6 Types of Salmon You’ll Find at Restaurants

Know the difference between the varieties of salmon available

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

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

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

Chinook Salmon, also referred to as King Salmon, is the largest and heaviest type of Pacific Salmon. The popularity of Chinook salmon is widespread throughout North America and many consider this type of salmon to be the tastiest. In terms of appearance, Chinook salmon 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, Chinook salmon is said to be quite rich and very flavorful. It is also thick and has a buttery texture. 

Coho Salmon

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

This species is also known as silver salmon due to the color of its skin. 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 salmon is not quite as large as Chinook Salmon, it is 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. 

Sockeye Salmon

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

Sockeye salmon is known for its deep, rich flavor, noticeable scent, and orange-colored flesh. 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 Salmon makes it the nicest to look at. Whilst most salmon species have bodies that are marked with dark spots, Sockeye salmon does not. 

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

Chum Salmon

Fresh catch of chum salmon
Fresh catch of chum salmon

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

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

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

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

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

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 are the other types of salmon?

As we have mentioned there are a few other types of salmon, however, they are not as popular as those that we have listed above. They include Huchen, Black sea salmon, Siberian salmon, and more. These types of salmon are not as easy to come by. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are six main types of salmon. Some are bigger than others and they do not all look the same. There are also differences in the intensity of their taste, however, they are all packed full of flavor. 

Can you eat the skin on salmon? Learn the answer here!

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.