Tilapia and salmon are two fish that are popular in the culinary world, and both are good sources of protein and nutrition.
It is easy to order one or the other from a menu, or pick one in the frozen section in the store, but many people don’t really know the difference between the two.
What are the differences between tilapia and salmon? Tilapia and salmon are both fish that are popularly consumed as protein, but they differ in taste and texture. Tilapia is very mild and is semi-firm when cooked, while salmon is more aromatic and flavorful, and can be firm but tender when cooked.
Read on to understand the differences between tilapia and salmon, decide which fish is the best option for you, and learn more about the food you’re eating.
What Is Salmon?
Salmon is a very versatile fish that is served around the world. This name is given to a few different fish in the species, and different species of salmon can be found in both freshwater and saltwater.
Salmon can be found naturally in tributaries in the North Atlantic, as well as predominantly in the Pacific Ocean. It can also be farmed, but farmed salmon is not always as high-quality compared to wild-caught specimens.
This is a popular fish to eat because it is meaty, rich, and oily, while still having great nutritional value. It goes well with many sauces, herbs, spices, and other ingredients, holding onto its flavor well without being too overpowering.
Salmon can be easily identified thanks to its pink flesh, both when raw and when cooked. The size of a salmon fillet will also depend on where the salmon was caught, with salmon caught in saltwater being bigger than freshwater salmon.
What Is Tilapia?
Tilapia is one of the most commonly farmed and caught fish in the world. Tilapia fall into the cichlids family, and different types of tilapia can be found all over the world, mainly in fish farms.
Tilapia is a popular fish to farm because it grows fast, consumes a cheap diet, and requires little space. This allows it to be cheaper and more prevalent, and with the great taste that tilapia has, it makes sense as to why it is so popular.
Having a neutral and mild flavor, tilapia pairs well with just about any ingredient, seasoning, or sauce, and it is ideal for those who want to stay away from fishy-tasting fish.
What Does Salmon Taste Like?
Salmon has a beautiful taste. It is considered a mild-tasting fish, but has a delicate richness to it complemented by the natural oil found in salmon.
When cooked properly, salmon is almost buttery, with a hint of sweetness and a subtly fishy taste that is not overpowering. As salmon is quite rich and oily, it can be prepared in numerous ways and holds on to flavors very well.
What salmon tastes like also depends on how it is prepared, whether it is steamed, smoked, or canned.
What Does Tilapia Taste Like?
Tilapia is so popular because it almost lacks a distinctive flavor of its own. It is a white flesh fish that has a very mild and neutral flavor, which means that it is ideal to pair with just about any other ingredient, spice, or sauce.
For some, tilapia might be tasteless or boring, but the mild taste is great for those who do not want a very fishy-tasting fish or one that can allow other ingredients in a meal to shine. There is also a slight sweetness to tilapia.
The one problem with the taste of tilapia is where it is farmed. If the farming practices are not ideal, tilapia can take on a slightly earthy flavor. This is more common during the summer months, but most tilapia fillets don’t have this taste.
What Is The Texture Of Salmon?
The texture of salmon is determined by the way it is prepared or cooked. When raw, salmon is smooth and fatty, almost meaty.
Cooked salmon most commonly has a rich, buttery, and tender texture, and is known to be slightly softer than some other fish.
Whether baked, poached, or grilled, salmon should be soft, smooth, and have big flaky pieces as long as it is not overcooked.
You can also enjoy crispy skin from salmon when it is fried properly, with the flesh still being soft and flaky. Canned salmon is also soft and flaky, though rather moist due to it being canned in liquid.
What Is The Texture Of Tilapia?
Compared to salmon, tilapia has a firmer texture with smaller flakes as it is quite a lean fish. When cooked properly, tilapia changes from a pinkish-white color to a completely white color.
The skin can be left on tilapia and crisped up, but most often there is a layer of darker meat below the skin that most people choose to remove before cooking.
Salmon Nutritional Content
Salmon is known to have a high omega-3 fatty acid content, which has many nutritional benefits.
Here is a quick overview of the nutritional content of salmon per 100g:
Tilapia Nutritional Content
Tilapia has a high omega-6 fatty acid content, which is not as ideal as the high omega-3 fatty acid content that salmon has.
Here is a quick overview of the nutritional content of tilapia per 100g:
The Best Ways To Cook Salmon
Salmon is such a versatile fish that while one person might think they know the best way to prepare salmon, another person might prefer something completely different.
With all the different ways to enjoy salmon, you can decide which cooking method you prefer best. Here are some of the best ways that salmon can be prepared or cooked:
Salmon can be enjoyed raw, as long as it has been sourced from safe suppliers or has been flash-frozen to kill off any parasites. Most commonly, raw salmon is used in sushi or in poke bowls.
Poached salmon is very creamy and buttery, and will take on the flavor of any ingredients that you might poach it with. It helps to poach salmon with a seasoned liquid, such as broth or coconut milk, so it can absorb extra flavor.
Baked salmon is versatile on its own, as it can be baked on its own or with a host of different ingredients. When baked for the right amount of time, salmon should be buttery, creamy, and light.
Grilling salmon is a healthy method of preparation, and when grilled, the salmon should have a fairly firm texture, but still buttery and with big flakes. If the salmon still has skin left on it, the skin can crisp up beautifully too.
The Best Ways To Cook Tilapia
While it has a mild flavor that lends itself well to many different ingredients, tilapia is not as versatile as salmon is, and is not prepared in such a wide variety of ways. However, there are a few different options on how to cook tilapia.
Broiling tilapia creates a firm, lean piece of meat that might have a crispy skin if it was left on. The tilapia can be broiled with some other ingredients, or it can be seasoned and broiled on its own.
Baking tilapia in the oven is a great way to retain moisture and add flavor to the mild-flavored fish. Baked tilapia will be soft, flaky, and moist. You can bake it on an open tray, or wrap it in aluminum foil or parchment paper with other ingredients to steam it.
Steaming tilapia with a steamer will give you beautifully light and juicy fish fillets. Steam it with some lemon and herbs to infuse a great flavor into the fish.
Tilapia, as it is a semi-firm fish, can be fried successfully. You can choose to fry tilapia on its own, or you can fry it up with ingredients such as tomatoes and peppers to create a whole dish.
Best Seasonings For Salmon
Being so versatile, salmon can be paired with a range of seasonings and spices — it will depend on what you enjoy eating.
Some of the best seasonings that can be used for salmon are herbs such as parsley, basil, sage, rosemary, dill, and thyme. We also recommend spices such as garlic, lemon zest, salt, lemon, paprika or chili.
There are some great seasoning mixes that can be made at home which are perfect to use on salmon, some of which include brown sugar to enhance the natural sweetness and butteriness of salmon.
Best Seasonings For Tilapia
As tilapia has such a mild flavor, it is perfect for absorbing any range of spices, herbs, and seasonings you could choose for flavoring.
Like with salmon, you can create a seasoning mix at home for tilapia. Try using spices like paprika, garlic powder, and cumin in addition to herbs such as oregano, basil, and thyme.
Lemon is also a great pairing with tilapia, and a simple lemon black pepper seasoning can be all you need to make tilapia taste great!
Best Sauces To Pair With Salmon
Salmon tastes great when paired with the right sauce, and there are some amazing sauces that salmon can be paired with!
Here are some of the best sauces to serve with salmon:
- Lemon butter sauce
- Garlic lemon cream sauce
- Honey and garlic sauce
- Herb and garlic cream sauce
- Honey mustard sauce
- Yogurt dill sauce
Best Sauces To Pair With Tilapia
Tilapia is a great fish to serve to show off the flavor of a sauce, as the fish will not overpower the other ingredients in the dish.
Here are some of the best sauces to serve with tilapia:
- Mustard chive sauce
- Creamy cajun sauce
- Lemon garlic butter
- Lemon garlic cream sauce
- White wine sauce
- Balsamic butter sauce
Tips For Cooking Salmon
Here are some handy tips to remember when cooking salmon:
- Keep the skin on if you are pan-frying or grilling salmon, as it protects the flesh from the heat. Remove the skin if you are poaching or slow-roasting salmon.
- Do not overcook salmon, as it will be dry and too firm. Cook it until the flesh turns to an opaque pink rather than translucent.
- If using the oven, place salmon in baking paper parcels with lemon and other vegetables to create a moist and flavorful meal in one pan.
- Check to see if there are any pin bones in the salmon before cooking it, and remove any using a tweezer if there are any present.
Tips For Cooking Tilapia
Here are some handy tips to follow when cooking tilapia:
- Add a few slices of ginger to the pan when cooking tilapia to help lessen the earthy taste (if there is any).
- Try using tilapia in a stew or casserole, as it will hold up well to the cooking process and not overpower the dish.
- Vinegar and lemon juice are both great at breaking down any earthy flavor in tilapia while helping to add flavor to the fish.
- Once cooked, garnish your tilapia with some fresh herbs to give it a fresher flavor.
Tilapia Vs Salmon
Tilapia and salmon are two very different types of fish. Salmon is known for its rich, buttery texture and taste, even though the flavor is quite mild. Tilapia, on the other hand, is a very mild fish with a semi-firm texture.
Salmon can be prepared in a variety of ways and even enjoyed raw if sourced properly, whereas tilapia needs to be cooked through and is often baked or fried.
Salmon does win slightly when it comes to nutrient content, but this in no way means that tilapia is not a healthy fish to enjoy for dinner.
Both fish have great benefits and pair well with many different flavors and ingredients — it comes down to your personal preference as to which is the best fish for you!
Is tilapia a good substitute for salmon?
Tilapia can be a good substitute for salmon in some cases. It cannot be used as a substitute for raw salmon dishes, as it needs to be cooked through. It has a mild taste so it will not overpower any dish where it is being used in place of salmon.
Should you rinse salmon?
It is not advised to rinse salmon, or any other raw fish or meat, as this could splash bacteria onto surfaces in your kitchen which could then cause illness. Cooking the salmon at a high enough temperature should kill any harmful bacteria present, so rinsing is not needed.