Understanding color differences in caviar

When people first start trying caviar, one of the first things they discover is that the product itself is a lot more varied than they expect. In addition to different sizes and flavors, caviar comes in a wide variety of colors. It's fascinating to see so many types of caviar, and it makes the experience of trying different kinds even more exciting. But why are there so many colors available, and are all of them authentic caviar? Find out in this helpful caviar color guide.

What Do Different Caviar Colors Mean?

Caviar colors vary based on the types of fish they come from. The natural color of the unfertilized fish eggs (commonly referred to as fish roe) is different from one type of fish to the next. Among similar fish, the eggs can look very much alike in most cases. From one species to the next, however, there can be significant variations in color and tone.

Black Caviar

One of the most prestigious groups of caviar is known as black caviar. While there are some types within this category that are actually black in color (like hackleback caviar), it broadly encompasses the darkest types of caviar, with shades ranging from charcoal gray to deep brown to dark green or amber.

Black caviar comes from sturgeon fish, which is actually the only type of fish roe considered to be genuine caviar. Fish roe taken from other types of fish are sometimes called caviar (like "salmon caviar" or "trout caviar"), but they aren't the real thing.

Most of the world's most exclusive premium caviar varieties fall into the black caviar group, including:

  • Beluga caviar: Grayish in tone, ranging from lighter gray to deep charcoal
  • Osetra caviar: Deep amber to dark green tones
  • Kaluga caviar: Golden brown or dark brown in color

While the black caviar group encompasses these varieties, you may also see these options listed as gray caviar, gold caviar, brown caviar, etc.

Red Caviar

A vibrant red tone may make these products quite appealing, but it's important to note that they are not authentic caviar. Red caviar is actually just the fish roe of salmon, whitefish and trout. This product can be found in a range of related shades, like orange caviar and yellow caviar.

Green Caviar

While Osetra can occasionally have a very deep green hue, more vibrant green colors fall into this category. As with red caviar, you'll find that green caviar is just fish roe from other types of non-sturgeon fish. For example, flying fish roe is sometimes dyed a bright green, and paddlefish roe can have a greenish-gray tone.

Ultimately, color is just one element in the experience of enjoying caviar. You'll also find that the textures, sizes, flavors and aromas can also differ from one type to the next. The most important thing to remember is that real caviar only comes from sturgeon fish. Other types labeled as caviar are not the real thing, but you may enjoy trying them just to test out the different flavor profiles.