Caviar vs. Roe: What is the difference between roe and caviar?

For those who aren’t as avid caviar connoisseurs you likely have a few questions about the product that you may be considering eating. One of these is about the specific difference between caviar and roe. So, we’ll take a closer look at just what these two products are and what you should know about them.

Definition of Caviar

Caviar is a low salt-cured, unfertilized fish roe. Specifically, it comes from the Acipenseridae family from the Caspian Sea, which is the sturgeon. If you’re interested in learning even more about caviar you can check out what is here on our blog.
You can find several different types of caviar, but the most expensive ones are: Beluga, Osetra, Sevruga, and Baeri.

Definition of Roe

Now, roe, is different, because this is actually the eggs that are carried in the womb of the fish. The roe are fully ripe but unfertilized or they could be considered the external egg masses that have been released or ‘laid’ by shrimp, scallops, squid, lobster, fish, and other marine animals.

For our purposes, roe are unfertilized eggs that are collected directly from some form of marine animal.
Typically you will find Tobiko, Salmon (or Ikura), Capelin (or Masago), Trout, Paddlefish, and Bowfin when you’re discussing roe. Most common types of fish roe: Tobiko, Salmon (also known as Ikura), Capelin Roe (also known as Masago), Trout Roe, Paddlefish, Bowfin, etc.

What do caviar and roe have in common?

Now, you might have already started to see just what the difference is between roe and caviar, but we’re going to take a closer look. The basic part you need to know is that both of these are fish eggs. However, Caviar is a specific type of roe, as it comes directly from sturgeon rather than any marine animal. Also, it needs to be cured in order to be considered caviar. If it is not cured then it’s considered ‘green eggs.’

What is the difference between roe and caviar?

Now, if both of these are fish eggs, then what’s the major difference between the two?

Caviar is fish eggs that have come from the sturgeon, or the Acipenseridae family. It is unfertilized eggs that have been cured in salt and is then considered caviar. What this means is that roe collected from sturgeon is still not considered caviar until it has actually been salt-cured. This can be an interesting distinction as it’s possible to get caviar at a restaurant that has not been cured until you order it or even until it arrives at your table.

Of course, there is a distinction between caviar as well. In the United States, the FDA allows any type of salted fish roe to be called caviar. This means that you could be eating caviar that does not fall under the classic definition. However, the FDA requires that the type of fish be included on these products.

In other countries, the use of the term ‘caviar’ is much more restricted. It must only be used to describe salt-cured roe that comes from the Acipenseridae family or Sturgeon. It cannot include roe from trout or other fish.

For the United States, cured roe from sturgeon or any other type of large fish can be eaten as a type of delicacy. If you’re interested in a product that is similar to the traditional caviar you can absolutely try these products, and you will have an understanding of the species of fish before you eat it.

If you are interested in true caviar, however, you will want to look for something that comes directly from Sturgeon. You don’t want to simply believe that you are having true caviar because that’s the name on the label.

Caviar Vs. Roe Explained

Now, if you’re still not quite sure what you’re getting into, caviar is a type of fish roe, but not all types of fish roe are actually caviar.

You can actually use roe in several different dishes without curing it. In these dishes it’s generally cooked, though it can be used in a way that’s similar to a traditional caviar. And, as we discussed, in the US fish roe from other types of fish can be called caviar even though the rest of the world does not define it that way.

It’s important to note as well that sturgeon roe must be treated immediately after they have been processed or they will spoil quickly. This means that after processing they must be salted or frozen immediately. Unfortunately, freezing with change the texture of the eggs and this will decrease the overall quality as well.

You can also take a look at the diagram we have included here to understand more about the difference between these two products.

Or, take a look at some of our different types of salt-cured roes to determine more about the differences for yourself.