Can You Eat Salmon Raw? Is It Safe?

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Salmon is a healthy and tasty fish that is packed with omega-3 fatty acids.

But can you eat it raw?

The short answer is, yes, you can eat salmon raw. But it has to be “sushi grade” or “sashimi grade” salmon.

In this article, we explain how freezing this fish to super cold temperatures makes this salmon safe to eat raw.

Can You Eat Salmon Raw?

Raw salmon
If salmon is prepared properly, such as by freezing it immediately after harvest to kill parasites, it is safe to eat raw.

As we mentioned, if the salmon is prepared the right way, it is safe to eat raw.

Essentially this means the salmon has been frozen soon after harvest. The freezing process kills most parasites and reduces the risk of most foodborne illnesses.

When salmon is frozen immediately to kill parasites, it can be rated sushi-grade fish or sashimi-grade fish.

Here is the FDA guidance on eating raw fish, which provides advisory guidelines on food safety:

“It’s always best to cook seafood thoroughly to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. However, if you choose to eat raw fish anyway, one rule of thumb is to eat fish that has been previously frozen.

  • Some species of fish can contain parasites, and freezing will kill any parasites that may be present.
  • However, be aware that freezing doesn’t kill all harmful germs. That’s why the safest route is to cook your seafood.

While there is always some risk of illness in eating raw fish, salmon of this grade is highly likely to be safe to eat for all but pregnant women.”

How Long Do I Need to Freeze Salmon for It to Be Sushi-Grade Fish?

Raw salmon needs to be frozen before being eaten raw
Raw salmon needs to be frozen before being eaten raw.

The FDA’s freezing requirements say the following are acceptable practices for ensuring parasites are killed, and the fish can be eaten raw:

  • Freezing and storing at an ambient temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days (total time)
  • Freezing at an ambient temperature of -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at an ambient temperature of -31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours
  • Freezing at an ambient temperature of -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and storing at an ambient temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below for 24 hours

Is Wild Caught Salmon Safe to Eat Raw?

Wild-caught salmon or farmed salmon—the principle is the same. It doesn’t matter how the salmon is farmed or caught; what matters is that it is frozen to kill parasites.

Flash frozen salmon is fine to eat, regardless of whether it is farmed fish or wild caught (of course, the wild-caught fish tastes better!).

The supercold temperatures prevent bacterial contamination and ensure the fish is parasite free.

Fish markets or shops will usually label wild-caught and farmed salmon so you can tell the difference.

What Is the Best Way to Eat Raw Salmon?

Raw salmon salmon sashimi
Raw Salmon Sashimi

I am biased, perhaps because I lived in Japan for four years, but I think sushi or sashimi is the best way to eat raw salmon.

Japanese people love raw fish but always insist on having the freshest fish possible to serve in this way. Sushi restaurants are a great place to eat raw fish of all varieties—different tuna species, snapper, scallops, salmon and sea urchin, to give a few.

Eating raw salmon as sashimi is dead easy—cut the skinless raw salmon fillet into slices and then cut those slices into thin strips. Serve with a small side dish of soy sauce, some wasabi, and pickled ginger. Yum!

raw salmon salmon sushi nigiri
Raw Salmon Sushi Nigiri

To eat raw salmon as sushi, it’s really just a matter of preparing some sushi rice (Japanese style short-grain rise to which you add some sushi rice seasoning after it’s cooked) and putting slightly wider strips of salmon fillet on top of small puck of rice.

This style of sushi is known as nigiri. The other option is eating raw salmon within sushi rolls—you can easily make your own with sheets of dried seaweed.

Another way of preparing raw salmon is as a carpaccio—again, use thin slices of salmon and season with salt, lemon, olive oil, and pepper.

While it is not strictly raw salmon, cured or smoked salmon has a fantastic taste and can be used in a variety of ways—stirred into pasta or placed on a cracker with some dill and capers.

Final Thoughts on Eating Raw Salmon

Eating raw salmon is safe if the fish is prepared the right way (frozen to kill off parasites and reduce the risk of food poisoning).

Sushi is a great way to enjoy raw salmon if you have fresh fish, but there are other options.

Raw salmon—whether it is farmed Atlantic salmon or wild salmon—is a healthy and delicious form of protein with many health benefits.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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