Sockeye Salmon vs Atlantic Salmon: Key Differences and the Superior Salmon!

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You’re at the store and you don’t know which kind of salmon to buy. Sockeye salmon vs Atlantic salmon: what difference does it make? After all, they’re the same species of fish.

Not quite. There are a couple of key differences between sockeye vs Atlantic salmon. These differences might have an impact on your decision regarding which one to buy.

What is sockeye salmon? It is a species of small, wild salmon that can be found primarily in Alaska. They are also known as red salmon and are well known for their gorgeous color and rich flavor.

Meanwhile, Atlantic salmon are bigger and farmed in many parts of the world. They are generally imported from places like Chile and Norway.

Today, I’m going to look into how these two salmon species vary, and which one is the better option in terms of flavor, health, and nutrition.

Sockeye Salmon vs Atlantic Salmon

sockeye salmon vs atlantic salmon

The two kinds of salmon differ in how they are sourced, their appearance, texture, and flavor. Some of these factors influence others, so bear in mind that the origin of your salmon can affect its taste and looks.

With that being said, let’s get into the Atlantic salmon vs. sockeye salmon differences.

Difference 1: How They are Sourced

This is perhaps the most glaring difference between the two. Sockeye salmon is a wild species, and are caught when they swim upstream. This means they are at their freshest during certain times of the year. However, they are also frozen or smoked, so you can find them in supermarkets all the time.

On the other hand, there are very few wild Atlantic salmon left in the wild. Most of them are farmed. This is bad news for health nuts and environmentalists. Fish farms are notorious for overcrowding fish, which itself is an act of cruelty.

Moreover, farmed fish are rife with lice and other diseases. To prevent outbreaks, farmed Atlantic salmon are pumped with antibiotics. This affects the quality of the fish and leads to poor flavor.

Intensive fish farming is also terrible for the environment. The waste, pesticides, and other chemicals used in fish farming damage fragile ecosystems and pollute water supplies.

The upside of farmed Atlantic salmon? This fish is pretty cheap and easily available all year round.

Difference 2: Texture

Sockeye fillets have a thinner texture, but the fish is pretty sturdy. Despite its smaller size, this kind of salmon is oilier and feels richer. It also holds its shape well when grilled or roasted. It balances delicate flakiness with fattiness, which makes it versatile for different recipes and cooking methods.

Meanwhile, Atlantic salmon are bigger, with thicker flesh. They are also way fattier than sockeye salmon. As a result, they have that melt-in-your-mouth texture when seared or pan-fried.

Difference 3: Appearance

Salmon get their orange-red flesh from their diet. In the wild, sockeye salmon eat plankton, krill, brine shrimp, and other tiny fish and plants so they have a varied diet. This makes their flesh a rich, deep red.

However, farmed Atlantic salmon only have a diet of fish pellets which are mostly supplements and fish oils and meat. This makes their flesh much paler, so fish farms add synthetic carotenoids to give their flesh that vibrant color.

Difference 4: Taste and Flavor

A key difference between sockeye and Atlantic salmon lies in their flavor profiles. Because Atlantic salmon are fed in bulk, they have a fatty taste. Besides this, they are mostly mild-flavored. While this may seem like these fish are bland, the mild flavor makes it a good canvas for seasonings and herbs.

On the other hand, sockeye salmon has a much richer and complex flavor. When people talk about that classic salmon flavor, they are usually referring to freshly caught sockeye salmon. It is best grilled or seared, but slow-roasting and cooking in foil is also a good option.

Difference 5: Nutrition Profile

By now, you most probably understand that Atlantic salmon has a higher fat content when compared to sockeye salmon. In fact, a three-ounce serving of Atlantic salmon has 10.5 grams of fat, while sockeye has just 4.7 grams.

Less fat translates to higher protein. The same serving of sockeye will have 23g of protein, whereas the Atlantic salmon has 19g.  Atlantic salmon is more calorie-dense than sockeye, so those on a diet should opt for the sockeye variety.

On the other hand, both species are rich in omega-3-fatty acids. They are also rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, copper, and phosphorus.

What about Other Salmon Species?

best place to buy salmon

There are a couple of other species of salmon that people tend to buy. Here’s how they hold up against Atlantic and sockeye salmon.

Sockeye vs Pink Salmon

Pink salmon is even smaller than sockeye and has a very light flavor. It is quite inexpensive and best for those on a budget. Pink salmon is often the variety used in canned salmon. Moreover, pink salmon has a light pink color, unlike the bright red of sockeye.

Atlantic vs Pacific Salmon

Put simply, sockeye and pink are two varieties of Pacific salmon. While Pacific salmon are mostly wild, richly flavored, and smaller in size, Atlantic salmon are larger, farmed, and lack the depth of flavor.

Buying the Best Salmon Out There

Different people prefer different kinds of salmon. My advice? If you want the salmon to be the star of the show, stick to sockeye. But if you’re on a budget, or want to use the salmon as a side, Atlantic is a better option.

The best place to buy salmon, especially wild ones, are fish markets, where you have the option to pick freshly caught sockeye during its season. The fish will have no smell and will taste amazing.

However, if salmon is out of season, you’re better off buying frozen fish from a trustworthy seller. Most supermarkets will have frozen fish, but the best option is to stick to brands that specialize in seafood. 

For a more accessible option, the best frozen salmon brands include Whole Foods 360 and Lummi Island Wild. You can even give this incredible smoked sockeye salmon a try!

Frequently Asked Questions

01. What Kind of Salmon Should I Buy?

It is best to buy freshly caught wild salmon like sockeye, pink, chinook, and coho salmon.

02. Is Sockeye Salmon Good for Me?

Sockeye salmon is full of healthy fats, protein, and a whole lot of vitamins and minerals. As a result, it is one of the healthiest meals out there.

03. Is Salmon Safe to Eat in Large Servings?

Although salmon is healthy, it is best to eat it in moderation. Two to three servings a week are more than enough for an adult.

04. How Can I Tell if Salmon is Wild or Farmed?

Farmed fish can be identified through their appearance. Salmon harvested from farms will be a lighter red than wild ones and will have more white fat marbling against the flesh.

05. Is Salmon Considered Red Meat?

Although salmon appears red, it isn’t considered red meat like beef or lamb. There are no health implications in eating salmon as there would be with red meat.

06. Why Is Salmon So Expensive?

Salmon is pricey for two main reasons. For starters, catching wild salmon is a difficult and time-consuming process. Moreover, salmon is very popular and fishing is restricted to prevent overfishing.

In Conclusion

If you want to snag some fish for your dinner, knowing the sockeye salmon vs. Atlantic salmon will always come in handy. Regardless of the variety you choose, you are bound to end up with a tasty, healthy meal that is quick and easy to make.

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