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6 Types of Salmon You’ll Find at Restaurants

Salmon is the name given to a seafood species that belongs to the Salmonidae family. Although salmon is native to tributaries in the Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic, it has earned itself the title of one of the world’s most popular species of fish. 

different varieties of salmon

Eating salmon can have many benefits on your health. Not only is it rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, but it is also a great source of protein, it isn’t high in saturated fats and it contains iron and vitamins. 

There are several different types of salmon, some of which are more well known than others. There are also a few lesser-known species. 

Fresh salmon fish fillet on wooden board
Fresh salmon fish fillet on wooden board

Types of Salmon

In our guide below, we have identified the six main types of salmon, along with where they are typically distributed and the factors that make them unique.

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon, also referred to as King Salmon, is the largest and heaviest type of Pacific Salmon.

Fresh wild caught King Salmon on ice in a local sea food market
Fresh wild caught Chinook “King” Salmon on ice in a local sea food market

The popularity of Chinook salmon is widespread throughout North America and many consider this type of wild salmon to be the tastiest.

In terms of appearance, Chinook has a blue/green back that is darker than the rest of its body. The top section of this species body is marked with black spots. It also has silver sides and a white belly. 

When it comes to taste, King salmon is said to be quite rich and very flavorful. This Pacific salmon is also thick and has a buttery texture. 

Chinook are some of the most popular types of salmon to eat, and I like it baked with a simple lemon butter sauce!


Coho Salmon

This species is also known as silver salmon due to the color of its skin.

Man holding fresh caught Coho Salmon on the Puget Sound in Washington State
Man holding fresh caught Coho Salmon on the Puget Sound in Washington State

It also has bright red flesh with a blue/black back. The appearance of Coho Salmon that is found in freshwater is quite different as their sides are more of a deep-toned red and their heads are green.

Although Coho are not quite as large as Chinook Salmon, they are a tough species. It is found in the Pacific Ocean.

Whilst Coho salmon is flavorful, it is milder in comparison to other species. It also has quite a delicate texture. There are many ways to cook salmon, including seared, baked, grilled, and more.

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Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon is known for its deep, rich flavor, noticeable scent, and orange-colored flesh.

Angler holding a wild caught Sockeye Salmon Oncorhynchus Nerka
Angler holding a wild caught Sockeye

This species contains a lot of good fats and is commonly used by chefs in a range of recipes.

Some might suggest that the body coloring of Sockeye makes it the nicest to look at. Whilst most salmon species have bodies that are marked with dark spots, Sockeye salmon does not. 

This means that Sockeye are popular to eat skin on for a nicer presentation.

This pacific species changes color as it embarks on a journey upstream to freshwater to spawn. 


Chum Salmon

This is another Pacific species of salmon that is also referred to as Dog, Keta, or Silverbrite salmon.

Fresh catch of chum salmon

As a smaller fish, it typically weighs around 8 pounds. Chum salmon has a lower fat content and is typically sold in smoked or in cans.

Similar to Sockeye, Chum has a mild but delicious taste. It is also low in sodium and rich in selenium and vitamin B12. 

Chum salmon has a metallic blue/green colored body which is marked with black speckles. Moreover, this species also has fairly large-sized teeth hence why it is also known as dog salmon.

The appearance of this fish changes significantly during spawning and when it enters freshwater. Along their bodies, they will develop tiger-like striped patterning that is either a red or purple color with elements of green. 


Pink Salmon

Pink Salmon also goes by the name of Humpback salmon although this is also abbreviated to ‘humpies’.

Fish monger holding a whole pink salmon at the market
Fish monger holding a whole pink salmon at the market

This is a Pacific salmon species that may be small in size but is considered to be one of the most popular and tastiest types.

Males have a distinctive hump on their backs that develops during spawning. They have light-colored flesh and a mild but tasty flavor.

Pink salmon has a silver body that has a slight hint of pink. Their backs are also marked with dark, oval-shaped large spots. When this species enters freshwater the bright silver coloring of its body becomes darker. 

This fish does not contain a lot of fat or oil. It is also usually marketed in cans although it is often sold smoked or in fresh and frozen varieties. 


Atlantic Salmon

The main difference between Atlantic salmon and the other species is evident in where it is found.

A fisherman releases wild Atlantic salmon into the cold water
A fisherman releases wild Atlantic salmon into the cold water

Unlike the other types which are Pacific species, populations of Atlantic salmon can be located on the other side of the continent in the Atlantic ocean. This species is also known as Salmo Salar.

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Atlantic salmon that is commercially available is caught through farming but because of this, you will usually find that it is cheaper than other types of salmon. You can still find wild caught Atlantic salmon as well if you don’t like farmed salmon.

This is a large-sized species that has large-sized dark spots on its upper body. Atlantic salmon that is found in the ocean has a bright silver body with a white-colored belly and lower flank.

During spawning, the bodies of Atlantic salmon become a dark-brown color and their spots usually turn a shade of red. 


What is the best type of salmon to eat?

The most popular type of salmon to eat is Chinook or King salmon. This is the best salmon for eating due to its thick body and buttery, meaty flavor.

Which salmon is healthiest?

Wild caught salmon is considered the healthiest. Usually, this means wild caught Pacific salmon, as most commericially available Atlantic salmon is farm raised salmon.

What is the most common salmon?

Pink salmon is the most abundant salmon species and the most available. This species has a mild flavor that fits well in many delicious meals.

What is the most expensive salmon?

King salmon aka Chinook is the most expensive, as well as the most popular. It is the largest salmon with a higher fat content and richer flavor, making it highly sought after.

Which type of salmon tastes least fishy?

Sockeye or Silver Coho salmon have a more delicate and less fishy flavor than other salmon, so if you’re not a big fish eater, this might be the best choice for you.

What are the other types of salmon?

As we have mentioned there are a few other salmon species, however, they are not as popular as those that we have listed above.

They include Huchen, Black sea salmon, Siberian salmon, and more. These different salmon species are not as easy to come by. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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