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.

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.

Steelhead and Salmon Nutritional Value

Trout on the left and salmon on the right.
Trout on the left and salmon on the right

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

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 Sources1 ((Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, wild, Atlantic, salmon))

Both fish contain a good number of minerals and vitamins. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which fish provides more.

Salmon is better 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 fish2.

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 antibodies3.

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 mind4.

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 issues5.

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 healthier6.

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?

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 insomnia7.

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 functions8.

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
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.

My Poll and Taste Taste at Home

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 if they preferred salmon or steelhead trout.

  • 46% said they preferred the taste of salmon.
  • 42% said they preferred the taste of steelhead trout.
  • 12% 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 fish fillets the same way using the same seasonings. Three out of four people, 75% chose the salmon. They said the flavor was better.

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.

Steelhead and Salmon: Substitutions

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, let’s examine the possibilities.

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.

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

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 vs Salmon: Mercury Levels

The FDA established a list of best choices, good choices and ones to avoid in regards of mercury levels.

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. 

It’s important to note, freshwater trout, like rainbow trout, are listed in the best choices ((FDA: Advice about Eating Fish)). 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 vs Salmon: Prices

When discussing the differences between the two fish, their costs often come up in conversation.

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 visited and 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.

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!

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?

  1. Nutrition Value: Steelhead trout []
  2. USDA: Steelhead Trout []
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Selenium supplementation in thyroid associated ophthalmopathy: an update []
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids, brain function and mental health []
  5. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure []
  6. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure []
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The magic of magnesium []
  8. Harvard Health Publishing: Key minerals to help control blood pressure []

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