Salmon 101: A 5-minute Read on Salmon Varieties

Eating salmon is good for you—all of you. It’s packed with protein and heart-healthy omega-3s, low in saturated fat, and at about 125 calories for a three and a half ounce serving, it’s agreeable with your waistline. But deciding which salmon to consume can be a little puzzling. In honor of National Alaska Wild Salmon Day (Aug. 10, 2017), here’s a short guide to the most commonly seen salmon in your grocery, and in restaurants.


Chinook aka King and Spring
The largest and fattest of all salmon, the king rules most taste tests. Much like a well-marbled steak, it’s the fat that gives this species its rich flavor; and the farther they travel to spawn, the higher their fat reservoirs, thus the richer the taste.

Coho aka Silver
Leaner and generally not as dark as the king, this variety was originally the most commercially sought after of all salmon, but due in part to unsustainable fishing practices, is now heavily depleted in certain parts of the Pacific Northwest. However, after its introduction to the Great Lakes in the mid-60s, the silver runs abundant throughout the Great Lakes and its pleasing taste and fine texture make it very popular among recreational fishermen and local markets.

Sockeye aka Red and Kokanee
My personal favorite comes from Alaska’s Copper River (the featured image) … this variety has the darkest flesh and unlike its cousins, is known to spawn in lakes as well as rivers. The flavor is excellent, and many fish mongers suggest you forgo any other variety of farmed salmon for a frozen sockeye. 

Chum aka Dogs
Chum is quite lean, offering about one-third the fat of king salmon, with firm meat and orange, pink or red flesh, the drier flesh of this variety makes it well-suited for smoking.

Pink aka Humpies
The most abundant and smallest of the species, these fish have the lowest fat content and are typically used for canning.

Farm-raised Atlantic salmon has an excellent oil content which helps the fish retain its moisture and orange color when cooked. Interestingly, most Atlantic salmon sold in the U.S. actually come from Chili, Canada and the UK. As far as wild Atlantic salmon goes some do exist, but they are extremely rare and are on the U.S. endangered species list. 

Another type of farm-raised salmon, this variety comes from the Baltic Sea—which, according to activists at Greenpeace, has suffered from years of freely dumped toxic pollutants into many of the rivers that flow directly to the sea. Which in essence means, you shouldn’t eat Norwegian salmon. BUT. With that being said, there are some good options now coming out this region. My advice, heed what the Seafood Watch program advises before choosing Norwegian salmon but do know, as with anything, industries change and again … there are some excellent options originating in the region.

More reads on salmon:

Getting Hooked on Salmon — All you need to know about the ray-finned fish, this article takes a look at the migration of Salmon in and out of the Copper River and Prince William Sound along with a species break down and tips for buying salmon and cooking it at home.
Why I Don’t Eat Faroe Island Salmon — As much as I agree, the salmon from the Faroe’s is sublime, but the unnecessary continued slaughter of pilot whales has led me to abstain from buying it or ordering it at restaurants.
Is the World’s Largest Salmon Run in Danger — A look at Bristol Bay and the controversy behind the proposed Pebble Mine site … if it’s built, will it destroy the world’s largest salmon run? What’s more important: jobs and the economy or the future of the species as a food source?

DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then. xoxox

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Hey there. I’m Shauna—a West Coast transplant in the landlocked state of Indiana … when I moved here I missed the beaches, the mountains, the desert, the rivers … and it took me a while to find places nearby that paralleled my old stomping grounds. BUT. Now that I’ve lived here for over 15 years, I’ve had time to explore the region and you know what? It’s amazing. There’s so much to do—from skiing in northern Michigan to relaxing lakeside in southern Kentucky to rocking the nightlife in one of the many metropolitan areas. And I love it here. I really do. BUT. I do miss the sea … and the sand and the rush of the waves … the smell of seawater … even the sting of too much sun after a day spent lollygagging at the beach. And I miss the constant supply of seafood and shellfish and riverfish? About that … since I’ve moved to the Midwest I’ve noticed that a lot of people here don’t consider fish that come from the river seafood … I’m not sure I agree, but hence the new word I’ve created, “riverfish” … time will tell if Webster picks it up ; ) So my blog, Seafood is The New Black, is my way of bringing a little bit of sea life (or is it sealife?) to the Midwest. And over on Seafood in the Circle City, you can read up on my favorite Indianapolis restaurants that serve seafood, and serve it well. As you read along, you’ll find all kinds of information … some that you might find more useful than others—and some, you might just find amusing … or not. Either way, and if nothing else, I hope you leave my little space here on the world wide web a little refreshed and maybe even a little inspired to bring a little bit of the ocean home with you. (Yes, I did use the word “little” four times in one sentence … it’s OK … mermaids like to repeat themselves.) Cheers! The Midwest Mermaid Oh, and if your curious, yes, I do actually write for a living … if you want to know about the organizations I work with and the publications where you can find my land legs, swim on over to the “Portfolio” tab … and thanks for visiting.

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