Cedar Planked Salmon With Spicy Rub

Cedar Planked Salmon with Spicy Brown Sugar Glaze

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe by John Aspra, “The Epicurean Cowboy”.  I saw this prepared on Bobby Flay’s Grill It! show on Food Network.

John prepared this as an ingredient in fish tacos.  I have also made this for tacos, but it is equally as good, served on it’s own.  Simply cut it into individual steaks, or serve it in large flaked pieces on a platter.

I used my own Baja Coleslaw recipe, but I’m including John’s recipe for his ensalada used in his tacos.


Spice Rub:

  • 3 to 4 cups golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup good quality dark roast coffee, coarsely ground
  • 1/2 cup seafood seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
  • 1/4 cup ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup curry powder
  • 1/4 cup ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Ensalada for Tacos:

  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro leaves; chopped (yields approximately 1 cup)
  • 1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley; chopped (yields approximately 1 cup)
  • 1 bunch fresh green onion; chopped (yields approximately 1 cup)
  • 2 fresh pasilla chiles fire roasted, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 2 fresh Anaheim chiles fire roasted, skinned and chopped
  • 1/2 head fresh red cabbage, chiffonade
  • 1/2 head fresh green cabbage chiffonade
  • 2 serrano chiles, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice, about 1 1/2 tablespoons, optional
  • 6 pounds wild salmon fillet, boneless and skinless
  • 3 cedar grilling planks (soaked for 3 hours)
  • 4 dozen fresh corn tortillas (preferably homemade)
  • 1 pound Cotija cheese crumbled for topping tacos


Thoroughly mix all of the rub ingredients in a glass bowl and set aside. Cooks Note: Can be sealed in storage bag or jar for up to 1 week. This will make about 6 cups.

Combine all of the ensalada ingredients in a glass bowl and mix well. Set aside for tacos.

Cut the salmon fillet into 3 equal parts and arrange on the pre-soaked cedar planks. Cover the salmon liberally with the spice rub (approximately 1 cup per pound). It is ok if some spice rub falls onto the plank.

Heat the grill to high.

Put the salmon planks over very hot mesquite/oak or hickory coals and cover the grill until the spice rub has melted to form a coating over salmon and plank, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the cover from the grill. If the planks flame up be sure the flames do not scorch the fillet, as the taste of burned sugar should not be the dominating flavor.

Remove the salmon planks from the grill and loosely cover with foil. Allow the fillets to rest for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the fillets to a large bowl and set aside. In the meantime, toast the corn tortillas over the hot coals or on a preheated comal.

Add the ensalada to the bowl with the salmon and stir lightly to combine.

Using 2 overlapping toasted corn tortillas, scoop some of the salmon mixture onto the tortillas and top with some of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling. For authentic Baja style service, use simple paper boats for serving vessels. The boats will allow the tacos to stand upright for better presentation.


2 Responses to Cedar Planked Salmon With Spicy Rub

  1. David Bond says:

    Regretably Johnny Epicurean Cowboy passed away last year after a strong battle with ALS. Johnny would have loved the idea of you sharing your love for his dish. God Bless you for giving him a big smile in the sky.

    • So sorry to hear of your loss. His recipe is amazing! I’ve served it several parties and everyone always loves it. It is very different with the melted sugar, coffee beans and spices. Delicious!

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