Tuna vs Salmon: Which is Better?

Both tuna and salmon have amazing nutritional value and they both taste great in a variety of meals. Therefore, let’s examine which one is better.

Salmon is better than tuna due to its Omega 3s which is 18 times more than tuna. Salmon contains more than double the numbers of vitamin D, thiamin, riboflavin, B5, folate and calcium. Tuna contains more unhealthy mercury which is why the FDA recommends consuming less of it than salmon. 

Both tuna and salmon are popular, delicious fish, but how are they different? I’ll compare their nutrients one by one. In addition, this article will examine their mercury, tastes, textures, costs and if you can substitute one for the other.

Nutrition in Tuna and Salmon

Salmon on the left and tuna on the right.
Salmon on the left and tuna on the right

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

Nutrient Salmon, raw

(4 Ounces)

Tuna, raw

(4 Ounces)

Calories 161 124
Fat 7.2 g  0.6 g
Protein 23 g  28 g
Omega-3 1.95 g  0.11 g
B-6 0.9 mg  1.0 mg
B-12 3.6 mcg  2.3 mcg
Thiamin 0.2 mg 0.1 mg
Riboflavin 0.4 mg 0.1 mg
Vitamin D 375 IU 59 IU
B5 1.8 mg 0.2 mg
Iron 0.9 mg 0.8 mg
Vitamin A 13.6 mcg  20.4 mcg
Niacin 8.9 mg  20.9 mg
Folate 28.3 mcg  2.2 mcg
Potassium 555 mg  500 mg
Magnesium 32 mg  39 mg
Phosphorus 226 mg  315 mg
Calcium 13.6 mg  4.5 mg
Zinc 0.7 mg 0.4 mg
Selenium 41.4 mcg  102.7 mcg

Most types of fish have great nutritional value in them. They contain different types and amounts of vitamins compared to most other protein foods.

Let’s examine the nutrients contained in tuna and salmon.

Salmon is healthier than tuna due to its heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Although both are highly nutritious, salmon contains 18 times more omega-3s than tuna. Salmon also contains more B12, B5, vitamin D, folate, potassium, calcium and zinc. In addition, salmon contains less unhealthy mercury.

The omega-3s and mercury found in salmon are what really separates the two fish. Why are omega-3 fatty acids so beneficial? Omega-3 fatty acids are heart healthy and help keep the blood vessels healthy and cholesterol levels low.

DHA and EPA fatty acids are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels ((National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease)). Read the mercury section of the article below to learn more about mercury.

The next largest difference is salmon contains much more B5, B2, B1, B12 and vitamin D than tuna1.

Although tuna is no slouch. It contains more protein than salmon and double the number of niacin and Vitamin A. Tuna also contains more phosphorus and selenium2. Adding tuna to your meals provides significant nutritional value.

Both fish contain good amounts of potassium and magnesium. Potassium is beneficial for combating high sodium intake because it helps the body reduce fluids and rids excess sodium ((American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure)). This process helps to reduce blood pressure.

Magnesium is also beneficial for the heart and improves blood pressure. It achieves this by helping the blood vessels to relax and controls other nutrients like potassium and calcium3.

Some people argue it’s hard to definitively say tuna or salmon is more nutritional than the other unless you have a specific metric in mind. For instance, some people need more Vitamin B12 than others.

So if you compare the two, salmon wins because it has more Vitamin B12 than tuna4. Compare the charts to what your food needs are, then compare tuna and salmon together.

One may be better for you than the other even though they are both healthy options, so evaluate based on your needs5.

Always confer with your physician before changing your nutrition.

Atlantic salmon dinner with white rice and vegetables.
Atlantic salmon dinner with white rice and vegetables

While tuna may not be as healthy, what about cod vs salmon? Check out my article here, Cod vs Salmon: Is One Better?

Tuna vs Salmon: Taste and Texture

Salmon is soft and light in flavor. It has a rich, oily taste. Salmon is oilier than tuna because of its higher omega-3 fat content.

Salmon has a tender, buttery texture although some varieties have more firm textures and more intense flavors. Whatever meal you make with one type of salmon, you can probably make with another.

Tuna has a meaty and mushy texture. It is not flaky. When used as an ingredient in a meal, it adds a creamy flavor and texture. Tuna is also oily but not as much as salmon. It cooks well in many foods, so meals are fast and easy when tuna is involved.

My Poll and Taste Test 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 which of the two fish they preferred.

  • 50% said they preferred the taste of salmon.
  • 43% said they preferred the taste of tuna.
  • 7% 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 the same way using the same seasonings. Three out of four people, 75% chose the salmon. They said the flavor and texture was better.

Tuna and Salmon Substitutions

Sometimes the fish you’re looking to cook isn’t available in your local supermarket or fish market. You may already have tuna, or it’s the only one available. 

Tuna and salmon can substitute for each other when cooking seafood. They both have a darker meat with a light to moderate flavor although the taste will be different. Tuna and salmon can be cooked using the same methods like slow-roasted, poached or searing in a pan.

Canned tuna is very popular. Growing up tuna salad on toast was one of my favorite sandwiches. If you planned on using canned salmon but don’t have any available, let’s find out if you can substitute canned tuna.

Canned tuna can substitute for canned salmon. Although the taste and color will be different, they can be prepared the same way using equal amounts according to the recipe. The other ingredients and preparation time can remain the same.

When substituting tuna for salmon, they both can be served on crackers or on top of a bed of lettuce. If making tuna or salmon salad, ingredients like celery, onion, mayo or lemon juice can remain the same6.

When substituting one fish for another:

  • Pick similar fillets, whole fillet or cross section.
  • Always choose the same weight and size.
  • If the recipe calls for skinless, choose skinless and visa versa.
  • When grilling a firm texture is more important.
  • Substitute a fatty or lean fish for the same.

You can cook or bake salmon with a simple seasoning because the natural flavor is quite pleasing. If you need a fast and easy meal or if you want to take your time making a specific dish, salmon is a great option.

Some people like smoking their salmon for several hours to give it a bolder, smokier flavor, while others love to flavor it with light seasonings and lemons.

When you think of tuna, chances are you imagine it as canned food. It is often in cat food or used in tuna salad sandwiches. It is easy to pop the can open and add the tuna to any desired meal.

You can add canned tuna to many dinners. The quality of food like casseroles, pasta, quesadillas, salads, and more improves by adding tuna.

The Cost of Tuna and Salmon

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

The cost of tuna or salmon will differ depending on your location, supermarket, fresh or frozen and whether it’s farm raised or wild caught.

Tuna is slightly more expensive than salmon. The average cost for tuna is $14.49 per pound while the average cost for salmon is $11.99 per pound. The cost will vary depending on location, whether it is farm-raised or wild-caught, fresh or frozen.

I visited and checked my local Shoprite Supermarket and other markets for the current prices of each.

  • Fresh, wild caught tuna fillet Yellow-fin
    • $7.98 per pound
  • Fresh tuna steak Ahi
    • $10.99 per pound.
  • Fresh tuna steak Yellow-fin
    • $26.00 per pound
  • Fresh, farm raised Atlantic salmon
    • $9.99 per pound
  • Fresh, wild caught Coho salmon
    • $14.99 per pound
  • Fresh Atlantic salmon steak
    • $10.99 per pound.

How about canned tuna and salmon? Canned salmon is more expensive than canned tuna. A 5-ounce can of red salmon cost $1.00 per ounce while a 5-ounce can of solid white tuna costs 0.38¢ per ounce.

In addition, a 5-ounce can of pink salmon costs $1.99 per can while a 5-ounce can of chunk lite tuna costs $1.29 per can.

Have you ever wondered if canned salmon is the same as salmon? If so, check out my article, Frozen Salmon vs Canned Salmon: Which Is Healthier?

tuna and salmon sushi.
Tuna and salmon sushi

Tuna vs Salmon: Mercury Levels

The FDA and EPA have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and consuming them7.

The FDA and EPA established a list of fish that are best and good choices based on their mercury levels. They also have a third section which are choices to avoid because they have the highest mercury levels.

Tuna contains more mercury than salmon. Salmon is listed on the FDA’s best choices of fish to eat regarding mercury levels. The FDA recommends salmon is safe to eat two to three times a week while albacore or yellowfin once a week. Bigeye tuna is one of the fish the FDA recommends to avoid due to the highest mercury levels.

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

Tuna vs Salmon: The Difference

Salmon is a freshwater and saltwater fish while tuna is only a saltwater fish. Tuna grow larger and weigh more than salmon. Tuna is found in the open waters near the coast or offshore. Salmon inhabit the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and offshore rivers and streams.

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!

Halibut vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Rainbow Trout vs Salmon: Is One Better?

Shrimp vs. Salmon: A Complete Comparison

Char vs. Salmon – A Complete Comparison

Steelhead vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

  1. Nutrition Value: Tuna, raw, fresh []
  2. FDA: Fish, tuna, fresh, yellowfin, raw []
  3. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium []
  4. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, wild, Atlantic, salmon []
  5. USDA: Fish, salmon, Atlantic, farmed, raw []
  6. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions []
  7. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish []

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