Abstract Using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, a new method was developed for the identification and the quantification of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in plants. This method was particularly optimised for PAH analyses in marine plants such as the halophytic species, Salicornia fragilis Ball et Tutin. The saponification of samples and their clean up by Florisil solid-phase extraction succeeded in eliminating pigments and natural compounds, which may interfere with GC–MS analysis. Moreover, a good recovery of the PAHs studied was obtained with percentages ranging from 88 to 116%. Application to the determination of PAH in a wide range of coastal halophytic plants is presented and validated the efficiency, the accuracy and the reproducibility of this method.