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Can salmon marinate for 2 days?

Salmon is a versatile and healthy fish that can be prepared in many different ways. One popular preparation method is marinating, which involves soaking salmon in a flavorful liquid mixture before cooking. A frequently asked question is how long salmon can or should marinate. The answer is that salmon can safely marinate for up to 2 days.

How Marinating Works

Marinating is the process of soaking foods in a seasoned, often acidic liquid before cooking. The marinade helps to tenderize, add flavor, and enhance moisture in foods like salmon, meat, and vegetables. Common marinade ingredients include oils, acidic elements like vinegar or citrus juice, herbs, spices, and aromatics like garlic and shallots.

When salmon is marinated, the liquid penetrates into the flesh, breaking down connective tissues and fibers. The acid in the marinade in particular helps to denature, or unravel, salmon proteins, making the fish softer and more tender. Oils coat the exterior to help prevent moisture loss when cooking. And the salt, herbs, and spices infuse the salmon with extra flavor.

How Long to Marinate Salmon

For best results, salmon should marinate for at least 30 minutes up to 2 days. The marinating time depends on the thickness and density of the salmon.

  • Fillets: 1 to 2 hours
  • Steaks: 4 to 8 hours
  • Whole salmon: 12 to 48 hours

Thinner cuts like fillets absorb marinade quickly, while thicker steaks and whole sides take much longer. Marinating salmon for the ideal time allows the flavors to fully penetrate while still keeping the texture moist and tender.

Benefits of Marinating Salmon for 1-2 Days

There are several advantages to marinating salmon for a full day or two, including:

  • Deep flavor penetration – Longer marinating gives time for the flavors to really soak into every layer of the salmon.
  • Tender texture – The acid breaks down tough proteins and connective tissues, leaving the salmon perfectly tender.
  • Moistness – The salt and oil help salmon retain moisture instead of drying out when cooked.
  • Food safety – Up to 2 days is safe for raw salmon stored properly in the fridge.
  • Flexibility – Marinating for a couple days gives flexibility on when you need to cook the salmon.

How to Safely Marinate Salmon for 2 Days

When marinating any raw protein like salmon for an extended time, proper food safety is crucial. Follow these guidelines for safe long marinating:

  • Use only fresh, sushi-grade salmon. Freeze salmon first for 2-3 weeks to kill any parasites if concerned.
  • Marinate salmon in the back of the fridge at 40°F or below.
  • Make sure salmon is fully submerged in the marinade. Turn bags occasionally.
  • Discard used marinade instead of basting to prevent bacteria spread.
  • Cook marinated salmon within 2 days, and don’t save leftovers beyond 3-4 days.

As long as the salmon stays cold, acids in the marinade help prohibit bacterial growth and the fish will be perfectly safe to enjoy.

Tips for Marinating Salmon for 2 Days

Follow these tips for delicious, well-marinated salmon:

  • Choose a non-reactive dish like glass or Ziploc bags.
  • Use enough marinade to submerge salmon fully.
  • Flip salmon in the marinade daily.
  • Add a touch of sugar to help marinade penetrate.
  • Refrigerate for up to 2 days for optimal flavor.
  • Remove salmon 30 mins before cooking to dry.
  • Pat salmon dry and discard used marinade.

Best Marinade Ingredients

Experiment with different marinade components tocomplement salmon’s rich flavor:

Ingredient Examples Purpose
Acid Lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar Tenderizes, enhances flavor
Oil Olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil Adds richness, retains moisture
Seasonings Garlic, ginger, herbs, spices Provides aromatic flavor
Sweetener Honey, brown sugar, maple syrup Balances acidity, aids penetration
Liquid Wine, broth, soy sauce Imparts flavor, moistness

Sample Marinade Recipes

Try out these tasty marinades that are perfect for salmon:

Maple Dijon Marinade

  • 1⁄4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Asian Ginger Marinade

  • 1⁄4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Citrus Herb Marinade

  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How to Cook Marinated Salmon

Well-marinated salmon can be cooked in many ways. Popular cooking methods include:

  • Baking – Bake at 400°F for 10-15 minutes until opaque and flakes easily.
  • Broiling – Broil 4-6 inches from heat for 8-12 minutes, flipping halfway.
  • Grilling – Grill over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes per side.
  • Pan-searing – Sear skin-side down first, then flip briefly to finish.
  • Poaching – Gently simmer in broth for 4-6 minutes until opaque.

The marinated salmon can also be used in other dishes like salmon tacos, salmon salad, salmon rice bowls, and more.


Marinating salmon for 1-2 days is an easy way to infuse it with lots of extra flavor. As long as the marinated salmon is stored properly in the refrigerator, it is perfectly safe to marinate for this extended time. Allowing the salmon to soak up all the delicious flavors of a good marinade makes it even more appetizing and adds excitement to weeknight dinners. Experiment with different marinade combinations to discover new favorite ways to prepare healthy, delicious salmon.