What is Red Caviar?

The most well-known type of caviar is Red Caviar, which is made from salmon roe. Red Caviar has a salty and fishy taste due to its salinity and high concentrations of umami, with a creamy texture that makes it irresistible for many people.

So what is red caviar? Red caviar is caviar that you get from salmon, trout, graylings and char. The color of caviar or fish roe is dependent on the fish species that produced it. Red caviar gets its hue from the fact that it’s produced by salmonid species of fish.

Red Caviar

Caviar is a delicacy, but you may be surprised to learn that some forms of caviar are a lot more affordable than others. Are the differences between caviar types enough to justify the huge pierce difference between each of the available options?

Red caviar has a few key differences from other kinds of caviar (like black or grey caviar), so I’m going to take a closer look at what sets this type of caviar apart from them. I’ll also explore how you can serve red caviar to make the most of its flavor and which cuisines you can expect it to be a common part of.

What is Red Caviar?

Whereas many other kinds of caviar are dyed to have a more brilliant and dazzling appearance (this tends to be the case for yellow and blue caviar), red caviar naturally looks like that. Some might even consider it a misnomer to call red caviar that at all, since many connoisseurs prefer to reserve that term for the eggs of sturgeon.

In many cases, red caviar is instead referred to as roe, depending on the species that produced it. For example, red caviar coming from salmon is often referred to as salmon roe, but there are many regional variations on the term, including the Japanese ikura, which actually comes from a Russian word.

It comes from the Russian ikra, which is a term that means either caviar or roe, and this makes sense when you consider Japan’s proximity to Russia’s Vladivostok. 

Ikura is salmon caviar used in Japanese cuisine, and it can be served in a variety of ways, including Ikura don, which is ikura over rice and sometimes topped off with nori. When served in Japan, you’ll typically find ikura marinated with sake, soy sauce, and salt, giving it a distinctive umami flavor.

You’ll also typically find ikura used in sushi, along with a wide range of other Japanese roe types, such as flying fish roe. When used in sushi, it is usually used to top off a roll and add additional depth to its flavor.

As you’d expect, red caviar also features heavily in Russian cuisine, as with many other types of caviar. When served in Russia, red caviar tends to be used as an aperitif or an appetizer, and you’ll find it being served on blini, like with other forms of caviar, though bread with butter is also used frequently.

In some cases, you’ll find red caviar being served with salmon slices like lox, or even simple raw salmon. Champagne is also a common accompaniment, especially if it’s of a drier variety, as the flavor complements all forms of caviar, including red.

Red caviar is one of the two main categories of caviar, as red and a blackish grey are the two colors that you’ll naturally find fish eggs in. Red caviar tends to be more affordable than black caviar because the fish that produce it have different breeding cycles, and salmon tend to spawn more frequently.

On the other hand, black caviar is produced by sturgeon, which are growing more and more rare. Along with that issue, you’ll also find that sturgeon have a much longer reproductive cycle, so it takes them much longer to produce a batch of eggs that can then be harvested for use as caviar.

How Does Red Caviar Taste?

Red caviar is not of the same quality as something like Beluga caviar, but its taste is still slightly reminiscent of it. That being said, you’ll likely notice a difference in how much of the ocean is conveyed to your palate when you eat a spoonful of red caviar, since it doesn’t seem as refreshing and evocative of ocean waves.

One issue with red caviar is that it tends to be a lot saltier than other forms of caviar, especially if you compare it to those that are produced using the malossol method. This is because most red caviar simply isn’t produced with the same level of care as black caviar coming from sturgeon.

If you’re getting your red caviar in a can, then there’s a good chance that it has been pasteurized so that it can have a longer shelf life. Unfortunately, this process also includes heavily salting the roe so that it can undergo pasteurization in the first place, dramatically affecting the flavor and burying it under saltiness.

Another thing that may further affect the flavor of your red caviar is if it contains preservatives, which are once again used to ensure that the caviar can survive the trip from the producer to your tabletop. That being said, you may be able to find high-end red caviar that has not gone through these processes.

Types of Red Caviar

There are a few different forms of red caviar, depending on the kind of fish that it has been harvested from. The best way to tell the difference between these kinds of caviar is to see how large the individual eggs are. The size usually depends on the size of the fish that it’s being harvested from, but not always.

For example, keta caviar tends to be relatively large, with an average egg diameter of about 6 mm. Slightly below that, you’ll find your typical salmon red caviar which has a diameter of 5 mm and it tends to have more of a reddish orange tinge whereas keta caviar is almost yellow.

Slightly smaller than that, you’ll find red salmon caviar, which is among the reddest of this category of roe. It has a size of just above 4 mm in diameter. Some of the smallest red caviar on the market is that which is harvested from Trout, featuring a size of between 2 and 3 mm.