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. 

So how about you, do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear!

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