What Is The Difference Between Caviar And Roe?

Today, I’m going take a look at whether or not salmon produce caviar and also explore some of the key differences between roe and caviar.

So what is the difference between Roe and Caviar? The difference between Caviar and Roe is that Caviar are the eggs of sturgeon or other large fish while roe are the eggs from a variety of small saltwater or freshwater fish.

Both roe and caviar have different applications in cuisine but they’re produced through the same biological mechanisms.

Do Salmon Produce Caviar?

Both Roe and Caviar can taste salty, buttery, briny, rich and nutty depending on how they were harvested; but one thing holds true for both: they’re typically served as an appetizer with crackers or toast points to spread them on.

First, I’ll explore the differences between the two in deeper detail, and then I’ll go over why there’s such a drastic difference in price between the two.

Do Salmon Produce Caviar?

So what is salmon caviar? Technically, salmon do not product caviar. But salmon do produce roe. Roe is biologically similar to caviar but not culinarily similar. Caviar is typically only produced by sturgeon.

Caviar is typically only produced by sturgeon, as their eggs tend to have a rather unique taste and texture when compared to other kinds of fish. This results in a much higher demand for their eggs because of their taste and texture that you’ll struggle to find in the eggs of other fish.

The specific thing about fish eggs is that they have to be harvested from the fish before they’re spawned. Fish have a relatively different reproductive system when compared to us, as the females lay eggs that will then be fertilized by a male fish that comes along. However, you don’t want to eat fertilized fish eggs.

When eggs like caviar are fertilized, the flavor and the texture of the food will suffer. Since caviar and roe already have relatively delicate flavors of their own, any alteration to the taste can drastically alter your experience, typically diminishing it to the point that it’s not even worth eating.

As if the taste being ruined wasn’t bad enough, fertilization will also disrupt the quality of the roe or caviar’s texture, and that’s one of the main reasons why caviar is eaten. The delicately crunchy texture that you feel when you bite down on a bead of caviar is one of the most rewarding feelings you’ll ever experience.

There are many ways to source the roe or caviar from the fish, and salmon roe was used to pioneer no-kill methods that are now used to get caviar out of sturgeon without killing them. The process is known as either milking and massaging, and it’s about what you’d expect from the name.

Fish harvesters take a sturgeon or salmon that is laden with eggs and massage the eggs out of them before the animal can spawn them, diminishing the quality of the eggs. This is relatively painless for the animal and it ensures that it can stick around for another spawning season.

One of the main differences between salmon roe and caviar is the color, as salmon roe has the brilliant orange color that most people associate with salmon meat. On the other hand, caviar has deeper, rich, black hues that are the hallmarks of one of the world’s most expensive foods.

The bright orange color of salmon roe is typically associated with sushi and Japanese cuisine because of how frequently it is used there. On the other hand, caviar is rarely used in sushi because there are relatively few sturgeon in the waters around the island nation.

Why is Caviar More Expensive Than Roe?

There are a few reasons why caviar tends to have a higher price tag than salmon roe, but it always comes down to supply and demand. Caviar is a lot rarer than salmon roe because of the longer amount of time that must elapse for a sturgeon to reach sexual maturity compared to a salmon.

Whereas sturgeon often take up to a decade to reach sexual maturity, salmon can do so in as little as a year, with some species taking up to five years. What this means is that a lot more roe can be harvested from salmon per year compared to sturgeon, especially when you consider how many of them there.

The fact that there are more salmon in the wild and in farms than sturgeon means that they aren’t as scarce of a commodity either. Since roe likely won’t be getting much rarer in the future, it can be sold for a much more reasonable price than caviar, despite having a relatively similar taste and texture.

Whereas you can buy about two pounds of salmon roe for about $40, some times of caviar, like ossetra and beluga have a much steeper price point. As the world’s most expensive caviar, beluga caviar costs about $4500 per pound.

 CaviarSalmon roe
ColorTypically black, grey, or brownBright orange
Price$4500 per pound$40 per pound

Do You Have to Store Roe the Same Way as Caviar?

Since you get roe in a tin and it’s about as sensitive to temperature shifts and poor storage as caviar, you have to take a few steps to ensure that it doesn’t end up going bad. Just like caviar, salmon roe has to be kept at a relatively low temperature, but freezing it may end up ruining the taste and texture.

While you can freeze salmon roe in emergencies to prevent a whole batch from going bad, you’ll never want to freeze it more than once, as it will get progressively worse every time you freeze it. Instead, you should store it in the coolest part of your refrigerator, as fish eggs like salmon roe have to be kept relatively cold.

The coldest part of most refrigerators is near the bottom shelf where you can typically expect to keep the meat products. If your refrigerator doesn’t get cold enough to store salmon roe, then you can get a little more creative with how you store the tin, potentially surrounding it with ice.

Proper storage will stop your roe from going bad up to a certain point. Most types of salmon roe can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three months before it starts going bad. Always be sure to check the tin to know how long it will last.