Masago: Taste, Benefits, and Culinary Uses

Masago caviar is a type of caviar made from capelin fish roe. The eggs are very small, approximately 1 millimeter in diameter.

Masago is the Japanese word for capelin. This type of caviar originates from and is commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is also growing in popularity around the world due to its use in sushi and Asian cuisine.

Masago caviar has a vibrant orange-red color and a mild, salty taste. The small eggs give masago a smooth, creamy texture when eaten. Unlike other caviar varieties, masago does not have a strong fishy flavor or aroma.

is masago caviar

How is Masago Caviar Produced?

Masago caviar is produced from capelin, a type of smelt fish found primarily in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans. Other fish roes, such as herring and salmon, are sometimes used instead of capelin.

The process to harvest masago is relatively non-invasive for the fish. The female capelin are caught during spawning season when they are full of eggs. The fish are placed into tanks onboard fishing vessels where the eggs are released.

The eggs are then rinsed thoroughly to remove any impurities. They are slightly salted to preserve freshness. After salting, the eggs are placed into jars or cans for distribution and sale.

Very little processing is done to the eggs to preserve their quality and natural taste. The best masago caviar comes from Iceland and Canada where the capelin are abundant.

What Does Masago Caviar Taste Like?

Masago caviar has a mild and salty taste without any strong fish flavor. The tiny eggs have a smooth, creamy, and crunchy texture when eaten.

This type of caviar is often described as having a nutty or earthy flavor. The firm bite and popping sensation when eating masago is part of the appeal.

Masago can have a slightly sweet undertone depending on the feed of the capelin fish. Higher quality masago often has more sweetness coming through in the taste.

The small size of the eggs gives masago a smooth and even consistency. The caviar feels like a delicate cream when eaten and doesn’t have any sliminess.

Nutritional Benefits of Masago Caviar

Masago caviar provides several nutrients and health benefits, including:

1. High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Masago contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. A 1-ounce serving of masago provides approximately 4 to 23 milligrams of Omega-3s (Source: USDA FoodData Central).

These essential fats promote heart health, improve cholesterol levels, and support healthy brain function. The omega-3 content can vary based on the fish diet.

2. Rich in Protein

Masago is a high protein food, with about 13 grams of protein per ounce (Source: USDA FoodData Central).

The complete protein provided helps maintain and repair tissues in the body. Protein also keeps you feeling fuller for longer, supporting weight management.

3. Source of Vitamins and Minerals

Masago delivers vital micronutrients including selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C (Source: USDA FoodData Central).

These vitamins and minerals support immune health, bone strength, DNA synthesis, and energy production. Masago’s nutrient density makes it a nutritious addition to the diet.

4. Low in Calories

With approximately 34 calories per tablespoon, or 100 calories per ounce serving, masago is a low calorie food (Source: USDA FoodData Central).

The small size of the eggs means you can get a lot of nutrients and flavor without consuming excess calories. Masago makes a great low cal alternative in sushi rolls, poke bowls, or on salads.

Potential Health Risks of Consuming Masago Caviar

There are a few potential downsides to eating masago caviar frequently or in large amounts:

  • High Sodium Content: Like most caviar and fish roe, masago is quite high in sodium content at approximately 700-800 milligrams per ounce (Source: USDA FoodData Central). Those restricting sodium intake should consume masago in moderation.
  • Risk of Foodborne Illness: As a raw seafood product, masago has an increased risk of bacterial contamination and foodborne disease. Purchasing high quality masago from reputable brands can help reduce this risk.
  • Allergies: Those with fish or seafood allergies should avoid masago, as it may trigger an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.
  • Mercury and Pollutants: Long-lived fish at the top of the food chain tend to accumulate more mercury and pollutants. However, small fish like capelin have much lower mercury levels compared to larger fish.

How to Store and Use Masago Caviar in Cooking


Unopened masago caviar can be stored for up to 1 year when kept refrigerated at or below 40°F (Source: Caviar Centre). The shelf life of masago decreases after opening. For best quality and food safety, consume opened masago within 4 to 6 months.

Keep masago refrigerated at all times and keep the lid sealed when not in use. Avoid repeated temperature changes to preserve freshness.

Cooking and Usage

Masago has a variety of culinary uses thanks to its versatility, texture, color, and mild briny taste:

  • Garnish for sushi, poke bowls, seafood dishes, and appetizers
  • Mix into cream cheese, dips, pasta, salads, rice, etc.
  • Use as a crunchy topping on avocado toast or bagels
  • Fold into omelets, frittatas, and scrambled eggs
  • Add to soups, broths, and ramen dishes
  • Mix with mayonnaise to make flavored masago aioli sauce

The small sturdy eggs hold up well to heating and cooking without losing their pleasant pop. Rinse masago before use to remove excess salt or brine.

Popular Dishes with Masago Caviar

Masago caviar is used in a variety of Japanese and international dishes. Here are some popular ways to eat masago:

1. Sushi Rolls with Masago

Spicy tuna rolls, California rolls, and other maki sushi often contain a sprinkling of masago caviar. The bright orange eggs not only add flavor, but provide an eye-catching garnish. Masago is a natural pair with other sushi ingredients like avocado, cucumber, crab, tuna, and salmon.

2. Pasta with Masago

Masago can be stirred into hot pasta along with parmesan cheese for added flavor, crunchy texture, and nutrition. The eggs pair well with light olive oil or pesto-based pasta recipes. Simply rinse the masago before mixing it into pasta to remove excess brine.

3. Salad Toppings with Masago

A spoonful of masago caviar transforms a boring salad into a gourmet meal with extra nutrition. Try masago on top of green salads, seafood salads, bean salads, or rice salads. The salty, nutty caviar goes well with avocados, tomatoes, peppers, edamame, salmon, tuna, and crabmeat.

Masago vs Tobiko: What’s the Difference?

Masago and tobiko are two popular types of caviar often used in sushi. The main differences between them are:

  • Fish type: Masago comes from capelin roe, while tobiko comes from flying fish roe.
  • Size: Masago eggs are tiny at about 1 mm wide. Tobiko eggs are slightly larger at 1 to 2 mm wide.
  • Color: Masago has a vibrant orange-red hue. Tobiko is reddish-orange to neon red-orange in color.
  • Flavor: Masago is mild, slightly sweet and nutty. Tobiko tastes similar but has a hint of smokiness.
  • Crunch: Masago provides more of a smooth, creamy pop. Tobiko has a crispier crunch.

Both make delicious and colorful additions to sushi, though masago is more widely available and less expensive than tobiko.

Where to Buy Quality Masago Caviar?

Masago can be found at many grocery stores in the seafood section or Asian food aisle. For the highest quality, it’s best to buy from specialty stores:

  • Japanese Markets – Places like Mitsuwa and Nijiya Market have excellent selections of masago and Japanese seafood.
  • Seafood Shops – High-end seafood stores sell top notch masago from trusted brands and sustainable fisheries.
  • Online Shops – Buying masago online from Amazon, Caviar World, or reputable seafood sites ensures freshness. Look for responsible sourcing.

The best masago comes from Japan, Iceland, or Canada where capelin fish thrive. Major producers include Maruito®, Marumi®, and Oriental Mart®. Prices range from $3 to $10 for 2 to 4 ounce jars.

Is it Safe to Eat Raw Masago?

It is generally safe to consume raw masago according to food safety guidelines. Raw fish is safe when it has been blast frozen to kill bacteria and parasites (Source: FDA). Most masago sold in the U.S. is blast frozen during processing.

To reduce risks of foodborne illness, pregnant women, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems should avoid raw seafood. There is always a slight risk of pathogens with raw fish. Buying masago from trusted sellers and keeping it refrigerated minimizes dangers.

Cooking masago by lightly frying, baking, or boiling reduces potential food safety issues. But many prefer the taste, texture, and nutrition of fresh raw masago. Most healthy people can safely eat raw masago following proper storage and handling.

Can Pregnant Women Eat Masago?

It is typically recommended that pregnant women avoid raw or undercooked seafood due to risks of parasites and infections. Listeria, Salmonella, and other bacteria can contaminate seafood and potentially harm the developing baby (Source: FDA).

However, Masago is likely low risk for healthy pregnant women when purchased from reputable sellers. The small size and processing of the fish eggs reduces risks. Talk to your doctor about your diet and if you can include masago in moderation or if it’s better to avoid during pregnancy.

Cooking masago eliminates food safety issues for pregnant women. Lightly fried, boiled, or baked masago provide the same great taste and nutrition without the minimal risks of raw fish. Always refrigerate and use good food hygiene when handling any seafood.

In conclusion, masago caviar is a nutritious and flavorful type of fish roe that adds taste and visual appeal to many dishes. Its small size, crunchy popping texture, mild briny-sweet flavor, and bright color make it a versatile ingredient. Masago is easy to find at Asian markets and mainstream grocery stores. Following safe handling and storage, both raw and cooked masago can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet.