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Types of Pacific Salmon

What Are the Different Types of Salmon?


If you want wild-caught salmon, you want Pacific salmon. That's not because wild-caught Atlantic salmon wouldn't be fabulous, if we could get it, but the Atlantic salmon sold commercially are all farm-raised. Luckily, Pacific salmon are great fish. The Pacific Ocean is home to six types of salmon and U.S. and Canadian boats fish five of them: King, Sockeye, Silver, Pink, and Chum. To confuse matters, each of these has at least one other name as well as their Latin name, as noted below. I've listed them by the most common names I see at markets.

Oh, and that Copper River salmon you've heard so much about? It can be king, sockeye, or coho, but it's always Pacific!

1. King Salmon/ Chinook Salmon

Wild Pacific king salmon fillet
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Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha), also known as King salmon, are considered by many to be the best-tasting of the salmon bunch. They have a very high fat content and corresponding rich flesh that ranges from white to a deep red color. Learn more about king (a.k.a. chinook) salmon here.

2. Sockeye Salmon/ Red Salmon

Photo © Lucidio Studio Inc/Getty Images
Sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) salmon are noted for their bright red-orange flesh and deep rich flavor. They are known as "reds" both for their dark flesh color and because they turn deep red (from the bright silver pictured here, which is how you'll see them at markets since the commercial catch is caught at sea) as they move upstream to spawn. Learn more about sockeye salmon here.

3. Coho Salmon/ Silver Salmon

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Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) are sometimes called silver salmon or "silvers" because of their especially silver skin. They have bright red flesh and a slightly more delicate texture than Chinook salmon but a similar flavor.

4. Pink Salmon/ Humpies/ Humpback Salmon

Photo © Paul Oomen/Getty Images
Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbusha) are the most common Pacific salmon. They have very light colored and flavored flesh and a low fat content. Pink salmon are often canned, but also sold fresh, frozen, and smoked. They are sometimes called "humpies" or humpback salmon because of the distinctive hump they develop on their back when they spawn as you can see in the picture.

5. Chum Salmon/ Keta Salmon/ Silverbrite Salmon/ Dog Salmon

Photo © Daniel J Cox/Getty Images

Chum (Oncorhynchus keta) is also called dog salmon for its dog-like teeth. Keta comes from its species name and is a way to get away from the negative association chum sometimes has. Keta is a smaller fish – averaging about 8 pounds – with pale to medium-colored flesh and a lower fat content than other salmon. Chum is usually canned or sold frozen to foreign markets.

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