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Creamy Lemon Vodka Salmon Pasta

A super easy salmon pasta recipe with delicious flavors and a creamy texture.
By November 15, 2018 10 Comments Jump to Recipe
Creamy Lemon Vodka Salmon Pasta in skillet horizontal

This super easy to prepare pasta dish is a classic combination of bright and citrusy flavors of lemon, vodka, salmon and fresh dill; making Creamy Lemon Vodka Salmon Pasta. I used penne pasta, but you can definitely substitute any type of pasta that you wish, and it will turn out great.

I always forget how wonderful Salmon is until I sneak a tender flake off the side right when it finishes cooking. Along with being extremely good for you, it’s such a beautiful and luxurious ingredient that I could probably eat almost every day in some form.

Creamy Lemon Vodka Salmon Pasta in bowl

What type of salmon to use

I always recommend using wild salmon from the Pacific Ocean. Alaskan Salmon is often seen as the best, but it depends on the season as to what is available. I talk more about the differences between wild and farm-raised salmon in this pan-seared salmon recipe post.

How to cook salmon for pasta

Cooking salmon for pasta can be grilled, sautéed, baked, or you can even use pre-made smoked salmon and just add it into the pasta sauce. You can either leave it in large filets or cut it down into smaller pieces for quicker cooking. Leftover salmon from another meal is great to use in this pasta.

Creamy Lemon Vodka Salmon Pasta overhead in skillet
Creamy Lemon Vodka Salmon Pasta in skillet horizontal

Creamy Lemon Vodka Salmon Pasta

4.67 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 12 oz Pasta , such as penne
  • 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Small Onion , diced
  • 1/2 cup Vodka
  • 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 11 oz Cooked Salmon , fork torn
  • 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice , preferably meyer lemon
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup Coarsly Grated Parmesan Reggiano Cheese , plus more for plating
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Fresh Dill (or to taste)
  • Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper


  • Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente, as it will finish cooking in and absorb the sauce. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  • Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sweat the onion with a sprinkle of salt until it is tender and translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the vodka and reduce it down until it is almost gone.
  • Add the cream and cook until it just starts to bubble. Gently stir in the cooked salmon and warm through. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the cooked pasta and continue cooking until the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 to 3 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add a little of the pasta water.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice, parmesan and fresh dill. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Garnish with thin lemon slices, fresh dill and more parmesan.


  • If you don’t love dill, basil is a great substitute or addition.
  • This recipe is great for leftover salmon whether it is baked, grilled, pan-seared or even smoked.

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Jen says:

    This turned out great, it was a nice combination of flavors and the instructions were laid out in a really easy-to-follow way, so thank you for that! I sautéed the salmon in the pan then removed it before adding the onion. One major thing that I think was missing was salt and pepper. I had season the salmon well, but overall the dish lacked the flavor that comes from S&P. Although I added it towards the end of cooking once all flavors came together, next time I would season the dish when adding the pasta.

    Side note for others – 1/2 cup of dill was an entire 1 oz. package from the store after stems were removed. I had only rinsed half the package, then after chopping I needed to grab the rest of it to meet the 1/2 cup mark.

    • justin says:

      Thanks so much for the feedback, Jen. So glad to hear it turned out great! Yes, you are so right about seasoning as you go. I definitely recommend doing that but don’t have it in the recipe so I’ll add it right now.
      Did you think it was a good amount of dill at 1/2 cup? too much?

      • Jen says:

        Thank you for your reply, Justin! I thought the amount of dill was perfect. Even less and it would still taste great, to each their own. 🙂

        • justin says:

          Absolutely! I happen to have some extra cooked salmon on hand (no dill though) and I think we’re going to be cooking this one again tonight. Cheers!

  • Sofie says:

    Extraordinary! Entire family loves this, kids included. I cook the salmon the day before, and refrigerate and I also chop the onions so i can assemble this real fast after work. I double the Parmesan, and double the lemon. Yum!

  • Josiane Collazo says:

    I had a whole packet of smoked norwegian salmon after the holidays. what to do with it? Looked online and found this recipe which is really great, tasty and very satisfying. It can be made with fresh salmon or smoked. wonderful, wonderful!!!

  • Kristy says:

    This was delicious! Husband came home with lots of salmon from a fishing trip so I needed some interesting recipes to use it all up!
    If anyone is looking for more ideas on how to cook the salmon initially here’s what I did:
    -Brined salmon for 15 min (1quart of water and 1/4 cup kosher salt)
    -Drained and patted dry
    -dredged in flour and black pepper
    -heated 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil over med-hi heat and pan seared salmon for about 2.5 min per side
    -Set aside covered in foil until called for

    Thanks for the recipe!

    • justin says:

      Oh the problem with coming home with lots of Salmon is something we all wish we were dealing with. Sounds delicious, Kristy and thanks for your tips!

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