The best smoked salmon is silky—but it has some bite. It’s salty—but not too salty. It’s oceanic—but not crazy fishy. It drapes onto a cream cheese-smeared bagel as if it were a textured throw draped onto a bed in a perfectly staged house on Zillow. We tasted through an ocean’s worth of store bought smoked salmon to find the best cold smoked salmon out there. (We’ll leave hot smoked salmon for another day.)
One of my favorite “fancy” solo dinners is a packet of smoked salmon, a jar of capers, some sliced red onion, and a baguette. I tear off pieces of baguette, top with smoked salmon, and sprinkle on capers and red onion. I rip and nibble my way through all of it—full jar of capers included. My fingers absolutely reek of fish by the end. But I’m eating alone—what do I care?
Smoked salmon is great because it is an affordable luxury.
Sure, you can find smoked salmon that isn’t exactly cheap. But there are plenty of high-quality smoked salmon brands available at the grocery store. Which ones? Glad you asked. After tasting slice after slice of the top smoked salmon brands available (including far too many from Trader Joe’s—seriously, it’s like TJ’s has a stake in a salmon farm), I can tell you all about the best smoked salmon.
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- Authentic Seafood of Patagonia Latitude 45 Atlantic Salmon
Oooo, baby. Here it is, the absolute best smoked salmon you can buy at a grocery store. It’s extremely silky and gorgeously rich. It melts in your mouth. It’s not too fishy. It’s not too salty. It’s balanced, so you can eat it on its own—serve this as an appetizer at a fancy dinner party. Simply plate it with a sprig of parsley. It peels off in pristine slices, which feels expected, but so many of the salmons I tried turned into mush when I tried to spear a slice. And, as if it couldn’t get better, it’s not even expensive. In fact, it’s one of the cheaper brands on this list. Our local Walmart sells four ounces for just over $5.
Credit: Liv Averett / Walmart
- Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoned Smoked Salmon
Trader Joe’s sells a lot of smoked salmon, but only two of their offerings made this list—the flavored ones. It’s just further proof of my theory about TJ’s: Their generic foods are fine, but their unique foods, the ones they put their own spin on, that’s where they really succeed. If you love their Everything But the Bagel seasoning, then you will love this salmon. It’s saturated with the oniony, garlicky flavor of the seasoning mix. And the fish is good, too. It’s firm, salty, and comes away in slices. Dress up a plain bagel and cream cheese with a few slices or drape it atop an everything bagel for the ultimate everything experience.
Credit: Liv Averett / Trader Joe’s
- Spruce Point Traditional Cold Smoked Atlantic Salmon
This smoked salmon is a bit of a splurge (we got it for about $14 for four ounces), but it’s a true smoked fish-lover’s smoked salmon. It has a great texture and fills your mouth with fishy flavor (in a good way). It almost tastes like smoked trout and finishes with an almost lemony note. It’s bold and complex. If you like smoked trout or smoked mackerel, this is the best smoked salmon for you. If you, like my colleague Jordan Myrick, are not interested in fish that tastes like fish, then I suggest you steer clear.
Credit: Liv Averett / Instacart
- Trader Joe’s Pastrami Style Smoked Atlantic Salmon
Another delicious spin on a classic from Trader Joe’s, this pastrami-spiced smoked salmon has a butter-soft texture and a serious dose of spice. It’s not just for show—the spices get you in the back of the throat with a tasty kick. It’s definitely the best smoked salmon for someone looking for something a little different—perhaps something with a bit more character to put on your sea-cuterie board (remember when people were trying to make that a thing?).
Credit: Liv Averett
- Private Selection Cold Smoked Alaskan Wild Sockeye Salmon
This was the best smoked salmon we tried from Kroger’s Private Selection line. It’s an extremely dark color—almost like mandarin orange. It’s firmer than many of the other smoked salmons we tried and easy to shred, making it the best smoked salmon for stirring into smoked salmon dip or other dishes. It’s applewood smoked and tastes closer to hot smoked salmon (which is what I think of when I think of the best Alaskan smoked salmon). It leans harder into the smoke flavor than the fish flavor, so it’s a great pick for people who don’t want to channel their inner Heathcliff.
Credit: Liv Averett / Ralphs
Best of the Best
Best for a Plain Bagel
Best for Fish Lovers
Best Not Too Fishy
Other smoked salmon brands we tried: Echo Falls Smoked Scottish Atlantic Salmon, Trader Joe’s Oak Smoked Salmon Pieces, Trader Joe’s Wild Nova Smoked Smoked Sockeye Salmon, LASCCO Kosher Wild Caught Keta Nova Salmon, Trader Joe’s Nova Salmon Pieces, Vita Classic Premium Sliced Smoked Atlantic Nova Salmon, Trader Joe’s Wild Sockeye Smoked Salmon Ends and Pieces, Acme Smoked Nova Salmon Everything Bagel, Private Selection Cold Smoked Norwegian Atlantic Salmon