Caviar is one of the world’s most exquisite delicacies, but it is also shrouded in mystery. In this guide, I’ll be taking a look at various species of sturgeon to determine if all sturgeon produce caviar.
What is Sturgeon Caviar? Sturgeon Caviar is caviar that is harvested from unfertilized and unspawned sturgeon eggs. When the fish eggs are sourced from another kind of fish aside from sturgeon, they typically aren’t referred to as caviar.
I’m going to take a closer look at the many types of caviar you’ll find on the market as well as the fish that produce these forms of caviar.
What Is Sturgeon Caviar?
Caviar is harvested from unfertilized and unspawned sturgeon eggs, and all sturgeon need to lay eggs to reproduce. By logical extension, this means that all sturgeon species can produce caviar, and there are many different kinds of caviar that are produced by the various species.
These caviar types range from the famous Ossetra to Beluga, the most expensive type of caviar in the world. Here are some of the many caviar varieties you may come across:
- Ossetra caviar
- Beluga caviar
- Sevruga caviar
- Kaluga caviar
- Hackleback caviar
- Sterlet caviar
Ossetra (also sometimes spelled as Osetra) caviar has been seen as a great alternative to beluga caviar for the longest time, especially if you don’t want to break the bank. While quality ossetra caviar still tends to be expensive, the price is never as steep as beluga caviar’s.
That being said, don’t underestimate Ossetra caviar because it’s the next best thing to top caviars like beluga. Ossetra caviar is harvested from the Russian sturgeon, which is also known as the Ossetra sturgeon, and they have a slow maturation process, much like beluga sturgeon, driving up the cost of the caviar.
As you’d expect from the name, beluga caviar is harvested from the beluga sturgeon, which is one of the rarest types of sturgeon in the world. The high demand associated with the beluga sturgeon’s eggs has led to the species being overfished and growing rarer and rarer over time.
The increasing rarity of the beluga sturgeon has resulted in the price of beluga caviar skyrocketing, but it has also resulted in treaties against the importation of beluga caviar into the USA. While no-kill methods are emerging to help maintain beluga sturgeon populations, they’re still in their infancy.
Compared to beluga and Ossetra caviar, sevruga caviar tends to be a lot more affordable, and that’s mainly due to the fish that it’s harvested from. The sevruga sturgeon has a much quicker reproductive cycle than the other kinds of sturgeon that commonly produce caviar, making its eggs easier to harvest.
Sevruga caviar tends to have a more sharply defined flavor than other kinds of caviar, and the individual eggs tend to be smaller and have more of a pop when you bite into them. Sevruga caviar is where many caviar connoisseurs get their start, especially if they’re not ready to spend a lot for their caviar.
Kaluga caviar is mainly known due to its similarities compared to beluga caviar, and even the names sound similar! Kaluga caviar is meant to be a more sustainable type of caviar that still has many of the characteristics that make beluga caviar great, including its richness, delicate flavor, and buttery texture.
Kaluga caviar tends to be farm-raised, and it is sourced sustainably from the Kaluga sturgeon, which is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. As more customers begin to realize how much of a deal it is compared to beluga caviar, I can imagine Kaluga becoming a lot more popular over time.
Hackleback caviar is yet another variety of caviar that is growing more popular, and this type is popular in America, especially since the ban on the importation of beluga caviar. Since then, the demand for quality caviar from the US has increased dramatically and hackleback caviar is filling the void that beluga once occupied.
Hackleback caviar is harvested from the shovelnose sturgeon, which is native to the Mississippi River. This kind of caviar tends to consist of smaller eggs that have a more delicate flavor than other varieties. Due to its light flavor, hackleback caviar is frequently eaten on its own.
Sterlet caviar is harvested from the sterlet, which is one of the smaller sturgeon species that you’ll come across. Like many other sturgeon species, the sterlet is now considered vulnerable but not yet endangered, and it is the subject of several conservation and sustainable farming efforts.
Caviar harvested from a sterlet tends to have a saltier, more intense flavor than the caviar you’ll get from other fish. Sterlet caviar is also rather distinctive, as the beads tend to vary between lighter and darker shades of grey. Despite its small size, the sterlet’s caviar output shouldn’t be underestimated.
Are Sturgeon the Only Fish Species That Produces Caviar?
All this talk of sturgeon may have you wondering whether you can get caviar from other fish species. While you certainly won’t get beluga caviar from a beluga whale, there are plenty of other fishes that have roe that can be consumed by people, including fish like salmon.
However, when the fish eggs are sourced from another kind of fish aside from sturgeon, they typically aren’t referred to as caviar, instead taking on the name roe. Most of these roe tend to be far more affordable than caviar because of the quicker maturation period that other species of fish have.