Coho vs Sockeye vs King Salmon: What’s The Difference?
Ever wonder the difference between Coho Salmon, Sockeye Salmon and King Salmon? These are three of my favorite salmon species and they’re used in a variety of recipes across this website. So let’s chat about how each is unique.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m really into salmon (on that note: you need to try my Orange Glazed Salmon recipe). And what’s not to love? This fatty fish is brimming with health benefits, can be prepared numerous ways and it tastes amazing.
But I’m not just into any salmon. If you’ve taken a look at all my salmon recipes, you’ll notice that I always recommend either Coho Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, or King Salmon—and these species all have one important thing in common: they’re typically wild caught as opposed to farmed (I always steer clear of farmed salmon, as it’s much more likely to contain pollutants, antibiotics, and toxins).
While these three types of salmon are all great, there are subtle differences. Let me explain some of the perks of each.
King Salmon (aka Chinook Salmon)
King Salmon is the largest of the Pacific salmon species (they can reach over 100 pounds!) and the highest in fat, including anti-inflammatory Omega-3’s. It’s often considered the most delicious and is prized for its thick, moist and buttery smooth texture, which makes it feel like a total treat. Some liken its texture to smoked salmon. The one downside: It’s usually the most expensive salmon you’ll find at the fishmonger—but honestly, it’s money well spent. King Salmon from Alaska is Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified sustainable.
Availability: Wild King Salmon is available fresh or frozen year-round.
Try it: While you can use any type of salmon to make my Dijon Baked Salmon recipe, King Salmon makes it extra melt-in-your-mouth good.
Sockeye Salmon is high in good fats, though not quite as high as King Salmon, and delivers a deep, rich flavor. It’s flesh is an unmistakable vibrant red, which is a result of its exceptionally high levels of an antioxidant pigment called astaxanthin. In combination with Omega-3 fatty acids, astaxanthin is believed to protect the nervous system and brain from inflammation. Sockeye Salmon from Alaska is MSC-Certified sustainable.
Availability: Wild Sockeye salmon is available fresh from mid-May through mid-September, and frozen year-round.
Try it: These Salmon Patties are incredibly moist, delicious and flavorful, and while they can be made with canned salmon, I personally love them with fresh Sockeye or Coho salmon.
Like my other go-two salmon picks, Coho Salmon is high in anti-inflammatory fats, but has a milder flavor than both King Salmon and Sockeye Salmon, making it a good gateway fish for salmon newbies. Its orangey-red flesh has a firm texture, and many consider it the best type of salmon for grilling. Coho Salmon from Alaska is MSC-Certified sustainable.
Availability: Wild Coho Salmon is available fresh mid-June through late October and frozen year-round.
Try it: One of my favorite summer grilling recipes is this Cedar Plank Salmon with Maple Ginger Glaze and it’s easy to make with a large Coho Salmon filet (or individual pieces).
Why I Always Steer Clear of Atlantic Salmon
I always steer clear of Atlantic Salmon since nearly all of it is farmed. A few problems with farmed Atlantic Salmon (which I elaborate on here):
- These fish have a lower nutritional value because they’re often fed an unnatural diet of grains, plants, and fish meal
- They’re often bred in a densely populated, filthy environment
- They’re dosed with antibiotics and pesticides (which can then get passed on to you)
- They’ve occasionally been shown to contain higher levels of industrial pollutants called PCBs than wild caught salmon. Plus, they’re often farmed in areas of the world where they’re not native. And when they escape (which happens), that can lead to the development of invasive populations that threaten other fish.