Filets of sockeye and coho salmon, two widely-loved varieties of wild Alaskan salmon, both boast a distinctive reddish-pink hue. Not only are they excellent sources of high-quality protein, but they also offer numerous nutritional benefits that are hard to find elsewhere. Plus, let’s not forget that they are absolutely delicious.
However, despite their similarities, it’s important to understand the key differences between wild Alaskan sockeye and coho salmon when deciding which species to choose for your next meal. Let’s dive into the details.
Meet These Pacific Salmon
Sockeye, also known as red salmon, gets its vibrant nickname from its deeply red flesh. From the perspective of a food photographer, sockeye is the most visually appealing salmon. Its rich color also makes it easy to identify, particularly for those who are new to salmon or unfamiliar with fish fillets in general. When you see a fillet with a brilliantly colored flesh, you can be certain that it is wild sockeye.
Coho, on the other hand, is often called silver salmon due to its shimmering, silvery skin. While it may not be immediately evident when you look at an individual coho, placing different species of wild Alaskan salmon side by side reveals that coho truly shines like a diamond. Although its flesh is not as intensely red as sockeye, wild coho still boasts a robust red-orange color.
Sockeye Salmon: The Carotenoid Superstar
When you dig deeper into the composition of sockeye and coho, you’ll discover the crucial differences between these two species as a consumer.
The striking red hue of wild Alaskan sockeye is a result of its diet, which includes nutrient-rich algae and zooplankton. Such a diet is responsible for the presence of astaxanthin, an antioxidant compound that gives the salmon its signature color. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid commonly found in red-orange foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash. Whether derived from plants or fish, these carotenoids provide us with vital nutrition when we incorporate them into our meals.
In fact, all salmon types owe their pink-orange-red flesh to this dietary component. Sockeye, however, stands out as the species that consumes the most zooplankton, thus leading to a more vibrant red color. Coho, with its more subdued shade of red, contains about half the amount of astaxanthin found in sockeye.
Coho Salmon: Oh My, Omega-3s
Both wild sockeye and coho are considered lean fish, with coho being the leaner of the two. A 6-ounce fillet of sockeye contains approximately 15 grams of fat, while coho offers about 9 grams. Both species are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, highly valued by health enthusiasts and often under-consumed by the average person.
While sockeye surpasses coho in terms of astaxanthin content, a fillet of coho boasts the highest concentration of EPA and DHA among all wild Alaskan species. These omega-3 fatty acids are particularly crucial for brain health, making them essential fats for individuals at various stages of life. By including coho in your diet, perhaps a few fillets each week, you can easily meet your recommended intake of EPA and DHA through a delicious meal, rather than relying on supplements.
Other Types of Alaskan Salmon At a Glance
As you may have encountered other varieties of Pacific salmon in restaurants or grocery stores, it’s worth mentioning a few notable ones:
- Chinook Salmon (aka King Salmon): Known for its large size and high fat content.
- Chum Salmon (aka Keta or dog salmon): The males develop canine-like teeth during spawning, earning them the nickname “dog salmon.” Chum salmon tends to be leaner than sockeye and is commonly available in grocery stores.
- Pink Salmon (aka humpback or humpie): Typically the smallest and leanest of the Pacific salmon. Males develop distinctive humps on their backs during spawning, hence the name “humpback.” Pink salmon is often used for canning and is recognized for its soft, pink flesh.
When Flavor Dictates What’s for Dinner (or Breakfast or Lunch…)
Sockeye salmon boasts a robust “salmon” flavor, making it an excellent choice for bold preparations. It can easily hold its own against hearty spices like curry rubs, withstand a few minutes on a charcoal grill, or complement the saltiness of a curing process. Sockeye’s distinct flavor caters to seafood enthusiasts seeking a truly memorable experience.
Coho, on the other hand, offers a milder taste, making it an excellent introductory salmon for those who may be picky about seafood. While it provides a stronger flavor compared to mild white fish like cod, it is not as gamey as sockeye. Even seafood connoisseurs appreciate having coho in their kitchens, as its subtle salmon taste beautifully complements gentler cooking methods and milder flavor profiles. It’s the perfect choice when you desire a delicate meal without overpowering the overall balance.
At Hook’d Up Bar and Grill, we are proud to feature wild-caught coho salmon in our seafood selection, alongside smoked sockeye salmon, ground sockeye, captain’s cuts, and 6 oz. portions.
Explore our menu to simplify your seafood shopping experience. And when you’re ready to get cooking, check out our blog for additional cooking tips, recipes, and meal ideas.