Black Cod vs. Cod: A Quick Guide
Sep 5, 2019 | 3 minute read
Reading Time: 3 minutes

In a lot of ways, Pacific Cod and Black Cod are very similar species. Both fish live in deep, cold waters of the Pacific, and can look very much alike when you pull them out of the water. Not only that, Black Cod and Cod both taste amazing, and are often marketed under the same name. Seriously, if you ever had trouble telling Black Cod vs. Cod apart, we can’t blame you. But not anymore! With this quick guide, we’ll answer all your Black Cod vs. Cod questions and more.

First, let’s take a look at some basic facts about these two fish. 

a visual comparison of Black Cod vs. Cod, distribution, appearance, and taste differences between the two species

Pacific Cod are one of the two “common” Cod species, the other being the now endangered Atlantic Cod. Since Pacific Cod shares much of its habitat with Black Cod, these are the fish that people often end up confusing. 

Black Cod, on the other hand, are actually not Cod at all. They belong to a whole other family of fish and often go by the name of Sablefish.

Distribution and Habitat

Pacific Cod are bottom dwellers, keeping to the ocean floor at depths of up to 3,000 feet. You can find them in cold waters of the northern Pacific, from Japan, across the Bering Sea to Alaska and Canada. 

Black Cod prefer deeper, muddy sea beds, from depths of a 1,000 to 9,000 feet. They inhabit the northeastern waters of the Pacific, and are most commonly found off the coast of Alaska, and all the way down south to California.

Appearance

Black Cod and Cod can really look alike if you line them up side by side. However, both fish boast a few distinct features that give them away.

Black Cod are dark gray, almost black in color. They feature two relatively short dorsal fins, and a very faint lateral line.

Pacific Cod are lighter in color, brownish with dark spots scattered across their bodies. They boast three dorsal fins, a barbel on their chins, and a bright lateral line on their sides.

A Pacific Cod
source: NOAA

In terms of size, the two fish are similar, although Cod are often a little more stoutly built. Sablefish and Cod max out at around 47 inches. However, the former usually grow no bigger than 10 pounds, compared to Cod, which can reach 15 pounds.

One big difference between the two fish is their life span. While most Pacific Cod live up to 12 years, Sablefish often reach the age of 90!

Texture and Taste

Black Cod boast white and fatty meat, with a velvety texture and buttery flavor. Cod meat is white and flaky, but firmer and leaner. It has a fair bit of moisture, and a mild taste. The good news about both fish is that they’re abundant in their habitat, which means that you can catch your fill any time you want!

A Black Cod fillet with rice and spinach on the side
Thanks to its fat content, Black Cod tastes buttery sweet.

In terms of nutrition, Black Cod and Cod are both excellent choices. Cod, namely its liver oil, is a great source of vitamins A, D, and E as well as valuable omega-3s. Sablefish are even richer in omega-3s, containing as much as wild Salmon. The higher fat content of Black Cod really shows when calories enter the equation. 

Pacific Cod is one of the tastiest fish out there.

A 3.5 oz serving of Black Cod contains almost 200 kcal. Pacific Cod, on the other hand, has just 85 kcal.

And the Winner is…

Whichever tastes better to you! Seriously, these two fish are similar in almost every way except for taste, so choosing comes down to personal preference. One thing we can tell you is, whichever you go for, you’ve made a good choice!

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