Skip main navigation

Our Sockeye Salmon: Everything You Need to Know

Now’s the time to pounce on peak-season sockeye. Sustainable wild-caught in Alaska, sockeye boasts a rich flavor and made-for-grilling texture.

Sockeye salmon is prized for its ruby-red flesh, rich flavor and lean texture that’s perfect for summer grilling. We offer fresh sockeye in our Seafood department June through July, always Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainable and wild-caught in Alaska.

Exclusively for Prime members in select ZIP codes.

But what makes our peak-season sockeye so special — and what’s the best way to grill it? Get the low-down here, then hit the Seafood department in your local Whole Foods Market store to stock up.

What Is Sockeye Salmon?

Sockeye is a species that belongs to the Pacific salmon family with other popular varieties like coho and king (aka Chinook) salmon. If you’re new to sockeye, it has a rich, full flavor and firm texture that make it versatile enough for both everyday and special occasions.

Sockeye Salmon
Sockeye is deep red in color, bold in flavor and great on the grill.

One of sockeye’s most stunning qualities is its color — it has a gorgeous ruby-red hue that stays vibrant even when cooked. The color actually comes from its diet, which is high in carotenoids (the same pigment that gives carrots their orange color).

What Makes Our Sockeye Different?

Hands down, freshness and sourcing. Starting in mid-May, our Seafood Team watches the first weeks of sockeye season very closely — and we communicate daily with our suppliers so that our stores have a fresh and high-quality selection from June through July.

All our sustainable wild-caught sockeye salmon meets our rigorous seafood Quality Standards. For all the fresh and frozen seafood in our Seafood department, our standards help maintain healthy fish populations, protect ecosystems and build a more sustainable seafood supply for everyone. Our standards also prohibit certain preservatives like sodium bisulfite and STPP used to treat seafood.

sockeye salmon fishing boat in alaska's bristol bay
Alaska’s Bristol Bay is a vast body of water located in the eastern Bering Sea.

Supplier Spotlight: Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon

Don’t miss our fresh sockeye salmon that's sustainable wild-caught caught in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, home of the largest commercial wild salmon fishery in the world. This area’s vast system of pristine rivers and snow-fed lakes make it an ideal habitat for sockeye. In fact, an average of 38 million sockeye return to Bristol Bay and its six major river systems each year.

Meet the Fishermen of Bristol Bay

For over 130 years, generations of Bristol Bay’s small boat fishermen have carried on the tradition of hand-harvesting sockeye during peak-season from June to July. Sockeye’s abundance helps to support the 8,000 fishermen and 1,800 small fishing businesses that call this area home. Outside of Bristol Bay, each year’s harvest supports more than 14,000 jobs and contributes more than $1 billion in economic activity in the U.S.

Know Your Salmon Types: Sockeye vs. Coho vs. King Salmon

In addition to sockeye, you may find other fresh salmon varieties like Atlantic, coho and king salmon in our Seafood case throughout the year. But what’s the difference exactly?

  • Coho salmon: Ours is more delicate in flavor than sockeye and lighter in color. Sustainable wild caught from the Pacific Ocean.

  • King salmon: Ours is richer and fattier than sockeye and a true delicacy. The largest of the salmon varieties, king can clock in at over 100 pounds. Sustainable wild caught from the Pacific Ocean.

  • Atlantic salmon: Ours is mild, satisfying flavor with light pink flesh and melt-in-your mouth texture. Responsibly Farmed in carefully monitored, low-density pens and tanks without antibiotics, synthetic pesticides or added growth hormones.

Have more questions about any of our fresh salmon varieties? Just ask your fishmonger.

Sockeye Salmon Nutrition

Wild-caught salmon is a superfood star, and sockeye is no exception. Cooked wild-caught salmon is high in niacin, vitamin B12 and protein, also supplying potassium and omega-3s.

Per 3-ounce serving:
Calories: 133; Total Fat: 4.7g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1.6g; Protein: 22g (44% DV); Niacin: 8.5g (53% DV); Potassium: 371mg; Vitamin B12: 2.4 mcg (100% DV)

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); National Institutes of Health (NIH)

How to Grill Salmon Perfectly

Our Top Grilling Tips for Sockeye

Sockeye salmon’s lean, firm flesh makes it perfect for grilling. Plus, it pairs well with plenty of produce-packed summer side dishes. Follow these tips from Whole Foods Market Culinary Standards Manager, Allison Thomas, for success:

  • Select fillets with uniform thickness: Selecting fillets that have even thickness makes them easier to grill to your preferred doneness and also helps prevents overcooking.

  • Clean your grates: For the best-tasting sockeye, start with a clean grill that doesn’t smell (or look) like last week’s burgers.

  • Know your grill’s hot spots: Every grill has hot spots or areas that tend to get hotter than others. Identifying these will help you find the right spot for cooking your fillets. Be careful of ultra-hot areas that can scorch and overcook your fish.

  • Bring fillets to room temperature: While you’re preparing your grill for direct high-heat cooking, let the salmon come to room temperature on the kitchen counter. This helps your fish to cook more evenly.

  • Start skin-side down: If you’re grilling sockeye directly on your grill, we recommend using skin-on fish. Clean and oil your grates, then start your fillets skin-side down on a hot (but not scorching hot) part of your grill. Depending on thickness, it should take about 5­ – 7 minutes until they’re ready to flip.

  • Flip with care: When you’re ready, use a fish spatula to nudge the salmon. If it releases from the grill grates, it’s ready to flip. If not, give it another minute and try again, then cook on the other side to your desired doneness.

grilled salmon on wooden plank with fresh herbs salad
Recipe: Grilled Sockeye Salmon with Fresh Herb Salad

Grilled Sockeye Salmon Recipes

Need inspiration? Whether you grill it directly on the grates or on top of a cedar plank, these flavor-packed recipes will get you started.

Head to the Seafood department in your nearest Whole Foods Market store to stock up on fresh sockeye June through July. We also offer it frozen year-round in select stores.

Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

Explore More