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Pistachio Crusted Wild Salmon Recipe

August 10, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Many nutritionists agree that grilled or poached wild salmon is wonderfully healthy. But it can also become rather monotonous if that’s the only way you prepare it. However, there is a way of adding extra flavor and texture to salmon without the addition of refined carbohydrates in the form of bread crumbs. My solution is to encrust it using aromatic seasonings and ground nuts.

To begin with, let’s establish an important fact: not all seafood is created equal. Some fish are collected from polluted waterways. Others are “bottom feeders” or are higher up on the food chain which naturally exposes them and us to higher levels of mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Beyond that, certain fresh water and ocean dwellers are just plain healthier because of what they eat. Wild salmon is perhaps the best example of a seafood source that avoids the major pitfalls (significant mercury contamination and PCB content) while providing high levels of the much vaunted omega-3 fatty acids. But there’s also a special characteristic found in salmon that makes it unique – it’s pink flesh. The substance responsible for this particular hue is a health promoting carotenoid known as astaxanthin. (1,2,3)

In practical terms this means that wild salmon is an excellent candidate for anyone who is concerned about cardiovascular disease and beyond. Studies conducted in both animal models and humans consistently confirm that salmon consumption and/or astanxanthin supplementation are capable of improving various markers related to heart health.

  • The May 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that eating about 4 oz of salmon twice-weekly for 4 weeks “resulted in decreased serum triglyceride and increased HDL-cholesterol concentrations”. (4)
  • In July 2007, a study appearing in the journal Atherosclerosis determined that eating 125 grams/day of salmon for 4 weeks lead to significant declines in arterial blood pressure (4%), LDL (“bad”) cholesterol (7%), triglycerides (15%) and a 5% increase in the “good” HDL cholesterol fraction. All told, the authors of the trial estimated that these improvements could “predict around a 25% reduction in CHD (coronary heart disease) risk”. (5)
  • Several recent trials involving astaxanthin supplements have also revealed very hopeful outcomes. A Japanese study published in April 2010 found that a daily dosage of 12 mg of astaxanthin resulted in higher adiponectin, HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides. Higher levels of adiponectin are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Other current studies point to a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cognitive enhancing effects of this algae-derived carotenoid. (6,7,8)

Healthy Fellow Pistachio Crusted Salmon
1 lb of wild salmon w/skin
2 oz pistachio flour/meal
1 organic lemon (juice)
2 Tbs of organic, olive oil
2 Tbs of organic dijon mustard
1 Tbs. fresh, organic basil
1 Tbs. fresh, organic dill
1 Tbs. fresh, organic rosemary
fresh, ground black pepper
NutraSalt or salt to taste

Nutritional Content: Calories: 260. Protein: 27 grams. Fat: 15 grams. “Net” Carbohydrates: 4 grams. Fiber: 1 gram. Serves: 4.

Begin by preheating the oven to 350 ºF. Place a piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Dice the fresh herbs and add to a mixing bowl. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add the mustard and olive oil to the bowl with the diced herbs. Stir well and let sit. In a food processor, pulse a cup of pistachios until coarsely ground or buy pistachio flour at a specialty store. Season with freshly ground pepper and salt. Liberally spread the lemony, herb-mustard on top of the salmon. Sprinkle the ground pistachios on the top side of the salmon fillets. Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow the cooked fillets to “rest” on a cool serving platter for about 5 minutes. It’s best to “tent” them during this time. In our home, we use a sheet of parchment paper under aluminum foil so that the aluminum doesn’t touch the cooked food. Remove the skin and enjoy.

Farmed and Wild Salmon Differ re: Fatty Acid Profiles
Source: Lipids. 2009 June; 44(6): 569–576. (link)

You might be wondering what the big deal is about using a relatively minor amount of bread crumbs in a recipe. Here’s the logic behind my decision: there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that some people simply don’t tolerate grains very well. Some health authorities, such as Dr. William Davis, even believe that wheat flour may be a significant dietary risk factor for blood sugar disorders and cardiovascular disease. In addition, bread crumbs just don’t add much nutritional value to a recipe. They’re essentially empty calories or a “filler” ingredient. My position is that it’s best not to waste an opportunity to add something of value wherever possible. Pistachios accomplish that objective and more without the potential downside of refined grains. (9,10,11,12,13)

Like many other nuts and seeds, pistachios are an excellent source of dietary fiber, healthy fats, nutrients and a fair share of protein. But they also seem to have a special ability to protect humankind against some of the most serious health threats such as diabetes and heart disease. At least 5 studies from 2009 and 2010 indicate that pistachio consumption can: a) discourage the formation of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries; b) improve blood sugar and lipid levels; c) lower inflammation and oxidative stress. This emerging evidence is quickly putting pistachios in the top tier of the nut pecking order. (14,15,16,17,18)

I believe today’s recipe can be used a template for constructing healthier meals in general. The first step is to select a good foundation to build upon. In this case, it’s wild salmon. By adding other health promoting ingredients such as fresh herbs, organic olive oil and pistachios we magnify the overall impact of the dish. But what’s equally important is that the flavor profile becomes more appetizing and complex along with the added nutrition. The end result is a sophisticated entree that can effortlessly be coupled with any number of side dishes ranging from mashed cauliflower to steamed asparagus. Please enjoy it in good health.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Food and Drink, Nutrition, Recipes

One Comment to “Pistachio Crusted Wild Salmon Recipe”

  1. JP Says:


    Eur J Nutr. 2016 Jul 6.

    Chronic pistachio intake modulates circulating microRNAs related to glucose metabolism and insulin resistance in prediabetic subjects.

    PURPOSE: To assess the effects of a pistachio-enriched diet on the profile of circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) related to glucose metabolism and insulin resistance (IR).

    METHODS: Randomized crossover clinical trial in 49 subjects with prediabetes was performed. Subjects consumed a pistachio-supplemented diet (PD, 50 % carbohydrates, 33 % fat, including 57 g/day of pistachios) and an isocaloric control diet (CD, 55 % carbohydrates and 30 % fat) for 4 months each, separated by a 2-week washout period. The plasma profile of a set of seven predefined miRNAs related to glucose and insulin metabolism was analyzed by quantitative RT-PCR.

    RESULTS: After the PD period, subjects have shown significant lower circulating levels of miR-192 and miR-375 compared to CD period, whereas miR-21 nonsignificantly increased after PD compared with CD (47 vs. 2 %, P = 0.092). Interestingly, changes in circulating miR-192 and miR-375 were positively correlated with plasma glucose, insulin and HOMA-IR.

    CONCLUSION: Chronic pistachio consumption positively modulates the expression of some miRNA previously implicated on insulin sensitivity.

    Be well!


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