Wild Coho Salmon vs Farmed Atlantic Salmon: Which is Better for Sushi?

Prepar­ing one’s own sushi and sashimi is a plea­sure. It’s a good deal price-wise com­pared to eat­ing out, and the act of prep­ping the fish, slic­ing it, and pre­sent­ing it nicely on the serv­ing plat­ter is a very calm­ing, relax­ing expe­ri­ence. The enjoy­ment of the food at the end is, of course, a huge plus as well! (The mat­ter of mak­ing good sushi rice how­ever, is a lit­tle less plea­sur­able… at least for now until I prac­tice enough to make good sushi rice!)

A few days ago, I had a choice between a side of wild coho salmon with deep, rich red color and a side of farmed Atlantic salmon in the famil­iar light orange with white streaks. Pric­ing wasn’t too far off one another — about $8/lb for the Atlantic, and $10/lb for the wild coho. Not hav­ing tried the wild coho for sashimi before, and hav­ing a pref­er­ence for wild-caught fish over farmed, I decided to give the coho a try.

Dif­fer­ent types of salmon are dif­fer­ent species. They need to be treated as such and thought of as such. Unfor­tu­nately, that didn’t occur to me when I grabbed the coho for sashimi. Was it a bad choice, though? Not really. It’ s not bad, it’s just different.

Wild coho salmon is leaner than farmed Atlantic salmon. It’s prob­a­bly not even a mat­ter of wild ver­sus farmed but a mat­ter of the species with the Atlantic salmon hav­ing evolved with higher lev­els of body fat to thrive in the colder Atlantic waters. The fact that wild salmon are prob­a­bly more active just accen­tu­ates this innate dif­fer­ence. This leads to the two notable dif­fer­ences between coho and Atlantic salmon when it comes to the eat­ing expe­ri­ence: tex­ture and taste.

Really, the only thing that isn’t dif­fer­ent is the aroma, which I have to say isn’t a big part of the raw fish expe­ri­ence. So by say­ing that the tex­ture and taste are dif­fer­ent, I’m essen­tially say­ing that they are not at all alike.

The coho salmon, because it is leaner, is not nearly as smooth as Atlantic salmon. It doesn’t glide over your palate.  It feels like lean maguro (tuna) in tex­ture but is notice­ably denser than maguro. It is slightly less fatty and slightly less smooth than hamachi (yel­low­tail). It is nowhere close to the fatty, silky smooth tex­ture of Atlantic salmon.

As a com­bi­na­tion of its lean­ness and the fact that the fish had to sur­vive in the wild, the coho salmon is also more savory than farmed Atlantic. It tastes “meatier”, reflect­ing the fact that a greater pro­por­tion of the meat is func­tional mus­cle con­di­tioned to high lev­els of phys­i­cal activity.

Which do I pre­fer? I actu­ally pre­fer the silky smooth­ness of Atlantic salmon. I still enjoyed the coho salmon, it’s just that it needs to be thought of as a com­pletely dif­fer­ent fish.

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