Black Cod Vs Cod: What’s the Difference? Is Black Cod a Cod?

If you’re a cod lover and have heard about black cod, you may be wondering if they are the same or what their differences are. Let’s answer the question, what is the difference between black cod and cod?

Black cod is another name for sablefish but is not part of the cod family. Black cod is found in the northeastern Pacific Ocean while cod can be found in the northern Pacific or Atlantic oceans. Black cod is a dark gray color and cod is brownish. Black cod is fattier than cod and tastes more buttery.

This article will compare the nutrients of the two fish side-by-side. I’ll examine their benefits, tastes, textures, mercury levels and costs. In addition, whether one can substitute for the other and cooking methods which can be used.

The Differences between Black Cod (Sablefish) and Cod

Both fish share almost the same name but there is more differences than similarities between the two fish. Let’s take a detailed look at their differences.

Black cod is a Sablefish from the Anoplopomatidae family while cod is from the Gadidae family. An average black cod grows to 23-36″ while cod between 27-34″ in length. Black cod is a dark gray color while cod is brownish. Black cod can live to 90 years and cod to 12 years.

Black cod, or Sablefish, gets its nickname due to their coloring and the fact they inhabit the same waters as the Pacific cod.  They can appear similar to the untrained eye1.

Habitats for Alaskan Black and Alaskan Cod

Black cod is found in the northeastern Pacific Ocean from northern Mexico to the Gulf of Alaska2. Westward they can be found swimming to the Aleutian Islands and into the Bering Sea. Sablefish are most commonly found in the waters near Alaska3.

Atlantic cod is found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean from Greenland to North Carolina and in the western Gulf of Maine.

Cod live in the North Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea to California in the east and to the Sea of Japan in the west (Pacific).


  • Black cod (Sablefish) is from the Anoplopomatidea family.
  • Cod is from the Gadidae family.

Color and Appearance

  • Black cod are very dark in color, dark gray with a faint line running down the body. They have two dorsal fins.
  • Cod is brownish, with dark spots and has three dorsal fins.

Size and Weight

  • Sablefish grows an average of 23-36″ in length and weighs 6-10 pounds.
  • Cod grows an average 27-34″ in length and weighs 5-15 pounds.


  • Black cod up to 90 years.
  • Cod up to 12 years.

Black Cod and Cod Tastes and Textures

Black cod has a rich buttery flavor. Due to the buttery flavor many people call it a butter fish. It’s very rich and has a silky texture. The buttery, silky texture is due to its high fat content. After one bite you’ll realize why people call it the butter fish.

Cod has a mild, milky flavor. Atlantic cod may be slightly sweeter than Alaskan cod. Many people say the texture is similar to chicken due to its firmness. It has large flakes and is good for various cooking methods.

I conducted original research on taste by polling readers, my health coaching clients and people in food groups I belong to. I asked, black cod vs cod, which one tastes better?

  • 62% said they preferred cod.
  • 38% said they preferred black cod.

I conducted more taste research by setting up a blind taste test at home. Both fish were cooked and seasoned the same way. Three out of four people chose the black cod.

The results of my taste test was opposite the poll.

Pacific cod fish.
Pacific cod fish

Can You Substitute?

Sometimes you won’t have the exact fish for a recipe, or the seafood section of the supermarket doesn’t have what you need. Maybe you couldn’t find the one while fishing.

Therefore, let’s find out if you can substitute one fish for the other.

Black cod and cod can substitute for each other although their tastes and textures are different. Cod cannot cook as long because it will dry out quicker. Black cod can be cooked using the same methods like roasting, poached, broiled or grilled.

Good substitutes for cod include pollock, haddock, halibut, striped bass, tilapia and mahi mahi.

Good substitutions for alaskan black include salmon, smoked salmon, Alaskan salmon, white perch, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, White Sea bass.

When substituting one fish for the other try to stick to the following:

  • Same size and weight.
  • Stick with similar fillets, whole fillet or cross section.
  • Stick with skinless or skin when the recipe calls for one.
  • Texture is more important for certain cooking methods. Like using a firmer texture when grilling4.

Due to black cod’s high fat content, it’s very forgiving while cooking and it’s difficult to overcook it. Most fish will dry out right away when cooked too much, that won’t happen with black cod. Black cod can be cooked grilled, broiled, roasted, sautéed, poached or smoked5.

Learn how to cook a black cod or sablefish easily.

The Cost of Black Cod and Cod

The cost of either one will differ depending on the location, fresh or frozen and whether it’s farm raised or wild caught while fishing. 

Black cod is more expensive than cod. The average cost for cod is $11.49 per pound while the average cost for black cod is $26.49 per pound. The cost will vary depending on location (Alaskan), whether it is farm-raised or wild-caught, fresh or frozen.

I conducted research on costs by checking prices in various stores and found which one is a more budget-friendly fish.

First, I checked Freshdirect for the current prices of each.

  • Fresh farm black cod (Alaskan)
    • $24.99 per pound
  • Fresh, wild caught black cod fillet (Alaskan)
    • $27.99 per pound
  • Fresh, farm raised cod fish
    • $9.99 per pound
  • Fresh, wild caught cod
    • $12.99 per pound
Kevin Garce checking the prices of mackerel and other seafood at his local market.
Checking the prices of mackerel cod and other seafood at my local market

The availability of black cod (Sablefish) will be extremely difficult to find in your local supermarket. You’d have a better chance finding it in a fish market. It is more available to order online.

Black Cod vs Cod: Nutrition Facts

The following is the nutrients for each fish per four ounces.

Nutrient Cod, raw (4 Oz) Black Cod, raw (4 Oz)
Calories 93 221
Fat 0.8 g  17.0 g
Protein 23 g  15 g
Omega-3 0.22 g  1.77 g
B-6 0.2 mg  0.3 mg
B-12 1.0 mcg  1.7 mcg
Thiamin 0.08 mg 0.11 mg
Riboflavin 0.07 mg 0.10 mg
B5 0.1 mg 0.8 mg
Iron 0.4 mg 1.4 mg
Niacin 2.3 mg 4.5 mg
Folate 7.9 mcg 17.0 mcg
Potassium 468 mg  405 mg
Magnesium 36 mg  62 mg
Phosphorus 230 mg  190 mg
Calcium 18.1 mg  36.9 mg
Zinc 0.5 mg 0.3 mg
Selenium 37.5 mcg  41.4 mcg

Nutrient Sources: Salmon67

Although both contain many nutrients, vitamins and minerals, you may have noticed one contains more than the other. Let’s determine which one is healthier.

Black cod is healthier than cod due to its 700% more heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Black cod also contains more vitamins and minerals like B6, B12, B5, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, folate, magnesium, calcium and selenium.

Although, as most of us probably already know, cod is healthy seafood also. It contains more protein, less calories and provides more potassium, phosphorus and zinc8.

If counting calories is currently a main priority, cod fish is better for weight loss because black cod contains many more. You may want to consider a lower calorie side dish. 

Health Benefits

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Black cod has more fat than cod. However, the fat is healthy. Some of the fat are omega-3 fatty acids, which our bodies can not produce on their own.

Omega-3 fatty acids in seafood are heart healthy and help keep cholesterol levels lower and arteries healthy. Two of the fatty acids, DHA and EPA are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels ((National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease)).

Black cod contains about eight times the amount of omega-3s. This difference is what really separates the two and gives it the edge.

Omega 3 sources.
Omega 3 sources

B Vitamins

Black cod contains many more vitamin B. These include B6, B12, B5, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B9 (folate).

These B vitamins helps support the following:

  • Red blood cells
  • Digestion
  • Brain function
  • Nerve function
  • energy levels
  • Cardiovascular health


Sablefish almost provides twice the number of magnesium. Adding magnesium to your diet could be instrumental in improving your sleep quality. More so, it helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable ((National Institutes of Health: Magnesium)).

Magnesium relaxes and calms the whole body including the blood vessels. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased systolic blood pressure by 3-4 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 2-3 mm Hg9.


Sablefish contains twice the amount of calcium. Calcium, like magnesium is important for blood pressure and the heart. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels10.

How about cod vs tilapia? Check out the seafood battle of these heavyweights in my article here, Tilapia – A Complete Comparison.

Mercury Levels

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the EPA have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and consuming them, especially if fishing11.

This is especially important for pregnant women, breastfeeding or for young toddlers and infants.

They established a list of best and good choices of fish based on their mercury levels. They also have a third section which are fish to avoid because they have the highest mercury levels. 

Black cod has more mercury than cod. Cod fish is listed on the FDA’s best choices and black cod (sablefish) is listed as a good choice in regards to mercury levels. 

Always check with a physician prior to eating new seafood, foods or changing your dietary habits.

Read Next – More Cod vs Fish Articles!

Halibut: The Differences In Detail

Scrod: There’s More To The Story

Salmon: Is One Better?

  1. NOAA Fisheries: Atlantic Cod []
  2. Wikipedia: Sablefish []
  3. NOAA Fisheries: Sablefish []
  4. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions []
  5. Alaska Seafood: Black Cod []
  6. Nutrition Value: Cod, raw []
  7. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, sablefish []
  8. NOAA Fisheries: Pacific Cod []
  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis []
  10. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure []
  11. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish []

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