This slow cooker salmon is a total game-changer. Say goodbye to dry, chalky salmon (yech!), the gentle, even heat of the slow cooker creates perfectly flaky, juicy fish every single time. The technique is a cinch, and I’ll show exactly how it’s done. I’ll also share how to serve this salmon in healthy power bowls with a creamy cilantro yogurt sauce, as well as in tacos and more! Don’t miss the step-by-step VIDEO below!

Poached salmon fillets in a slow cooker.

Slow cooker poached salmon

This technique is like a combination of poaching and slow roasting. I discovered it when writing my book, Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker, and it revolutionized the way I thought about cooking fish. Salmon slowly cooks over a bed of citrus slices (limes or lemons) and water. The citrus lends flavor while the water ensures that the fish stays silky and tender. You can swap out the water for white wine, or change up the citrus according to what you have on hand. 

A slow cooker salmon fillet on a plate with a fork, with salad greens alongside.

What kind of salmon should I use?

You can use any variety of salmon, but you’ll want to buy center-cut fillets (as opposed to tail ends), preferably at least 1-inch thick. It’s important that the fillets are the same size so that they cook evenly. Wild salmon is leaner and often thinner than farmed salmon, so check it early, as it cooks faster. 

Close up of salmon in a grain bowl, drizzled with yogurt sauce.

You can cook skin-on salmon or skinless salmon. I prefer skin-on, as it helps to keep the salmon moist (the skin can be easily removed before serving), but either works! 

Salmon spice rub

In this recipe, the salmon is rubbed with a quick chili spice rub, which gives it loads of flavor. Chili powder and cumin lend depth of flavor, while a touch of brown sugar mirrors the caramelization you would typically get when roasting fish at a higher heat. However, you can omit the rub if you’d like, or use any other spice rub you’d like (for a different approach, swap out the chili powder for curry powder!). 

Slow cooker salmon in tacos with shaved cabbage, avocado slices and yogurt cilantro sauce.

How to cook salmon in the slow cooker or crockpot:

  • Line a slow cooker with aluminum foil so that the ends extend over the sides. This will make it easy to pull the salmon out of the slow cooker after it’s cooked. 
Process shot showing a slow cooker lined with aluminum foil.
  • Arrange lemon or lime slices in an even layer along the bottom of the slow cooker, and add just enough water to come to the top of the slices. For another variation, try using white wine instead. You can also lay fresh herbs over the citrus slices, if you’d like. 
Process shot showing limes arranged on the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Line the salmon fillets on top of of the citrus slices. Cover and cook on LOW for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork and is cooked to your liking.
Process shot showing salmon fillets arranged in the slow cooker before cooking.
  • Transfer the foil with the fish to a large baking sheet (this will make it easier to serve the salmon!).

How do I serve slow cooker salmon?

You can serve the salmon all on its own, perhaps with a spritz of lime or lemon juice. It’s also fabulous over salads, in risotto and in potato cakes, but my favorite way to serve it is in power bowl and tacos! Flake the fish into large chunks and serve it over whole grains (such as quinoa or rice) or riced cauliflower. Arrange shaved red cabbage and avocado alongside (or you can use any veggies you like!). I drizzle the bowls with this Creamy Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Flaked salmon in a bowl with quinoa, cabbage, avocado and cilantro yogurt sauce.

(For more healthy one-bowl meal ideas, check out my book, Build-a-Bowl!)

You can also serve the salmon in tacos using the same ingredients. Wrap the flaked salmon in tortillas with shaved cabbage, avocado and the yogurt sauce, or keep it simple with shredded Romaine lettuce, sour cream and your favorite salsa.

Close up of flaked salmon in tacos.

FAQ:

How do you know when the salmon is fully cooked?

The salmon should flake easily when cut with a fork, but it should still be pink in the middle. For medium-rare salmon (which is how I prefer it), an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center should read 120˚F (48˚C). If you prefer your salmon firmer, simply cook it longer to your desired consistency. 

Can you cook other varieties of fish in the slow cooker?

Yes! Other fish varieties, such as halibut, cod and swordfish work great in the slow cooker. You can get other recipes in my book, Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker.

What are different ways to serve salmon?

If you’re tired of eating salmon on its own, try flaking it into fried rice or risotto, or serve it on grain bowls or in tacos. Salmon is also fabulous in salads and in pasta (it pairs wonderfully with a light cream sauce). 

Crockpot salmon fillet on a plate with a green salad alongside.

Tips for making crockpot salmon:

  • You’ll need a slow cooker (also called a Crockpot) for this recipe. The size of your slow cooker will determine how many salmon fillets you can cook. My 6-quart oval slow cooker fits 4 fillets, although you can cook fewer fillets, or even on larger piece of salmon, if needed. 
  • All slow cooker models are different. If your slow cooker tends to run hot, check the salmon early. Conversely, if your slow cooker is on the cooler side, the fillets will take longer to cook (in my 6-quart KitchenAid slow cooker they take 1 hour). Be sure to cook the salmon on LOW, not high, as the gentle heat is crucial for evenly cooked, juicy fish. 
  • You can use any variety of salmon, but you’ll want to buy center-cut fillets (as opposed to tail ends), preferably at least 1-inch thick. It’s important that the fillets are the same size so that they cook evenly. Wild salmon is leaner and often thinner than farmed salmon, so check it early, as it cooks faster. 
  • You can cook skin-on or skinless salmon. I prefer skin-on, as it helps to keep the salmon moist (the skin can be easily removed before serving), but either works! 
  • Lining the slow cooker with aluminum foil to create a sling makes it easy to pull the salmon out once it’s cooked. 
  • Instead of using water in the bottom of the slow cooker, you can use white wine instead. You can also arrange fresh herb sprigs over the citrus slices. 
  • For more slow cooker fish recipes, check out my book, Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker!
  • For more healthy one-bowl meal ideas, check out Build-a-Bowl

Other salmon recipes to try:

Healthy recipes you might like:

Watch the video!

Get the recipe!

Slow Cooker Salmon Bowls

For perfectly cooked salmon, look no further than your slow cooker! The gentle heat of the slow cooker is ideal for rendering salmon fillets flaky and moist. In this recipe, a quick chili spice rub gives the fish loads of flavor, although you can use any spice mix you like, or you can keep it simple with just salt and pepper. The salmon is delicious all on its own, but I like to turn it into a nutritious, flavor-packed meal with cooked grains, shaved red cabbage, avocado (or any veggies you like) and a Creamy Cilantro Yogurt Sauce or Green Sauce (make the sauce while the salmon cooks). The salmon is also delicious in tacos! Wrap the flaked salmon in tortillas with shaved cabbage, avocado and the yogurt sauce, or keep it simple with shredded Romaine lettuce, sour cream and your favorite salsa. Be sure to use low heat for this recipe, not high (high heat isn’t as consistent and will overcook the fish). This fuss-free technique can also be used for other fish varieties, such as halibut or swordfish. For more slow cooker fish recipes, check out my book, Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: crockpot salmon, slow cooker salmon, slow cooker salmon recipe
Servings: 4 people

Equipment

  • Slow cooker

Ingredients

Spice Rub (Optional)

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

Slow Cooker

  • 2 limes or lemons, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • Water
  • 4 6- to 8- ounce salmon fillets (1 to 1 ½ inches thick, preferably center cut, skin-on or skinless)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Serving (Optional)

  • Cooked grains, such as quinoa or rice
  • Shaved red cabbage
  • Diced avocado
  • Cilantro Yogurt Sauce or Green Sauce (see recipe links in header above)
  • Toasted pepitas

Instructions

Mix the spice rub (if using)

  • In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin and brown sugar.

Assemble the slow cooker

  • Line a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker with a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil so that it extends over the sides (this will make it easy to pull the fish out later). Arrange the lime or lemon slices along the bottom of the slow cooker and pour in enough water to come just to the top of the slices.
  • Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper, then rub each with the spice rub (you might not need it all). Arrange the salmon fillets on top of the citrus slices in the slow cooker in an even layer. Cover and cook on low until the salmon is tender and flakes easily with a fork, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (high heat is not recommended).

Finish and serve

  • Holding onto the foil handles, transfer the salmon to a large baking sheet. Serve the fillets whole, or flake them into chunks. To make power bowls, arrange the salmon over cooked grains with shaved cabbage and avocado slices. Drizzle with cilantro yogurt sauce or green sauce. Sprinkle with toasted pepitas, if you wish!

Notes

Storage: Leftover salmon can be refrigerated for up to 1 day (it’s delicious in salads, potato cakes or sushi!). 
Tips:
  • You’ll need a slow cooker (also called a Crockpot) for this recipe. The size of your slow cooker will determine how many salmon fillets you can cook. My 6-quart oval slow cooker fits 4 fillets, although you can cook fewer fillets, or even on larger piece of salmon, if needed. 
  • All slow cooker models are different. If your slow cooker tends to run hot, check the salmon early. Conversely, if your slow cooker is on the cooler side, the fillets will take longer to cook (in my 6-quart KitchenAid slow cooker they take 1 hour). Be sure to cook the salmon on LOW, not high, as the gentle heat is crucial for evenly cooked, juicy fish. 
  • You can use any variety of salmon, but you’ll want to buy center-cut fillets (as opposed to tail ends), preferably at least 1-inch thick. It’s important that the fillets are the same size so that they cook evenly. Wild salmon is leaner and often thinner than farmed salmon, so check it early, as it cooks faster. 
  • You can cook skin-on or skinless salmon. I prefer skin-on, as it helps to keep the salmon moist (the skin can be easily removed before serving), but either works! 
  • Lining the slow cooker with aluminum foil to create a sling makes it easy to pull the salmon out once it’s cooked. 
  • Instead of using water in the bottom of the slow cooker, you can use white wine instead. You can also arrange fresh herb sprigs over the citrus slices. 
  • For more slow cooker fish recipes, check out my book, Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker!
  • For more healthy one-bowl meal ideas, check out Build-a-Bowl

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