Caviar vs fish roe - what's the difference?

One of the most luxurious foods in the world is caviar. The exquisite flavor has placed it among the most sought-after dishes on any fine dining menu. Those with a love of caviar might know a little bit about what makes it so special, but if you're new to this food or just curious about where it comes from, you'll enjoy learning more about the differences between regular fish roe and caviar.

Fish Roe Basics

The term "roe" in relation to fish actually just refers to their unfertilized eggs. A wide variety of fish produce roe, including salmon, mackerel, sturgeon and trout. Fish roe is a popular ingredient due to its nutritional content. It has high levels of vitamins B12 and D as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Fish roe that is sold in the U.S. is required to list which species of fish it came from. You'll understand why that's so important in the next section.

Where Caviar Comes From

Caviar is specific type of fish roe. Only unfertilized fish eggs from fish of the Acipenseridae family, more commonly known as sturgeon, can be referred to as caviar. These eggs are salt-cured, which brings out their natural flavors and helps to preserve the product.

Caviar is sourced from sturgeon found in different areas of the world. Some of the most highly prized types of caviar come from certain parts of Italy and Asia or in the Caspian Sea lying between Europe and Asia.

Types of Caviar

Although all caviar comes from sturgeon roe, not all caviar tastes or looks the same. In fact, there are several different types of caviar available. A few of the most popular types include:

  • Osetra caviar is one of the most popular types of caviar. It has a rich flavor with a bit of a subtle brininess. The caviar features a dark green or amber tone. The pearls are somewhat firm and relatively large compared to other caviar varieties.
  • Beluga caviar is rarer than most other varieties of caviar and is known for a slightly nutty and creamy flavor. Beluga caviar tends to have a grayish tone, and each pearl is about the size of a pea.
  • Kaluga caviar comes from some of the world's largest sturgeon. Its flavor is slightly buttery and earthy with a mild saltiness. The pearls have a golden or brown color and are firm and smooth.

Always check products carefully when purchasing caviar in person or online. Although many varieties of fish roe are not authentic caviar, they may be labeled as such. For example, you might come across "salmon caviar" or "mackerel caviar." Labeling requirements include naming the fish species, but they also don't stop companies from claiming that non-sturgeon fish roe is caviar. At The Wagyu Shop, we only carry premium, genuine caviar to make it easy to find the real thing.