Chinese Caviar: Quality, Varieties and Producers

Caviar has long been associated with luxury and indulgence, with the finest varieties hailing from sturgeon found in the Caspian Sea. However, in recent decades, China has emerged as the world’s largest producer of caviar. Chinese caviar now accounts for over 80% of global production, transforming the caviar industry. 

Though some concerns persist around quality and sustainability, Chinese caviar is gaining popularity for its affordability and diversity of options. New regulations and technological advancements also aim to elevate production standards. This article will explore the nuances of the Chinese caviar market, examining how it’s produced, key brands, popular varieties, and more.

How is Caviar Produced in China?

The vast majority of Chinese caviar comes from aquaculture, not wild sturgeon. Sturgeon farming dominates production, making up over 95% of output. The primary species raised are Kaluga and Amur sturgeon. These fish are selectively bred for traits like rapid growth, raised in lakes, ponds and tanks, and processed for their eggs.

China’s caviar production skyrocketed from just 22 tons in 1996 to nearly 2,400 tons in 2022. This growth resulted from increased sturgeon farming and improved breeding techniques. For perspective, global wild caviar production is estimated at just 300 tons annually in recent years.

While efficient, concerns exist around the environmental impacts and ethics of large-scale sturgeon aquaculture in China. Critics point to issues like water pollution, antibiotic overuse, and cramped conditions. Still, the combination of aquaculture and selective breeding enables immense scale.

Why is Chinese Caviar Gaining Popularity?

Several factors are driving the rising popularity of Chinese caviar:

  • Price – Chinese caviar is generally 40-50% cheaper than traditional wild caviar from producers like Russia and Iran. This makes it more affordable and attracts price-conscious consumers.
  • Increasing Production – With output expanding so rapidly, Chinese caviar is easier to access globally, even appearing on some mainstream US grocery shelves.
  • New Consumers – Growing affluence in China and internationally creates demand from consumers new to the caviar market.
  • Changing Preferences – Younger generations may prefer the milder taste of farmed Chinese caviar compared to traditional wild caviar.
  • Versatility – The range of quality levels allows Chinese caviar to be used in a wider variety of dishes, from appetizers to entrees.

Despite lingering doubts around authenticity and provenance, these factors point to continued growth for the Chinese caviar industry.

What are the Top Chinese Caviar Brands?

Several major producers dominate the Chinese caviar landscape:

1. Kaluga Queen

The brand Kaluga Queen is one of the largest Chinese caviar producers. Based in Qingdao, their specialty is Kaluga Hybrid caviar, a cross between Beluga and Sterlet sturgeon. Their farmed product has won international awards for its quality.

2. Qiandao Lake Sturgeon Farm

Located near Hangzhou, Qiandao Lake Sturgeon Farm focuses on Sterling, Amur, and Kaluga sturgeon. Their caviar is known for its bright color and firm texture.

3. Dalian Tianzheng Industrial Co.

With specially designed sturgeon farms in Liaoning province, Dalian Tianzheng produces various caviar varieties including Oscietra and Sevruga. Their product is sold domestically and exported.

4. Hangzhou Qiandaohu Xunlong Sci-tech Co.

This producer operates one of the largest sturgeon breeding facilities in China, supplying caviar domestically and to Europe. They focus on premium Sterlet caviar.

5. Amur Fishery Company

Located in Heilongjiang province, Amur Fishery specializes in raising Amur sturgeon for caviar. Their products are known for quality and have been honored at Chinese food exhibitions.

6. N25

As a relatively new brand founded in 2015, N25 sources caviar from multiple Chinese sturgeon farms to produce various caviar offerings. Their products are aimed at younger Chinese luxury consumers.

What are the Different Types of Chinese Caviar?

Chinese caviar includes a diverse range of caviar options:

1. Beluga Hybrid Caviar

A cultivated cross between prized Beluga and other sturgeon, this light grey caviar has a refined, buttery taste. The large eggs make a visual impact. Kaluga Queen is a leading producer. 

2. Ossetra Caviar

Ossetra sturgeon are bred for their golden brown eggs praised for nutty, robust flavor. Dalian Tianzheng and Amur Fishery offer quality Ossetra caviar.

3. Sevruga Caviar

The small, nearly black pearls of Sevruga delight with their delicate, lightly briny taste. Chinese Sevruga caviar provides an affordable alternative to Caspian options.

4. Sterlet Caviar

Sterlet sturgeon produce small, firm eggs with a refined, smooth flavor. Qiandao Lake and Xunlong Sci-Tech are top producers of Chinese Sterlet caviar.

5. White Sturgeon Caviar

Farmed especially in Northern China, the large eggs of white sturgeon have a mild, creamy taste. Amur Fishery white sturgeon caviar is exemplary.

How Does Chinese Caviar Compare to Other Countries’ Produce?

Compared to wild caviar from Russia and Iran, Chinese caviar is generally considered more affordable, but of lower and less consistent quality.

The rich, complex flavors and large pearls of Caspian Beluga and Oscietra caviar remain the global benchmark. Top Chinese brands do produce quality caviar, but there is variation between farms.

Some experts consider the finer grained, mildly flavored Chinese caviar better for cooking, while traditional Caspian caviar is preferred for uncooked enjoyment. Concerns also exist around adulteration and improper labeling among some Chinese producers.

That said, leading Chinese brands like Kaluga Queen and Qiandao Lake are closing the quality gap and offer enhanced value. Meanwhile, new regulations set a framework for graded quality levels aimed at standardizing Chinese caviar.

What Makes Chinese Caviar Unique?

While lagging behind in overall prestige, Chinese caviar brings several unique attributes to the global caviar market:

  • Scale – The vast quantity produced, accounting for 80% of global output, makes Chinese caviar stand out. This enormous production volume results from the country’s massive sturgeon aquaculture capacity.
  • Affordability – Nowhere else can you find such large amounts of caviar being produced and exported at prices 40-50% below those of top Caspian producers. This makes caviar more approachable for mainstream consumers.
  • Variety – The range of sturgeon species farmed and hybrids allows Chinese producers to offer diverse textural and flavor profiles between different caviar types.
  • New Consumers – Chinese brands are introducing caviar to newly affluent Chinese consumers and global markets where caviar has traditionally been rare. This is fueling market growth.
  • Lower Taste Profiles – The milder taste and aroma of Chinese farmed caviar may also be a unique advantage for consumers new to caviar.

Where Can You Buy Chinese Caviar?

Availability of Chinese caviar was once largely limited to China, but improved production quality and expanding exports now make it accessible across the globe:

  • Online – Chinese caviar can be purchased through specialty food websites that ship internationally, like Caviar Russe, Petrossian, and Caviar Master. 
  • Major Retailers – More retailers, including Costco and luxury department stores, are stocking Chinese caviar.
  • Chinese Markets – Markets specializing in Chinese products often carry various domestic caviar brands. This offers opportunity to find more niche brands.
  • Restaurants – Some upscale Chinese, seafood, and sushi restaurants include Chinese caviar on menus, occasionally even serving domestic brands like Kaluga Queen.
  • Specialty Stores – Gourmet shops focused on caviar and fine foods may carry Chinese options alongside traditional caviar.
  • China – Within China, Chinese brands have broad distribution across luxury hotels, high-end grocery stores, and e-commerce sites like and Taobao.

Is Chinese Caviar Sustainable?

With environmental issues in focus, the sustainability of China’s enormous sturgeon aquaculture industry has come under scrutiny:

  • Overfishing of Wild Sturgeon – Illegal fishing of rare wild species like Beluga raised concerns, given the implications for biodiversity conservation and Caspian Sea ecosystems.
  • Fish Welfare – Sturgeon raised in high densities in China’s fish farms may face welfare challenges including poor water quality, injuries, and overcrowding.
  • Antibiotic Usage – Heavy use of antibiotics to prevent disease in concentrated sturgeon farming also garners criticism for potential human health and ecological impacts.
  • Non-Native Species – Introducing Kaluga sturgeon, native to the Amur River, into Chinese lake ecosystems represents another ecological consideration.

However, the evolution towards farming, versus wild caviar fishing, shows progress towards a more sustainable model. Meanwhile, emerging technological solutions could further enhance environmental performance, while new regulations look to enforce higher standards.

Consumers increasingly seek out assurance of organic, ethical production. Brands like Qiandao Lake are embracing sustainable practices to ensure Chinese caviar can meet these expectations.

How to Serve and Enjoy Chinese Caviar?

Serving Chinese caviar requires less complex presentation than Caspian varieties but still benefits from a few tips:

  • Focus on optimizing freshness by keeping it chilled right until serving.
  • Accompany with egg yolk, pancakes, or toast points to balance the briny taste.
  • Mother of pearl, abalone or seashells make elegant caviar service utensils.
  • Pair Chinese caviar with crisp sparkling wines, like dry Champagne, for a complementary profile.
  • Allow the caviar’s delicate flavors to shine by avoiding heavy creams and onions.
  • For a stunning presentation, layer caviar elegantly on top of smoked salmon or crème fraiche. 
  • Let ossetra and sterlet pearls gently melt on the tongue to enjoy their richness.
  • The pop of beluga hybrid eggs makes them an ideal, textural garnish for canapés or flavorful maki rolls.

While affluent Chinese prefer Caspian caviar for gifting, Chinese caviar lends itself well for approachable everyday luxury.


In a market long dominated by wild sturgeon from the Caspian Sea, the meteoric rise of Chinese caviar may represent the most significant development in the industry’s history. China now defines the global supply, demand and pricing dynamics for caviar.

With its affordable pricing, increasing quality and diversity of farmed varieties, Chinese caviar makes the caviar experience accessible to an unprecedented range of consumers. While perceptions continue to evolve, leading Chinese brands have demonstrated the potential for premium, globally competitive caviar.

Concerns around environmental impact and fish welfare remain valid considerations for consumers. However, improving production standards and emerging sustainability certifications offer hope. In the future, perhaps the finest caviar may come not from the Caspian Sea, but from the fish farms of China.