What Does Salmon Taste Like?

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Adding fish into your diet can provide you with a plethora of different health benefits. One of the best tasting and most nutritious fish out there is salmon.

Salmon is a beautiful fish that is eaten in many different cuisines as it is extremely versatile and can be eaten in many different ways; because it is so versatile it is one of the most eaten pieces of fish.

If you have never had salmon you may be curious of its different qualities like uses, texture, and most importantly, how it tastes. 

So, what does salmon taste like? Salmon is a mild-flavored fish with a rich and slightly oily taste to it. Baked, grilled, and poached salmon will often taste citrusy and buttery, along with whatever accompanying flavors were added to the dish. Smoked salmon tastes smokey and subtly fishy, and canned salmon is often either bland or oily.

Keep reading to learn more about salmon’s taste in all of its different forms, as well as its texture, smell, and the many different ways you can prepare the fish. 

What Is Salmon?

Salmon is a beautiful bright pinkish-orange fish that is popular around the world. 

Salmon are an anadromous fish, meaning they can be found in both salt and fresh water. 

This means they are predominantly found in both the Pacific Ocean but also different tributaries (a river or stream that flows into a lake) of the North Atlantic.

You can get salmon both farmed and fresh, and the origin of the fish can determine the quality of the fish. Wild-caught salmon tends to be of higher quality than farmed salmon. 

It is a rich and meaty piece of fish and is a lot less flakey than other pieces of fish like sea bass or halibut. 

Salmon is a popular fish that is used in many different cuisines as it is extremely versatile and works with a plethora of flavors. 

You can access salmon just about anywhere in the world. 

What Are The Different Ways You Can Eat Salmon?

Because salmon is such an adaptable fish, it can be eaten in many different ways. 

If you get high-quality salmon, it can be eaten raw in sushi rolls, sashimi, or poke. 

Smoked salmon is a popular version of the fish that is often served with bagels at breakfast

Salmon can be baked or roasted in an oven, poached, or cooked on the stovetop in a pan or skillet. 

Salmon can be deep-fried and turned into fish sticks for kids or even fish tacos. 

Salmon tastes delicious when cooked on a grill. It can be cooked right on the grill, or more popularly, cooked on a cedar plank for extra flavor

Lastly, salmon can come in a can and can be mixed with mayo and other condiments to resemble a tuna salad or can be made into salmon cakes or burgers.

What Does Salmon Smell Like?

The way salmon smells is most often determined by the way it has been cooked and prepared. Because of that, we have separated this next section into ways the salmon may be cooked.

Raw Salmon

Raw salmon that is going to be cooked should not have an overwhelming fishy smell to it. However, it should smell slightly salty and fishy—think the smell of an ocean breeze

Raw salmon that is going to be consumed raw, like in sushi or sashimi, should smell light, salty, and a bit oily but should not smell fishy.

This is because raw salmon that is going to be cooked should not be eaten raw and it is not of high enough quality, where sushi salmon is. This is why choosing the correct kind of salmon is important. 

However, if either type of raw salmon has an overwhelming fishy smell to it (like knock you off your feet bad) that is a sign it is inedible and needs to be thrown away. 

Baked and Poached Salmon

We have put baked and poached salmon together because their smell is quite similar to one another. 

Both baked and poached salmon should smell a bit rich, but mostly like the flavors you have cooked it with.  

So, for example, if you have marinated your salmon with a honey mustard glaze and baked it in the oven, it should come out smelling a bit sweet and tangy.

If you poach your salmon in curry and coconut milk, it should smell slightly sweet and spicy.

Your baked and poached salmon should not smell fishy after it has been cooked; this is a sign it has gone bad. 

Grilled Salmon

Grilled salmon should smell relatively similar to baked and poached salmon; it should smell like the herbs, spices and sauces used to flavor it.

However, because it is cooked over a flame, it should also have a smoky smell to it as well.

If you used a cedar plank on the grill, it should have both a smoky and a bit earthy smell.

Once again, if your grilled salmon smells fishy at all, do not eat it as the fishy smell after cooking is a sign it has gone bad.

Fried Salmon

Fried salmon is most likely going to smell the most unique compared to the other salmon varieties on the list. That is because of how it is cooked and prepared.

Fried salmon is battered in flour and may or may not have some type of crunchy element, like breadcrumbs on the outside.

What the salmon is coated in can determine what it will smell like once it has been fried. If they are panko breadcrumbs, you can expect a bit of a yeasty smell to them.

However, fried salmon will always smell a bit oily due to the cooking process. 

Smoked Salmon

Out of all the salmon varieties, smoked salmon tends to smell the fishiest.

It is not as fresh as raw salmon, or as cooked as baked or grilled salmon, so the smell lands somewhere in the middle. 

It will have a smoky flavor to it with a slight salty and fishy smell. As long as the fish smell is not overbearing, it is safe to eat.

Canned Salmon

Canned salmon should have a relatively mild smell to it as the shredded salmon is usually soaking in water or oil.

It is cooked salmon so it should smell a bit salty and very mildly fishy. If it smells overtly fishy or rancid, toss it out.

What’s The Texture Of Salmon?

Like smell, the way salmon is textured is determined by the way it has been cooked and prepared. Because of that, we have also separated this next section into ways the salmon may be cooked.

Raw Salmon

Raw salmon is going to have a smooth, fatty, and rich texture to it. It has a bit of a bounce back to it when touched and can easily be sliced.

If raw salmon has a stringy or sticky texture to it, it has gone bad.

Baked and Grilled Salmon

We have put baked and grilled salmon together because they have very similar textures to one another.

Both baked and grilled salmon have a beautiful and flaky texture to them. It is extremely smooth and the salmon meat falls apart into nice big flakey pieces.

When cooked right, baked and grilled salmon has a smooth buttery-like texture to it.

Poached Salmon

Poached salmon will have a similar consistency to baked and grilled salmon but will be much softer as it sits and cooks in liquid.

Poached salmon does not get as flakey as baked or grilled salmon as it stays more condensed when being poached.

However, it still gets extremely soft due to the liquid and it turns into a buttery consistency. 

Fried Salmon

Fried salmon will have the most unique consistency of all of the types of salmon. 

Fried salmon will have a crunchy texture on the outside, but a smooth consistency on the inside. Depending on how the fish is fried and what it is coated in, the crunch level will change.

Some fried salmon is extremely crunchy, while others are just mildly crunchy. What always stays the same is the smooth and creamy consistency of the salmon inside the outer layer.

Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon will have a similar consistency to raw salmon however, it tends to be cut and served much thinner so the texture is slightly different.

Where raw salmon is extremely smooth but a little bit thick, smoked salmon has a bit more grit to it since it is slightly cooked

It tends to be a bit harder to pull apart yet it still has a soft and pliable consistency. It lands somewhere in the middle of raw and cooked salmon. 

Canned Salmon

Canned salmon has one of the most unique consistencies of all the different types of this fish. 

Because it is usually soaked in a liquid, canned salmon is extremely soft and malleable. It can be molded very easily and is the softest of the varieties. 

Does Salmon Have A Fishy Taste?

If you are eating good salmon, it should not have a fishy taste. 

In fact, if your salmon tastes fishy it is a sign you should stop eating it immediately. Though salmon can smell a bit fishy before cooking, the fishy smell should go away as soon as the fish has been cooked. 

This is one of the number one ways to tell if your salmon has gone bad. However, there are a few other tricks to deciding whether or not your salmon is safe to consume.


Just like it should not taste fishy after cooking, it also should not smell fishy after cooking. The cooking process should make that fishy smell go away. It also should not smell rancid or like sulfur after it has been cooked.

If your salmon has any of these odd odors, toss the fish.


Your salmon should be pinkish-orange both before and after it is cooked. 

If it looks dull, grey, or slightly green before or after cooking, it has gone bad and should not be consumed.


Your salmon should be the correct texture. 

This is dependent on how you plan on preparing it and how it is going to be consumed. For example, smoked salmon and salmon that is being poached do not need the same texture.

If the salmon is hard, slimy, sticky, or stringy, it has gone bad and is not safe to consume.

So, What Does Salmon Taste Like?

Now that we know what salmon should not taste (or smell, look and feel) like let’s look at how salmon should taste.

Because there are so many different varieties of salmon, we have also divided this section into the ways the fish has been cooked.


Raw salmon should taste light, fresh, and almost citrusy. It has a high-fat content and will also taste quite buttery and melt in your mouth.

Raw salmon pairs well with citrus and salty sauces like soy sauce or ponzu sauce.

Baked Salmon

Baked salmon will taste most like whatever it has been seasoned or marinade with. However, the base of the fish will still taste the same. It will taste light, buttery and creamy.

Whatever you marinate it in should complement these flavors. Honey mustard, dill, and other herbs, chipotle, dijon, citrus, and garlic all work well when baking a piece of salmon

Poached Salmon

Like baked salmon, poached salmon will have the base of a buttery and creamy flavor but also will taste like whatever you poached it in. 

Poaching requires a liquid that needs to be extremely seasoned to actually flavor the fish while it cooks. 

This could mean using coconut milk and herbs like cilantro and peppers to give it a nice Thai flavor. Or you could use broth or water and season the liquid with herbs like dill, thyme, parsley, and garlic.

The poached salmon will taste like the flavoring, so choose wisely, and make sure to include enough to actually infuse the salmon with flavor.

Grilled Salmon

Grilled salmon has a unique taste as it is prepared over an open flame or charcoal. 

Because of this cooking method, grilled salmon still has a buttery flavor but also tastes rich and smoky due to the flame or charcoal

Grilled salmon can also be done with a cedar wood plank which adds more flavor to the salmon. This gives off a rich wood and smoky taste to the salmon. 

When grilling salmon I would stick to keeping your ingredients minimal. Oil or butter, salt, pepper, a little garlic, and lemon go a long way for flavoring grilled salmon.

Fried Salmon

Fried salmon is not usually eaten by itself, but that does not mean it does not have a good flavor. 

Fried salmon will taste usually salty and crunchy on the outside, but smooth and buttery on the inside. It also will taste a bit like whatever oil it is cooked in.

Fried salmon is usually served as fish sticks and served with tartar and cocktail sauce or in tacos with a creamy crema and cabbage and lime. 

Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon has a very particular cooking process that results in a very particular flavor. 

The process results in the smoked salmon being slightly salty and smoky and mildly (very mildly) fishy. Out of all the salmon options, this is the only one that has a slight fishy taste.

Smoked salmon is usually served with bagels for breakfast, so it pairs well with cream cheese and other bagel condiments like capers, tomato and red onion.

Canned Salmon

Canned salmon tastes extremely mild and quite bland even though it is cooked. 

If it is soaked in water it will be extremely mild, but if it’s soaked in oil it will have a bit of an oily taste to it

Because of this, canned salmon does best when heavily flavored in a tuna salad-like dish or in salmon cakes or burgers. 

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