Chicken vs. Salmon: Pros, Cons, Differences, & Which Is Better?

Chicken and salmon are two of the most popular protein choices. Some people agree that chicken is the better option, while others assure it’s salmon. However, this is not so simple to determine. Each has properties that make it better in certain areas. 

So, what are the differences between chicken and salmon? The main differences between chicken and salmon are that chicken has fewer calories (-59 kcal), more protein (+2.6 g), and less fat (-7.8 g) than salmon per 100 g. However, salmon has a higher omega-3 content (2,342 mg) than chicken (40 mg). 

A healthy diet consists of a variety of foods. As a registered dietitian, I encourage people to eat different foods throughout the week, even though one can be a better option most of the time.

In this article, you’ll learn the differences between chicken and salmon, their pros and cons, and which is better for various goals and dietary preferences.

Chicken vs. Salmon: Nutritional Information

Chicken vs. Salmon: nutritional information

In the following table, you can compare the nutritional information for 100 g of raw chicken and salmon

IngredientChickenSalmon
Calories120179
Carbs (g)0.00.0
Protein (g)22.519.9
Fats (g)2.610.4
Saturated fats (g)0.63.1
Monounsaturated fats (g)0.74.4
Polyunsaturated fats (g)0.42.8
Omega-3 (mg)402,342
Omega-6 (mg)170122

Calories 

Salmon has a higher caloric content (+59 kcal) than chicken. 

For this reason, salmon is a better option for those needing a higher caloric intake (such as individuals with muscle-building goals). A high-calorie food can make it easier to reach a caloric surplus (eating more calories than you need to maintain weight) to aid in building muscle mass. 

On the other hand, chicken is the best option if you are on a weight loss journey due to its lower caloric content. This can make it easier to stay in a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than your body burns each day). 

Protein

Chicken has slightly more protein than salmon (+2.6 g). 

Protein is an essential macronutrient since it helps support muscle growth and maintenance, increase fullness levels, and increase metabolism

As a registered dietitian, I often hear my clients talk about having trouble reaching their protein requirements. Even though the difference in protein content between chicken and salmon isn’t too significant, chicken can be a better option if you also struggle to meet your daily protein goals.

Fats

One of the biggest differences between chicken and salmon is their fat content. Salmon has a higher fat content (+7.8 g) than chicken. 

This doesn’t mean that salmon is a bad option to have. It all comes down to the type of fat it has. 

Salmon offers a good amount of healthy fats. Unsaturated fats tend to be better for heart health. So, a higher content of unsaturated vs. saturated fat is always beneficial. 

Salmon offers a good amount of unsaturated fats (7.2 g total unsaturated fats) and is high in omega-3 fatty acids (2,342 mg). (I’ll talk more about omega-3s later.) 

However, if you’re more concerned about keeping your overall fat intake lower, chicken is a better option.

Micronutrients

The micronutrient content is also another difference between chicken and salmon. The number of certain vitamins and minerals they provide varies. 

For example, chicken is higher in niacin and vitamin B6, while salmon is higher in vitamin B12 and selenium.

The following table compares the micronutrient content of chicken and salmon. Keep in mind that more than 20% of the daily recommended value of these nutrients is considered high, and less than 5% is considered low. 

NutrientChicken - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portionSalmon - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portion
Vitamin A0%0%
Vitamin C2%0%
Vitamin E1%2%
Vitamin K0%2%
Thiamin5%3%
Riboflavin5%4%
Niacin56%20%
Vitamin B627%8%
Folate1%6%
Vitamin B126%26%
Calcium1%1%
Iron4%3%
Magnesium7%7%
Phosphorus20%17%
Potassium7%9%
Zinc5%2%
Copper2%4%
Manganese1%2%
Selenium25%60%

The Top Nutrients in Chicken and Their Benefits

  • Vitamin B6. This vitamin has a role in mood regulation since it is one of the vitamins necessary to create neurotransmitters. These are your internal messengers that release hormones like serotonin (the happy hormone). In a study, older people who had lower levels of vitamin B6 had a higher risk of depression. 
  • Phosphorus. It has an important role in bone health
  • Selenium. It is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation in the body. It can also help boost your immune system

The Top Nutrients in Salmon and Their Benefits

  • Vitamin B12. It helps in red blood cell formation. Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. 

Salmon is also high in niacin and selenium. In fact, it has more selenium than chicken. 

Chicken vs. Salmon: 5 Differences

Chicken Vs. Salmon: 5 Differences

1. Taste and Texture

Salmon and chicken have very different tastes and textures. 

Salmon has a more intense flavor and a flakier and more tender texture due to its high fat content. 

On the other hand, chicken has a more mild flavor. Also, depending on the cut (i.e., dark meat vs. white meat), it can have a drier texture or a more gamy flavor. 

Winner: Salmon

Salmon has a more intense flavor and can be more moist than chicken. This makes it a more tasty option. However, it all comes down to personal preference. 

2. Cooking Methods

You can cook both proteins using the same cooking methods: pan-frying, air frying, baking, grilling, or sauteing. 

However, the difference depends on the cooking time. Salmon has a shorter cooking time.

It might take around 10-15 minutes to cook salmon, while it might take 20 minutes or more to cook chicken. 

Also, you need to cook chicken to a higher internal temperature (165F), while salmon is safe to eat at a lower internal temperature (125–150F). 

Winner: Salmon

Salmon takes less time to cook, saving you time in the kitchen. 

3. Cost

Salmon can cost twice as much as chicken. On average, one pound of salmon can cost around $10 to $12, while chicken costs $5 to $10. 

The following table compares the price of one pound of salmon and chicken in some of the top supermarket brands in the US. 

Chicken (1lb)WalmartCostcoTargetWhole Foods
Salmon$9.77$20.00$9.99$11.99
Chicken$4.97$4.92$3.99$9.99

Since salmon is more expensive than chicken, you might not want to include it regularly if you are on a tight budget. 

Winner: Salmon

Chicken is cheaper than salmon, which makes it a better option for those looking for a budget-friendly protein option. 

4. Omega-3 and Omega-6 Content

Another difference between chicken and salmon is their omega-3 content. Salmon has 2,342 mg of omega-3s, while chicken only has 40 mg.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential since the body cannot produce them. They help reduce inflammation in the body.

Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, have pro-inflammatory properties. The good news is that salmon and chicken are both low in omega-6 fatty acids. 

You need some inflammation in your body to create a reaction. For example, when you have a cut, you need inflammation so the body can heal the cut. However, the problem arises when there is too much inflammation over a long time (chronic inflammation). 

The ideal ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 is 2:1. However, recent studies have shown that most people have a ratio of 16:1 (omega-6 to omega-3). 

The problem with higher levels of inflammation is it leads to digestive problems, poor sleep, trouble losing weight, and a lower immune system

So, adding a food high in omega-3 can help you achieve a better balance between omega-6 and omega-3. 

Winner: Salmon

Salmon has 2,342 mg of omega-3, while chicken only has 40 mg. So, if you want to reduce inflammation, salmon is the best option.  

5. Mercury Levels

Mercury levels are a common concern, especially when talking about fish. Salmon has a higher mercury content than chicken. For this reason, chicken is better to eat than salmon if want to avoid mercury. 

High mercury levels can produce symptoms like fatigue, headaches, depression, tremors, and memory problems

According to this table by the FDA, salmon is lower in mercury than other fish, like certain types of tuna. It still contains some mercury, so consuming it a maximum of two to three times per week is advised. 

Chicken, on the other hand, doesn’t contain any mercury levels. So, you can eat it more frequently than salmon. 

Winner: Chicken

While salmon is lower in mercury than other fish, chicken is a better option since it has no mercury.

Chicken vs. Salmon on Different Diets: Which Is Better

Keto

One of the challenges most people have while following a keto diet is including enough fat to provide energy for the body. Salmon is a better option for people doing keto because it’s high in fat and also has a high protein content.

This doesn’t mean you cannot have chicken when on a keto diet. You can include it since it provides you with high-quality protein. Just make sure to add healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil to compensate for the lower fat content. 

Winner: Salmon

Salmon provides you with protein and healthy fats, both of which are essential for a ketogenic diet. Adding salmon can make it easier to reach your macro requirements (specifically fat). 

Paleo

The main goal of a paleo diet is to help reduce inflammation in the body. Salmon is the best option to include on a paleo diet thanks to the high content of omega-3 (which, as mentioned earlier, can reduce inflammation). 

However, remember to have it only two to three times per week due to its mercury content. If you swap it out for other proteins like chicken that are lower in omega-3s, add other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like chia seeds and hemp seeds

Winner: Salmon

Salmon is the better option to include on a paleo diet since it is higher in omega-3s. 

Intermittent Fasting 

During fasting, you restrict your eating windows. This leads to a caloric deficit. However, depending on the time frame, it can lead to a very big caloric deficit, which can negatively affect the metabolism. 

Salmon is a better option to include if you have trouble reaching your calories during fasting due to its higher caloric content. 

Chicken is not a bad option, but keep in mind that it has fewer calories. You would need to include high-calorie foods like avocado, nuts, and seeds to ensure you’re consuming enough during shorter eating windows. 

Winner: Salmon

Thanks to its high-calorie content, salmon can help you reach your caloric requirements with a shorter eating window. 

Low-Sodium Diet

Both chicken and salmon are good to have on a low-sodium diet. That is, if they are fresh. You need to be careful with canned salmon and chicken deli meat since they can be high in sodium. 

Try to look for options with less than 300 mg of sodium (the less it has, the better). 

For example, if you want canned salmon, Wild Planet has only 55 mg of sodium per serving. For those that prefer chicken deli meat, Applegate has chicken breast slices with 290 mg of sodium per serving.

Winner: Tie

If you consume them fresh, they are both low in sodium. For processed versions (canned or deli meat), ensure they have less than 300 mg of sodium per serving. 

Chicken vs. Salmon: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?

Chicken is a better weight-loss option thanks to its lower caloric content. Chicken has 120 calories per 100 g, while salmon has 179 calories. This difference isn’t too significant, but the calories can add up if you consume a lot of salmon.  

Another reason chicken is a better option for weight loss is that it contains more protein than salmon. While the difference is small (+2.6 g), protein can help increase your fullness levels, making you less hungry throughout the day. This can make it easier to sustain a caloric deficit. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you cannot include salmon in a weight loss journey. However, since it has a higher calorie and fat content, you need to reduce the calories elsewhere and remove a couple of fats (i.e., butter, avocado, nuts, or seeds) throughout the day.

The Winner: Chicken

Chicken is lower in fat and calories than salmon, making it easier to reach a caloric deficit with this protein. 

Chicken vs. Salmon: Which Is Better For Muscle Gain?

Salmon is a better option than chicken for muscle gain since it is higher in calories (+59 kcal). To gain muscle, you need to be in a caloric surplus, which means consuming more calories than your body burns each day. 

Also, salmon is a very good source of protein. While chicken has more protein than salmon (+2.6 g), you still get a good amount of protein with salmon since it has 19.9 g per serving. A high protein intake is important when you’re trying to build muscle.

So, if you are having trouble reaching your caloric intake while on a weight gain journey, salmon is the better option. 

Chicken can still provide you with a good amount of protein, so you can still include it. However, since it is lower in calories, you must add other high-calorie foods like rice, pasta, avocado, and olive oil. 

Winner: Salmon

Since salmon has a higher calorie content than chicken (+59 kcal) it can make it easier to reach a caloric surplus. 

Practical Recommendations: Eating Chicken vs. Salmon

Practical recommendations Eating Chicken vs. Salmon

Mix Them Up

A healthy diet means consuming different types of foods to get different nutrients. While one might be better than the other in different scenarios, including both of them can prevent nutrient deficiencies. 

Also, since the FDA recommends consuming salmon no more than two to three times per week, including chicken the rest of the time can allow you to reach your protein requirements. 

You can also include other protein sources like halibut, tuna, Mahi-mahi, lamb, shrimp, and meat. 

Choose the One You Like

Even though one might be better than the other, there is no need to eat it if you don’t like that choice. 

For example, if you are on a weight gain journey and don’t like salmon, you don’t have to force yourself to eat it despite its higher calorie content.

The most important thing about a healthy diet is to choose the foods you like. Eating should be a pleasant thing and not something you dread. 

Track Your Food

A calorie tracking app like MacroFactor can help when you are consuming both salmon and chicken since they have different calorie and macro contents. 

Tracking your food allows you to make the necessary changes to stay within your daily macro targets. 

For example, say you want to swap chicken for salmon. You know chicken has fewer calories and less fat. To have a similar calorie and macro distribution as salmon, you need to include more fats (like adding one teaspoon of olive oil). Tracking your food can help you determine exactly how much extra fat you need to add to your meal.

Cook Them in Different Ways

After a while, consuming the same protein the same way can get very boring. Looking for different ways to cook them can make it easier for you to stick to your meal plan. 

If you are looking for different ways to cook chicken and salmon, here are some of my favorite recipes: 

Other Food Comparisons With Salmon and Chicken


About The Author

Brenda Peralta

Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist.  In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.