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BBQ Salmon with Braised Kale

BBQ Salmon with Braised Kale- Perfectly cooked salmon coated in a homemade BBQ spice rub served with smoky braised kale and garlic couscous.

April 1, 2021 by Nicole Collins

I've completely lost all concept of time.

I was telling someone the other day about something that happened who knows how long ago, and I definitely underestimated the amount of time it's been. It's truly like the past year did not exist.

I mean, it basically didn't.

I guess this is on my mind today, because we're officially at the point where we're doing things for the second time in quarantine. Second birthdays. Second daylight savings change. Second holidays.

Easter is days away, and I truly don't know how that happened. Does anyone else feels like the last year didn't even happen?

I don't know about you, but this first major holiday of the 2021 kind of snuck up on me. But instead of looking like I'm scrambling to get it together (which I really am), I'm going to make sure I set us all up for success with the perfect, pescatarian Good Friday meal.

Today, we're making BBQ Salmon with Braised Kale!

Here's the gameplan on this one. We're going to make our own sweet and smoky barbecue spice mix, smother some salmon in it, and air fry it to perfection. Then, we'll serve it alongside some kale that been slowly braised until it's soft and succulent. And, we'll serve it all over some garlic couscous for a healthy, flavorful, and totally delicious meal.

Let's start with the kale. My inspiration for this braised kale was good ol', soul food style collard greens. I feel like there are so many kale haters in this world, that I wanted to give the kale the opportunity to shine in a completely different and unexpected way. So, I wanted to take those rich, meaty flavors that collards get from a smoked turkey or ham hock, and I wanted to recreate that same feeling without any meat. And by jove, I think I've done it!

The kale starts with some onion and garlic sauteed in a little olive oil until they're just soft and fragrant. Then, we're going to add the kale a few handfuls at a time to our pan. We don't necessarily need to use a big pot for this, because the kale will only be a fraction of it's original size by the time we're done. I actually used a high sided skillet, and it was perfect. Now, all of the kale is not going to fit it the pan at one time. So we do need to work through this in batches. The kale will significantly wilt down with each addition that you add to the pan. So, be patient. If your pan starts to look dry as you add your handfuls of kale, add a little splash of vegetable stock to the pan. That will help the kale keep wilting without drying it out or burning it.

Once all of our kale is in the pot, we're going to add in the rest of our vegetable stock and our secret ingredient: smoked sea salt. The smoked salt adds exactly what we need to mimic the flavors of a smoked meat without actually using any meat. So, we'll mix it all together, lower the heat, and let the kale cook until pretty much all of the liquid has absorbed into the kale. Once it's finished, we'll add in a splash of apple cider vinegar for brightness, and our kale is done!

While the kale is cooking, we can be simultaneously working on our salmon. Our salmon starts with a simple homemade barbecue spice rub. I guarantee you have most, if not all, of these spices on hand in your pantry already, so you don't need to break the bank on this one. We'll use garlic and onion powder for flavor, chili and cayenne pepper for a little heat, smoked paprika for that smoky bbq flavor, and a little brown sugar for sweetness. Mix it together, rub it into the flesh of the salmon, and to the air fryer the salmon goes for only about 8 or 9 minutes until it's juicy and delicious on the inside.

Since I've learned to cook salmon in the air fryer, I don't think I'll ever go back. It's too fast and easy. And, the salmon is the perfect texture every single time. But, I do have directions in the recipe for oven roasting if you don't have an air fryer. Though, I highly support making the investment in this small appliance if you can.

To serve, we're going to let the grocery store help us with a garlic and olive oil flavored box mix of couscous. This is one of may favorite supermarket cheats, because I think the couscous has TONS of flavor for absolutely no effort at all. If we're putting all of our energy into our main dish and our veggie, I think it's perfectly ok to cheat on the grain. So, that's what we're gonna do!

To assemble, we'll layer our couscous into a bowl, top it with our smoky braised kale, and lay our sweet and smoky bbq salmon right over the top.

This bowl of food is absolute heaven. The greens are rich and so full of flavor. A lot of people struggle with the tough texture of kale, but they're so soft and juicy after braising in that delicious liquid, the texture is pure gold. The salmon is moist and juicy on the inside, and that sweet/smoky spice rub almost caramelizes on the outside creating the most amazing flavor bomb crust on the fish. And the couscous, that's just a bonus item!

And since most of us can't eat meat tomorrow on Good Friday, this is the best way I can think of to switch up our routine this year. No tuna or fish sandwiches for us when we can have salmon and braised kale!

Ok, everyone! I hope you have a great, safe, fun, and relaxing Easter.

Enjoy, and let's eat!


BBQ Salmon with Braised Kale

Serves: 4 Print


For the Braised Kale:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • ½ small onion, diced

  • 2 small (or 1 large) garlic cloves, minced

  • 12 oz (about 10 cups) chopped kale

  • 1 ½ cups vegetable stock

  • ½ tsp smoked salt

  • ½ tsp pepper

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

For the Salmon:

  • 4 6oz salmon filets, skin off

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • ½ tsp garlic powder

  • ½ tsp onion powder

  • ½ tsp smoked paprika

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp pepper

  • ¼ tsp chili powder

  • 1/8 tsp cayenne

  • olive oil cooking spray

  • 1 box (5.8oz) roasted garlic and olive oil couscous mix, prepared according to package directions, for serving


  1. Make the Braised Kale: Heat olive oil in a large high sided saute pan over medium heat. Add onion, and saute for 3-4 mins until the onion starts to soften. Add garlic, and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add kale a few handfuls at a time, stirring constantly until the kale starts to wilt and makes room for more kale to be added. If the pan starts to look dry, add a splash of the vegetable stock to help wilt the kale. Once all kale has been added to the pot, add remaining veggie stock, smoked salt, and ½ tsp pepper. Stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring the kale every 10 mins, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. After 30 minutes, stir in the vinegar, cook for an additional minute, and remove from heat.

  2. Make the Salmon: To a small bowl, add brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, chili powder, and cayenne. Mix to combine.

  3. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle spice mix all over the salmon, and use your hands to rub the spice into the top and sides of the salmon flesh.

  4. Preheat air fryer to 400 degrees. Spray the air fryer basket with olive oil cooking spray. Place salmon filets in the air fryer basket, and spritz the tops of the salmon with olive oil cooking spray. Cook for 7-9 minutes until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 145 degrees. Alternately, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spritz a baking sheet lined with foil with cooking spray, and place salmon on the baking sheet. Roast for 18-20 mins until the internal temp reaches 145 degrees.

  5. To serve, divide prepared couscous between 4 plates. Top with braised kale and salmon. Enjoy!

Recipe notes:

*I'm obsessed with my Ninja Foodi Grill/Air Fryer. I love the way it cooks salmon. It's so juicy, and it cooks so fast!

*You could use collard greens in place of the kale.

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