Pacific salmon and Atlantic salmon are the two common categories of salmon you will find in the supermarket. While both types of salmon are prized for their delicate flavor, high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and other health benefits, there are a few distinct differences between Pacific salmon vs Atlantic salmon.
This post was written by Lindsay Delk, RDN. It is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice or instructions given by your healthcare provider.
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Pacific Salmon Vs Atlantic Salmon
> What is the difference between Atlantic and Pacific salmon?
As their names suggest, the primary difference between Atlantic and Pacific salmon is where they live. Atlantic salmon are found mainly in the north Atlantic Ocean, while you will find Pacific salmon primarily in the north Pacific Ocean. Pacific salmon is often called Alaskan salmon because Alaska is in the north Pacific.
> Salmon types
There is only one Atlantic salmon type, but there are seven Pacific salmon types. The five types of salmon in Alaska (north Pacific Alaskan salmon types) are chinook (king salmon), chum, coho (silver salmon), pink (humpback or humpy salmon), and sockeye (red salmon). The other two types of Pacific salmon live in the Pacific Ocean near Asia: masu and amago.
> Atlantic vs Pacific salmon taste and texture
Pacific salmon has a firmer texture with larger flakes compared to Atlantic salmon, which has a more delicate texture. And Pacific salmon has a more robust, richer flavor. Atlantic salmon has a milder flavor that some describe as being buttery or smooth. Sushi chefs often prefer Pacific salmon for their sushi because its flavor stands up better against the other ingredients.
> Atlantic vs Pacific salmon nutrition
According to the USDA, the nutrition facts for about 3.5 ounces of Atlantic and Pacific salmon (pink salmon species) are as follows:
- Atlantic salmon nutrition
Protein in Atlantic salmon = 20.4 grams
Total fat in Atlantic salmon = 13.4 grams
Saturated fat in Atlantic salmon = 3.05 grams
Omega-3 fatty acids in Atlantic salmon = 2.5 grams
- Pacific salmon nutrition
Protein in Pacific salmon = 20.5
Total fat in Pacific salmon = 4.4 grams
Saturated fat in Pacific salmon = 0.81 grams
Omega-3 fatty acids in Pacific salmon = 0.62
Atlantic salmon is higher in calories and saturated fat than Pacific salmon, but it is also higher in the healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Both types of salmon are excellent sources of B vitamins, vitamin D, and selenium (all important nutrients for brain and mental health).
> Wild-caught vs farm-grown salmon
Almost all Atlantic salmon is farmed, while almost all Pacific salmon is wild-caught. Both methods are acceptable and healthy.
> Atlantic vs Pacific salmon cost
Atlantic salmon can be harvested from farms year round, but wild Pacific salmon is only caught at certain times of the year. As a result, Atlantic salmon tends to be less expensive than Pacific salmon.
> Red salmon vs pink salmon
When you are shopping for salmon at the store, you might think that the color of the salmon indicates if it is Atlantic or Pacific salmon or how fresh it is. The color difference is often due to two of the most popular species of Pacific salmon.
Red salmon (a nickname for sockeye salmon) is characterized by its distinctive deep red flesh (pictured above). Pink salmon has lighter, almost white flesh. Red sockeye salmon has more omega-3 fatty acids (0.86 grams per 3.5 ounce) compared to pink salmon (0.62 grams per 3.5 ounce), but both are healthy choices.
Is Atlantic Salmon Healthy? Is Pacific Salmon Healthy?
Yes, both farm-raised Atlantic salmon and wild Pacific salmon are very healthy. They are low in saturated fat (the “bad” fat) and high in omega-3 fats (the “good” fats), protein, B vitamins, vitamin D, and selenium. And they are anti-inflammatory foods too.
FAQs about Pacific Salmon Vs Atlantic Salmon
A salmon serving size is 3 to 4 ounces. Use the palm of your hand as an estimate of 3 to 4 ounces. The USDA recommends that you eat 8 ounces of seafood each week.
Salmon is generally more expensive than chicken, ground beef, and some types of fish, such as tilapia or catfish. But it also has some nutritional advantages. You can also find deals and discounts on whole fish or large packages of frozen fillets that will help you save money.
No, salmon is generally considered to be low in mercury. In fact, the FDA lists salmon as one of the best choices of fish based on mercury levels, making it a safe and healthy pick.
Yes, salmon have teeth. They are found along the outside edges of their upper and lower jaws. Their teeth help them to capture and hold on to their prey.
Some classic side dishes for salmon include roasted or mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, quinoa, roasted or sautéed vegetables, grilled asparagus, steamed broccoli, couscous, garlic bread, and various salads. If you’re looking for a lighter option, try serving the salmon with a zesty slaw or cucumber salad.
There are some differences between Pacific salmon vs Atlantic salmon. Pacific salmon tends to have a firmer texture and richer flavor than Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon has more omega-3 fatty acids, but both types are excellent sources. Ultimately, the choice comes down to availability, taste preference, and price.