Is Caviar Pasteurized?

Caviar is a delicacy consisting of salt-cured fish eggs from sturgeon and certain other species of fish. Caviar is known for its smooth, creamy texture and refined, delicate flavor. Traditionally, caviar is prepared fresh without any processing. However, most caviar today goes through a pasteurization process to extend its shelf life and increase food safety.

A spoon of red caviar

What is pasteurized caviar?

Pasteurized caviar is caviar that has been heat-treated to destroy pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The pasteurization process typically involves heating the caviar to a specific temperature, between 140°F to 185°F, for a set period of time.[1] This heating kills potential pathogens while still preserving the quality of the eggs.

Pasteurization allows caviar to be sold with an extended shelf life, without sacrificing too much of its prized texture and flavor. Let’s look at some of the key benefits and drawbacks of pasteurized caviar.

Benefits of Pasteurized Caviar

1. Extended Shelf Life

Pasteurization allows caviar to keep for 1-2 months from the production date when stored properly, compared to 1-2 weeks for fresh caviar.[2] The increased shelf stability makes storage and distribution much easier. Retailers can continue selling properly handled pasteurized caviar for a longer period while maintaining safety and quality.

2. Safety from Bacteria and Parasites

Pasteurization destroys pathogens like Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Vibrio that may be present in fresh caviar.[3] It also kills parasites like Anisakis that can cause illness. This makes pasteurized caviar much safer for vulnerable groups like pregnant women, children, and the elderly.

3. Maintains Nutritional Value

Research shows pasteurization has minimal impact on the nutritional composition of caviar.[4] It retains its excellent nutrient density, including high levels of omega-3s, vitamins, minerals, and protein. This allows consumers to enjoy the renowned nutritional benefits of caviar without health risks.

4. Retains Flavor and Texture

When done properly, pasteurization maintains the signature flavor, creaminess, and pop of fresh caviar.[5] Consumers report pasteurized caviar as having a very close eating experience compared to fresh. Sensory panels often cannot distinguish between the two in blind taste tests.

Drawbacks of Pasteurized Caviar

While pasteurization offers clear safety and shelf life advantages, it does have some potential downsides:

1. Potential Loss of Delicate Flavors

Some aficionados claim the heating process can strip away subtle flavors and aromas found in the most prized fresh caviar.[6] However, when using lower temperatures and shorter times, flavor loss is minimized.

2. Can Affect Texture

If pasteurized at too high of temperatures or for too long, the eggs can become firmer with a rubbery texture.[7] Mastering the right time/temperature balance is critical to maintain the signature creamy, poppable texture expected from top caviars.

Black caviar in a can on top of some salt

How to Identimize Pasteurized Caviar

Reputable producers clearly label their caviar as “pasteurized.” Consumers should look for this on the packaging or can. If it simply says “fresh caviar” without mentioning pasteurization, it is likely untreated caviar with a shorter shelf life.

Is Tobiko pasteurized? Tobiko is the term for flying fish roe often used in sushi. Most tobiko is pasteurized to ensure safety and extend shelf life.[8] So you can assume tobiko has been heat treated unless otherwise stated.

How to Properly Store Pasteurized Caviar

To retain quality and safety, pasteurized caviar must be properly stored. Here are some tips:

  • Keep refrigerated at 28°F to 35°F once opened.[9] Do not freeze.
  • Store in original tin or jar, or transfer to a clean glass container with tight seal. Avoid plastic containers.
  • Keep away from foods with strong odors that may absorb into the caviar.
  • Consume within 1-4 weeks of opening for best flavor and texture.

How to Serve and Enjoy Pasteurized Caviar

Caviar is a luxurious delicacy best enjoyed in moderation on its own or accompanying light, non-competing flavors:

  • Serve chilled directly from the tin/jar using a non-metallic spoon. Avoid metal which can impart a metallic taste.[10]
  • Pair with blini, toast points, boiled potatoes, or simple crackers.
  • Add a dollop to egg dishes, seafood pasta, risotto, avocado toast for a luxe touch.
  • Avoid citrus, vinegar, onions, garlic, and other bold flavors that will overpower the refined caviar flavor.

Can pregnant women eat caviar? Pasteurized caviar is considered safe for pregnant women to eat in moderation (1-2 oz per week).[11] Still avoid unpasteurized caviar due to risk of parasites.

Is There a Difference in Price Between Fresh and Pasteurized Caviar?

There is generally not a large price difference between fresh and pasteurized caviar.[12] They are typically priced comparably for equivalent quality levels. In some cases pasteurized may even cost slightly more due to the added processing. Consumers are mostly paying for the original quality of the eggs, not whether it is pasteurized or not.

Can You Make Your Own Pasteurized Caviar at Home?

It is possible to pasteurize caviar at home using a sous vide cooking device to hold water at precise temperatures. [13] However, proper pasteurization requires maintaining 140°F-185°F for over 10 minutes, which can be difficult without proper equipment. Most experts recommend buying pre-pasteurized caviar rather than attempting to do it yourself.


pasteurization makes caviar safer and extends its shelf life significantly. When done correctly, it maintains the nutritional value, refined flavor, velvety texture, and indulgent experience caviar is prized for. Pasteurized caviar provides an accessible way to enjoy this luxurious delicacy without the limitations and risks of fresh caviar. Look for quality pasteurized caviar from reputable producers and take care to store and serve it properly for the best eating experience.