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What Does Salmon Taste Like? Everything You Need To Know.

You can find cooked salmon on the menu of many restaurants. It is also available fresh in many supermarkets. Bright, colorful salmon fillets look enticing on your plate; what does salmon taste like?

There are many reasons to be excited about trying salmon for the first time. Salmon is an incredibly healthy fish packed with nutrients. It’s also a very versatile fish that you can cook in a variety of ways. And last but not least, it’s simply delicious!

Whether you’re trying salmon for the first time or are a longtime fan, there’s always something to love about this fantastic fish.

cooked salmon on the plate with sliced lemon

What Is Salmon?

Salmon is a large, beautiful, and mild-flavored fish with pinkish-orange flesh. It can weigh up to 30 kilos and measure over a meter in length.

The thick skin of the salmon is bluish-gray. The fish has dark spots on its head and back. As an anadromous fish, salmon is considered both a freshwater and saltwater fish.

You can usually find two kinds of salmon: wild salmon or farmed salmon. Wild salmon is caught in the ocean, which is why it is deemed superior to farmed salmon.

Salmon is eaten raw or cooked and is enjoyed not only because of how it tastes but also because of its various benefits.

Types of Salmon

There are many types of salmon; they all offer different tastes and textures. Here are the most common types:  

1. Chinook or King Salmon.

King salmon has the highest fat content of all types of salmon. Chinook salmon is also the biggest salmon in the world in weight because it can weigh over 100 pounds and in length, as it can be over four feet long.

It has a soft texture and rich taste that some people might avoid. Chinook salmon also has the best flavor and is considered to be the most expensive of all types of salmon.

You can find the King salmon from Northern Alaska to Southern California. 

2. Humpback or Pink Salmon. 

The humpback or pink salmon is one of the smallest varieties of salmon, but it’s also the most abundant salmon in the oceans.

A pink salmon only weighs about 4 to 5 pounds and has a light flesh color. This type of salmon offers the mildest taste of all the five types of salmon because of its low-fat content.

The “Humpback salmon” got its name because of a distinctive hump on its back during spawning. 

3. Sockeye or Red Salmon

The red salmon, kokanee, or sockeye salmon comes with a deep-reddish-orange flesh color. Sockeye salmon has a high fat content. Thus, it has a strong flavor and rich texture.

Kokanee salmon tastes flavorful and refreshing. If you enjoy the taste of salmon, the red salmon will probably have the best taste for you.

4. Coho or Silver Salmon

The Coho or silver salmon has a mild, subtle, fatty, and gamey taste. It also has a firm texture.

Coho salmon comes with silver skin and bright red flesh.  

Because it tastes similar to king salmon, coho salmon tastes the best when grilled. It is the most sought-after salmon in restaurants.

5. Chum or Dog Salmon

Chum salmon has the lowest fat content of all salmons and is the least known of the five salmons on this list.

This fish is low in fat and has a neutral, subtle, and delicate taste that is not too rich or fatty.

A chum salmon is an excellent option if you dislike salmon’s fishy and intense taste. It is best for a salmon dish where you need to retain moisture, such as curries and chowders. 

Different Ways To Eat And Cook Salmon

You can eat and cook salmon in many different ways because it is a versatile fish. 

When you prepare your salmon the right way, it will have the best taste that can match any piece of high-quality steak. 

Here are the different ways to cook and eat salmon:

1. Smoked salmon. 

Smoked salmon is a popular version of salmon, which you can serve with bagels. To do this, cure your salmon by soaking it in a brine solution for a minimum of 4-5 hours. Take it out, rinse, and dry it until you get a pellicle.

Once dried, put a bit of oil on your salmon and put it on the smoker. Slowly cook using low temperature, then gradually bring the temperature up.

You can typically find smoked salmon at most grocery stores or supermarkets. It is often found in the seafood section or deli department of the store.

When purchasing smoked salmon, you can choose from different types and flavors, so be sure to check the product label for specific details regarding the smoking process and any additional seasonings or flavorings added.

2. Pan-fried salmon. 

Pan-fried salmon has several unique characteristics and advantages that make it a popular and special cooking method.

Crispy Skin: When pan-frying salmon, the skin becomes wonderfully crispy and adds a delightful texture to the dish. This contrast between the crispy skin and tender, flaky flesh is a key feature that many people appreciate.

Quick and Convenient: Pan-frying is a fast cooking method, making it perfect for busy weeknights. Salmon fillets can be ready in about 8-10 minutes, which is much quicker than some other cooking techniques.

Flavor Retention: Pan-frying allows you to seal in the natural juices and flavors of the salmon. The high heat creates a flavorful crust on the outside while keeping the inside moist and delicious.

3. Baked salmon. 

Season salmon fillets with garlic, lemon juice, herbs, and olive oil. Preheat the oven to 375° and bake for approximately 20 minutes, depending on the size of the salmon fillet.

4. Oven-roasted salmon. 

Season salmon flesh with salt and pepper. Place them skin-side down on a lightly greased baking pan. You then bake the fillets at 400° for about 15 minutes. One of the popular recipes is to bake salmon with pesto.

5. Poached salmon. 

Submerge the fish into a simmering pot of water and other spices for a minimum of 5 minutes. Make sure, though, not to overcook it. Beautifully poached salmon tastes light and clean.

6. Grilled salmon. 

You can cook salmon fillet on the grill or a cedar plank. Season your salmon fillets with salt and pepper and grill them skin-side down. Turn the fillets with a spatula. You can remove the fillets when they no longer stick to the grate.

If you are feeling adventurous, mix brown sugar and honey and brush the mixture over the salmon before grilling. The sweet honey mixture adds more flavor to your grilled salmon. 

7. Canned salmon.

Canned salmon is definitely cheaper than fresh salmon but is as nutritious. You can use canned salmon for salmon patties, salmon burgers, and salmon cakes.

Serve them with a side dish to make a complete meal.

You can also mix canned salmon with mayonnaise and make a salad similar to tuna salad that you can serve on top of the toast or as a dip.

What Does Salmon Taste Like?

The taste of salmon depends on the species, seasonings, and cooking methods.

Generally, though, salmon is an oily fish with a rich flavor. The reason salmon has an oily taste is because of its high content of good saturated fats, which also packs it with a distinct flavor and fresh salmon taste.

Each type of salmon has a different fat content, which determines the richness of its taste. The fattier the salmon, the more dominant its taste.

Fresh salmon‘s natural flavor typically tastes milder and more refreshing than the other types of fish.

Canned salmon usually has an oily and bland taste, but people mostly buy it for convenience because it’s already cooked.

Some high-quality canned salmon have a fatty and vibrant flavor, but most lack fresh salmon’s tender and smooth texture.

Poached, baked, or grilled salmon tastes buttery and citrusy. They also adapt the flavors of the other ingredients commonly added to them, like fresh dill, coconut milk, and Greek yogurt.

You can also tell the taste of salmon based on its color—the whiter and lighter the color of salmon, the milder its flavor. If you are not sure you will like the taste of salmon, have the white meat variety. 

As with most fish, the best-tasting salmon is one you do not fiddle with too much. Salt, pepper, a little oil, and heat allow you to eat a great serving of good-tasting salmon.

What Does Raw Salmon Taste Like?

Raw salmon combines many flavors without the fishy smell that intimidates most people. Even people who do not enjoy eating fish enjoy salmon because of its unique taste. 

Not many people like to eat raw fish, but oftentimes, raw salmon is an exception because the raw ones have a chewy and refreshing taste.

When raw, salmon is red as opposed to the light pinkish color of a cooked one. They are smoother and softer, while their cooked counterpart is thicker and more rigid. 

The taste of raw salmon is characterized by: 

  • A buttery flavor

Raw salmon tastes buttery and smooth. It is like taking a bite of salted butter because both effortlessly melt in your mouth. 

The soft, buttery, and creamy smooth texture does not allow this fish to last too long in your mouth.

  • Rich taste

Wild-caught salmon harvested from the has a rich, creamy taste, while farmed salmon from a fish pond will not be too creamy and rich.

  • Chewy texture

Salmon is a delicate fish with a unique texture. You can feel its smooth and silky surface. It tends to be chewy and ropy. 

What Does Smoked Salmon Taste Like?

If you’ve ever wondered, “What does salmon taste like when it is smoked?” the answer is that they usually have a subtly fishy, salty, and smoky taste.

The process of smoking salmon is unique. It entails a combination of smoking and salting, resulting in a very distinct smoky and salty flavor. 

However, the taste of smoked salmon varies because of the different types of smoking methods, the temperature during the smoking process, the length for how long it is smoked, and the purpose of smoking.

Hot-smoked salmon has a smoky flavor similar to baked salmon because the smoking process is at about 145°F, and you are really cooking the fish. 

For this reason as well, hot smoking a salmon only takes about 3 to 4 hours.

On the other hand, cold-smoked salmon undergo the smoking process at 90°F, and the goal is not to thoroughly cook the fish but to impart flavor. Cold-smoking a salmon takes longer, about 24 hours.

Even after that long, cold-smoked salmon is still actually partly raw, so it has a less smoky and smoother texture.

Farmed salmon vs wild salmon taste comparison

Farmed salmon and wild salmon offer distinct taste profiles due to differences in their diets, lifestyles, and environments.

farmed salmon taste

Farmed salmon tends to have a milder and less complex flavor compared to wild salmon.

It is also often fattier and has a softer texture. This higher fat content can give it a buttery or oily quality that some find appealing.

Farmed salmon has less pronounced fishiness that can be appealing to those who prefer a less assertive fish flavor.

Wild Salmon Taste

Wild salmon tends to have a more pronounced fishy note compared to farmed salmon. Seafood enthusiasts can appreciate this enhanced fishiness.

The texture is leaner, resulting in a firmer, less fatty texture. This can make the flesh slightly drier.

Wild salmon obtains its vibrant pink or orange color naturally from its diet of crustaceans and other marine organisms. This natural color often appeals to those who prefer minimally processed foods.

What Does Bad Salmon Taste Like?

The most obvious sign that a salmon has already gone bad is discoloration, the presence of mold, and an ammonia-like smell.

However, there are times when the fishy smell and color are not enough to tell if the salmon is already rotten. If you suspect your salmon has gone bad, take a small bite.

An overly fishy taste is also a classic sign, while a muddy taste means your salmon already has some bacterial growth. 

In addition to that, raw salmon that is sticky or slimy means you must discard it immediately.

Tips to make salmon taste Delicious

How you cook your fish plays a big part in how it will taste.

Choose Fresh Salmon.

Start with high-quality, fresh salmon. Look for bright, firm flesh with no off-putting odors. If possible, buy wild-caught salmon for a more pronounced and natural flavor.

Soak in the milk or Marinade.

It’s easy to alter the taste of salmon and make it milder. To do this, soak them in milk for about 20 minutes before cooking. Milk also makes the cooked salmon sweeter and gives it a clean-tasting taste.  

Marinating salmon in your favorite flavors (e.g., lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil, honey) for 15-30 minutes before cooking can infuse it with additional taste.

Squeeze the lemon.

Another way to change the taste of salmon is by squeezing fresh lemon juice over the cooked fish. A squeeze of fresh lemon or other citrus juices can brighten the flavor of salmon. Lemon and salmon are a classic and delightful pairing.

Serve with Cream sauce.

Top your salmon with a complementary sauce, such as a dill sauce, teriyaki, or lemon-butter sauce. These can add depth and richness to the dish.

Avoid Overcooking

Be cautious not to overcook salmon, as it can become dry and lose flavor. Aim for an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).

Use Fresh Herbs

Sprinkle fresh herbs, like chopped parsley, dill, or chives, on your salmon just before serving to add a burst of fresh, herbal flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does salmon taste fishy?

Fish from the sea taste fishy and salmon taste is no different. However, salmon has a less fishy taste than most fish, making it popular among people who are not really fans of eating fish.

If your salmon tastes overly fishy, it is not good salmon, and you should discard it. 

How does salmon taste compared to trout?

When comparing trout vs salmon taste, you will notice that salmon boasts a rich, buttery taste with a mild to moderately fishy note. Its flesh is firm and flaky, often accompanied by a pink to orange hue. In contrast, trout presents a milder, delicately sweet flavor with hints of earthiness or nuttiness. Its texture is more tender, with smaller, finer flakes.

Can you eat raw salmon?

Yes, you can eat raw salmon, which is popular worldwide due to its health benefits.

Many dishes include raw salmon as one of their ingredients, such as sushi, which places it alongside soy sauce, cream cheese, wasabi, and rice.

This raw fish is also the main ingredient in salads with mustard and dill. 

One crucial thing to remember is that because it is raw, it may contain harmful parasites and bacteria.

However, eating raw salmon is safer than consuming other raw animal proteins if you properly store and prepare your salmon.

Can you eat salmon skin?

Yes, you can eat salmon skin, and it is delicious! Salmon scales, though, are not edible.

Eating salmon scales is not dangerous to your health per se, but they can hurt your mouth or get stuck in your throat, causing discomfort. 

Grilled salmon skin is flavorful and tasty because it is crispy. Broiled salmon skin also tastes good.

However, eating salmon skin does not excite everyone. Roasted, steamed, or poached salmon skin tends to be rubbery. 

If you cook your salmon with its skin, its meat will remain tender and moist. The crispy skin provides insulation between your salmon’s heat and flesh.

Final Thoughts

If you ever ask yourself: ‘What does salmon taste like?’, the answer is that, unlike any other fresh fish, the salmon’s taste is incredible because it does not have a strong fishy taste. Fresh salmon should not smell fishy at all.

There are many ways to prepare and enjoy salmon. You can eat it raw (sushi, sashimi, salad, etc.) or cook salmon using almost all cooking methods. For this reason, salmon can taste different every time, but generally, salmon is very tasty, which is why most people prefer it over other fish.

Salmon is a very versatile fish, and the recipes that call for it are often forgiving. The only way to ruin the flavor is to overcook it. 

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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