Exploring Caviar Types: Flavor Profiles & Origins

Caviar refers to the salt-cured roe (fish eggs) from sturgeon or certain other fish species. It is considered a luxury food product known for its smooth texture, delicate flavor, and association with sophistication.

The global caviar market was valued at USD $1.3 billion in 2027. Caviar can range significantly in price, with the most expensive variety, beluga caviar, costing between $5,000 to $30,000 per kilogram.

What Are The Different Types of Caviar?

There are several major types of caviar, categorized by the fish species. The most prized and expensive caviar comes from sturgeon, while other fish like salmon, trout, and paddlefish produce more affordable varieties.

1. Sturgeon Caviars

Sturgeon caviars make up the majority of the world’s caviar production. The different sturgeon species produce caviars with distinct flavors, colors, and textures.


Beluga caviar is produced from the beluga sturgeon. It has a pale gray color and mild, buttery flavor. It is considered the finest and rarest caviar, reflected in its extremely high prices of $5,000 to $30,000 per kilogram.


Ossetra caviar comes from Russian (black) ossetra and Persian (golden) ossetra sturgeons. It varies in color from dark brown to gold, with a rich, nutty flavor and firm texture. Ossetra caviar is less expensive than beluga but still a premium variety.


Sevruga caviar originates from the sevruga sturgeon and is characterized by small, gray eggs with a distinctive briny taste. It is more affordable than other sturgeon caviars but still revered for its quality.


Kaluga caviar is produced by the Amur River kaluga sturgeon. It has a very large grain size, dark gray to brown color, and buttery, mildly briny flavor. It is considered as fine as beluga caviar but with lower availability.

Siberian Sturgeon

As the name suggests, Siberian sturgeon caviar comes from sturgeons native to Siberia. It has small to medium sized gray or brownish eggs with a rich, nutty flavor. Siberian sturgeon caviar offers an excellent quality-to-price ratio.


Sterlet caviar comes from the sterlet sturgeon. It is characterized by its fine texture and the delicate taste of its small, pale golden eggs. While less expensive, it is still a luxurious type of caviar.


Produced from extremely rare 100+ year old albino beluga sturgeons from the Caspian Sea, Almas caviar commands prices from $25,000 per kilogram, making it the world’s most expensive caviar. Its tiny pale yellow eggs have an intense creamy, nutty flavor unmatched by other caviars.

2. Salmon Roe (Ikura)

Salmon roe, known as ikura in Japanese cuisine, comes from various Pacific salmon species. Ikura has large, smooth, bright orange-red eggs that pop gently when bitten into. It has a mild briny-sweet flavor and is more affordable than sturgeon caviar.

3. Trout Roe

Trout roe is harvested from trout fish in North America, Europe, and Asia. Its small pearls have a firmer texture and more pronounced fishy flavor than salmon caviar. It is an inexpensive type of caviar.

4. Whitefish Roe (Golden caviar)

Great Lakes whitefish produce golden caviar, which consists of small golden yellow eggs with a creamy, delicate taste. Whitefish Caviar is an American alternative to premium sturgeon caviars which is reasonably priced.

5. Lumpfish Roe

Lumpfish caviar originates from North Atlantic lumpfish. It consists of tiny black eggs that have a firm bite and intense briny-fishy taste. Lumpfish caviar is known as a “poor man’s caviar” due to its very affordable price.

6. Bowfin Roe (American caviar)

The bowfin is a primitive North American fish that produces roe sometimes marketed as “American caviar.” Bowfin caviar has a black color and eggs that are smaller than beluga but larger than other affordable caviars. It has a subtle flavor and is a sturdy, high-quality affordable caviar.

7. Flying Fish Roe (Tobiko)

Tobiko is the Japanese name for flying fish roe. It has very tiny, crunchy orange-red eggs that pop when eaten. Tobiko lends a vibrant color and flavor to sushi dishes rather than being eaten on its own.

8. Masago (Smelt Roe)

Masago caviar comes from capelin smelt fish. Like tobiko, it is known for the color and texture it adds to sushi rather than as a delicacy itself. The small orange eggs contribute a nice crunch and look attractive as a sushi topping or garnish.

9. Paddlefish Roe

American paddlefish produce an affordable caviar often used as a substitute for Sevruga caviar. The tiny black eggs have a crisp bite and mildly nutty flavor. Paddlefish Roe is much less expensive than similarly sized sevruga due to the paddlefish’s lack of rarity.

10. Capelin Roe

Capelin roe originates from capelin, a common forage fish. The small pearl-like eggs have a reddish-brown color and pronounced roe flavor. It is primarily used to produce mass market caviar rather than as a gourmet product.

11. Lobster

Lobster roe caviar comes from the coral-colored eggs found inside female lobsters. The eggs have a soft texture, seafood flavor, and sweetness from the lobster roe. It offers a rare and exclusive caviar variety.

How is Caviar Produced?

Caviar production begins by removing the egg sacs from freshly caught female sturgeons or other fish. The sacs are passed through sieves to remove unwanted membranes and separate the eggs. The eggs are then drained of fluids and packed in prepared salted juices from their own fish species. Finally, the caviar tins are sealed, pasteurized, and shipped to destinations around the world.

Commercial caviar production requires extensive processing to stabilize and preserve the eggs, as the raw roe deteriorates quickly after harvesting.

What are the Factors that Determine the Quality and Price of Different Types of Caviar?

There are several criteria that determine the quality and pricing of caviar:

Rarity – Caviar from rare or nearly extinct fish like beluga command extremely high prices – beluga caviar can cost over $10,000 per pound. The fewer fish available to produce a type of roe, the more expensive it becomes. Meanwhile, caviar from common fish like capelin is affordably priced.

Fish Size and Age – Older, larger fish tend to produce better quality caviar. Large sturgeon over 60 years old or salmon over 6 years old yield prime caviar. Younger fish produce lower priced roe.

Flavor – The most desirable caviars like ossetra and hackleback sturgeon have rich, complex flavors compared to milder roes from whitefish or trout. More robust taste commands higher pricing.

Egg Size – Caviar connoisseurs prefer the larger beads found in types like beluga and sterlet caviar. Larger pearls have more flavor versus tiny eggs like tobiko. Thus, egg size impacts price.

Color – Premium caviars often have lighter colors – beluga’s pale gray eggs signal top quality. Dark colored caviars are perceived as lower grades by some. However, salmon roe’s bright orange eggs are still prized.

Texture – Favored caviars like ossetra have a firm bite that pops pleasantly. Creamier textures found in bass or cod roe are considered inferior.

Preparation and Handling – Meticulous handling is required to produce quality caviar, including gently harvesting the roe during a short season and expertly curing it. Poor preparation yields subpar caviar sold cheaply.

How to Choose the Right Type of Caviar for You?

With the wide variety of roes available, focus on caviar to suit your unique tastes and budget:

Flavor – If you want a delicate, subtle taste, try osetra or whitefish caviar. If you prefer an intense, briny hit of flavor, lumpfish caviar is a good choice.

Texture – Seek smaller eggs like sevruga or bowfin if you like caviar that pops crisply. For a creamy mouthfeel, American paddlefish caviar fits the bill.

Color – Vibrant orange ikura or tobiko match perfectly if you want to liven up sushi. Or opt for sophisticated black or grey eggs from beluga or kaluga sturgeon.

Occasion – Celebrate special occasions with prized beluga or gold ossetra caviar. Enjoy trout roe for everyday luxurious snacks on a budget.

Ethics – Choose responsibly farmed white sturgeon caviar if environmental sustainability is important to you. Or pick invasive American paddlefish caviar to help waterways.

Budget – Beluga and ossetra suit special occasion splurging, while Siberian sturgeon or bowfin fit luxury budgets. Lumpfish or salmon roe provide affordable everyday enjoyment.

How to Properly Store and Serve Different Types of Caviar?

Storage: Caviar is highly perishable and requires meticulous storage methods. The keys are keeping it chilled and avoiding exposure to air:

  • Refrigerate at 28-32°F soon after buying for short term storage of several weeks
  • For longer term storage up to months, freeze at 0°F
  • Store in original tin or tightly sealed glass jar
  • Cover with a thin top layer of caviar from a second tin before sealing
  • Do not scrape off or disturb the protective bottom layer coating when serving

Serving: Enjoy caviar’s taste and texture by serving properly chilled:

  • Chill caviar tins, mother of pearl spoons, and dishes in refrigerator prior to serving
  • Use chilled porcelain, glass, mother-of-pearl, bone, horn, or gold utensils to avoid metallic taste interactions
  • Serve in dishes like ramekins to optimize chilling rather than room temperature plates
  • Provide toast points, blini pancakes, or other neutrally flavored crisp toast or crackers as vehicles

What are Some Popular Dishes and Pairings with Different Types of Caviar?

  • Chilled vodka – Vodka’s clean taste allows beluga caviar’s delicate notes to shine. Vodka also complements the nuttiness of ossetra caviar.
  • Chilled dry champagne – Champagne’s bubbles and acidity balance salty roes’ rich fattiness. It pairs beautifully with top caviars.
  • Blini pancakes – Traditional buckwheat or flour-egg blini pancakes make superb vehicles for indulging in caviar.
  • Crème fraîche or smetana – Slightly tangy, creamy dairy dips complement caviar’s texture without overpowering taste.
  • Chives, parsley, boiled egg whites – Mild garnishes add freshness while keeping the focus on the caviar.
  • Smoked salmon – A touch of smokiness beautifully offsets intense caviar salinity.
  • Foie gras – Decadent foie gras pâté provides an extraordinary textural counterpoint to caviar.

What are Some Ethical Considerations When Choosing Certain Types of Caviar?

With wild sturgeon populations severely threatened after more than a century of overfishing, it is important to make ethical caviar choices:

  • Avoid beluga or wild ossetra caviar – Select other sturgeon varieties like Siberian with healthier stocks
  • Choose aquaculture brands – Responsibly farmed sturgeon helps conserve wild fish
  • Look for ASC or BAP certification – Denotes audited sustainability practices
  • Favor invasive species – American paddlefish and bowfin control waterways
  • Support wildlife conservation efforts – Some brands fund sturgeon population recovery

By better understanding the different types of caviar and selecting sustainable options when indulging, we can continue enjoying this ultimate luxury food for generations to come.


Caviar remains one of the world’s most prized and symbolic luxury foods. The different types of caviar vary enormously in flavor, texture, color, rarity, and of course, price. Sturgeon caviars like beluga, ossetra, and sevruga represent the crème de la crème – with beluga fetching prices over $10,000 per pound.

More affordable caviar alternatives also abound, whether vibrantly hued salmon ikura or the affordable yet robust bowfin “American caviar.” Caviar remains extremely perishable and requires careful storage and service to enjoy properly. Pairing caviar with chilled vodka or champagne makes for timeless indulgent pairings.

Yet with wild sturgeons facing severe population declines, making ethical and sustainable caviar choices is paramount for securing caviar’s future so we can continue celebrating special occasions with this ultimate taste of luxury.