Sockeye vs King Salmon: A Complete Comparison

Sockeye and King salmon are both popular choices. let’s examine the similarities and differences between the two salmon.

Sockeye salmon has fewer calories, less fat, less cholesterol and more protein than king salmon. However, king salmon has less sodium, more calcium and potassium than sockeye salmon. King salmon contains more omega-3 fatty acids and has a less pronounced flavor than sockeye salmon.

Now you know about some of the differences, you are likely wondering how they’re similar or different in taste and texture. In addition, I’ll examine if you can substitute one for the other, their costs, mercury levels and a side-by-side nutrient comparison.

As a Certified Health Coach many clients ask me about food comparisons including salmon. I purchase and consume salmon every week. Therefore, I have researched this topic in the past and present. Let’s examine them closely.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Sockeye vs King Salmon Flavor

Sockeye salmon on the left and king salmon on the right.
Sockeye salmon on the left and king salmon on the right

Sockeye salmon has a lot of flavor that is rich and very pronounced. They smell and taste very similar to many other varieties of salmon and have a fishy flavor.

If you really like other salmon varieties, then you will enjoy the flavor of sockeye salmon. Sockeye has a more pronounced fishy flavor compared to king salmon.

King salmon has a rich and luxurious flavor and is considered to be one of the best tasting varieties, although sockeye is a close second. King salmon doesn’t taste or smell as fishy as sockeye salmon, especially when it is freshly caught and used soon afterward.

It is also slightly sweet and very fresh, and it has a very strong flavor that appeals to many people. However, it tastes less fishy.

King salmon has a flavor profile that is emphasized, not hidden, by many spices and seasonings, so many chefs enjoy cooking with it. It’s possible to bring out its various flavors when it’s cooked properly.

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My Taste Test at Home and Poll

I wanted to get the opinion of real people like you and me. Therefore, I wanted to conduct my own research and contacted my clients, readers and members of food groups I belong to. I asked them which salmon they preferred.

  • 57% said they preferred the taste of sockeye.
  • 38% said they preferred the taste of king.
  • 5% said they had no preference, or it depended on their mood.

I then set up a blind test taste at my home. I prepared both salmons the same way using the same seasonings. Three out of five people, 60% chose the sockeye salmon. They said the flavor was better.

Sockeye salmon and king salmon fillets.
Sockeye salmon and king salmon fillets Pin to Pinterest

Sockeye vs King Salmon Texture

Sockeye salmon has a rich, slightly fatty texture many people enjoy. The flesh is quite firm and compact, and it has a denser texture than king salmon does. Sockeye salmon is slightly less fatty in texture compared to the king salmon, but it is the second most fatty species of salmon.

King salmon is considered high-quality and decadent, so meals featuring this fish are typically found in high-class restaurants. It has a dense, smooth, moist and meaty texture many people enjoy. It also has a rich, fatty consistency making it easy to cook with.

This makes it very appealing to most fish-lovers. The fatty consistency of the king salmon is aided by the fact it is the fattiest species of salmon.

Both sockeye and king salmon are flaky when they are cooked properly, although the king has larger flakes when it’s cut into.

Now you know about the taste and texture of sockeye and king salmon you are likely wondering about the nutrition information of a serving of both fish. Keep reading to find out what the nutrition information is.

Sockeye and King Salmon Nutrition Information

The following table shows the nutrients contained in 4 ounces of raw sockeye and king salmon.

Nutrient King Salmon, raw

(4 Ounces)

Sockeye Salmon, raw

(4 Ounces)

Calories 212 149
Fat 13 g  5.3 g
Saturated Fat 2.1 g  0.9 g
Cholesterol 69 mg 58 mg
Protein 23 g  25 g
Omega-3 1.45 g  0.96 g
B-6 0.3 mg  0.8 mg
B-12 8.3 mcg  5.3 mcg
Thiamin 0.18 mg 0.15 mg
Riboflavin 0.19 mg 0.23 mg
B5 1.1 mg 1.2 mg
Iron 0.9 mg 0.4 mg
Niacin 9.5 mg  9.6 mg
Folate 17.0 mcg  6.8 mcg
Potassium 419 mg  416 mg
Magnesium 27 mg  34 mg
Phosphorus 235 mg  291 mg
Calcium 47.6 mg  10.2 mg
Zinc 0.59 mg 0.52 mg
Selenium 35.2 mcg  33.8 mcg

Nutritional value sources12

According to the above table, sockeye and king salmon have similar nutritional value.

King salmon is better due to its higher number of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. King salmon contains 1.45 grams of omega-3 per 4 ounces compared to 0.96 grams for sockeye. King salmon contains a higher percentage of B12, thiamin, iron, folate, potassium, calcium, zinc and selenium.

It’s hard to discount sockeye, as it’s no slouch itself. Sockeye contains less calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, although it’s due to its less omega-3s. Sockeye contains more B6, riboflavin, B5, niacin, magnesium and phosphorus.

The main reason why king salmon is healthier than most is the higher number of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure and other heart-related issues ((National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease)).

Omega-3s keep the arteries strong and healthy. They also help keep bad cholesterol levels low3.

Whichever of the two salmons you pick, your meal will contain a high percentage of healthy nutrients4.

I wrote another article comparing two salmon powerhouses, Keta and Sockeye. How does sockeye compare in this battle? Check it out here, Keta vs Sockeye Salmon: What’s The Difference?

king salmon fillet.
King salmon fillet

Sockeye Salmon and King Salmon Substitutes

Sometimes it is difficult to find time to get sockeye or king salmon, especially if you don’t live near a fish market and want to purchase fresh fish. Luckily, many types of fish can serve as a substitute for sockeye or King salmon.

You can use any of the fish below as a substitute for these fish.

Substitutes for Sockeye and King Salmon:

  • Pollack
  • Hake
  • Halibut
  • Cod
  • Trout
  • Seabass

Even if you use a good substitute, the fish you use will have a different flavor profile than the sockeye or king salmon.

Sockeye salmon and king salmon can substitute for each other when cooking seafood, although they have different textures and tastes. They both can be cooked using the same methods like pan-fried, slow-roasted, poached, baked or searing in a pan.

King salmon may not be as good for grilling. Sockeye’s firmer texture will hold up better when grilling. When substituting sockeye for king, certain sauces that go well with an oily fish like king salmon won’t go as well with sockeye5.

Differences in the Appearance of Sockeye and King Salmon

King salmon and sockeye salmon look similar after they have been cut. Both sockeye and king salmon meat are red in color, but sockeye salmon is a bright red color while king salmon is a deep red or pinkish-red color.

Sockeye salmon flesh range in color from orange to or bright red, although the red color can be very dark depending on the diet of the sockeye salmon. Sockeye salmon eat plankton and crustaceans, and the more they eat, the darker their flesh color will be ((University of Washington: Studying Sockeye Salmon)).

If you don’t want to identify sockeye salmon by the color of their meat, then you can identify them by their smell. Sockeye salmon has a stronger fish scent than king salmon.

King salmon flesh ranges in color from white to deep red, although the red-colored king salmon flesh is more popular and is often considered to be better than white-fleshed king salmon ((Alaska.gov: Alaska’s Wild Salmon)).

King salmon fillets are larger than sockeye salmon fillets because king salmon are much larger than sockeye salmon. King salmon is actually one of the largest species of salmon, and sockeye salmon are much smaller and denser in size and texture.

sockeye salmon fillet.
Sockeye salmon

King Salmon and Sockeye Availability and Costs

Sockeye salmon can be found fresh at your local fish market or frozen at your local grocery store. Sometimes, you can find fresh sockeye salmon at your grocery store, but it varies depending on the grocery store and the demand for sockeye salmon at that location.

King salmon is slightly harder to find and can mainly be found at local fish markets rather than at your local grocery store.

King salmon is more expensive than sockeye salmon because it is quite hard to successfully catch them. Also, the fish are quite large which means the fillets are large and cost quite a bit of money.

The exact price of a king salmon fillet will vary depending on where you are getting it from. In addition, how fresh it is and the weight of the fillets you choose to purchase.

Although sockeye salmon is cheaper than king salmon, it is still quite expensive. Sockeye salmon typically costs $15 to $25 per pound, although that varies on where you are getting it from and how fresh it is.

King salmon has a more luxurious, buttery flavor than sockeye salmon and people tend to prefer king salmon over sockeye salmon because of that fact. The demand for king salmon contributes to the high price.

I visited and checked my local Shoprite for the current prices of each. I was unable to find king salmon there.

  • Wild Alaskan Sockeye salmon
    • $20 per pound.
  • Wild Alaskan Sockeye salmon
    • $18 per pound

I checked FreshDirect and found the price for sockeye and king salmon:

  • Wild sockeye fillet, frozen
    • $16.50 per pound
  • Farm-raised king salmon fillet
    • $29.99 per pound
Kevin Garce checking the prices of salmon, mackerel and other seafood at his local market.
Checking the prices of salmon mackerel cod and other seafood at my local market

Sockeye vs King Salmon: Mercury Levels

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings regarding mercury levels in fish. They also provide recommendations about how often people should consume them per week6.

The FDA established a list of fish that are best choices, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels.

Sockeye and king 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 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 king salmon compared to coho salmon, check out my article here, Coho Salmon vs King: What’s The Difference?

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 Salmon vs Fish Articles!

Coho Salmon vs Sockeye: What’s The Difference?

Pink Salmon vs Sockeye: The Complete Comparison

Salmon Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better?

Sea Bass vs. Salmon: Which Is Better?

Tuna vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Halibut vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Tilapia vs Salmon: A Comparison

  1. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, sockeye, salmon []
  2. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, (Alaska Native), king (chinook), salmon []
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Benefits of salmon eating on traditional and novel vascular risk factors in young, non-obese healthy subjects []
  4. USDA: Chinook King Salmon []
  5. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions []
  6. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish []

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