Pollock vs. Cod: All You Need to Know

Oct 11, 2023 | 4 minute read Comments
52
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.  

A photo of a Pacific Cod fillet 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.

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 on a cutting board

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. 

Cooked Cod fillets served on a plate with vegetables visible behind them

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.

Author profile picture

Sean is an optometrist who left his day job to write about fishing. He calls himself a lucky angler because his favorite fish, Mahi Mahi, can be found almost anywhere – even though he’s lost more of them than he’s willing to admit. Obsessed by all forms of water sports, you’ll find him carrying one of three things: a ball, a surf board, or his fishing rod.

Comments (52)

Harry

Jan 10, 2024

When I lived in the UK Coley (Pollock Virens) which we once bought to try as it was less than half the price of cod, had a very strong and unpleasant smell but we cooked it anyway in batter. We fed it to the cat. She wasn’t too happy with it..

Here in Cyprus, the major supermarket chain (Alpha Mega) sells fish fillets labelled by the packer as Pollock,but the price ticket reads COD.

There is only 1 word in greek for Cod,pollock, haddock, coley, saithe and other fish

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Jon D

Oct 3, 2023

Well I do enjoy Haddock as fish and chips or cod, surprising, some of of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had was at a Red Robin hamburger restaurant near Bethlehem, PA.
Nice thick fillet perfectly golden brown with their trademark seasoned “plank” fries.

In the stores, I find it difficult to find thick enough patties/fillets that cook up nice and moist. Breaded or beer battered.

I grew up eating Micky D’s fillet-o-fish and and recently I’ve been ordering up the double fish sandwich which I believe is like only a dollar more. Outstanding!

I’ve tried others, but that fresh soft steamed bun and tasty tarter sauce with a freshly cooked pollock patty is awesome.
Though I have gotten a few over cooked and dry ones… Shame on those stores that try and sell sub par quality goods!

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James

May 20, 2023

I’m not a huge fan of either but pollock is half the price of cod where I live. As long as the nutritional profiles are similar I’ll go with the cheaper option xD

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Sam Tang

Mar 11, 2023

Have you, guys, heard of a Chinese frozen kinda fake fish made of half plastic and half fish. Well, that goes too. Yakki!
I wish I could have at least Pollock for dinner tonight instead. Yummy!

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    Andriana

    Mar 13, 2023

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for sharing this piece of information about half-plastic fish, that sounds unusual indeed, especially if people eat it. And yes, Pollock are definitely a delicious dinner to have any night of the year.

    All the best, Sam!

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    Paladin

    Jun 12, 2023

    Could you kindly provide source of the news? Otherwise I would think of it as another piece of fake news (maybe produced by Taiwanese media as they faked news of plastic rice before)

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    Vervactor

    Feb 18, 2024

    So what you’re saying is that the Chinese, for no particular reason, just decided to lose money on their fish exports (plastic is more expensive than fish is)?

    Why do you believe this comic super villain nonsense?

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soda

Nov 14, 2022

As a Portuguese I will always say Cod first! My boyfriend bought pollock today thinking it was Codfish, booo! Now I’m gonna need to do this fake “codfish with cream” family recipe for dinner tonight lol

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    Robin

    Mar 4, 2023

    Polish people should not be eaten. Cannibalism is wrong, eating Pollocks is bad, cod is good. Set broiler on high. Light olive oil each side, season with Old Bay ready in 5 minutes. Best fish in world. Pollock is also good this way just a little bland. Snowflakes do not get mad my beautiful wife of 42 years is Polish.

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    John Skryski

    Jul 27, 2023

    Hahaha hahaha I’m Polish myself and always use that old cannibalism joke too !
    All the Lenten Friday night fish fries around here in Michigan are now cannibalizing us Polacks!

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Dwayne

May 19, 2022

Went to Captain D’s twice this week. Instead of fish I was served a thick (almost twice as thick) breaded fish it tasted like that cheap fish from the grocery store. It was almost as if I ate a fish flavored breaded patty. Two separate times now. This was at the Macon Georgia pionono ave store. I don’t like whatever it is they are trying to sell as real fish

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    James

    May 21, 2022

    What on earth does your comment have to do with the actual article????

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    Joel

    Aug 1, 2022

    Great reply!!!!!!

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    Ryan

    Sep 14, 2022

    Dwayne what are you even talking about here that has nothing to do with this post haha.

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    John Skryski

    Jul 27, 2023

    Haha hahaha James ! Good point ! LoL !

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christina

Apr 1, 2022

I like Pollock fish better then Cod. It is more milder then Cod in flavor and I seem to have a reaction to Cod. Certain fish bother me (mainly Cod) as well as not being able to eat shell fish. Even just being around the smell ofvshell fish too long can give me an allergy allergy. So, Immitation crab, because it’s not a shell fish, Haddock, and Pollock are the other two fish I can tolerate. So after explaining this, I had a reaction to McDonalds fish sandwiches for a few years, but now I don’t again. Therefore it makes me wonder if they had been serving Cod for awhile?

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    Lisa

    Apr 1, 2022

    Hi Christina,

    That’s a wonderful question. As far as I know, they use Pollock for their sandwiches, although I might be wrong!

    Let’s see if someone else has more info.

    Lisa

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    Marvin Hunt

    Aug 1, 2022

    Pollack is used by McDonald’s and Burger King in their sandwiches. It’s good fish. If you’re eating it for health reasons, baking without breading is your best bet. Butter the top and at the end of baking try a little Parm cheese on top. If garlic or Mrs. Dash lemon pepper is in your diet you can add that to the top as well. Good eating.

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    Tanya

    Aug 1, 2022

    Wow! Thanks for chipping in with that delicious comment Marvin! Suddenly, I’m craving for some mouth-watering Pollock 😀

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    Mike Darrish

    Apr 24, 2023

    In 1961, to appeal to Catholics who did not eat meat on Fridays, an Ohio McDonalds franchisee invented the the Filet O’Fish sandwich, originally using halibut. Corporate quickly switched to cod, to cut costs. Then, to cut costs further, they switched to pollock. See https://www.mashed.com/149317/what-you-dont-know-about-mcdonalds-famous-filet-o-fish.

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    Luca

    Mar 10, 2023

    Just thought I’d add, McDonald’s used to use cod in their burger but when cod numbers worldwide were going down they switched to using Pollock and hoki, depending on where you live. South of the world you’re likely to get hokix north you’re likely to get Pollock.

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ildefonso rodriguez

Dec 12, 2021

Pollack has saved the day for may Latino households, Salted Cod is astronomically expensive these days compared to salted Pollack. Tastes about the same if you ask me

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    Rose Reynolds

    Dec 31, 2021

    I cook my pollock by pre heating the oven. Making the beginnings of a parcel with tin foil, place the fillet on the foil, salt and black pepper, lemon juice and white wine, topped off with fresh tarragon. Seal it all up and bake for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet. Beautifully moist, succulent and full of flavour, the liquid is nice on your potatoes.

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    Lisa

    Jan 3, 2022

    Hi Rose,

    Thank you very much for the recipe. I’ve saved it already and I’m already planning to cook pollock this week.

    Lisa

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    Jolie

    Mar 29, 2023

    Even better if you cook it in banana, Bamboo, Locust, Hoja Sante, Fresh grape leaves, etc. And if you do not have a lot of these leaves to make a package, just insert some underneath your fish in your aluminum foil package.

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    Steven woods

    Jul 1, 2023

    I normally eat cod but today I opted for Pollack. It was lovely, not a lot of difference between them. Both are very tasty and filling. Great.

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    Stanley DeJong

    Mar 28, 2022

    I eat Pollack everyday.
    I’ve never tried it with White Wine..
    Thanks for the tip..

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    Joe

    May 2, 2022

    Rose,
    What temperature do you recommend?
    Thanks in advance!
    Joe

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cathy ogilvie

Mar 10, 2021

I bought alaska pollock for the first time this month. It came frozen and in vacuum sealed bags from a fancy fishmonger. I really enjoy the taste of it but it is so watery that even though I try to dry it with paper towel before frying it, it basically falls apart before I can flip it to fry the other side. The fillets are quite thin so I thought no to baking it. Any suggestions ?

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    Sean

    Mar 11, 2021

    Hi Cathy,

    Thanks for reading.

    Did you try searing your Pollock? Searing on high heat should form a crust, which will make it easier to flip the fillet around when you reduce the heat.

    I hope you’ll find this helpful.

    Let us know how it goes!

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    Don

    Dec 3, 2021

    If you’ve not tried using a commercial beer batter, that may help. We only air fry but the beer batter is a more dense batter that kind of acts almost like a glue and really kind of has almost a wall paper glue consistency. It’s very easy to air fry fish with as it tends to coat the fish, forming a protective layer essentially, that keeps it from falling apart typically. I can’t guarantee it would help with Pollock as I’ve never cooked Pollock with it but it works well on Tilapia and many other white fish as well as chicken breasts that we use in an orange chicken recipe, all of which we air fry with light oil use.
    Hope it helps ya.

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TheoJogn

Feb 22, 2021

I’m sick of places saying it’s cod when it’s actually pollock. I buy fresh cod and bake it, fry it, etc. myself all the time… I know what it tastes like, and love it. Very unique flavor that I rarely taste when a restaurant serves me cod. It’s always bland and tasteless when I order cod at a place, meaning it’s actually pollock they just served me. I always feel like speaking up, but never do cause I’m sure even they don’t know what it is they’re serving. Most cases I bet it’s their supplier that is the one playing swappy swappy with the meat.

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    Albert

    Feb 22, 2021

    Hi Theo,

    Fish mislabeling is a massive problem, you’re right. In some restaurants, you can ask to see the whole fish before you eat, but they’re usually seafood specialists and you tend to pay a premium for it.

    All the best!

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stephen domagala

Feb 14, 2021

does pollock hold it,shape if you bread it and fry????

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    Sean

    Feb 15, 2021

    Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for reading.

    You should have no trouble frying pollock. They can lose their shape if you cook them too much, but you shouldn’t have this issue if you’re frying them breaded.

    I hope that helps.

    Have a good one!

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    Stanley DeJong

    Mar 28, 2022

    Not sure if you bread it..
    I always use the Air Fryer..
    190 degrees for 15 mins..
    @ 4 pieces
    Spray both sides with Olive Oil…
    Spray again with either Lemon Juice, & White Wine
    Sprinkle with Parsley
    BAKE & ENJOY!!

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Giuseppe

Feb 14, 2021

Try this. Spread some ranch dressing on a cookie sheet and sprinkle on some cajun blackened seasoning and a little Old Bay. Lay the pollock on top of it and put the same mix on top. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. It’s great and easy to do.

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    Sean

    Feb 15, 2021

    Hi Giuseppe,

    Thanks for sharing, that sounds like a seriously good meal.

    In fact, I think I’ll give that a go this weekend.

    Thanks again, and have a good one!

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Janne

Feb 1, 2021

They use pollock in the fish tacos at my favorite taco place in Houston. Tacos a Go Go. They use pollock. Nice big chunks. So good! I highly recommend using pollock to make fish tacos. Delish!

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    Sean

    Feb 3, 2021

    Hi Janne,

    That does sound delicious – I think I’ll give it a go this weekend.

    Thanks for sharing!

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Oscar

Nov 11, 2020

I really like pollock. Sometimes I eat pollock every day for a week. I call it Pollock Week. My flatmates sometimes buy me cod just so I eat less pollock. It doesn’t work

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    Sean

    Nov 11, 2020

    Hi Oscar,

    Wow, I bet the people at the local seafood market really like you.

    Next time your friends try to buy you Cod, you can tell them that Pollock has half the mercury content.

    Thanks for sharing, and bon appétit!

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DMR

Aug 16, 2020

I’m a total Pollock fan. I’ve tried Cod a few times, both as a filet and as cod fish sticks… too fishy. Pollock is much more mild.

Sad that Arby’s just switched to cod this summer.

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    Sean

    Aug 17, 2020

    Hi there,

    Thanks for reading.

    I think most people would agree with you, Pollock is a much more milder tasting fish. Because of this, it’s also much easier to serve to kids if you want to get them to eat fish.

    That’s an interesting move, especially from a fast food joint. We wonder if other people will like it like the old one.

    Thanks for sharing and have a great day!

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Donna Hughes

Jun 6, 2020

I prefer pollock for it’s milder taste because I don’t like strong tasting seafood. Cod isn’t particularly strong in taste like some others, but it has a little more fishy presence than pollock.

I typically just steam pollock with some aromatics in the water and some lemon juice and and old bay sprinkled on the fish. When done, I add about a 1/2 tbsp of real butter and gobble it down!.

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    Sean

    Jun 8, 2020

    Thanks for sharing, Donna!

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Marilyn

Mar 8, 2020

I love fish, being Hispanic/Caribbean, I often prepare a dish we call Ackee and Salt Fish. I can only find the salted cod needed for this dish in our Latin or Jamaican store here in Maryland, the price of the salt fish range from $6.99 – $8 per pack, so to allow for quantity I sometimes buy salted Pollock which costs me about 3.99 per bag. Same result but slightly different taste, to compensate I change it up by making a curry stir fry of salted Pollock, Shrimp, and Scallops. YUMMY!

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    Sean

    Mar 9, 2020

    Hi Marilyn,

    Thanks for sharing!

    For sure, the price difference is big, so adding Pollock makes perfect sense, especially if you’re cooking larger meals.

    That curry stir fry sounds delicious, by the way.

    Have a great day!

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    Karen Armadillo

    May 16, 2020

    That stirfry curry sounds delicious! I prefer the taste & texture of Pollock, think it blends better with other seafood. If I can talk my daughter into bringing me scallops, I will definitely try that curry.

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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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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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    Sean

    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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