6 Types of Salmon

What's the difference between wild and farmed, Coho and King, or Pacific and Atlantic salmon? Here's a helpful guide!

Raw salmon fish filletKARANDEAV/GETTY IMAGES

It’s no secret that salmon is good for you. There’s a ton of protein in salmon, and it’s loaded with nutrients and other health benefits, including calcium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also super delicious, whether it’s grilled, broiled, baked, pan-fried, seared or even raw.

Those are just a few reasons why salmon sales have soared in the last few years. It’s also because salmon is more accessible than ever, with fresh, frozen and canned salmon products available in grocery stores and fish markets all over the country. In fact, it’s the second most popular seafood in America, with more than 900 million pounds consumed a year (shrimp is first, in case you’re wondering).

There’s a lot more to salmon than meets the fish eye, however. There’s wild and farmed salmon, which often determines the variety of salmon you’re eating, plus its taste, texture and color. Atlantic salmon, for instance, is farmed (or should be since it’s been overfished), and will be fattier than wild salmon. Pacific salmon, which can be wild or farmed, includes various species, like king, coho, sockeye, pink and chum.

Where to begin? Start with the types of salmon you’ll see at the grocery store, all outlined below. We also have tips on how to buy salmon, how to remove salmon skin, and how to cook frozen salmon, plus ideas for side dishes for salmon and so much more.

1 / 6

Salmon steak with dill and salt on a cooking paper
Eugene03/Getty Images

Atlantic Salmon

Also known as sea run salmon, kelts or black salmon, there are three types of wild Atlantic salmon: North American, European and Baltic. Wild North American salmon isn’t commercially fished because of their endangered status. If you’re buying Atlantic salmon in the United States, expect it to be farmed. This fish has a mild flavor and light pink color, and it works really well in any of our easy salmon recipes.

2 / 6

two raw pieces of salmon prepared with with lemons and herbs before being cooked
Victoria Bee Photography/Getty Images

King Salmon

Also called chinook salmon, king salmon is the largest of the Pacific salmon. It’s prized by chefs and home cooks everywhere for its hight fat content and silky texture. Because it’s generally thicker, it’s a good cut for oven-roasted salmon in a cast-iron pan.

3 / 6

Sockeye salmon fillets on a white background
VickyRu/Getty Images

Sockeye Salmon

Also called red salmon, sockeye salmon is stronger in flavor and lower in fat than other varieties. You can serve it raw, smoked or grilled, and it makes great salmon burgers, too. Because it’s leaner than other types of salmon, sockeye is great for something like salmon en papillote (baked in paper), which helps it retain some moisture.

4 / 6

Raw salmon steaks
hiphotos35/Getty Images

Coho Salmon

Northwestern coho salmon are threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to commercial overfishing and habitat loss, but several types of wild-caught coho are sustainable. Also called silver salmon, coho salmon has a mild taste, a firmer yet delicate texture and medium fat content. Some consider this a good fish for salmon newbies! They’re smaller than king salmon, and they work really well for cedar-plank grilling. But they’re equally good for poaching or roasting whole.

5 / 6

Pink Salmon Canned smoked fish, on wooden cutting board, on white background with herbs and ingredients, top view flat lay
Ilia Nesolenyi/Getty Images

Pink Salmon

Pink salmon are usually canned. The wild-caught fish weighs less than six pounds, and the flesh is lean, light colored and mild tasting. Canned pink salmon has a ton of nutritional value, especially when used in salads and salmon cakes. Try it in our air-fryer salmon patties for a light meal.

6 / 6

Female hand with a spoon with red caviar over an open glass jar filled with red caviar to the top on a beige textured stone surface. Seafood, delicacies, healthy nutrition. Place for text. Top view, shallow depth of field
Andrej Filonenko/Getty Images

Chum Salmon

Also known as silverbrite, keta or dog salmon, chum salmon is a popular source of salmon roe, which can be used as caviar. You’re more likely to see it listed as ikura on the menu at your favorite sushi bar. The fish is generally a smaller species, with a pale to medium-red flesh and lower fat content. If you can get your hands on chum salmon fillets, they’re as good in any recipe as other types of salmon. Or try the roe on crispy potato pancakes with creme fraiche and chives.

Lesley Balla
As an associate food editor for Taste of Home, Lesley writes and edits recipes, works closely with freelancers, and tracks cooking and food trends. After working in hospitality for a decade, Lesley went on to report on the food industry for national, regional and local print and digital publications. Throughout her career, she’s highlighted both famous and unsung culinary heroes, featured up-and-coming wine and spirits destinations, and closely followed the food scenes and chefs in many cities. Her own cooking style has been influenced by the places she's lived: Ohio, Key West, Massachusetts, Oregon, and a long stint in Southern California, where she still visits as often as possible, if only for the citrus and avocados. When not at her desk, you’ll find Lesley taking photos of everything, hitting farmers markets, baking something delicious at home and road-tripping around the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their bottled-chaos pup, Pucci, shucking oysters and cracking crabs along the way.