be perfect for a quick weeknight meal. When entertaining, my mum loves to cook a large fillet of salmon in foil. She usually adds soy sauce, whole green onions, and chunks of ginger and garlic. It always turns out tender and tasty.

  17. I'm going to make this ASAP! My mouth is watering!

  18. CC, I think your mom's seasonings sound great too! Maybe I'll have to try that.

    Belhana, you're welcome.

    Prout Italian Cook, I made it again tonight for my dad and he told me over and over how good it was, ending with "the best meal I've had for a long, long time." So I think it's pretty good!

    Since there is no grill or stove in the assisted living apartment where my dad lives, I cooked it in a toaster oven preheated to 450, for just over 15 minutes. Very good.

  19. I have GOT to find an affordable grill somewhere. Maybe on Freecycle or craigslist, at the very least?

    Well, at least I'll be grilling with my mom in less than 2 weeks. I'm definitely putting this on the list.

  20. This was absolutely delicious! Five stars! My husband likes to eat a lot of salmon and I was beginning to dread the thought of preparing it; but no longer! I think the saffron is essential to this recipe - it adds a "certain something" to the combination of flavors that might just be another - altough delicious - mediterranean-style dish without it. Thank you so much!

  21. Jeani, so glad you liked it. I agree about the saffron. It adds that "extra something" that you can't quite describe, but you know it's there!

  22. I loved this dish! I didn't have fresh thyme so I used dry and it worked out nicely. I also cooked the packets in the oven for about 15 minutes on 450 and they turned out perfect. Thanks for the great recipe.

  23. Anonymous, thanks for letting me know you liked it. And great to hear that it worked okay with dried thyme too.

  24. sounds wonderfully aromatic and Mediterranean

  25. Finally, an excuse to us saffron!

    Man I can't wait to try this.

  26. I made this over and over when I first tried the recipe, definitely a keeper.

  27. Hi Kalyn- this recipe looks delicious and was the only one I could find on the internet that I was excited about (not a big fish eater but trying to eat healthy). I am in Michigan in the snow so grilling isn't an option. You mentioned 450 in the oven and I was wondering how long to cook (same as the grill... 8-10 mins)? I'm not a very experienced cook so sorry if this seems like a silly question. Thank you!

  28. Not a silly question, but I honestly can't say for sure how long it would take in the oven. I'd probably cook about 15 minutes, then open the packet and see if it's done. I'm guessing it will take a little longer than on the grill, but I'm not sure exactly how much longer.

  29. Another great way to make salmon! I often cook my salmon in foil like this as it keeps it moist. My only changes were that I used green olives (didn't have the kalamata olives) and added some capers. (FYI, I cooked it in the oven for about 15 minutes @375F). Made this with your Bok Choy with Soy Sauce and Butter last night. Also made 'mock mashed potatoes' aka mashed cauliflower. A complete South Beach Diet dinner!

  30. Terri, I love the idea of cooking this with green olives and capers! Might even try that as a whole new recipe. Sounds like a good dinner.

  31. This looks good and I have most of the ingredients on hand. It looks good and I think I'll have this for dinner tonight.

  32. Had a fridge full of groceries, but still didn't know what to make for dinner tonight ~ I hate it when I'm in a dinner funk. But, your blog is regularly my "go to" place when I need help with dinner, so that's where I went tonight. I had the ingredients on hand for this recipe, fired up the grill and before I knew it I was eating something far more tasty and special than I expected. I did make the lemony rice to go with it ~ a perfect meal! Teresa in TX

  33. Teresa, I know the feeling! So glad this caught your eye and you enjoyed it!

  34. Grilled salmon -- I never tire of it! My grill is still in active use, so I'm off to the fish market.

  35. I'm with Lydia ... I never ever tire of grilled salmon. We haven't used our grill much at home this summer, but the one at our mountain property has been in constant use when we're there. We're headed up this weekend. I think we'll get some salmon on the way! :-)

    Thanks, Kalyn!

  36. I'm going to make this tonight - looks delicious. I'm trying not to use olive oil for high heat cooking so am going to substitute melted butter for the olive oil. What do you think? Will it be good?

  37. Not sure if the butter will burn. Maybe a mix of butter and oil.

  38. Love all these beautiful flavors with the salmon! A perfect dish to serve to guests or even on the weeknight. Delicious!

  39. So glad people are discovering this; I have made this for so many people and everyone loved it!

  40. This is one of the most scrumptous dishes I have ever prepared! I didn't use saffron or olives because I didn't have them. I can't wait to make it again. I am always excited to find good recipes for fish because it is such a healthy way to eat. I've kept the 40 pounds off using SB and your recipes for almost two years. You rock, Kalyn!

  41. Kathleen, way to go! And I'm so glad you're enjoying the recipes.


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