Char vs. Salmon – A Complete Comparison

Char and salmon are confused frequently because they have many similarities. However, there are quite a few differences setting them apart. Nevertheless, these fish are far from the same. Therefore, what are the differences between char and salmon?

Salmon are more common, cost less and contain less oil than char. Char is more oily and contains more of a fishy flavor. Salmon has a little more protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Farmed salmon typically weigh twelve pounds, whereas farmed char usually weigh up to ten pounds.

In this article, I’ll discuss a handful of differences between salmon and char in detail. As a Certified Health Coach many people ask me about seafood including salmon and char. I’ve done research on the topic in the past and present. Let’s examine both fish.

Char and Salmon: The Differences

Char on the left and salmon on the right.
Char on the left and salmon on the right

Salmon and char (Arctic char) might be mixed up every now and then, but they have several differences making them unique.

For example, many people believe char tastes like a mix of salmon and trout, adding a depth of flavor not found in most salmon species.

The following are the 5 major differences between char and salmon:

  1. Char and salmon have different color spots.
  2. Salmon weigh more than char.
  3. Char is more oily and flavorful than most salmon.
  4. Salmon farming is less sustainable than char farming.
  5. Char is typically more expensive than salmon.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the five differences.

1. Char and salmon have different colored spots.

Char usually have light pink or white spots throughout the year and reddish spots when spawning1. Salmon have dark green or brown spots and get even darker when they spawn. Char also have cream-tipped fins.

2. Salmon weigh more than char. 

Farmed salmon typically weigh around twelve pounds and are sliced into fillets. On the other hand, farmed char weigh anywhere from two to ten pounds.

That being said, wild char can weigh up to 25 pounds or more, making them almost twice the size of fully grown salmon.

3. Char is more oily and flavorful than most salmon. 

Salmon isn’t known to be an oily fish, which is why it’s easy for non-seafood lovers to enjoy a nice fillet. Char is a very oily fish loaded with the unmistakably powerful seafood taste. It can be diluted with lemon, pepper and pasta sauces.

To conduct original research I setup a taste test between the two fish in my home. Both fish were prepared the same way and the taste test was blind.

Three out of four people chose the salmon over the char for better taste. Everybody in my poll didn’t like the stronger flavor of the char.

4. Salmon farming is much less sustainable than char farming, even though it’s more common. 

Fish farming is common throughout the northern countries, especially when the fish migrate. While salmon farming is very common, the species isn’t as populated as it used to be. Char farming is more sustainable because they don’t need to migrate as much.

5. Char is usually a bit more expensive than salmon because it’s less readily available. 

Since char isn’t as heavily farmed as salmon, it’s understandable it would be a little pricier. Char is a prized fish for many people who crave a unique seafood flavor, increasing the price. However, it’s not too expensive compared to other high-end fish.

The price does fluctuate some. Today I checked the online price for both fish. A 5-7 ounce of Atlantic salmon was $10.62 and Arctic char was $10.79. Therefore, the price was pretty even.

Char vs Salmon: Nutritional Value

(3.5 Ounces)
(3.5 Ounces)
Calories 185 206
Protein 18.4 g 22.1 g
Fat 12.2 g 12.3 g
Potassium 360 mg 384 mg
Omega-3 2,100 mg 2,260 mg

AS you can see in the table above, the nutrients contained in salmon and char are similar2. Salmon has a little more protein and omega-3 fatty acids than char3.

Check out the nutrient comparison between these two salmon in my article, Atlantic vs Wild Salmon: Which Is Better?

Where Are Salmon and Char From?

One of the primary reasons people confuses char with salmon is they come from similar climates. In fact, salmon and char overlap during the warm months of the year, so you can find both of them in the same stream.

So, where do these fish come from?

Salmon and Char Live in Europe, Russia, and North America

Salmon and char love swimming in the northern countries because the water’s cold and easy to navigate. Salmon can be found in rivers, lakes and oceans throughout the year.

Char typically stick to large bodies of water, but it’s not uncommon to find them using a stream to get from a large lake to an ocean4.

Char Can Live in Much Colder Environments Than Salmon

Since char have adapted to cold climates, they don’t need to migrate as much as salmon. They’ll stay in the cold water as long as it doesn’t freeze.

Salmon typically swim south to follow warm water. If it gets too cold, char will swim inland to rivers and lakes to warm up.

Are you interested how salmon compares to trout? Check out my article about which one is healthier, Trout vs Salmon: Is One More Healthier Than The Other? You may be surprised!

Salmon and Char: Similarities

Now that you know all of the differences between salmon and char, it’s time to break down how they’re quite similar. There are many reasons people think a char is a type of salmon and vice versa.

The following are the three major similarities between char and salmon:

  1. Char and salmon contain healthy, lean protein.
  2. Char and salmon can be served with similar dishes.
  3. Char and salmon contain many Omega-3 fatty acids.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the three similarities.

1. Both fish are packed with healthy, lean protein. 

Seafood is well known for being one of the cleanest protein sources, and salmon and char are no exception.

If you’re looking for a way to boost your muscle growth and cognitive development without consuming too many unhealthy fats or carbs, either fish will do.

2. Salmon are more common, but both fish can be served with similar dishes. 

You can cook salmon and char with pasta, rice, veggies and similar savory foods. It’s worth getting a fillet of both fish and trying them with the same fish to find out which one you prefer.

3. Char and salmon have plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids. 

Char is a top source of Omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient known to promote low blood pressure, lubricate heart valves and more ((National Center for Biotechnology Information: Risk and benefits from consuming salmon and trout: a Canadian perspective)). Salmon is another primary source of Omega-3 fatty acids. This healthy similarity makes both fish a great choice for dieters.

Whether you’re reviewing their habitats or nutrients, char and salmon are similar fish. They make excellent dishes packed with healthy nutrients5 and a unique eating experience.

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish per week ((USDA: Eat fish! Which Fish? That Fish! Go Fish!)). Trying both will find out which one suits your tastebuds.

Pink salmon dinner.
Pink salmon dinner

Salmon and Char: Mercury

The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued warnings regarding mercury levels. They also provide recommendations about how often people should consume certain seafood6.

The FDA established a list of best choices, good choices and ones to avoid. Therefore does char or sardines have more mercury?

Char and salmon have similar levels of mercury. Both fish are listed on the FDA’s best choices of fish to consume regarding their mercury levels. They recommend consuming them no more than two servings a week.

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

If you have any questions to ask me about this article don’t hesitate to comment below or email us. You can find an email on our contact page.

Read Next – More Food vs Food Articles

Sea bass vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Tilapia vs Salmon: A Comparison

Tuna vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Halibut vs Salmon: Which Is Better?


  1. Alaska Department of Fish and Game: Arctic Char []
  2. NutritionData: Salmon []
  3. Nutrition Value: Char []
  4. Wikipedia: Arctic Char []
  5. NutritionData: Arctic char []
  6. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish []

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