Salmon Vs Steelhead Trout: Which One Is Better

Americans consume nearly 185 million pounds of salmon per year. With salmon farms sprouting up along coastal regions of Maine and Washington, US fish farms are producing about 10 million pounds of fish per year. However, you may have noticed a different type of fish, which is nearly identical to salmon in the seafood aisle in your local grocery market -  Steelhead trout. We’re going to talk about the specific similarities and differences between salmon vs. steelhead so that you can decide which one you want this week on your dinner table.

What Is Steelhead Trout 

Steelhead is a type of anadromous rainbow trout. Anadromous, meaning that they swim upriver from the sea to spawn. Steelheads have a pronounced pink stripe on the flank and are generally a bit smaller than their salmon counterparts ranging between 20-25”. Steelheads are able to spawn multiple times throughout their lifetime.  

What Is Salmon

Salmon is also a type of anadromous fish, that migrates from fresh water to the sea, then returns upriver to the exact spot they were born to spawn. There are several different types of salmon, including Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, Atlantic, and Sockeye. All of these species of salmon are found in the coastal waters of California, Alaska, and the Pacific, with the exception to Atlantic Salmon, which can be found off the coast of Maine. Unlike Steelhead, most male salmon die after they spawn the first time, while 10-40% may survive and return to the sea.

Wild-Caught Vs. Farm-Raised Fish                    

Simply put, wild-caught fish is from a natural habitat, whereas farm-raised fish are spawned and raised in tanks. The nutritional quality between the two largely depends on what the fish eats. Farm-raised fish can obtain higher omega-3s due to the feed, as compared to wild-caught fish, yet could be lower high in saturated fat. Some studies show that farm-raised fish could in fact have a higher chance of contaminants, and be prone to disease, as opposed to wild-caught fish. Ultimately, the quality of fish depends on the origin and if the fish is raised or caught domestically or internationally. Fish farms and inspections are highly regulated in the United States compared to other locations internationally and can have higher antibiotics and contaminants. 

Salmon Vs. Steelhead: Difference And Similarities


Both species of fish salmon and steelhead, belong to the family of salmonids and can be wild or farm raised. Steelhead and salmon are commonly confused due to their identical traits such as taste, texture, and appearance. Steelhead however are typically larger than rainbow trout because they spend a few years in salt water and a few years in fresh water.

Nutritionally, Steelhead is considered to be healthier than Salmon. Steelhead contains higher amounts of essential Omega-3 fatty acids, (EFAs) and vitamins than Salmon. A 3-oz serving of steelhead, also contains roughly 645 IU of Vitamin D and 3.5mcg of Vitamin B-12.

Salmon contains 175 calories, 11g of fat, and 19g of protein, while steelhead contains 120 calories, 5g of fat, and 17g of protein. Therefore, steelhead is going to provide a slightly better nutritional profile, with less fat and calories, and nearly the same amount of protein, per 3 oz. serving.


When comparing price, steelhead is slightly more affordable than salmon, selling for $0.25 less than salmon per pound.


Although salmon and steelhead are nearly identical in texture and taste, steelhead is often considered to be more flavorful and less fishy than salmon. This of course also relies upon if they are wild or farm raised, and if they’re fresh or frozen.

Salmon Vs. Steelhead Trout: Takeaway

Next time you’re cruising through the seafood aisle for salmon, make sure to ask the butcher behind the counter if they have steelhead. Although they look similar, salmon and steelhead are very different. Steelhead is a better choice nutritionally since it has less fat, fewer calories, and nearly the same amount of protein per serving. Steelhead also contains more omega-3 fatty acids, less sodium, and less cholesterol.

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The Swole Kitchen provides 1:1 nutrition coaching, macro coaching, and custom meal plans to help guide you to becoming the best version of yourself. We teach you how to enjoy the foods you love in the right amounts, so you can fit into your favorite pair of jeans, hit your health and fitness goals, and be healthy and happy. We guide you through making sound nutritional decisions and teach you along the way, so you can learn how to take control of your health, and discover what if feels like to live again.

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