What Is Lumpfish Caviar? Taking A Look At The World’s Cheapest Caviar

In today’s article, I’m going to be talking about lumpfish caviar, why it’s becoming a popular alternative to sturgeon caviar, and what makes lumpfish different from some of the other more expensive options on the market. 

So, what is lumpfish caviar and how is it different from traditional sturgeon caviar?  Lumpfish caviar simply refers to the roe harvested from the lumpfish. Lumpfish spawn in shallow waters and lay lots of eggs, making them the perfect candidate to use as a substitute for sturgeon- which are endangered and becoming very expensive.

What Is Lumpfish Caviar?

Caviar is widely regarded as one of the world’s most expensive delicacies. The incredibly unique flavor that’s packed into each pearl-like fish egg explodes in your mouth to provide a flavor that few other foods on this earth can provide. 

Although caviar traditionally comes from the roe of sturgeon fish, lumpfish is a popular low-cost substitute for those who can’t afford to spend hundreds on high-end caviar. Today, I’m going to talk about lumpfish, lumpfish caviar harvesting, and tell you how it adds up to more traditional forms of caviar.

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What Is A Lumpfish? 

Lumpfish is native to the North Atlantic Ocean. Like the flounder, lumpfish are part of a group of fish known as “bottom feeders.” They have a thick, sticky outer skin that allows them to stick to the ocean floor where they get most of their food from. They’re one of the most popular and easy-to-catch fish in Scandinavia. 

In spawning season, the fish come up from the bottom and make their way to shallow waters in the bays of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. There, the female fish are caught fresh and harvested for eggs. The lumpfish roe are then washed, salted, and brined to be transported all around the world. 

Among caviar connoisseurs, lumpfish is often considered to be sub-par. Lumpfish, in general, is known for its distinctly oil, fatty taste, that some compare to flounder. Lumpfish is usually used to create cheap dishes and is sometimes even used in the production of dogfood. 

That being said, lumpfish caviar is kind of like the “off-brand” version of caviar. It shares the same texture as sturgeon caviar, looks almost identical, and has a similar taste that many would describe as “close enough” to the real thing. 

Why Lumpfish Are Substituted For Traditional Sturgeon Caviar

Caviar has been eaten for thousands of years. In fact, one of the first recorded mentions of the dish was by Aristotle in the 4th Century B.C. who described how the dark eggs of sturgeon fish were served as a delicacy. 

Throughout history, sturgeon has always been the choice species for caviar. Apart from the fact that sturgeon produce some of the world’s best-tasting roe, sturgeon also create the most eggs! A pregnant female sturgeon can carry up to 100-pounds worth of eggs (over $2.5 million worth). 

However, as we mentioned the sturgeon is endangered. In the days of Aristotle, the world’s population was just a small fraction of what it is now. Now that caviar has spread around the world as a delicacy, the sturgeon fish has been overfished and has been pushed to the verge of extinction

Most of the world’s sturgeon caviar comes from a small group of sturgeon farms which practice sustainable fishing. However, despite this new movement towards sustainable sturgeon farming, the caviar produced from these farms is still incredibly expensive. 

For this reason, lumpfish caviar is often used as a cheap alternative to the traditional sturgeon roe that has been used throughout history.

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Does Lumpfish Caviar Taste Good? 

Just because lumpfish caviar is cheaper than sturgeon or the famous beluga caviar doesn’t mean that it’s all that different. Lumpfish caviar undergoes the saming cleaning, salting, and bringing process that its more expensive counterparts go through. They’re also tested to the same standard of quality that involves laboratory bacteria tests and random batch sampling.

If you’ve never had caviar before, then one can easily mistake the flavor of lumpfish caviar for the roe of another fish. Lumpfish is known for its slightly crunchy texture and has a salty, brined flavor that’s a bit more fishy than other forms of caviar. 

Of course, if you’re a connoisseur with a trained palette, then you’ll probably immediately notice the difference. Lumpfish caviar tends to be more oily and fishy tasting than sturgeon due to the higher fat content in the fish itself. 

Since lumpfish roe is regarded as cheaper, it’s not as common to eat plain by itself. Instead, lumpfish caviar is more commonly used as a topping or an ingredient additive for dishes such as sushi and sashimi, light salads, and more. 

The salty flavor goes particularly well with any type of light crackers or biscuits that provide a little bit of crunch. One of the most common lumpfish caviar snacks involves spreading a bit of cream cheese on a cracker, scooping a quarter-teaspoon of caviar on top, and then garnishing with a sprig of parsley! 

In addition to their palettable flavor, lumpfish caviar also have the same health benefits as other caviar. They’re rich in B-Vitamins, full of Omega-3 fatty acids, and have tons of protein and healthy fats, making them an excellent substitute for eating meat with a dish. 

Is Lumpfish Caviar Sustainable? 

One of the best reasons to cut back on the sturgeon caviar and start eating more lumpfish roe is that lumpfish is far more sustainable. These fish typically grow up to two-feet long, can weigh 20 pounds, and females can produce over a quarter-million eggs. 

Since they lay their eggs in shallow waters, they’re incredibly easy to catch, and they come in the droves. Looking at the current wild lumpfish population, it’s not going to be endangered anytime soon. Lumpfish can also be sustainable farmed inland, which helps to keep the price of their roe affordable!