Take a Break from Tuna with the Best Canned Salmon

Canned salmon is, if I’m being honest, probably my fifth favorite type of canned seafood, ranking behind sardines, tuna, anchovies, and smoked oysters. I much prefer a fresh filet of salmon to the canned stuff; however, this taste test made me reconsider everything. Turns out, there is a wide variety of buttery, tasty, decadent canned salmon that’s readily available at the grocery store. It surprised the hell out of me.

Canned salmon comes prepared in a variety of ways: shredded in chunks, smoked, and full poached filets. They were hard to stack up against each other, as they all have different uses, but mostly what we looked for was a combo of taste and utility. We wanted good quality seafood—nothing suspiciously fishy. We wanted flaky salmon that brings a sweet, buttery flavor. And we wanted practicality. Does the salmon go well with a cracker, on a salad, and in a sandwich? The more uses, the higher it ranked. So, here’s what delivered.

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Best of The Best

Taku Smoked Sockeye Salmon

The top three blew us all away, starting with Taku. “This is very flaky and very good,” said staff writer Jordan Myrick, “I would put this on a toasted bagel with cream cheese and thinly sliced onion.” Sockeye salmon is a bit more oily than Atlantic salmon, so it’s got a nice, rich flavor that is enhanced when it’s smoked. This is fancy salmon, but the price isn’t too outrageous and the flavor is tough to beat. It’s deliciously salty, smoky, and fatty. In addition to a bagel, I think this would go great on a nicoise salad with some potatoes, capers, and onion.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde/Taku

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Best Salmon Fillet

Polar Salmon Fillets

This fish is so good it made me want to scream with giddy excitement. It’s a fillet of salmon in a can, but the real kicker is that it’s just so damn buttery. The salmon is intensely flavored, as is the brine in the can. There’s a real fat-forward taste, which I’m guessing is from the salmon being poached in its own fat and juices. This would be great with crackers, or thrown on top of some white rice for a quick and easy meal. This is the only salmon on this list that comes as a full fillet. Honestly, none of us could believe how good it is. It feels like it’s been poached in butter. This salmon will live in my dreams.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde/Amazon

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Best for Travel

Patagonia Original Wild Sockeye Salmon

The top three could really go in any order, because Patagonia also produces a banger of a salmon. It comes in a cute little pouch like a delivery from UPS, which tells me that this is meant to be carried on camping trips and hikes. This is the salmon that our editor-in-chief Justine Sterling took home with her after the tasting. Patagonia’s website says it’s harvested from responsibly managed fisheries in the Northern Atlantic, and it definitely has a high-quality fish feel to it. It’s big on flavor. This wild sockeye salmon is lightly brined and smoked, so the taste is really fresh and unctuous. This tasty fillet would be great on a sandwich, in a salad, or eaten on-the-go right from the pouch. Ditch the Kind bar and bring a pouch of salmon on your next jaunt through the mountains.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde/Amazon

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

Best Fatty

Deming’s Red Sockeye Salmon

Deming’s is really oleaginous—so much so that it appears more marbled with fat than the others we tasted. Deming’s is a rolled-up fillet of salmon that’s really briny and decadent. It tastes like dark meat, in a way, due to the fact that it’s just so fatty. Some of our tasters thought that it might be too salty, but to me there’s no such thing. It comes in some water, and might be a little too wet to put on a salad or a sandwich, but the flavor is too good for this to not make it into the top five. Personally, I would drink the salmon juice that comes in the can. Overall, really great stuff.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde/Amazon

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Best for Salmon Salad

Signature Select Alaska Pink Salmon

“It’s really salty, which I like,” said Jordan. Signature Select offers a fairly standard product, but it tastes good and there’s a lot of it—substantially more fish than the other products. This is a big ol’ can of salmon, so I think it’s best for salmon salad. Maybe add some mayonnaise, a little vinegar, some fresh herbs, and some onion. The flavor isn’t spectacular, but it’s not offensive, either. Dress this one up with some things in your fridge, then go to town.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde/Instacart

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Best for a Sandwich

St. Jean’s Wild Skinless Boneless Sockeye Salmon

This is a really good, hand-packed can of salmon. Inside you’ll find fatty, flaky sockeye salmon that’s been cooked in its own juices, then seasoned with some sea salt. Simplicity wins here. It doesn’t come with any additional water or oil, so you just get a really tasty, fresh piece of fish. I love it. The salmon doesn’t have a lot of moisture and there’s no bones, so you could open up this can and put the fish directly on some bread, no problem.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde/St. Jean’s

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Best as a Spread

Wildfish Cannery Smoked White King Salmon

Wildfish Cannery’s salmon is a bit on the mushy side, but I think that makes it suited to being used as a spread. Like a paté, it’s soft and also really dense with flavor. It’s got a great buttery taste with just a touch of sweetness. Justine made a great suggestion, which is to add some lemon zest or juice to it. Pick some of your favorite ingredients, grab a box of saltines, and roll with it. 

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde/Amazon

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Other Products We Tried: Northern Catch Pink Salmon, 365 Wild Alaska Pink Salmon, Starkist Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon, Bumblebee Skinless and Boneless Pink Salmon, Chicken of The Sea Pink Salmon in Water, Signature Select Alaska Pink Salmon, Kroger Alaskan Sockeye Red Salmon, Safe Catch Skinless & Boneless Wild Pacific Pink Salmon, Great Value Alaskan Pink Salmon, Sprouts Wild Caught Alaskan Pink Salmon, Trader Joe’s Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon, Crown Prince Natural Wild Caught Pink Salmon

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About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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  • I’m a salmon snob. I never eat frozen salmon. I love Aldi Lightly Smoked salmon I never have to put anything on it. Maybe butter.

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