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White King Salmon


Okay, so I lied.  This wasn’t the next post after the Onion Tart entry.  The tart was just so rich that I couldn’t force myself to actually make the salmon on Sunday.  Instead I was able to make it for lunch yesterday.

White King Salmon (also called Ivory Salmon) is a rarity.  About 1% of the population shows this variation.  No one knows why these fish are white.  Some people speculate it’s diet based, but since White Kings live with Red, that wouldn’t seem to be the reason, although I guess they could be picky eaters!  Other people think it is genetic. But no one knows for sure.  Now I am NOT talking about farmed fish that, unless fed supplements, are white.  No, no, no!  These are wild salmon, troll caught with that beautiful firm flesh that the cold Pacific waters produce in these fish.

No matter what the reason these guys stay pale, white-fleshed salmon are a little higher in the Omega-3 oils, a little more delicate tasting and, when cooked properly, they just melt in your mouth!

There isn’t really a season for them, other than the normal King Salmon season and most fish markets don’t really know when they will have it in stock.  It’s all based on their suppliers finding whites during the cleaning process, since they look just like their red relatives on the outside.  So you just have to be on the lookout – or have your friends looking out for you!

Sunday while walking through, Pike Place Market I passed Pike Place Fish, as I always do.  About three of the guys came rushing out to tell me about the White Salmon – it had just come in and wasn’t even fully sliced yet!  As I approached the counter another couple came up and said, “Did you see the White Salmon?  It just came in!”  I love those guys.

Several minutes later I left with my tasty treasure.  As normal, I did a simple preparation to simply enhance the fish.  I added a little pat of butter, a few leaves of fresh lemon thyme, a slice of onion and a couple of lemon rings.  Baked it at 500°F for about 11 minutes.  (The time will vary according to the thickness of your piece of salmon.)

I was going to take before and after pictures but only managed to do the before… once that salmon came out of the thoven, there would be no food styling or arranging!  Just a quick move from baking dish to plate and then onto the fork.  Sorry! :-(

However you can view a finished piece of this salmon here.

  1. Culinary permalink
    23-Mar-2005 7:02 am

    In response to Food Guru\’s comment on the "Dozens of Eggs" post: I would have been proud to catch a 40 lb salmon, too! And lucky you to be the recipient of such a haul! I\’m *very* jealous! :-) For a long time people thought white salmon were defective or subpar and they ended up being tossed – or maybe sent home with the fisherman – instead of being sold to the public. Or if they were sold they were much cheaper than "regular" salmon. At least here in the U.S., probably other countries were smarter in recognizing how yummy these fish are. Finally, someone figured it out and as with all things hard-to-come-by the prices jumped, which made everyone want to get in on the action and they became much more widely known. I hate paying the price, but LOVE the results, so you\’ll see me trying to get in on the action whenever possible! :-)

  2. 01-Sep-2011 3:51 pm

    The white is due to a genetic break where the salmon cannot store the red pigment any more… kind of like lactose intolerance, once the gene breaks, no more ability to digest lactose from milk.

  3. 02-Sep-2011 9:15 am

    I was just reading more information about this. It was explained slightly differently but the same idea. Basically the inability to store the color in their flesh is a recessive trait (genetics, as you mentioned) like blue eyes, for instance. Very interesting!

  4. Michael permalink
    08-Apr-2012 9:09 am

    I caught one a long time ago. It tasted nasty. I would donate the next one to the food bank. Urp!

  5. 08-Apr-2012 9:26 am

    Where did you catch it, Michael? Like most fish, salmon can taste like what it’s been eating.

    • 23-May-2012 11:42 am

      could it have been a sockeye salmon that had gone through spawning? the flesh looks white but the skin looks nasty black and are not fit for human consumption.

  6. Melody permalink
    09-Apr-2012 2:32 pm

    I live in Alaska, and just got one from a friend yesterday (we have a standing agreement that he’ll save white king for me if he gets it) I steamed the head and we ate the cheeks and all the meat around the collar of the head last night. (best most delicate meat, trust me) Tonight we will have the first of about 5 meals we should get out of this one. White or Ivory is definitely the best of the salmon, with Sockeye or Red salmon a close second, and normal, red king third. I have photos of this one before and after it was cut up, if you’d like to see. The tail section actually sometimes has streaks of pink, as in this one.

  7. 23-May-2012 11:40 am

    my husband just brought one of these rare delicacies home from his fishing trip to Alaska. I had to taste it right away. Oh my. Raw, marinated wasabi and soy cause, some green onion thrown in…I think I have died and gone to heaven.

    • 23-May-2012 1:33 pm

      I’m jealous….

    • Melody permalink
      23-May-2012 2:19 pm

      Saturday starts the Ketchikan King Salmon Derby and I’m hoping to catch some. 3 weekends of fishing for Kings! Can’t wait!

  8. mike permalink
    07-Jun-2012 7:41 pm

    my wife and I caught 2 this last week just north of Sitka. I read a long time ago that white kings were developed in BC from a king / chum cross. But that may be a myth.

  9. 11-Jul-2012 3:07 am

    how did you make the bake hasbrown love to know look like a good snack!

  10. 11-Jul-2012 3:11 am

    salmon is not one of my favorite food but, would love to try it!

  11. kg78 permalink
    01-Aug-2012 12:34 pm

    White king or chinook salmon; the prime rib of all salmon. Very rare,been fishing for over 20 years and have caught a lot of salmon. Only 2 were white. 28 pounder and a 23 pounder

  12. John anderson permalink
    16-Sep-2012 8:24 pm

    Have caught and eaten a number of white kings over the past 50+ years. My take is they tend to have a milder flavor ( each salmon has its own unique flavor profile) . Lots of myth about this, and everyone has a different take on taste and flavor. I just enjoy each for this different taste.tyeeredfish2


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