What Salmon Is Used for Sushi?

A large percentage of sushi lovers would agree that salmon is one of the best options for sushi. It’s delicious, and it complements the rice, nori, and other ingredients almost perfectly. However, with all the different salmon options on the market, how do you pick the right one?

Select farm-raised salmon varieties, such as King, Sockeye, and Atlantic salmon, should be used for sushi. Wild-caught salmon may carry parasites from their natural habitat. Farm-raised salmon are safer and less likely to have parasites.

In this article, I’ll discuss more differences between farm-raised and wild-caught salmon. I’ll also cover a few more commonly asked questions concerning salmon and sushi. Finally, I’ll give you my picks for which farms raise the three best types of salmon. 

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What Salmon Do You Use for Sushi?

To know what salmon you can use for Sushi, let’s go into depth about the two categories of Salmon, and examine each in detail: farm-raised and wild-caught.

Farm-Raised Salmon

Farm-raised salmon are raised on farms, much like cattle or chickens are raised on farms. They’re bred and raised in captivity and sold as food. Usually, farm-raised salmon live in marine cages. Though the cages are in the ocean, they’re in areas close to the shore, such as fjords, inlets, or bays.

However, sometime around 2015, companies began contemplating the merits of land-based salmon farms. These farms started to pick up speed in 2019, and now, there are several land-based salmon farms spread throughout Norway, the United States, Denmark, Japan, and a few other places.

Salmon on these farms grow in large tanks that use recirculating aquaponic systems. Raising salmon on these farms is cleaner, safer, and better for the environment than raising marine-caged farm salmon. Land-based salmon are primarily considered the “best” salmon for sushi.

Wild-Caught Salmon

Wild-caught salmon, on the other hand, are salmon that live freely in the various oceans. Fishermen catch them and sell them directly to consumers, markets, stores, and restaurants. While some critics of salmon farming claim eating wild-caught salmon is more ethical, it’s also more dangerous for the consumer.

Moreover, wild-caught salmon are much more likely to pick up parasites from the waters where they live. Furthermore, the fishermen who catch them may not always follow USDA safety protocols for freezing salmon to eliminate the parasites. Whatever your views are on the ethics of salmon farming, there’s no doubt that farm-raised salmon are healthier and less dangerous.

What Is Sushi-Grade Salmon?

Restaurants, markets, and grocery stores often attach the qualifier “sushi-grade” to the fish they serve and sell. 

But what exactly does that mean?

Honestly, it means very little. Sushi-grade salmon supposedly meets some higher standard for safe, delicious fish, but the truth is that neither the USDA nor the FDA has any measures put in place for what qualifies as “sushi-grade” seafood. 

This means that every restaurant and retailer can create their own criteria for what the term means to them. That “criteria” could be something as inane and useless as “We think it tastes good.” 

Purchasing sushi-grade salmon doesn’t mean you’re buying high-quality, better-tasting salmon, and it doesn’t guarantee that the salmon you’re purchasing is safe.

Is It Safe To Eat Raw Salmon?

The USDA’s official stance on raw salmon (and sushi in general) is as follows:

Raw fish (such as sushi or sashimi) or foods made with raw fish are more likely to contain parasites or bacteria than foods made from cooked fish. Don’t eat raw or undercooked finfish or shellfish (including oysters, clams, and mussels). 

For those of us who love sushi, however, not eating it isn’t an option. In that case, the question isn’t, “Is it safe to eat raw salmon?” The right question to ask yourself is, “How do I make sure my raw salmon is safe?”

The answer: You have to kill any potential parasites before eating it.

How Do I Kill Potential Parasites in Raw Salmon?

The first step to ensuring your salmon is safe is to buy farm-raised salmon instead of wild-caught. If it’s possible, purchasing farm-raised salmon from a land-based farm is safest. 

All commercially sold seafood should adhere to the FDA’s guidelines on selling frozen fish.

Those guidelines maintain the fish must be frozen in one of three ways:

  • Frozen and stored at -4°F (-20°C) or below for seven consecutive days.
  • Frozen at -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and stored at -31°F (-35°C) for 15 hours.
  • Frozen at -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and stored at -4°F (-20°C) for 24 hours.

Furthermore, if you have any doubt that your purchased fish was frozen and stored correctly, freeze it yourself for another seven days to be sure. These simple Fridge Refrigerator Freezer Thermometers from Amazon.com can help to freeze your fish at the correct temperatures.

Also, note that these freezing guidelines may not be sufficient for fish thicker than six inches.

What Are the Best Farm-Raised Types of Salmon?

My picks for the three best types of farm-raised salmon are:

  • King Salmon
  • Sockeye Salmon
  • Atlantic Salmon

Because New Zealand is the only place that does any serious king salmon farming—Canada has a few small farms—the best king salmon comes from New Zealand King Salmon. Their salmon is fat, thick, and packed with flavor. 

Canada-based company Willowfield Enterprises tends to have the best sockeye salmon. Sockeye salmon has a beautiful, vibrant red color, and it’s leaner and less expensive than king salmon. It still has a ton of flavor, though, and if you’re going for presentation, you can’t beat that brilliant scarlet hue.

You can readily find Atlantic salmon just about anywhere in the world, but here in the United States, Superior Fresh is the Atlantic salmon farm I like best. Both it and Willowfield Enterprises utilize clean, land-based salmon farming, which I also appreciate. Atlantic salmon has a mild flavor that pairs well with seasoned rice and other popular sushi ingredients. Plus, it’s the most affordable variety you can buy.

Final Thoughts

When choosing the best salmon for sushi, I recommend you always go with farm-raised salmon—King, Sockeye, or Atlantic specifically. Wild-caught salmon can be just as delicious, but they’re also more prone to having parasites than their farm-raised counterparts. Plus, farm-raised salmon are usually fatter, as well.

No matter which type of Salmon you ultimately decide to use, it must be frozen for at least seven days before you eat it. That ensures you kill any parasites living in it, making the sushi as safe as possible.


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