There are few fish that rivals the infamous salmon in the kitchen, but one close relative puts up a fight. Trout come in many shapes and sizes; the closest in taste to salmon is the steelhead trout which tastes very similar.
You can substitute these fish for each other in most recipes. Dolly Varden can also be substituted in many cases, particularly if you have one from the sea.
Dolly Varden is more similar to pacific salmon than Atlantic salmon, while steelhead would be the opposite.
What Does Trout Taste Like
Before digging too deep into the taste of trout, we must realize that there are many types of trout, including some char which are known as trout.
We will look at the most common types of trout and the ones that are closest to salmon.
Steelhead trout are the closest trout to salmon and live very similar lives.
Both salmon and steelhead trout are anadromous and have very comparable diets.
Steelhead trout meat is typically bright orange, sometimes with a hue of red.
The flesh is flakey, and often it has little fat.
The taste is milder than salmon and more akin to rainbow trout due to less fat and oil content.
Being closer to rainbow trout, it also takes on what some might call a gamey flavor.
Speckled trout have a delicate flavor that is much milder than salmon. The flesh on a speckled trout is very pale. Being a white fish, it is not similar to salmon at all.
I’ve probably eaten more rainbow and brown trout than any other fish. While most anglers are chasing bass, or catfish, my fishing of choice is flyfishing for trout.
Most of the trout I have eaten is catch-and-cook. I like to cook them right there on the bank; while it doesn’t directly influence the flavor of the fish, in your head, it just tastes so much better.
Rainbow trout has one of the best textures, in my opinion, and it’s what makes this fish appealing to me.
A rainbow trout from fast, clean water should be really flaky when properly cooked.
The taste is mild, like most trout, with almost a nutty taste. The flesh is white with a pale pink hue to it.
Brown trout is not so different than rainbow but can have a bit more of a gamey taste.
It is still mild compared to salmon, but if you are unfamiliar with the taste of trout, the flavor may come as unexpected.
I tend to avoid eating larger brown trout as they can develop a strong muddy flavor, and the flesh becomes soft.
Smaller brown trout have a very similar texture to rainbow trout, which is not so different from salmon, just a little flakier.
One fish that goes a little under the radar is the Dolly Varden. This char is native to the northern waters of Canada and Alaska.
The best way to describe the taste of Dolly Varden is a cross between trout and salmon.
In most instances, Dolly Varden could be directly substituted for salmon in recipes.
One thing to remember with Dolly Varden is that some spend most of their lives in freshwater while others spend some time in saltwater.
The ones that spend time in saltwater will be more similar in flavor to salmon than the ones that don’t.
In fact, Dolly Varden, who spends all of their life in freshwater, may take on a muddy flavor similar to that of lake trout.
The flesh of the Dolly Varden is a pinkish-orange color that is not so different from salmon.
It also has a high amount of oil content, like salmon.
What Does Salmon Taste Like
Similar to trout, there are a few types of salmon, and while they are interchangeable in recipes, there are still a few things to keep in mind.
The king salmon(chinook) is the most popular and sought-after salmon.
This salmon is high in fat and big in flavor. The flesh is generally a deep orange or red color.
This fish is different from most trout species, with the closest trout in flavor being the steelhead or Dolly Varden.
However, even these two trout can’t compare to the rich flavor of the king salmon.
Coho is more similar in flavor to trout than king salmon. These salmon have delicate flesh similar to steelhead or rainbow trout.
Their lower fat content than king salmon also gives them a milder flavor, not so different than some types of trout.
Pink salmon is just as mild, if not more so, than coho salmon. They also have a much lower fat content than king salmon.
Pink salmon flesh is typically more similar in color to trout than it is to king salmon or sockeye salmon.
Sockeye has both the boldest color and flavor of all salmon. Their flesh is a deep red color, similar to some steelhead you may find.
Their flavor is very full and the strongest of all salmon. There are not many trout that are similar to sockeye salmon.
The closest in flavor, color, and texture would be the steelhead trout.
Wild Atlantic salmon is one of the hardest fish to come by but also one of my favorites to eat.
In my opinion, farmed Atlantic salmon is no substitute for wild ones. However, if you want to enjoy this fish’s taste, you will likely have to go out and catch one.
If this is not possible for you to do, then the closest resemblance between trout and salmon is steelhead trout and Atlantic salmon.
Atlantic salmon is closer to trout than any other kind of salmon. The color of the flesh is also similar to trout to other salmon.
Trout Vs. Salmon Taste Compared
As you can see, it isn’t easy to make a direct comparison in taste between trout and salmon.
However, while we advocate wild food, most people consume farmed trout and salmon.
I will try to make a general comparison for trout and salmon while keeping farmed species in mind.
The closest trout in color to salmon is the steelhead trout.
However, this also depends on the species of salmon we are referring to.
Mostly salmon will have deep orange or red colored flesh, and the same is true for steelhead trout.
Dolly Varden are also close in color to some species of salmon but have more of a light reddish appearance than deep red or orange.
Other trout, such as brown trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout, all have a paler color than salmon and steelhead trout.
Salmon is famous for its texture, which is slightly firm yet slightly flaky.
Properly cooked salmon should neither be too firm nor flaky.
It should break apart easily when pressed with a fork, but not so easily that it crumbles.
Most trout, on the other hand, is flakier than it is firm.
Trout doesn’t have the same oil or fat content as salmon. For this reason, cooking both fish can vary slightly.
Often with salmon, you need not add much extra oil or fat; the same is not true for trout, and more often than not, you should cook it with a generous portion of olive oil or butter.
Larger, more sedentary trout like lake trout or particularly large brown trout have a softer flesh. Similar to a salmon after spawning.
I find none of these fish particularly appetizing and tend to keep only the smaller, firmer fish.
The flavor profile amongst salmon varies just as much as it does amongst trout.
However, one thing for sure is that trout are generally milder than salmon.
The closest in flavor to salmon would be steelhead trout or a sea-run brown trout, but even these fish have a milder flavor than salmon.
The thing that gives salmon its powerful flavor is the same thing that gives it its color, its high-fat content.
Trout do not have this high-fat content, which makes them milder fish.
Generally, with fish, you will find the whiter the color, the milder the taste.
This is why steelhead is slightly milder than salmon, but rainbow trout are even milder again.
Although trout are milder than salmon, they also have a distinct taste.
Again, I should note that the flavor of a trout very much depends on its habitat and lifestyle.
Most trout should taste mild with a slightly gamey taste.
Trout that live in slow-moving water have a slightly muddy taste and softer flesh. This is a taste that you would never find in salmon.
Rusty enjoys connecting food and nature and has done so since a child. He was fortunate enough to explore cuisine worldwide and work at great European restaurants. He now enjoys thinking up new recipes that he can find around him in nature in North America.