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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