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Vegan Salmon: The Complete Guide to Nutrition, Brands, and Recipes

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Vegan salmon is making a splash in headlines lately, but what is it, really? Is it safe, healthy, and most importantly, tasty? Let’s dive in and find out!

After years of over-fishing, climate change, and toxic chemical spills, the saying that “there are plenty of fish in the sea” no longer rings true. Populations of entire species are being pushed to the brink of extinction with every fresh catch.  Future generations may find more plastic than aquatic life in the oceans if serious efforts aren’t taken to reverse this trend. Though that sounds bleak, take comfort in knowing that the change can start with you, one meal at a time. Vegan salmon is here to save the day!

It may sound fishy, but there’s a wide range of news option out there for seafood lovers that comes from the land, not the ocean. Plant-based salmon has been in the works as long as veggie burgers have been hitting hot grills but are only now making a splash onto the market. Replicating the distinct, delicate flavor and texture is much more challenging than generic ground meat, which makes the latest innovations in food technology a real coup for compassionate consumers.

What’s Wrong With Conventional Salmon?

The problems with salmon go far beyond the concerns over eating animals. Fishing is destroying our oceans, isn’t as healthy as you may think it is, and there are even human rights issues as well.

Slave labor on fishing boats is a common practice outside of the US. That means lower prices at the grocery store at the cost of incredible human suffering. According to the Global Slavery Index, a 2017 study of Cambodian and Burmese fishers in Thailand between 2011 and 2016 found more than 75 percent of migrant workers in the Thai fishing industry had been held in debt bondage. Nearly 40 percent had been trafficked into the Thai fishing industry in that time frame as well.

Overfishing takes critical food sources away from other wild animals, causing ecosystems to collapse. “Ecological extinction caused by overfishing precedes all other pervasive human disturbance to coastal ecosystems, including pollution, degradation of water quality, and anthropogenic climate change,” reports a study published in the peer review journal, Science. When we run out of salmon, we don’t just decimate that one species; it causes a ripple effect that will starve bears, orcas, eagles, and many more animals.

But most of salmon today is farm-raised. Farm-raised salmon contains unhealthy levels of contaminants like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls,) dioxins, mercury, and other chemicals shown to cause cancer and developmental problems in children. According to the Mayo Clinic, farmed salmon is higher in PCBs than wild-caught. But consumers can often be duped as fish fraud is widespread in restaurants and supermarkets.

What Is Vegan Salmon Made Of?

There are many novel methods for creating fish-free salmon yielding unique results, best suited for different types of preparation.

  • High-tech plant protein blends: These are the most advanced faux fish meant to imitate the flaky texture and buttery mouthfeel of conventional salmon most accurately. Carefully developed to match the nutritional content as well, you can expect a full range of vital omega fatty acids that dietitians are most drawn to. Consider these the Impossible burgers of the sea.
  • Konjac, AKA konnyaku or elephant yam: This Asian root vegetable is commonly dried, ground into powder, then cooked with liquid and spices before being molded into new shapes. This makes it possible to recreate the gentle curve or a shrimp’s shell, or in this case, the slick marbled pattern of raw salmon sashimi. It has a bouncy, chewy texture that suits raw seafood preparations particularly well.
  • Traditional vegan proteins: Seitan (wheat gluten,) tofu, and tempeh can all be used to roughly approximate an oceanic eating experience. Marinades that include seaweed, such as kombu, nori, or kelp are key for the flavor. No one would be fooled into thinking it was genuine fish, but the finished dishes easily satisfy the same cravings.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Really putting the “plant” into “plant-based,” this earthy, whole foods approach creates surprisingly convincing alternatives using just what nature provides. Humble carrots can be transformed into smoked salmon and watermelon into tuna using only carefully chosen seasonings, heat, and time.
  • Algae oil: It’s not your imagination if your vegan fish tastes, well, fishy! A growing number of companies are including algae oil in vegan seafood products for a few reasons. First, it tastes fishy. Some products are almost indistinguishable from their oceanic counterparts because of the addition of this umami oil. Second, it’s rich in omega fatty acids—one of the main reasons people consume fish in the first place. You’ll also find algae oil added to non-fishy items like vegan milk in order to give it an omega fat boost.

Best Vegan Salmon Brands

When you want vegan salmon that tastes and looks identical to conventional fish, there are more choices than ever to indulge in. Shop online for the widest selection since most are still specialty goods and imports from overseas.

  • Vegan Zeastar Zalmon Sashimi
  • GreatFoods It’s Vegan Vegan Salmon Sashimi
  • Goldie Lox Vegan Carrot Lox
  • Good Catch Salmon Burgers
  • Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Smoked Salmon
  • Plantish Vegan Salmon Fillet
  • Prefera Foods Unfished PlantZalmon Spread
  • Save Da Sea Plant-Based Smoked Salmon
  • May Wah Vegan Salmon Fillet
  • Miyoko’s Unloxed Cream Cheese

Vegan Zeastar Zalmon Sashimi

Vegan Zeastar Salmon Sashimi on a plate with edamame and sesame seeds

GreatFoods It’s Vegan Vegan Salmon Sashimi

GreatFoods It’s Vegan Salmon Sashimi plated and garnished with flowers

Goldie Lox Vegan Carrot Lox

Goldie Lox brand vegan gluten-free carrot lox in package
Photo source: @GoldieLoxSF

Good Catch Salmon Burgers

box of the new vegan salmon burgers from the brand good catch foods

Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Smoked Salmon

Sophies Kitchen vegan smoked salmon fish in a box

Plantish Vegan Salmon Fillet

cooked vegan salmon fillet from Plantish with lime
Vegan Salmon Fillet Photo: @PlantishSeafood

Prefera Foods Unfished Plant-Based Zalmon Spread

tube of the plant based salmon spread from the brand Unfished

Save Da Sea Plant-Based Smoked Salmon

Save Da Sea brand vegan salmon served on crackers appetizer style

May Wah Vegan Salmon Fillet

package of may wah brand vegan salmon fillet

Miyoko’s Fish-Free Lox Cultured Cream Cheese

miyokos fish free lox cream cheese served on cute fish crackers as an appetizer
Miyoko’s Fish-Free Lox Cream Cheese Photo: @MiyokosCreamery

How To Make Vegan Salmon From Scratch

Vegan salmon has yet to swim onto mainstream markets, but that doesn’t mean you need to go without. There are plenty of easy recipes for making your own healthy salmon alternatives at home.

  • Carrot Lox (Smoked Salmon) will upgrade your next bagel with cream cheese like nothing else. Smoky, briny, and flecked with fresh dill, it tastes like a million bucks, but costs less than one dollar per serving.
  • Fish-Free Salmon Sashimi starts with unripe cantaloupe. It may sound like a questionable base, but the melon contributes only a subtle sweetness and beautiful orange hue. This recipe is perfect for making all your vegan sushi dreams come true.
  • Vegan Salmon! Pan-Seared Fillets transform tofu into a centerpiece with crispy skin and a tender, flaky interior. It can also be baked or air fried for greater ease of preparation.
  • Vegan Flaked Salmon starts with jackfruit to create a quick and easy substitute for conventional canned salmon. The texture is ideal for making seafood salads, salmon cakes, or salmon noodle casseroles.
  • Mock Salmon Pate is just nuts- Literally! Walnuts are blended to a smooth, spreadable texture for this completely raw recipe that makes an elegant topper for crackers or vegetable crudites.

Is Vegan Salmon Healthy?

While we often hear that fish is a healthy source of lean protein and omega fats, the benefits of eating fish may be overstated, and the actual health impact of salmon may equal a net negative.

The Environmental Defense Fund suggests that all adults limit wild salmon to one serving per month and farmed salmon to no more than two, because of PCB contamination. High acid levels in fish can cause calcium loss leading to osteoporosis and kidney stones.

A growing body of research continues to point to the benefits of a plant-based diet including healthy plant sources of omega fatty acids. Plant-based diets are often more cost-effective and a low-risk way to lower mortality risks such as high body mass index, high blood pressure, HbA1C, and high cholesterol levels. Plant-based diets may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases.

Vegan salmon can come from a number of sources from pea protein to vegetables seasoned to taste like salmon. Since the sources of vegan salmon vary wildly, it’s difficult to assess the nutritional benefits as a whole. But, common vegan salmon substitutes (some are listed below) show strong nutrition profiles including lean protein, high fiber, and a healthy dose of omega fatty acids.

More Recipe Ideas For Vegan Seafood

What About Salmon Roe?

Some people mistakenly believe that salmon roe, AKA fish eggs, or ikura in Japanese, can be done sustainably. While only one method involves killing the fish, all exploitative at best and horrifically brutal at worst. Eggs are stripped directly from the live fish’s ovaries for the span of their lifetimes.

Luckily, vegan salmon roe exists, too! Typically made from agar, which is a type of seaweed, it has the very same look and feel as the animal products, with the added benefit of costing a fraction of the price. Cavi-art is the most popular and widely available brand, or you can make your own using marinated tapioca pearls.  

This vegan salmon guide was written with support from Hannah Kaminsky, Creative Compass, and Jill Ettinger. Photos are sourced from the respective salmon brand’s social media channels.

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10 comments
  1. This is so interesting, I didn’t even know this was so popular. Definitely need to try vegan seafood

  2. Beatriz Buono-Core says:

    Love this guide, so helpful!

  3. Very detailed and helpful text! Thanks!

  4. Even before I became vegan, I didn’t enjoy seafood. I’m really glad to see that there’s a veggie option!

  5. I am so happy to see all these salmon alternatives. I have always been a salmon lover, and its fantastic to see that I can still enjoy it cruelty free.

  6. So cool to see the different vegan salmon options out there! Can’t wait to try them all!

  7. I am shocked how realistic some of these vegan salmon options are! So cool and so glad these are becoming more readily available!

    • I’m going to share this article with my family, in hopes that they’ll try a veggie version of salmon instead 🙂