What does caviar taste like? It is the question that many people ask themselves when they see it at a grocery store. Some might think that it tastes salty and fishy, but others may wonder if it’s too expensive to even try.
So, what does caviar taste like? Caviar tastes like salt, black pepper and fish. The caviar’s taste may vary depending on the species. Overall, caviar tastes earthy and briny with a nice nutty sweetness behind a creamy finish.
If you’ve ever wondered exactly what expensive caviar tastes like, and what gives this delicacy its unique flavor, you’re about to get a crash course in developing your palette. So, put on your suit, break out your golden cutlery and crystal goblets, and pull your chair up. We’re about to take your imagination on a flavor voyage and give you a virtual tasting experience like no other.
Here’s what expensive caviar tastes like!
What Does Caviar Taste Like
Many people who try caviar for the first time don’t like it. Some people say it’s “too fishy” or “too oily” or that the “texture is strange.” However, like many things in life, caviar is just something that needs to be gotten used to. Once you’ve had the chance to experience good caviar a couple of times, then you’ll be hooked for life.
Caviar has a taste that is reminiscent of the ocean itself. The first flavor you’ll taste is that of sea salt. As the textured pearls move across your palette, you’ll be able to taste nuttiness, a light fish oil flavor, and also some egg-like notes which come from the yolk of the roe itself.
Unfortunately, if you go into caviar shopping blind, then you’re liable to get ripped off. There have been numerous reports of caviar buyers getting charged full-price for “sturgeon caviar” only to receive a lower quality fish roe such as salmon or lumpfish.
While both of these alternatives are technically fish eggs, they tend to have a completely different flavor profile than what you should expect from authentic sturgeon caviar.
To provide a good example, just look at the difference between eating tuna and salmon. Although they’re both fish, the two species have a completely different taste and flavor profile. Tuna tastes very light, has a mild flavor, and a fibrous texture. Salmon, on the other hand, is heavier, has a higher fat content, and tastes saltier.
Just as meat tastes different from one fish to another, so does the roe.
If you’ve ever had the chance to compare everyday white grocery store eggs to farm-fresh brown eggs, you’ve probably noticed how the farm-fresh eggs have a lot more flavor and keep you full for longer periods of time. Caviar and fish eggs are no different.
The main difference that you’ll notice between off-brand caviar (such as lumpfish roe) and authentic sturgeon caviar is the taste. Real sturgeon caviar will have a rich flavor, firmer texture, and will be easier to pair with other foods.
If you want to become a connoisseur of caviar, then you’ll need to know how to identify the specific flavor profiles and texture of true sturgeon caviar so that you don’t get duped into purchasing a lower quality fish roe marketed as “caviar.”
Below, you’ll learn everything that you need to know to select the highest quality caviar.
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The Smell Of Expensive Caviar Vs. Cheap Caviar
Before you take your first bite of caviar, the first thing that you’ll notice is its scent. Learning the difference between the smell of good and bad caviar is essential if you want to avoid bad experiences or low-quality caviar.
This is very important because caviar is not pasteurized. Although each batch is sampled in a laboratory to check for bacteria content, there’s no way to be 100% sure whether the caviar you’re eating is good or bad.
When you open a jar of high-quality caviar, the first thing you should notice is the smell. The inexperienced often describe caviar as having a “pungent” smell. The scent of fish oils and salty brine is certainly strong, but for those who enjoy the delicacy- it’s a welcome scent.
Although there is always going to be a slightly “fishy” odor, high-quality expensive caviar will tend to have a more “nutty” flavor. If you’re unfamiliar with caviar, the best way to describe the difference to first-timers is to remember the difference between sardines and salmon.
Sardines tend to have a very oily, fishy, and slightly musky flavor. Salmon, on the other hand, tends to have a lighter, nuttier, and more palatable flavor.
The same difference in flavor profile can be applied to caviar and other types of fish roe.
Lower-quality caviar (non-sturgeon roe) tends to have a far more oily and fishy taste than the more expensive, higher-quality sturgeon caviar. This mostly has to do with the environment of the fish. Sturgeon tend to roam the deep seas and have a lower fat content, which contributes to a less oily flavor. Lumpfish and salmon roe have a far more oily flavor as they are more often farmed or are harvested from shallow-water bays.
The smell of your dish is, by far, the easiest way to determine whether or not you’ve been served high or low-quality caviar. High-quality caviar tends to be wild-caught (or exclusively farmed) which leads to the sturgeon caviar having a mild, nutty, and slightly salty flavor. Low-quality caviar has a more oily flavor and tends to come with a more pungentfish smell.
What Is The Texture Of Caviar?
One of the things that makes caviar such a delicacy is the fact that it stimulates multiple senses. Although your sense of smell is the first thing you’ll notice before tasting your caviar, the next sense that is triggered is your sense of touch.
Caviar isn’t’ a dish that you “wolf down.” It’s a dish that you eat slowly, one bite at a time. A bite of caviar should be no more than a quarter of a teaspoon. The spoonful should be placed on the tip of your tongue and then gradually moved around from one side of your tongue to the other, allowing you to taste all of the rich flavors.
Before tasting the flavors, however, the first thing that you’ll realize is the texture.
High-quality caviar will have been expertly filtered, washed, and brined. This process ensures that the thick mucous-like membrane around the roe is all cleaned and removed, allowing consumers to taste and feel each individual pearl.
At first, it should feel as if you placed a small spoonful of microscopic balls on your tongue. The caviar should not feel mushy or slimy. Instead, the texture should feel firm, plump, and juicy. As you bite into small bits of caviar, you should feel them explode as the juice within explodes across the surface of your tongue.
You should be able to feel each piece of caviar roll across the surface of your tongue.
One of the first indicators of low-quality caviar is that it will feel lumpy and tend to bunch together into one sticky, slimy ball (almost like a jelly). Since lower-quality caviars are typically created to be used as spreads or ingredient additives, they aren’t filtered and cleaned as well and contain more of the membrane than the ultra-filtered sturgeon caviar.
Examining The Flavor Profile Of Caviar
The first senses to be stimulated are your scent and the feeling of the caviar on your tongue. As these first two senses start to provide feedback, though, your third sense of taste, will send the remaining flavor messages to your brain.
As I mentioned earlier, first-time caviar eaters often have a hard time distinguishing between authentic sturgeon caviar and cheaper lumpfish caviar. That means it’s essential to know what flavor to look out for so you don’t get taken advantage of.
Here are the primary flavor profiles that you should be aware of when it comes to high-end expensive caviar.
Salt and Brine
Since caviar is obtained from saltwater sturgeon, there should always be a light flavor reminiscent of sea salt, even if you eat raw caviar straight out of the fish like Gordon Ramsey did in this clip:
After the roe is harvested, however, it undergoes a deep cleaning process that’s supposed to remove all of the excessive protective membranes that surround the egg sac. After cleaning, the roe tends to be lacking in flavor. In order to restore and compliment the natural flavor of caviar, the freshly-cleaned roe is then brined in a large barrel of purified saltwater.
If the caviar has been properly brined, then it should have a moderately salty flavor. You don’t want it to be absent of saltiness, but it shouldn’t be overly salty either.
Once you get past the initial salty flavor of the brine, your tongue will begin to explore some of the other more natural flavors of the roe. The first taste that most people report is fishiness– an oily, ocean-like flavor that’s only present in fish.
However, expensive sturgeon caviar should never be overly-fishy. It should never smell rotten or pungent. Instead, the fishy flavor should be a light aftertaste that’s easily distinguishable from the salt, but that doesn’t dominate the taste.
As your tongue begins to taste the natural fishy flavor of the caviar, you also may begin to taste elements that are similar to nuts (such as cashews or almonds). This flavor is usually due to the presence of Omega-3 fatty acids that are present in both caviar and nuts.
In addition to their nutritional benefit, these fatty acids also give high-quality caviar a wonderfully diverse flavor profile!
Cheaper varieties of caviar and fish roe tend to have an overly salty flavor profile that can make the product taste too strong to eat on its own. This is why it’s typically served on a cracker or a roll of sushi.
Expensive caviar, on the other hand, has such an exquisite taste that you can eat it by itself without any crackers, sides, garnish, or seasoning!
No matter what type of caviar you get, it’s going to burn at least a small hole in your wallet. Even the cheap forms of caviar (such as paddlefish or lumpfish) tend to be far more expensive than the meat of the fish itself.
That being said, if you’re going to try caviar for the first time, then you may as well do it right! Make sure that you order authentic sturgeon caviar instead of a cheaper substitute. If you’re new to it, then you’ll probably also want to eat it with a cracker or thin slice of bread on the side in order to make the flavor a bit milder.
Once you’ve developed your palette for expensive caviar, though, you’ll never want to go back to cheaper fish roe. My goal in this article was to explain to you what expensive caviar tastes like and help give you a better appreciation for this wonderful delicacy.
The next time you visit a fancy seafood restaurant, try it out! You’ll be glad you did.
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