Understanding Costco Salmon - Which to Pick, Tips, Fresh Or Frozen

Salmon-from-Costco

What Salmon does Costco Sell? ​

Costco Sells Atlantic Salmon And Wild Sockeye Salmon

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)

So Many Costco Salmon Options Can Make It Tough To Decide

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

It’s tough to navigate through all of Costco 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 the Costco salmon lineup. 

Costco-Sockeye-Salmon-Wild
Wild Sockeye Salmon

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

All Costco Salmon Has Been Previously Frozen

Salmon Is Flash Frozen Almost Immediately After Being Caught

Costco fresh salmon, found in the meat and seafood department, is flash-frozen and then thawed before being sold.

 

They do this 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 is best when never frozen, but to have truly fresh salmon, it must be prepared and cooked within hours of being caught. This is only realistic for a handful of grocers across the country.

What is Better, Fresh or Frozen Salmon from Costco?

The Answer Isn't So Clear

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

Freezing technology has significantly improved, and frozen salmon is now closer in quality to fresh salmon.

Is Frozen Salmon Actually Fresher than Fresh Salmon?

Some Argue That You Can Lock In The Freshness

Some even argue that frozen salmon is fresher than fresh salmon because they almost immediately freeze the fish 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 for a few days.

When to Buy Fresh Salmon?

I Always Serve Fresh Salmon To Guests

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 based primarily on the occasion and the required 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. 

You can also portion out the filet appropriately per guest, and it will provide a higher quality feel.

Why Buy Costco Frozen Salmon?

Frozen Salmon Is Perfect For Easy Weeknight Dinners

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

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

What Do the Experts Think?

Experts Care Less Than You Would Think

Most fishermen and seafood connoisseurs will also tell you that fresh vs. frozen is just one characteristic they look for when picking salmon. They will also tell you they prefer wild-caught salmon as they consider it of better quality.

Costco Salmon Comparison, Ratings, and review

The big difference in quality between Costco 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.

 

Costco’s sockeye salmon has it all – taste, value, health benefits, sustainability, and presentation.

Costco Salmon Taste

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

Atlantic Salmon Taste Test

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 Sockeye Salmon TAste

Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon has the Classic Salmon Taste

I love sockeye salmon for its rich and complex flavor. Sockeye 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. 

Because it’s wild fish, the traditional salmon flavor many people know is very present.

Why Does Costco Salmon Have Distinctly Different COlor?

Wild Salmon is Red, Farmed Atlantic Salmon is Orange

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

The Atlantic Salmon at Costco is pink, but the Sockeye Salmon is a stunning deep red.

Costco-Sockeye-Salmon-and-Atlantic-Salmon

Why is Wild Sockeye Salmon Dark Red?

Salmons get their skin color from 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.

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

For 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 Costco Atlantic Salmon

Non-Sustainable-Farmed-Atlantic-Salmon

Costco Atlantic Salmon from Chile appears to be an “avoid”. Seafood Watch states that Atlantic Salmon is treated with an exorbitant amount of antimicrobials and pesticides.

 

Antimicrobial resistance is a serious issue, so consider buying different salmon products. 

Salmon Nutritional Benefits

Both Salmon Choices From Costco Are Good For You

Salmon is a great protein to eat and it 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. Atlantic salmon contains more calories and 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

Only A Few Dollars More Per Pound

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

Amazing Natural Salmon Flavor and 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. 

Beautiful Presentation and Color

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

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

Costco's Wild Sockeye Salmon Has More Nutritional 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)

Wild Sockeye Is Sustainable

Fish are a limited resource, and I’m going to do my best to often go with the sustainable option if available. Monterey 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 salmon prices as of 5/1/2022.

Costco-Atlantic-Salmon-Price

How much is Salmon at Costco?

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

Fresh and frozen salmon have similar prices, so pick based on the occasion and how you want to cook and serve it. 

Costco-Atlantic-Salmon-Price-Kirkland-Signature

The Atlantic salmon price fluctuates. 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 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?

You Can Eat Costco's Sushi Raw, But Be Careful

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

If you want to take the risk, only do so with Costco 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
Please enjoy this photo of me eating some raw salmon from Costco.

Is Costco Salmon Sushi Grade or Sashimi Grade?

Costco Salmon is Not Sushi 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?

There Is Risk To Eating Any Raw Salmon

The primary 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

Stick To Costco's Farmed Atlantic Salmon

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

If you eat Costco’s raw salmon, keep it cold at all times, use clean utensils to prepare the fish, and thoroughly check for worms.

 

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

Salmon Poke Bowl

Make Your Own Poke Bowl Using Costco Salmon

Sashimi is always delicious, but sometimes I crave a poke bowl. Costco sells 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

How to Cook Costco Salmon

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 requires less cook time. Ensure that your recipe calls for sockeye salmon; if not, adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Costco Salmon Cooking Temperatures

Cook’s Illustrated states 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 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)

Many Ways To Cook Costco Salmon

Luckily, salmon is a super versatile food that can be prepared 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 vide, poached, and roasted. 

 

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

Costco Salmon Nutritional Information

Costco Salmon Calories and Macronutrients

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 leaner. On a macronutrient level, the wild sockeye salmon from Costco is the superior option.  

Health Benefits of Eating Costco Salmon

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

Costco’s 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. Costco’s 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 salmon is top quality, more than fairly priced, and gets the Costco Food Database seal of approval.

Additional Guides you May Like

Cast-Iron-Salmon-from-Costco

Costco Salmon - Crispy Cast Iron Skillet Recipe

Costco's fresh salmon can be cooked in multiple ways, but it is super tasty when cooked in a searing hot cast iron skillet!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2 people
Calories 360 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 Fresh Salmon Fillets
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lemon wedges
  • 3 tbsp butter

Instructions
 

  • Preheat cast iron skillet on high heat
  • Rub salmon with cooking oil and desired seasoning
  • Place butter and allow it to melt in the cast iron skillet. Add in salmon pieces. Place skin side down if applicable.
  • Cook salmon for 4 minutes. Drizzle salmon with lemon juices
  • Lower heat to medium. Flip salmon and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  • Remove salmon from cast iron skillet and dress with any remaining butter/lemon juice from the pan.

Nutrition

Serving: 7ouncesCalories: 360kcalCarbohydrates: 0gProtein: 40gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 117mgSodium: 117mgFiber: 0gSugar: 0g
Keyword atlantic salmon, costco, costco salmon, fresh salmon, kirkland signature, sockeye salmon
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!