Steelhead vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Salmon and steelhead trout are both popular types of healthy fish. However, some people have a hard time determining which one is the best one to eat. Which is better, steelhead trout or salmon?

Salmon is better than steelhead trout due to its higher number of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon has a stronger flavor and is more tender than steelhead trout. Steelhead trout contains more unhealthy mercury than salmon and the FDA recommends consuming less of it.

This article will compare steelhead and salmon’s nutrients side-by side. I’ll examine their health benefits, tastes, textures, costs and mercury levels. Sometimes there’s confusion as to if they are the same fish, I’ll explain why that is and if one can substitute for the other while cooking.

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Disclaimer: The above link and others 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.

Steelhead and Salmon Nutritional Value

The following table is a side-by-side comparison of all the nutrients in steelhead trout and salmon:

Nutrient Steelhead Trout, raw Wild

(4 Ounces)

Salmon, rawWild

(4 Ounces)

Calories 150 161
Fat 7.0 g 7.2 g
Saturated Fat 1.5 g  1.1 g
Cholesterol 65 mg 62 mg
Protein 22 g  23 g
Sodium 60 mg 50 mg
Omega-3 0.79 g  1.95 g
B-6 0.4 mg  0.9 mg
B-12 5.0 mcg  3.6 mcg
Thiamin 0.13 mg 0.20 mg
Riboflavin 0.11 mg 0.40 mg
B5 1.0 mg 1.8 mg
Iron 0.5 mg 0.9 mg
Niacin 6.1 mg  8.9 mg
Folate 13.6 mcg  28.3 mcg
Potassium 422 mg  555 mg
Magnesium 35 mg  32 mg
Phosphorus 307 mg  226 mg
Calcium 25.7 mg  13.6 mg
Zinc 1.2 mg 0.7 mg
Selenium 14.3 mcg  41.4 mcg

Nutrition Sources 1 2

Both fish contain a good number of minerals and vitamins. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which fish provides more. Therefore, is steelhead trout or salmon healthier?

Salmon is healthier than steelhead trout due to its greater number of omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. Salmon contains more B6, thiamin, riboflavin, B5, iron, niacin, folate, potassium and selenium than steelhead trout.

Steelhead is no slouch itself and contains a wide variety of healthy nutrients. Steelhead contains more B12, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and zinc. Let’s examine some of the health benefits of both fish 3.

Salmon Health Benefits

Many people enjoy eating salmon because it is quite healthy because it contains healthy fats. Luckily for you, salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, potassium and selenium. These components can help you become and stay healthy.

Consuming 2 servings of salmon a week will provide enough omega-3 fatty acids which may help improve your health. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in studies to help lower blood pressure, minimize inflammation and reduce the risk for heart and cardiovascular disease.

Salmon contains a decent amount of selenium. It’s a mineral that may help the following:

  • Control and prevent thyroid diseases
  • Keeps bones healthy
  • Reduce the risk of cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes

Selenium helps reduce hormones that stimulate the thyroid, thyroid peroxidase antibodies and receptor antibodies 4.

Salmon contains polyunsaturated fatty acids that have been found to help reduce the risk for depression, psychoses, dementia, ADHD as well as other disorders that affect the mind 5.

Salmon contains 555 mg of potassium per four ounces. That’s more than a banana and helps to provide a good amount of the daily recommended 4,700 mg, except for those with kidney related issues 6.

Potassium helps the kidneys flush excess sodium from the body and help fluid retention low. Scientific studies have shown an association with low potassium levels and high blood pressure.

Potassium helps keep blood vessels relaxed and less rigid. All this helps keep blood pressure lower and the heart healthier 7.

I wrote another article comparing two salmon powerhouses, Pink and Red. How do they compare in this battle? Check it out here, Pink vs Red Salmon: What’s The Difference?

Salmon are the perfect fish for a low-carb diet like Keto. They contain healthy fats and zero carbs.

If you’re eating low-carb or want to give keto a try, many of my clients have followed this 28-Day Keto Challenge with great success. Visit their website and check it out.

Steelhead Health Benefits

Steelhead contains all the nutrients discussed in the salmon’s benefits section above, just a little less. Therefore, it’s also beneficial for the health related benefits salmon provides.

In addition, steelhead contains more magnesium, 35 mg per four ounces. Magnesium is heart healthy, helps lower blood pressure and relax blood vessels. Magnesium also helps to control calcium and potassium both beneficial for the heart.

Magnesium has a calming effect on the whole body, not just blood vessels. For this reason, magnesium is beneficial with insomnia 8.

The calcium provided by steelhead is needed by the body for proper muscle contraction, nerve transmission and influences blood pressure. Harvard Health reports how calcium is helpful with the release of hormones and enzymes needed for most body functions 9.

Steelhead and Salmon Flavor and Texture

Salmon Flavor

Salmon is loved by many fish fans partially because it has a mild flavor when freshly caught salmon is cooked. It doesn’t taste as fishy as many other fish dishes do.

Salmon takes on the flavor of the items cooked with it. Therefore, if you add the right number of seasonings before you cook it, you likely won’t even notice the slight fishy taste it has.

Although some people think the fishy flavor of salmon is too strong, many enjoy it because its innate flavor doesn’t overpower the rest of the items in the dish.

Wild salmon has a more complex flavor than the farm-caught salmon you can find in many grocery stores.

fresh steelhead trout fillet

Steelhead Trout Flavor

Steelhead trout has a slightly milder flavor than salmon. Most people find it has a less pungent fish flavor than salmon, although that flavor doesn’t tend to be overpowering in salmon.

This small difference has led many to prefer steelhead trout over salmon because of the lack of fishy flavor.

Steelhead trout is less oily than salmon, especially farmed salmon, but it’s just as tender and flaky when it is fully cooked. Some say steelhead trout tastes like a mixture of salmon and trout.

Steelhead trout is less sweet than salmon and absorbs the flavor of spices slightly better than salmon does. It has less of an actual flavor, and that works when you want to add spices or other ingredients.

Salmon Texture

Salmon that was raised in a salmon farm has a fatty texture and is very rich in flavor and texture. Wild salmon has a leaner texture than farmed salmon, therefore many people prefer wild salmon to farmed salmon.

Salmon has a tender, flaky texture when it is cooked. Many people enjoy this quality, although the final texture varies depending on how the salmon is cooked.

Steelhead Trout Texture

Steelhead trout has a similar texture to salmon, as it is also flaky. Although it is slightly less flaky and tender than salmon, as steelhead trout is a firmer meat.

However, most people don’t notice the difference between the two fish textures as the texture difference is minimal.

Can You Substitute Steelhead for Salmon?

Your local grocery store may not always have the type of salmon you’re looking for, or you may already have some steelhead available. If you’re looking for a substitution for salmon, can you substitute steelhead for salmon?

Steelhead and salmon can substitute for each other in recipes, although they have slightly different tastes. They both have a similar texture and can be cooked using the same methods like pan-fried, grilled, slow-roasted, poached, baked or searing in a pan.

How to Cook Salmon

Although salmon is relatively easy to cook. When it is undercooked, the texture is unappealing and difficult to eat. However, when salmon is overcooked it is tough and chewy, so no one likes to eat overcooked salmon.

Salmon is typically baked, grilled, poached, or seared. Overall, you can cook it in any way, and the end result will be tender and flaky, as long as it is not overcooked or undercooked. You will know your salmon is fully cooked when the flesh is opaque.

Many foods and flavors go well with salmon, so you really can’t go wrong unless you don’t add enough seasoning to your salmon dish. Salmon goes well with sweet, salty, sour, and pungent flavors.

Salmon Substitutes

Although salmon is great, sometimes people need to find an alternative to it. If that’s you, then you are in luck because many types of fish can be used as alternatives to salmon, including:

  • Pollack
  • Hake
  • Halibut
  • Cod

How to Cook Steelhead Trout

Steelhead trout can be cooked in the same ways as salmon as steelhead trout is typically grilled, baked, broiled, or roasted. However, people typically don’t sear or poach steelhead trout like they do salmon.

It is most often grilled, so in the summer when you fire up the BBQ, put some seasoned steelhead trout on it and see if you like it. Although it is typically only seasoned with salt and pepper, steelhead trout works with a variety of flavors.

Steelhead Trout Substitutes

Although steelhead trout can be found at many local fish markets, sometimes you can’t get there when the fish are the freshest. It’s also difficult to find fresh in the supermarkets. Luckily there are other substitute fish you can use.

If you can’t get steelhead trout and need to substitute it with another fish, you can use:

  • Tilefish
  • Halibut
  • Flounder
  • Grouper
  • Tilapia
  • Cod

Any of these whitefish will work well in any recipe you are using tonight for dinner, and they will satisfy any person’s craving for tasty fish that doesn’t have a strong fishy flavor, but has a flaky texture.

Steelhead Trout or Salmon: Which One Has More Mercury?

The FDA established a list of best choices, good choices and ones to avoid in regards of mercury levels. Therefore does steelhead trout or salmon have more mercury?

Steelhead trout contains more mercury than salmon. Salmon is listed on the FDA’s best choices of fish to consume regarding their mercury levels while steelhead is a good choice. The recommendation is consuming salmon 2-3 servings a week and once a week for sea trout. 

It’s important to note, freshwater trout, like rainbow trout, are listed in the best choices 10. Therefore, be aware different trouts have different mercury levels.

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

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

Steelhead Trout and Salmon Sizes, Weight and Habitat

There seems to be some confusion between steelhead trout 11 and salmon. I’ll examine everything you’ll want to know and answer, what is the difference between a steelhead trout and a salmon?

Salmon and steelhead trout are different species of the salmonid family. The average length for steelhead is 24 inches while a salmon’s length is 28-30 inches. Salmon only spawn once while steelhead can spawn several times. Both salmon and steelhead live in freshwater and saltwater.

Are steelhead trout part of the salmon family? Steelhead trout are a trout species which is part of the same family, salmonid, as the salmon. Salmon are a variety of different salmon species in the salmonid family. 

Are steelhead and salmon the same thing? Steelhead and salmon are not the same. They are different species of fish although they belong to the same salmonid family.

Due to the steelhead trout being part of the same family as salmon and acting like a salmon, is what creates many questions about them being salmon 12.

Another reason for some confusion is some fish markets sell steelhead trout under the salmon name. They feel the name steelhead scares some people away from buying the fish.

The steelhead trout acts more like a salmon than a trout 13. They both are raised in freshwater and live in the ocean as an adult. They both return to the freshwater to spawn, but salmon only do it once while steelhead several times 14.

Salmon are freshwater and saltwater fish 15. They are born in fresh-water rivers or streams. When they get older, salmon transition to the ocean. They come back to the river during spawning seasons. This cycle repeats once every year 16.

The average size salmon is 28-30 inches long and weighs 8-12 pounds. King salmon is the largest and can grow up to 58 inches 17.

Steelhead Trout Fun Facts:

  • Steelhead have been known to jump 11 feet into the air.
  • Steelhead can go from 0-25 miles per hour in one second.

Which Costs More, Steelhead Trout or Salmon?

When discussing the differences between the two fish, their costs often come up in conversation. Therefore, is steelhead trout more expensive than salmon?

Steelhead trout and Atlantic salmon costs the same. The average cost for fresh, farm raised Atlantic salmon fillets is $9.99 per pound and the average cost for fresh steelhead trout fillets is $9.99 per pound.

I checked the local Shoprite supermarket for the current prices of each.

  • Fresh, farm raised Atlantic salmon
    • $9.99 per pound
  • Fresh, steelhead trout fillet
    • $9.99 per pound
  • Fresh Atlantic salmon steak
    • $9.99 per pound.

Prices will vary depending if the fish is farm raised or wild caught. The store, time of the year and your location will affect the prices of both fish.

Believe it or not, Amazon sells fresh seafood at affordable prices. Check out their current prices and selection, Fresh Seafood.

Read Next – More Salmon vs Fish Articles!

Rainbow Trout vs Salmon: Is One Better?

Trout vs Salmon: Is One More Healthier Than The Other?

Sardines vs Salmon: A Complete Comparison

Shrimp vs Salmon: A Complete Comparison

Salmon vs Chicken: Which Is Healthier?

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Nutrition Value: Steelhead trout[]
  2. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, wild, Atlantic, salmon[]
  3. USDA: Steelhead Trout[]
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Selenium supplementation in thyroid associated ophthalmopathy: an update[]
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids, brain function and mental health[]
  6. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  7. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The magic of magnesium[]
  9. Harvard Health Publishing: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  10. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  11. NOAA Fisheries: Steelhead Trout[]
  12. The National Wildlife Federation: Rainbow Trout and Steelhead[]
  13. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Rainbow Trout[]
  14. Wikipedia: Steelhead trout[]
  15. Wikipedia: Salmon[]
  16. The University Of Maine: Maine Seafood Guide – Salmon[]
  17. USGS: How many species of salmon are there and how large can they get?[]

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