Salmon is a fascinating and diverse family of fish that includes several distinct species, each with its own unique characteristics, habitat preferences, and culinary appeal. In this post, we’ll compare six of the most well-known species of salmon: Atlantic salmon, Chinook salmon, Coho salmon, Sockeye salmon, Pink salmon, and Chum salmon.
Which salmon is right for you?
That really depends on your personal preferences. If you like a rich, oily flavor, king salmon or Atlantic salmon is a good choice. If you prefer a milder flavor, sockeye, coho, pink, or chum salmon may be a better option. If you are looking for a salmon with a firm texture, king or chum salmon is a good choice. If you prefer a softer texture, sockeye, coho, or pink salmon may be a better option.
All species of salmon are nutritious and delicious. When choosing salmon, look for fish that is wild-caught and sustainable.
Wondering what to cook? Be sure to check out all of our easy seafood recipes (we’ve got over 40 salmon recipes!) including our Salmon Piccata, 30-Minute Creamy Salmon Curry, or our foolproof Tender, Flaky Salmon en Papillote.
Flavor and texture: Atlantic salmon is prized for its rich, mild flavor and tender, flaky flesh. It’s often considered the gold standard for salmon in culinary circles.
Atlantic salmon is the most widely available where I live in New Jersey. We can use it in pretty much any preparation of salmon.
King Salmon (Chinook Salmon)
Flavor and Texture: King salmon, also known as Chinook salmon, is renowned for its rich, buttery flavor and high oil content, making it incredibly succulent and perfect for grilling or baking.
Try grilling king salmon steaks or baking them in the oven.
Flavor and Texture: Sockeye salmon is known for its bold, robust flavor and firm, fatty flesh. It’s often the top choice for grilling or smoking.
Try poaching sockeye salmon fillets or baking them in the oven with a sauce.
Flavor and Texture: Coho salmon has a milder flavor compared to Chinook but is still delicious with its delicate, flaky texture.
Try pan-frying coho salmon fillets or baking them in the oven with herbs and vegetables.
Flavor and Texture: Pink salmon has a mild, delicate flavor and a softer, less fatty texture compared to other salmon species. It’s commonly used for canning and as an economical option in various dishes.
Try baking pink salmon fillets in the oven with a light sauce or grilling them.
Flavor and texture: Chum salmon, also known as keta salmon or dog salmon, has a mild, slightly fishy flavor and a firm, meaty texture.
Try baking chum salmon fillets in the oven with a strong-flavored sauce or smoking them.
Salmon species have similar nutritional profiles, with variations in fat content and flavor. King salmon tends to be the fattiest and, consequently, the highest in calories, while Pink salmon is the leanest.
Yes, certain recipes can accentuate the unique qualities of different salmon species. For example, a delicate Coho salmon might pair well with a creamy lemon and dill sauce, while a rich Chinook salmon could be complemented with a bold teriyaki glaze. Also, the cook time will depend on the thickness of the salmon, which varies by species.
To check if salmon is cooked through, insert a fork into the thickest part of the fillet. The salmon should flake easily and be opaque all the way through.
Yes, sustainability is a crucial factor. Some species, like Pink and Chum salmon, are generally more abundant and have lower environmental impacts. When possible, we look for sustainably sourced salmon.
Sushi-grade salmon is typically sourced from wild-caught salmon like Sockeye or Coho, known for their freshness, texture, and flavor.
Each salmon species offers a unique culinary experience, from the rich and buttery King salmon to the delicate and mild Pink salmon. The choice of salmon largely depends on personal preference, culinary preparation, and regional availability.
Be sure to check out some of our favorite easy salmon recipes, including our personal favorites: Broiled Miso Salmon, Pan Seared Salmon with Parmesan Cream Sauce (recipe below), Pistachio-Crusted Salmon, and our Crispy Salmon Croquettes with Remoulade.
Crispy Pan Seared Salmon Recipe with Lemon Parmesan Sauce
- 4 skin-on salmon fillets about 1 lb
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp grapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large shallots minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup coconut milk full fat or light OR 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup mascarpone cheese room temperature
- ½ cup parmesan cheese grated
- 2 lemons halved and grilled (grilling optional, but highly recommended!)
- 3 Tbsp fresh chives chopped, plus more for serving
- 3 Tbsp fresh dill chopped, plus more for serving
Optional, for serving:
- 2 medium zucchini cut into ¼” pieces
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil divided
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup Israeli couscous
- 2 Tbsp pine nuts toasted
- ½ – 1 cup arugula or other micro greens
- Crusty baguette
- Dry salmon before cooking. Place salmon filets on a paper-towel lined plate to dry. Let sit 5-10 minutes, then turn over and dry an additional 5-10 minutes. Season salmon on both sides with 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper.
- Cook the zucchini. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle with 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and season with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Toss to combine, then roast until tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
- Make the couscous. Place 1 ¼ cups water in a sauce pan then bring to a boil. Add 1 cup couscous, turn heat to a simmer, then cover and set aside until all water has absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, drizzle in remaining 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, roasted zucchini, and 2 Tbsp pine nuts. Gently toss to combine.
- Cook the salmon. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add salmon skin side down. Cook until skin is crisp and salmon easily pulls away from the pan, about 4-5 minutes. Carefully flip and cook other side until salmon registers between 110 and 120 F for medium rare, about 3 minutes more. Cook longer as desired, but remember the fish will continue to cook a little after you remove it from the pan.
- Make the sauce. Remove salmon from pan and set aside. Meanwhile, to the same pan add 2 minced shallots and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cloves minced garlic and 1 tsp red pepper flakes, then cook 30 seconds more. Pour in 1 cup coconut milk or heavy cream and ⅓ cup mascarpone cheese, then stir until cheese has completely melted. Add ½ cup parmesan, juice from 1-2 lemons (start with 2-3 Tbsp, then add more if you love lemon OR just place lemon halves into sauce!), 3 Tbsp chives, and 3 Tbsp dill, then whisk to combine. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning as needed. Remove from the heat, then either return salmon to the pan or serve on the side with sauce spooned on top.
- Serve immediately with couscous, arugula, and crusty bread.