Costco Salmon - (Which to Pick, Tips, Recipes) Wild Sockeye vs Fresh Atlantic

Salmon-from-Costco

Salmon at Costco

What Salmon does Costco Sell?

As you can see, Costco carries quite a variety of salmon products. They have everything from canned salmon to salmon burgers to smoked salmon and, of course, frozen and fresh salmon filets. 

Costco-Salmon
Costco Wild Sockeye Salmon (Top) - Atlantic Salmon (Bottom)

Everybody likes options, but sometimes this can lead to analysis paralysis. Should you go for frozen or fresh salmon? Farmed or wild? Costco’s sockeye salmon or their less expensive counterpart, the Atlantic Salmon? 

It can be tough to navigate through all of Costco’s salmon products and offerings, but this guide will help pinpoint the best salmon option for you.

Additional Costco Salmon Options

Of course, Costco carries fresh, but they also offer a variety of different salmon options. They have everything from smoked salmon to frozen cedar plank salmon to canned salmon.

 

Costco also offers fresh salmon meals with their basil pesto salmon and their stuffed salmon. 

 

Check out our full Costco Smoked Salmon Guide for reviews, price comparisons, and rankings.

Should You Buy Fresh or Frozen Salmon?

The first major decision you must make regarding salmon from Costco is if you want fresh or frozen salmon. 

Both have their pros and cons and their place in Costco’s lineup. 

Costco-Sockeye-Salmon-Wild
Wild Sockeye Salmon

Costco offers both fresh and frozen varieties of Atlantic and Wild Sockeye Salmon.

All of Costco's Salmon Has Been Previously Frozen

One thing to note is that Costco’s fresh salmon from the meat and seafood department is flash-frozen right after being caught, harvested, and then thawed out before hitting the shelves. 

 

This is done to kill any worms or parasites that may be in the fish. 

Previously-Frozen

Most seafood found in grocery stores and other retailers will be flash-frozen during production. 

Salmon that is never frozen will always be the highest quality option, but the only way to get proper “fresh” salmon is to clean and cook the fish within hours of being caught. This is only realistic for a small handful of grocers across the country.

What is Better, Fresh or Frozen Salmon from Costco?

When deciding between fresh or frozen, many people automatically assume Fresh Salmon is the correct choice here, but that isn’t always the case. 

Modern freezing technology and knowledge have come a long way, and there is significantly less of a difference now between fresh and frozen salmon.

Is Frozen Salmon Actually Fresher than Fresh Salmon?

Some even argue that frozen salmon is fresher than fresh salmon due to the fact that the fish is frozen almost immediately to “lock in” the freshness. 

When it’s defrosted, it may taste closer to a 1-day old fish than the fresh salmon that has been sitting in Costco’s refrigerator or your own for at least a day.

When to Buy Fresh Salmon?

It doesn’t seem like there’s much of a difference between fresh and frozen salmon in terms of quality. 

My decision to go for fresh or frozen salmon will be primarily based on the occasion and the necessary portions. 

Wild-Sockeye-Salmon-from-Costco-Fillet
Wild Sockeye Salmon Filet from Costco

While the quality might be reasonably close, I still feel most comfortable serving fresh salmon for dinner parties or when we have people over. 

The filet can also be portioned out appropriately per guest, and it does provide a higher quality feel.

Why Buy Costco's Frozen Salmon?

If I’m looking for easy pre-portioned salmon filets that I can quickly pull out for a weeknight dinner, then the frozen salmon options will be the pick. 

Seafood, in general, defrosts rather quickly, and the quality may even match or exceed that of fresh salmon.

What Do the Experts Think?

Most fishermen and seafood connoisseurs will also tell you that fresh vs. frozen is just one characteristic they look for when picking salmon. The better determination of quality salmon is if it is farmed or wild-caught (preferred).

Costco Salmon Comparison, Ratings, and review

The big difference in quality between Costco’s salmon products will be whether the fish is farmed or wild-caught. And in this case, the answer is pretty clear: Costco’s Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon will be the all-around superior option.

 

The sockeye salmon at Costco checks off all the boxes by bringing value, taste, presentation, health benefits, and sustainability.

Costco Wild Sockeye Salmon Rating

Fresh-sockeye-salmon-from-Costco

Product Name: Kirkland Signature Wild CaughtSockeye Salmon

Product Description: Previously frozen Wild Caught Sockeye salmon found in the Meat & Seafood Department
Price Per Pound: $12.99

Summary

The wild sockeye salmon from Costco is amazing. It’s a super nutritious food that tastes great and can impress a crowd.

This wild salmon is sustainably fished and well worth the price.

Overall
8.4/10
8.4/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10
  • Convenience - 8/10
    8/10
  • Taste - 9/10
    9/10
  • Nutrition - 10/10
    10/10
  • CFDB Score - 7/10
    7/10

Pros

  • Great salmon Flavor
  • Skin-On
  • Fantastic nutritional profile
  • Sustainable

Cons

  • More expensive than other salmon options

Costco Atlantic Salmon Rating

Atlantic-Salmon-Fillet

Product Name: Kirkland Signature Atlantic Salmon

Product Description: Previously frozen farmed Atlantic Salmon from the Meat & Seafood Department
Price Per Pound: $9.99

Summary

Costco’s Atlantic salmon is the least expensive salmon option at Costco and quite the deal.

The fish is farm-raised but super versatile. I love to air fry the salmon fillets or even eat the fish as sashimi!

Overall
7.4/10
7.4/10
  • Value - 7/10
    7/10
  • Convenience - 8/10
    8/10
  • Taste - 8/10
    8/10
  • Nutrition - 9/10
    9/10
  • CFDB Score - 5/10
    5/10

Pros

  • Fair value
  • Great nutritional profile
  • Light salmon flavor – great for seasonings
  • Can be eaten raw (some risks involved – explained in sushi/sashimi section below)

Cons

  • Farm-raised
  • Artificially colored

Taste

While both fish are salmon, they have wildly different flavor profiles.

Atlantic Salmon has a Mild Salmon Flavor Profile

Atlantic salmon, the most common type in grocery stores, has a more mild, oily, and fatty flavor profile. 

Costco-Atlantic-salmon

If you look carefully, there is a leftover pin bone in this salmon.

Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon has the Classic Salmon Taste

Sockeye salmon is known for its rich and complex flavor. Sockeye, in general, are smaller salmon, and the filets are thinner but firmer in texture. The Sockeye Salmon at Costco also comes with the skin on, which is absolutely delicious when cooked. 

Due to being a wild fish, the traditional salmon flavor that many people know is very present.

Salmon Color

While not as important as taste, we do indeed eat with our eyes. 

Costco’s Atlantic Salmon is going to have that traditional orange or “salmon” pink, while Costco’s wild-caught Sockeye Salmon is going to have that deep red color that looks absolutely beautiful.

Costco-Sockeye-Salmon-and-Atlantic-Salmon

Why is Wild Sockeye Salmon Dark Red?

The color difference is attributed to their diet, as salmon are what they eat. Wild Sockeye salmon feast on shrimp and krill, which contain carotenoids that create that dark red flesh. 

Atlantic Salmon is Synthetically Dyed.

On the other hand, Atlantic salmon feed on fish pellets that don’t contain the naturally occurring carotenoids found in wildlife.

 

Instead, their flesh is naturally a gray or beige color. In order to make the salmon more closely resemble wild salmon, fish farmers will add synthetic dye to the fish pellets. This gives the Atlantic salmon its orange hue.

Costco Salmon Sustainability

Wild Sockeye Salmon is Sustainable

Sustainable-Sockeye-Salmon-from-Costco

When it comes to sustainability, the sockeye salmon is the clear-cut winner. According to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, Sockeye Salmon is a certified buy

 

The Sockeye Salmon is wild-caught using fishing gear such as Gillnets, Beach Seines, and Stow Nets.

Avoid Atlantic Salmon

Non-Sustainable-Farmed-Atlantic-Salmon

On the other hand, Costco’s Atlantic Salmon from Chile appears to be an “avoid”. Seafood Watch states that Atlantic Salmon is treated with a high amount of antimicrobials and pesticides.

 

The potential development of antimicrobial resistance is a serious concern, and they suggest purchasing alternative salmon products. 

Salmon Nutritional Benefits

Salmon as a whole is considered a great protein to eat that contains a large number of healthy fats, vitamins, and nutrients. 

There are some slight differences between Atlantic Salmon and Sockeye salmon in terms of nutritional profile, such as Atlantic Salmon containing more calories and more fat. 

Regardless, both Costco salmon options will be great additions to almost any diet. In the nutrition section, I go more in-depth on each salmon’s nutritional profile and health benefits.

Why I Love Wild Sockeye Salmon from Costco

Value

Sockeye salmon at Costco is only a few dollars more than the farmed Atlantic salmon, and if it’s in your budget, it’s worth the splurge. $3 more for a much higher quality fish is worth the premium. 

Costco-Sockeye-Salmon-Cooked

Taste

Wild Sockeye is jam-packed with unique salmon flavor and goodness. The skin is excellent and adds a “closer to nature” or primal type of feel. 

Presentation

Nothing beats the dark red color of a wild sockeye salmon. The color screams natural, wild, and fresh, which can’t be replicated. 

When I see the sockeye salmon on my plate, I know I’m in for a good meal. 

Health Benefits

Compared to Atlantic Salmon, Sockeye Salmon has fewer calories, less fat, and more protein. Along with an excellent nutritional profile, Sockeyes provide many health benefits for the brain and heart. 

Sockeye-Salmon-with-Skin-On-Costco
Cast Iron Skillet (Left) - Air Fryer (Right)

Sustainability

Fish are a limited resource, and I’m going to do my best to often go with the sustainable option if available. Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s seafood watch considers Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon to be a certified buy.

Farmed Atlantic Salmon vs Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon Summary

Costco - Atlantic Salmon vs Sockeye Salmon

Atlantic SalmonSockeye Salmon
Costco Salmon Price~$20~$22
Average Package Weight at Costco2 Pounds1.75 Pounds
Price Per Pound (05/22)$9.99$12.99
ColorArtificially Colored OrangeNatural Deep Dark Red Color
TasteFatty tasty with mild salmon flavor. Rich and complex classic salmon flavor.
Sustainability
Avoid Certified Buy
Sold Skin-OnNoYes
Health BenefitsBoth are a great sources of protein and omega 3 fatty acids.
Salmon contains a large number of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients.

Costco Salmon Prices - Cost Comparison

With a significant difference in quality between the salmon options, there will also be price differences. Here are Costco’s salmon prices as of 5/1/2022.

Costco-Atlantic-Salmon-Price

How much is Salmon at Costco?

Costco’s Atlantic salmon goes for roughly $10 a pound, and both Kirkland Signature fresh and frozen sockeye salmon costs about $13 per pound. 

There really isn’t a big difference between the fresh and frozen price, and the decision between fresh and frozen salmon should depend on the occasion and the desired preparation and portion sizes. 

Costco-Atlantic-Salmon-Price-Kirkland-Signature

The Atlantic salmon price does fluctuate. Typically Atlantic salmon is available for $8.99 at my local warehouse, but on the day I purchased this, it was $9.99 a pound. 

A week later, the price was the lowest I’d seen in a while at $7.99. 

Costco vs The Competition

Costco offers a very competitive price for their Atlantic Salmon and Sockeye Salmon compared to other grocery stores. 

Safeway sells their fresh Atlantic Salmon for $10.99 and their fresh Wild Sockeye Salmon for $17.99. Costco comes out ahead in price for both options, and I would also bet that Costco’s salmon is of higher quality as well.

Sprouts, which is a notch above Costco in price and sometimes in quality, sells its Atlantic Salmon for $11.99/pound. They sell their wild-caught sockeye salmon for $14.99/pound. Both of their fresh salmon options are $2 more than Costco’s per pound price.

Can you eat Costco Salmon Raw or as Sushi/Sashimi?

Yes, you can eat Costco salmon raw, but there are certain risks that you must be aware of, and certain precautions must be taken. 

If you do want to take the risk, only do so with Costco’s Atlantic Salmon and not their Wild caught Sockeye Salmon.

Costco-Salmon-Sushi-Raw-Sashimi

Costco's Official Stance on Eating Their Salmon Raw.

If you were to ask any Costco employee if you can eat the salmon as sashimi, they would tell you cannot and that you must cook the salmon to 145°F. Their facial expression or winking eye may tell you something else, but the words will be no. 

Costco Food Database on Eating Costco Salmon Raw

Like Costco’s stance, there are certain health risks involved with eating raw sushi, and the official stance of Costcofdb.com is that you cannot eat Costco salmon or tuna raw without taking on additional risk. 

 

It is up to you and your personal risk tolerance, so eat at your own risk.

Costco-Salmon-Sushi-Raw

But please enjoy this photo of me eating some raw Costco Salmon.

Is Costco Salmon Sushi Grade or Sashimi Grade?

Sushi-grade or sashimi-grade fish is a marketing term and not an actual level of standard. The term sushi grade does not come from a governing body but instead will be labeled at the seller’s discretion. 

The seller can label any fish they judge worthy of sushi-grade, but there is no official designation or qualification.

What are the Risk of Eating Raw Salmon?

The main concern with eating Costco salmon or any raw salmon is parasites. Salmon can carry a variety of parasites or tapeworms that can be detrimental to your health. 

Salmon and most other fish are flash-frozen during production, but this doesn’t meet FDA guidelines for parasite destruction. Again, eat at your own risk. 

Minimizing Risk when Eating Raw Costco Salmon

To minimize risk when eating raw salmon, avoid wild-caught salmon (Sockeye Salmon at Costco) and stick to farmed salmon (Costco’s Atlantic Salmon). 

Wild-caught salmon is a far greater risk for parasites compared to farmed salmon which are fed a controlled diet.

Costco-Salmon-Sashimi-Atlantic-Salmon

Additionally, if you decide to eat Costco’s salmon raw, then make sure to keep the fish cold at all times, use clean utensils to prepare the fish, and always do a smell check and a visual check for worms.

 

For extra precaution, cut the salmon slices thinly to increase the chances of discovering any parasites or worms.

Salmon Poke Bowl

Sashimi is always delicious, but sometimes I crave a poke bowl. Costco does sell tuna poke, but a DIY $2.50 bowl of simple salmon poke is hard to pass up.

Costco-Salmon-Poke-Bowl

I kept this salmon poke bowl on the simpler side, but you can quickly spruce it up with some green onions, vegetables, seaweed, and aioli or dressing. 

Kirkland Signature Salmon Cooking Instructions

Cooking Instructions

Costco recommends cooking salmon until its internal temperature reaches 145°F. This is the safest way to cook salmon, which will kill all bacteria in the fish. 

Costco-Salmon-Cooked

The official recommendation from Costco and the FDA to cook until 145°F does potentially leads to dry salmon. 

Anybody who’s had dry salmon will know it becomes more of a chore to eat than a treat.

Costco-Salmon-Cooking-Instructions

Pro Tip: Sockeye salmon is thinner than Atlantic salmon and generally requires less cook time. Ensure that your recipe calls for sockeye salmon; if not, adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Salmon Cooking Temperatures

Cook’s Illustrated states that 125°F is the preferred internal temperature for Atlantic Salmon. This salmon will be firm and silky. 

They also recommend a temperature of 120°F for wild sockeye salmon. Sockeye salmon is leaner and is more prone to becoming dry. 

Air-Fryer-Costco-Salmon
Air Fryer Salmon

Wellplated.com believes that salmon cooked at 135°F is the optimal temperature. The salmon will be cooked to medium, retaining its moisture and still being safe to eat.

Salmon Cooking Temperature Chart

Rare SalmonAnything Less than 120°F
Medium Rare 125°F to 130°F
Medium135°F to 140°F (Optimal)
Well Done145°F+ (FDA and Costco recommended by dry and overdone)

How to Cook Salmon

Luckily, salmon is a super versatile food that can be cooked using almost any cooking method out there. It can even be cooked in a dishwasher! (Don’t try it at home, or do it and let me know how it turned out in the comments.)

Cast-Iron-Salmon-from-Costco
Cast Iron Sockeye and Atlantic Salmon

Salmon can be baked, sous-vide, pan-fried, grilled, broiled, air-fried, sous vided, poached, and roasted. 

 

Some of my favorite recipes are Cast Iron Skillet SalmonOven Baked Salmon, and Air Fried Salmon.

Costco Salmon Nutritional Information

Costco doesn’t have the nutritional information posted for their meat and seafood items, so I will use information from NutritionAdvance.com for both the Atlantic and Sockeye Salmon.

 Serving SizeCaloriesFatProteinCarbohydrates
Atlantic Salmon7 Ounces (200 grams)41626 grams40 grams0 grams
Wild Sockeye Salmon7 Ounces (200 grams)30514.5 grams44 grams0 grams

As you can see, salmon is an excellent source of fat and protein. The sockeye salmon has few calories per serving and is a bit leaner. On a macronutrient level, the wild sockeye salmon from Costco is the superior option.  

Salmon Health Benefits

Salmon is incredible as it’s a great-tasting fish and jam-packed with healthy minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. Here are some of the top health benefits of salmon.

Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which provides health benefits such as improving cognitive function, managing rheumatoid arthritis, and relieving symptoms of dry eye disease. 

 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids are so beneficial to your health that Costco even sells a wide variety of fish oil pills that help supplement omega 3 intake. Some top-rated fish oil pills are made with Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon.

Cooked-Atlantic-Salmon

Excellent Vitamin B Complex Source

Salmon is an excellent source of the Vitamin B Group including B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12. Vitamin B is great at repairing DNA and reducing inflammation.

Salmon contains an abundance of Vitamin B3, which is great for lowering cholesterol levels and Vitamin B6, which improves brain health. Salmon is also rich in B12, which is important for the functioning of the nervous system, brain, and metabolic functions.

Salmon and Selenium

Salmon also contains a considerable amount of selenium, an essential trace mineral that improves brain health and function and protects the thyroid gland.

Sockeye-Salmon-Skin-On-Costco

Benefits of eating Salmon Skin

The only salmon Costco sells with skin-on will be their wild-caught sockeye salmon. Not only is salmon skin delicious, but there are also some great health benefits.

 

Salmon skin is an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids and can help protect the heart, brain, and even your skin.

 

If you are interested in learning some more benefits of salmon, check out this link here.

Final Thoughts

Salmon is one of those foods that almost everyone can benefit from eating more of. Whether you enjoy the strong salmon flavor of a Sockeye Salmon or want to avoid the fishiness and prefer the Atlantic Salmon, Costco has you covered. 

Salmon is extremely versatile and easy to cook or even not to cook. Costco’s salmon is top quality, more than fairly priced, and gets the Costco Food Database seal of approval.

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