Pollock vs. Cod: All You Need to Know
Jun 11, 2019 | 4 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Pollock and Cod are among the world’s favorite fish foods. People love them for their white flaky meat and incredible taste. The two species are actually members of the same family of fish, and people often can’t tell the difference between them. So, how do you recognize Pollock vs. Cod? That’s exactly what you’re going to learn in today’s guide.  

pacific cod with scallions on top

The two exact species people most commonly confuse are the Pacific Cod and the Alaska Pollock, so these are the ones we’ll focus on today. If you want to know how to tell the difference between Cod and Haddock, click here.

Pollock vs. Cod Habitat

Alaska Pollock and Pacific Cod share the same habitat in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. However, while Pollock live almost exclusively in these waters, Cod are often found in the slightly warmer waters of Northern California and the Sea of Japan.

How do you tell the difference between Pollock vs. Cod?

While they can look pretty similar, there are a few differences between Pollock and Cod.

a comparison of pollock vs cod. the image details body color, fin, tail and life span differences between alaska pollock and pacific cod.
Pollock vs. Cod

Body Color: Pollock are speckled fish, with black and yellow spots running the length of their bodies. Pacific Cod are brown or grayish with dark spots or patterns on the sides. Pacific Cod also have a paler belly.

Dorsal Fin: The dorsal fins on Alaska Pollock are more pronounced in comparison to those of the Pacific Cod. Cod’s fins are also white around the edges.

Tail: Alaska Pollock has a narrower tail than Pacific Cod.

Size: Alaska Pollock can grow up to 3 feet in length. Typically, they average out around 12–20 inches and weigh between 1 and 3 pounds. Cod, on the other hand, are larger fish. They can grow up to 6 feet in length, and weigh around 25 pounds.

Life span: Pollock have relatively short life spans – around 12 years. This is why they reproduce as early as age 3 or 4. Pacific Cod live slightly longer, around 18–20 years. They reproduce around the age of 4 or 5.

Lastly, Pacific Cod have Catfish-like whiskers on their lower jaw. Alaska Pollock don’t.

Pollock and Cod as Food

Pollock and Cod both boast white flaky meat, which can be prepared in a variety of ways. They do look similar, but there are are a few differences between the two. First, Pollock has a milder flavor than Cod. Second, Pollock can lose its shape a lot quicker if overcooked. Cod meat is a little firmer, but still flaky and tender when prepared correctly.

alaska pollock fillets

One thing you should be aware of is that you shouldn’t eat either of these fish raw. Cod and Pollock can both contain parasitic worms if you don’t cook them.

The most common commercial Pollock and Cod food is fish sticks. Both fish are often sold in this form, and the only way to differentiate them is by the label. There are many other ways to prepare these two delicious fish.

From basic baked fish to dishes like fish chowder, Pacific Cod is excellent eating in all forms. The flesh holds its shape in the heat, and doesn’t lose any of its texture. Alaska Pollock has a wide range of uses, too. This is actually the fish McDonald’s uses for their Fillet-O-Fish meal. They are also great as crab meat replacements. Some restaurants serve them in California Rolls. 

cod fillets

Pollock is a cheaper alternative to Cod in most places. While it is a little milder tasting, you don’t lose out on almost any of the benefits you’d get with Cod.

Is eating Pollock and Cod healthy?

The health benefits of Cod and Pollock are enormous. Both species contain good amounts of protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids. They are also great sources of selenium, which has been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Both Pollock and Cod lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. One extra benefit of Cod is its liver oil, which is a great source of vitamins A and D.

Protein per a hundred grams: 23g in Pollock vs. 19g in Cod

Calories per a hundred grams: 111 kcal in Pollock vs. 85 kcal in Cod

Which is better, Pollock or Cod?

The short answer – both are great! In terms of the benefits you can get from eating them, Cod and Pollock are both amazing choices. Cod is slightly more expensive in most places, but then again, you get firmer meat that’s a little easier to prepare. 

Your turn. Where do you stand in the Pollock vs. Cod debate? What’s your favorite Cod/Pollock dish? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments (3)
  • Mark Betts

    Dec 12, 2019

    I prefer cod, because when it’s cooked properly it has it’s own unique flavour – quality can vary greatly though. When you see in a fish and chip shop just “fish” on the menu board, you can guarantee it isn’t cod, most likely Pollock. It’s always OK, but not very exciting and doesn’t really have much of a flavour at all.

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      Dec 13, 2019

      Thanks for sharing, Mark.

      Agreed, if they’re offering the more flavorful Cod, most shops will let you know about it.

      The Cod does come with a higher price tag than Pollock, but most people would agree that it’s worth it.

      Have a good one!

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  • Felicity

    Jan 16, 2020

    Pollock is excellent for fish stews with fennel sliced cooked in white wine and plenty of green veggies. Cod, baked, fried in batter, grilled steamed or poached. Pollock is my go to fish for stews.

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