Top Tips for Cooking Coho Salmon Perfectly

October 18th, 2021

How to Let the Nuance of This Delicate Species Shine Through

The Best Tips for Cooking the Perfect Coho Salmon

Coho salmon is one of several species of wild salmon that calls the Pacific its home, ranging as far south as central California and all the way up to southeast Alaska where it can be found thriving in great numbers in Alaskan fisheries. Like other species of wild salmon, coho is a lean, nutrient-dense protein choice that makes a great addition to anyone's diet. It’s also a versatile protein that can be prepared with any of your favorite cooking methods, so you’ll be able to enjoy coho in a variety of delicious, healthy meals. 

Here’s an overview of some of the best recipes that help you learn the basics of how to cook coho salmon, covering everything from how to poach or grill salmon, how to make perfectly pan seared salmon fillets, and how to throw together a quick meal under the broiler. 


Top Tips for Cooking Coho Salmon

Coho is one of the leaner species of Pacific salmon, a bit more oily than chum and pink salmon, but leaner than sockeye and chinook. You’ll want to keep its modest fat content in mind to ensure that you’re cooking up a moist, tender piece of fish every time. 

Overcooking coho can lead to a dry piece of salmon. If you’re just learning how to cook salmon or it’s your first time preparing a wild fillet, you’ll likely need to make adjustments in cook time to account for its leanness. (After all, wild salmon is much leaner than farmed salmon due to differences in diet and activity.) 

Poaching Coho Salmon

Try your hand at a foolproof cooking method like poaching. Poaching coho is an easy approach to cooking this particular species, as it is gentle enough that you won’t have to be impeccable with your timing. Check out our blog post on how to poach wild salmon for a crash course in how to use this cooking method. 

Pan-Searing Coho Salmon

Once you’ve got the poaching method down pat, you’ll definitely want to try pan searing coho to appreciate a different experience in texture and flavor. Pan-frying salmon might sound advanced, but it really all comes down to three things: patting your fish dry, having a good saute pan, and properly preheating the pan over medium-high heat. From there, all you need is 10 minutes in the kitchen from start to finish, and a garnish of herbs to change up the flavor profile — tender herbs like fresh dill, chives, and cilantro are wonderful complements to the delicate flavor of coho. We have a guide to pan-searing salmon that walks you through each essential step for a perfectly cooked fillet. 

Broiling Coho Salmon

Broiling coho is a high-heat approach to cooking coho salmon that may very well become your favorite way to prepare low-maintenance weeknight meals. It’s perhaps the quickest, simplest way to make salmon, and you don’t really even need a recipe. All you need to do is coat a fillet of coho in a bit of olive oil, then broil it skin side down with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and squeeze of lemon juice on the flesh side. The trade-off with this cooking method is that you’ll need to be really mindful of doneness, since fillets of wild salmon can go from done to dry very quickly beneath a broiler. Generally, you’ll want to start checking on the doneness at around the 3-minute mark for thinner fillets and around 4 minutes for thicker ones. The fillet is done when it flakes easily with a fork.


What Is Different About Coho Salmon?

While all types of salmon share some similarities, coho salmon has some unique characteristics that differentiate it from other species that you’re likely to come across such as sockeye salmon, king salmon or Atlantic salmon. Another standout quality of coho offered by Wild Alaskan Company is that it’s always sustainably harvested from Alaskan fisheries and flash-frozen so that it reaches you at the peak of goodness. 

Tasting Notes

The taste of coho is subtle compared to a robustly flavored species like sockeye. Coho has a delicate salmon flavor profile that matches its low fat content, pairing well with ingredients that enhance its subtlety. To best appreciate the qualities of coho, look for salmon recipes that highlight its delicate nature in taste and texture. 

For instance, try this: create a tightly sealed packet with aluminium foil, filled with a fillet of coho and a splash of white wine, a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of black pepper, and a light smear of dijon mustard. Cook at 375F for about 15 minutes, and you’ve got a piece of coho that’s been steamed to flaky, aromatic perfection.

Physical Characteristics 

The flesh of coho salmon is a light reddish-orange. If you think about salmon as having a spectrum of colors, coho is somewhere between the dark red color of sockeye salmon and the light pink color of chum salmon. If you take a look at the skin side of coho fillets, you’ll notice that it’s bright and silver, compared to other species of salmon. This characteristic is what gives coho its nickname “silver salmon.” 

In terms of texture, raw coho fillets are soft to the touch, but the flesh firms up as it cooks through into tender, medium-sized flakes.

Health Benefits

There are a host of health benefits of coho that can help you to optimize your health through your diet. Despite being a lean protein, coho salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA, fats unique to seafood that can help you to lower your cholesterol and support cardiovascular health. It’s also a great source of other potent antioxidants like astaxanthin and essential nutrients like potassium and vitamin D, making coho a high-quality food to add to your shopping list for easy, healthy everyday meals. 


What to Pair With Coho Salmon

Coho salmon's mild flavor pairs well with virtually everything. This makes it easy to pair up coho with quick and easy side dishes, whether you’re craving something carby, something fresh, or a little bit of both. 

Here are a few ideas for side dishes that come together quickly so that a complete meal built around coho salmon won’t add much to the total time you spend in the kitchen:

  • Pasta

  • Sauteed seasonal vegetables

  • Mashed Potatoes

  • Greens

  • Rice


Where to Buy High Quality, Wild Caught Coho Salmon

Between coho salmon’s culinary versatility, deliciously subtle flavor, and its health benefits, you’ll want to incorporate it regularly into your diet. Becoming a member of Wild Alaskan Company gives you easy access to high-quality, flash-frozen coho salmon as well as other varieties of sustainably-harvested fish and shellfish. As a member of Wild Alaskan Company, you’ll get a box of wild-caught seafood delivered to your doorstep each month, or on whatever schedule works for you. Check out our homepage to see how a Wild Alaskan membership works.