Pink Salmon vs Sockeye: The Complete Comparison


Pink and sockeye salmon are both commonly eaten species of salmon. They both contain many benefits for your health. Since they’re both packed with vitamins and minerals, many people wonder which one is better, pink or sockeye salmon? 

Sockeye salmon is better than pink due to its higher percentage of fatty acids. Sockeye provides 35% more omega-3, 20% more B6, 13% more B12, 5% more B5, 70% more thiamin, 91% more riboflavin, 6% more niacin and 50% more folate more than pink salmon. Sockeye contains more vitamin A, calcium and zinc. 

First, this article will include a side-by-side nutrient comparison between the two fish. I’ll compare their tastes, textures, costs and whether one can substitute for the other. If you’re wondering if one has more mercury than the other, I’ll discuss their mercury levels also.

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Pink Salmon and Sockeye Nutritional Values

The following table compares the nutrients contained in pink and sockeye salmon:

Nutrient

Pink Salmon, raw

(4 Ounces)

Sockeye Salmon, raw

(4 Ounces)

Calories 144 149
Fat 4.9 g  5.3 g
Protein 23 g  25 g
Omega-3 0.70 g  0.96 g
B-6 0.69 mg  0.82 mg
B-12 4.71 mcg  5.32 mcg
Thiamin 0.09 mg 0.15 mg
Riboflavin 0.12 mg 0.23 mg
B5 1.16 mg 1.21 mg
Iron 0.43 mg 0.49 mg
Vitamin A 39.69 mcg  55.57 mcg
Niacin 9.06 mg  9.64 mg
Folate 4.54 mcg  6.80 mcg
Potassium 415 mg  416 mg
Magnesium 30 mg  34 mg
Phosphorus 295 mg  291 mg
Calcium 7.94 mg  10.21 mg
Zinc 0.44 mg 0.52 mg
Selenium 35.6 mcg  33.8 mcg

Nutrition Sources 1 2

Taking a look at the nutrients of both fish, it’s easy to see they contain many vitamins and minerals. Which fish is healthier, pink or so sockeye salmon?

Sockeye is healthier than pink salmon due to its higher number of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Sockeye contains more B6, B12, B5, riboflavin, thiamin, iron, niacin, folate, magnesium, calcium, zinc and vitamin A than pink salmon. 

Although pink salmon is healthy and contains many beneficial nutrients, just not as much as sockeye. Pink salmon contains more phosphorus and selenium than sockeye. Both fish provide similar amounts of potassium, protein, fat and calories 3.

Pink Salmon vs Sockeye Taste

Sockeye salmon has a rich, fishy flavor many people enjoy. By many, it is considered to be the second best tasting species of salmon. These fish are packed with flavor, so you definitely won’t have to eat bland fish when you’re eating a dish made with sockeye salmon.

It is slightly oily at times, but most people don’t notice because of the other ingredients added to their dish. It’s not overly oily, therefore, this isn’t a big drawback.

However, people who don’t like the flavor of fish will not like the flavor of sockeye salmon because the fishy flavor may be too much. It’s not overpowering to most, but it is worth keeping in mind.

Pink salmon has a very mild and oftentimes bland flavor. It adopts the flavor of whatever spices are added to it rather than relying on its own flavor.

While sockeye salmon keeps its flavor and is emphasized by spices and seasonings, pink salmon takes on the flavor of added spices.

Now you know about the taste of sockeye and pink salmon, you are likely wondering about their texture. Let’s compare the textures of the two.

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Pink Salmon and Sockeye Texture

Sockeye salmon is slightly thin and fatty, but it has quite a rich texture. This texture is nice because it is not the fattiest species of salmon on the market. The fattiness of this salmon makes the texture quite nice and almost buttery when it is cooked correctly.

Sockeye salmon is quite firm and is considered to be the salmon species that has the firmest flesh. Although the flesh is firm and dense, that doesn’t mean it’s tough to chew.

In fact, it is very easy to eat sockeye salmon when it is properly cooked and it almost melts in your mouth.

Pink salmon has a great texture, quite soft and tender when it is fully cooked 4. Its texture is often compared to tuna 5. It’s more delicate and goes well with lighter foods 6.

I wrote another article comparing two types of salmon, keta and sockeye salmon. Check it out here, Keta vs Sockeye Salmon: What’s The Difference?

How to Cook Pink Salmon and Sockeye

Salmon as a fish species can be cooked in a variety of ways. Although subspecies of salmon like pink and sockeye should only be cooked in a few ways to maximize the flavor of the fish.

Sockeye salmon can be cooked in more ways than pink salmon, although there are more food options available for pink salmon.

Ways to Cook Sockeye Salmon:

  • Grill (not charcoal)
  • Smoked
  • Baked in oven
  • Pan-fried
  • Slowly roasted in oven
  • Fry
  • Broil
  • Poach
  • Sushi

Sockeye salmon doesn’t do very well when cooked on a charcoal grill. This is because the charcoal grill overpowers the flavor.

When you’re cooking with a high-quality fish like sockeye, you’ll want to enhance the flavor with good seasoning, not cover it up with smoke or bitter tastes.

Pink salmon is packaged and frozen in more forms than sockeye salmon, so it can be cooked in a variety of ways. Pink salmon is quite versatile, partially because of how mild the original flavor of the fish is.

Ways to Cook Pink Salmon:

  • Bake in oven
  • Sushi
  • Grilled
  • Dried
  • Broiled
  • Smoked
  • Sautéed
  • Fry

Now that you know how to cook sockeye and pink salmon, you are likely wondering what other flavors and spices should be added or paired with sockeye and pink salmon. Keep reading to find out what they are.

pink salmon and sockeye being seasoned

Substitutions for Pink and Sockeye Salmon

Sometimes, it is difficult to find fresh, high-quality pink or sockeye salmon, even if you go to a local fish market. This is because sockeye and pink salmon are only caught from April to the middle of October in most areas.

This means from October to the end of March, there isn’t any fresh sockeye or pink salmon to be found, although you can find both species of salmon frozen at your local supermarket.

If you can’t find sockeye or pink salmon, you may be wondering if you can substitute pink salmon for sockeye.

Pink salmon and sockeye can substitute for each other in recipes, although they have slightly different textures and tastes. They both can be cooked using many of the same methods like slow-roasted, poached, fried or baked. Substitute the same weight and type of cut.

When substituting pink salmon for sockeye, certain sauces and ingredients that go well with one should be fine with the other 7.

You can use any of the following fish as a substitute although they won’t have the same flavor or texture as sockeye salmon.

Substitutes for Sockeye Salmon:

  • Pollack
  • Pink Salmon
  • Hake
  • Halibut
  • Cod
  • Trout
  • Seabass

Most of the time, you don’t need to find a substitute for pink salmon because it is commonly frozen, and you can find pink salmon patties or fillets at almost any time of the year. However,

if you can’t find any pink salmon at your local grocery store and need a substitute, you can use any of the fish listed below.

Substitutes for Pink Salmon:

  • Pollack
  • Pink Snapper
  • Hake
  • Halibut
  • Cod
  • Trout
  • Seabass
  • Wild Australian Mackerel
  • Flathead
  • Sockeye

Pink Salmon or Sockeye: Which One Has More Mercury?

The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have issued warnings regarding mercury levels. They also provide recommendations about how often people should consume each fish 8.

They established a list of fish that are best choices, good choices and ones to avoid. Therefore does pink salmon or sockeye have more mercury?

Pink salmon and sockeye salmon have similar levels of mercury. Both fish are listed on the FDA’s best choices of fish to consume regarding their mercury levels. The recommendation is consuming them no more than two to three servings a week.

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

If you’re interested in finding out how the sockeye salmon compared to coho salmon, check out my article here, Coho Salmon vs Sockeye: What’s The Difference?

Pink Salmon vs Sockeye: Which Costs More?

When you are purchasing pink salmon or sockeye, be sure to check the label to see if the fish is wild caught or farm-raised. This makes a difference with cost as wild is always more expensive. In addition, your area, store and whether the fish is frozen or fresh changes the price.

Therefore, which is more expensive, pink salmon or sockeye?

Sockeye salmon is more expensive than pink salmon. The average cost for fresh wild caught sockeye salmon is $16.74 per pound while the average cost for fresh wild-caught pink salmon is $12.49 per pound.

I checked my local Shoprite and Stop and Shop supermarkets. The following are the prices for pink and sockeye salmon:

  • Fresh wild pink fillet
    • $10.99 per pound
  • Fresh wild sockeye salmon
    • $14.99 per pound.

I checked FreshDirect and found the following prices for pink and sockeye salmon:

  • Fresh wild pink fillet
    • $13.99 per pound
  • Fresh wild sockeye fillet
    • $18.50 per pound

To save some money on fresh seafood, would you believe some can be purchased on Amazon? Check out their current prices and selection, Fresh Seafood.

How to Tell Sockeye and Pink Salmon Apart

sockeye salmon on a cutting board

Sockeye and pink salmon often do not look very similar, even after they are skinned and cut. 

Sockeye salmon ranges in color from bright orange to a dark or bright red. Their flesh’s color changes depending on how many shrimp and crustaceans they eat before they are caught and killed.

Sometimes sockeye salmon can be pink, but it is generally more of a pinkish-red color than a pure pink 9

Meanwhile, pink salmon ranges in color from a light color to a bright pink when it is uncooked. If you are purchasing a whole fish, pink salmon are silver and have green and black dots near their top fin.

They do change color during spawning season, as a yellow color spreads down their flank, but they are still silver. Sockeye salmon look completely different than pink salmon, especially during spawning season.

Sockeye salmon are silvery-blue when it is not spawning season. When spawning season begins and they move from the ocean to rivers and lakes, they turn red and green. Their slightly curved snout turns green and their flank becomes bright red, which is one of the reasons why they are often called the red salmon.

Look at the color of the fillet you are looking at to determine which type of fish it is. If you’re still unsure which one is which, ask someone who works in the area or one of the workers in the fish market.

Pink Salmon vs Sockeye: Size, Weight and Habitat Differences

What is the difference between pink salmon and sockeye?

Sockeye salmon are longer and heavier than pink salmon. The average pink salmon weighs between 3-5 pounds while the sockeye is 4-15 pounds. Pink salmon average 20-25 inches long and the sockeye from 18-30 inches. Both are anadromous although pink salmon spend less time in freshwater than sockeye.

While spending their time in the ocean, sockeye have silver sides, white bellies and greenish-blue on their backs. Back in the freshwater, during spawning, their bodies turn bright red and the head green 10.

Sockeye can be found in northwest Alaska to the west coast rivers in Oregon 11.

Pink salmon are the smallest of the Pacific salmon found in North America 12. Of all the Pacific salmon, pink are the most numerous. They can be found near Alaska and on the west coast.

Their scientific name is Oncorhynchus gorbuscha 13. Some people call them humpy or humpback because the spawning males often develop a hump on the back.

Read Next – More Salmon vs Salmon Articles!

Atlantic vs Wild Salmon: Which Is Better?

Pink vs Red Salmon: What’s The Difference?

Atlantic vs Pacific Salmon: What’s The Difference?

Frozen Salmon vs. Canned Salmon: Which Is Healthier?

Sockeye vs King Salmon: A Complete Comparison

 

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  1. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, pink, salmon[]
  2. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, sockeye, salmon[]
  3. FDA: Seafood Nutrition Facts[]
  4. FishChoice: Pink Salmon[]
  5. Alaska Department of Fish and Game: Pink Salmon[]
  6. Pure Alaska Salmon Co: Red Salmon Versus Pink Salmon Versus Tuna[]
  7. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions[]
  8. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  9. Wikipedia: Sockeye salmon[]
  10. NOAA Fisheries: Sockeye Salmon[]
  11. Oceana: Sockeye Salmon[]
  12. Wikipedia: Pink salmon[]
  13. NOAA: Pink Salmon[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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