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Our Sockeye Salmon: What You Need to Know

Sockeye season runs from June through July. Learn how to make the most of it (before it's over) from our seafood expert.

Sockeye salmon is prized for its brilliantly colored flesh and bold flavor. It comes into season for a short time during the summer — from June through July — and you can find it fresh in our stores for a limited time only. (We also offer it frozen year-round in many stores.) Want to learn more about our sockeye salmon? Whole Foods Market Senior Seafood Buyer, Ted McDermott, shares why ours is special, plus the best ways to cook it at home.

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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. The best Sockeye salmon comes from Alaska, mostly out of the Bristol Bay region. We also love to target large, fatty fresh sockeye from Southeast Alaska. When it comes into season from June to July, we work diligently to ensure our stores get the freshest and highest-quality selection.

Sockeye salmon fillet with lemon and asparagus.
Sockeye is deep red in color, bold in flavor and is great on the grill.

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. One of my favorite things about it is the color — it has a gorgeous orange-red hue that stays vibrant even when cooked.

Sockeye vs. Coho vs. King Salmon

All our sustainable wild-caught salmon is delicious, of course, and all varieties are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, sockeye stands out for several key reasons. While it’s one of the smaller Pacific salmon varieties, it packs a stronger flavor than coho but is more delicate than king salmon, which is richer and fattier.

What makes our sockeye salmon special?

Hands down, freshness and sourcing. Our in-season sockeye salmon is fresh in our stores from Alaska. Starting in mid-May, our team watches the first weeks of the season very closely — and we communicate daily with our suppliers so that our stores get a fresh and high-quality selection. Learn more below.

A person holding a fish in the water.

Suppliers we love: OBI Seafoods

OBI, which is comprised of Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods, is deeply committed to responsible and sustainable fishery management. In fact, they’ve been processing seafood in Alaska for more than 100 years. They partner with small-scale fishermen who selectively target sockeye with gillnets in highly regulated fisheries in the pristine waters of Bristol Bay. These harvesters are professionals who in some cases have been fishing for generations in Alaska’s wild-capture fisheries. OBI works in lockstep with these harvesters to understand the complexity, challenges and overall unmatched pace of the wild Bristol Bay salmon season to produce the best possible quality.

How do you cook sockeye salmon?

Sockeye salmon is easy to cook, with a few guidelines. Be extra careful to not overcook it. While other salmon varieties will turn opaque when cooked, sockeye retains its characteristic reddish color. Texture is your best indicator of doneness. Whether you’re grilling or sautéing, you’ll know it’s cooked when the flesh begins to flake.

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