Coho vs Sockeye: 6 Key Differences You Should Know

Discover why Coho salmon might save you money and how it compares to Sockeye’s richer flavor and texture.

Chinook Coho Salmon Jumping Issaquah Hatchery Washington State

I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my health, and one of the best things I’ve ever done is add more salmon to my diet. Salmon is packed with nutrients that are essential for good health, including omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and vitamin D. But did you know that there are different types of salmon? I used to think that all salmon was created equal, but I was wrong. There are three main types of salmon: Coho, Sockeye, and Chinook. Each type has its own unique flavor and nutritional profile. So, which type of salmon is right for you? Read on to find out!

The key differences between Coho and Sockeye Salmon are the color and flavor profile of each fish. While Coho Salmon meat is pink-orange, Sockeye Salmon meat is dark red-orange. Sockeye Salmon has a strong flavor and is a very oily fish, while Coho Salmon has a milder taste.

Healthy, delicious, and packed with protein, Coho and Sockeye are both types of Wild Alaskan Salmon. Both Coho and Sockeye Salmon are found in the Pacific Ocean and are anadromous fish. This means they are born in freshwater but migrate to the ocean to mature and breed. However, there are some differences between them, which are essential for you to know when choosing which of the two for the recipe you want to cook. 

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Each Has Its Own Distinctive Coloring

Coho is commonly referred to as silver salmon because of its shiny silver skin. The flesh of Coho Salmon is a pink-orange color. 

Sockeye is known as red salmon for two reasons. Firstly, Sockeye salmon turn a deep red color when they swim upstream to spawn. Secondly, their flesh is a deep red color. 

Their Flesh Is Different

Coho salmon
Coho Salmon Flesh

Coho salmon has semi-firm flesh and contains less fat than other salmon varieties, so it is more prone to drying out. It is best to use more gentle cooking methods when preparing Coho Salmon. Pan-searing over medium heat or poaching Coho Salmon will ensure the fish does not dry out. Gentle cooking methods will also lock in Coho’s milder flavor.

Coho can be smoked, but you should rather cold-smoke this salmon due to its low-fat content. If you are looking for salmon to make sushi or sashimi, Coho is a good choice because of its mild flavor.

Fresh Fillet of Sockeye Salmon with parsley
Fresh Fillet of Sockeye Salmon with parsley

If you would like to grill salmon, choose Sockeye, as it is the firmest of all salmon varieties. Sockeye Salmon is fatty, with compact flesh, so it can withstand high heat without drying out or flaking. 

Sockeye Salmon is also delicious when baked or slow-roasted in the oven. If you enjoy salmon with a crispy skin, you can fry Sockeye. It can also be used to make sushi and sashimi.

Coho Salmon Has A Milder Taste Compared To Sockeye

As its dark red color would suggest, Sockeye Salmon has an intense flavor. It has a rich texture and can be considered oily and salty.

If you don’t like that fishy taste, you will appreciate Coho Salmon. Coho Salmon has a mild flavor, making it a tasty fish that is not overpowering.

Nutritional Comparison Of Sockeye And Coho

Salmon is well-known to be an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Coho Salmon has the highest amount of EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil supplements. Apart from Omega-3, Coho and Sockeye salmon have other nutrients.

Coho Salmon contains vitamin D and has a higher protein content than Sockeye. It is also lower in calories than Sockeye, making it an excellent choice for those counting calories.

Sockeye Salmon has a higher content of selenium and vitamin B12 than Coho Salmon.

Sockeye Salmon Is Fractionally Cheaper

The price of salmon will depend on whether it was farm-raised or caught wild in the ocean.

Farm-raised salmon is cheaper than salmon caught in the ocean. Other factors contributing to the cost are location and whether you buy fresh or frozen fish.

Wild-caught Coho Salmon is approximately $20 a pound, while wild-caught Sockeye is about $19 a pound.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Type Of Salmon To Eat?

As the name suggests, King Salmon is the largest of the salmon species and is considered to be the best of the best in terms of flavor and texture. Also known as Chinook Salmon King Salmon is the most expensive salmon on the market, and is lauded for its flavorful yet delicate buttery taste.

Of all the varieties of salmon, King Salmon has the highest fat content, making the flesh of this fish moist and giving it a silky, succulent texture.

Are Coho Salmon Good To Eat?

Coho Salmon is a safe fish because it has a light, mild flavor, and firm texture. So, if you don’t like a strong fishy taste or are cooking for guests and are unsure about their taste preferences, Coho Salmon is a good choice. 

It has a medium fat content, so its flesh has a lovely, flaky texture when cooked correctly.

Packed with nutrients, Coho Salmon is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. It is also high in vitamin B12, vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and antioxidants. 

How Can You Tell The Difference Between A Coho And A Sockeye?

It is easy to distinguish between the flesh of Coho Salmon and that of Sockeye, just by looking. Sockeye Salmon flesh has a distinctive dark red color. The meat of Coho Salmon is lighter in color and is a pink-orange hue.

Coho fish have a shimmering silver skin. This silver skin turns red when the Coho Salmon swim upstream to spawn. Sockeye fish are red and turn a brighter and deeper red when they swim upriver to breed. Their bright red skin and green heads are what sets them apart from other varieties of salmon.

Sockeye Salmon is a bigger fish, it is heavier and longer than Coho. 

What Is The Best Alaskan Salmon To Eat?

Low in sodium and packed with Omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, Sockeye Salmon is nutritious and delivers on taste. It has a rich flavor and a dense, firm, moist texture. What’s more, Sockeye Salmon is a good quality fish, but it is not as expensive as King Salmon. For these reasons, Sockeye is the best Alaskan salmon to eat. 

Fishing regulations for Sockeye Salmon make it the best-protected species of salmon.

Final Thoughts

Coho and Sockeye Salmon are filled with Omega-3 and other nutrients, making both fish a healthy addition to any meal. The main differences between the two fish are the color, texture of the flesh, and taste.

Both Coho and Sockeye Salmon are tasty fish. It is essential to know the different features between the two so that you use cooking methods that will bring out the best flavor and texture of each fish.

More FAQs

What is better coho or sockeye salmon?

Coho salmon has a milder taste compared to sockeye, making it a suitable choice for those who are new to seafood or have a preference for less intense flavors. While it is not as mild as white cod fillets, for instance, it is still less gamey than sockeye salmon.

Is coho more expensive than sockeye?

Coho is not more expensive than sockeye. The cost of the fish varies based on the method of harvesting. Wild-caught fish is generally pricier than farm-raised ones. On average, wild-caught Coho salmon is priced at $20 per pound, whereas wild-caught sockeye is priced at $19 per pound.

Is coho salmon farmed or wild?

Coho salmon can be either farmed or wild. In the western Pacific, they can be found from Russia to Japan. The primary sources of coho salmon are the United States for wild caught fish and Chile and Japan for farmed fish. When it comes to the U.S. market, the majority of wild coho salmon is sourced from the United States, while Canada is the main supplier of farmed coho salmon.

What is the best salmon from the ocean?

The best salmon from the ocean is often considered to be Chinook, as it is highly regarded by seafood enthusiasts for its abundant fat content and exquisite taste. Numerous countries along the Pacific Ocean harvest wild-caught Pacific salmon, including Chinook, renowned for its superior quality.

Does coho salmon taste different?

Coho salmon has a distinct taste compared to other types of salmon. It is known for its mild flavor, which is less bold than sockeye salmon. Additionally, coho salmon is lean and has a delicate texture, making it versatile for various dishes. Its subtle taste and texture complement well with gentle cooking techniques such as baking, poaching, or steaming.

What is the best type of salmon to eat?

The best type of salmon to eat is Pacific salmon, which includes five varieties: King, Sockeye, Coho, Pink, and Chum. While both wild and farmed salmon are excellent sources of omega-3s, if you can afford it, opting for wild salmon is generally better for your health.

Which wild salmon is healthiest?

The healthiest salmon is typically considered to be wild-caught Pacific salmon, which includes five types of Pacific salmon species and two types of Atlantic salmon. Nowadays, Atlantic salmon is commonly farmed, while Pacific salmon species are predominantly caught in the wild.

Is coho salmon farmed or wild?

Coho salmon can be either farmed or wild. The primary sources of wild coho salmon are the United States, while farmed coho salmon mainly come from Canada. Additionally, Chile and Japan also contribute to the supply of farmed coho salmon.

What is special about sockeye salmon?

Sockeye salmon stands out due to its smaller and more compact size, resulting in firmer flesh that holds up exceptionally well when grilled or roasted. Additionally, these salmon possess a distinct and intense flavor compared to other varieties, and are renowned for their striking reddish-orange hue.

Which salmon has the most omega-3?

The Copper River King Salmon is the wild salmon with the highest amount of omega-3 fats. It is known for its abundant healthy fats and delicious flavor. However, some individuals may prefer the leaner and firmer taste of other species like sockeye, which also provides a good amount of omega-3 fats along with additional vitamin D.

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