Whether you are looking for the best caviar for toppings, with a spoon or as a bump, you must first consider the texture, flavor, and color of each option for your desired use. Keeping these factors in mind will help you identify good caviars from cheap disappointments. After all, caviar should taste like the indulgence that it is.
To help you shop, I dove into the vast world of caviars and found the best products on the market, as rated by epicures. I’ll also go over the different types of caviars to help you grasp the nuances between them.
Caviar is undoubtedly one of the world’s most sought-after delicacies. It has an enticingly rich flavor and texture that is valued by the most fastidious food snobs. Many consider it a trademark of fine dining given its often expensive price.
Russians consider these fish eggs to be a regular snack, while Americans place caviar on a pedestal, owing to its high price. And due to the endangerment of the fish, imports of the finest Beluga caviar have been banned in the US.
On the bright side, you will find low-cost caviars that are widely accessible. They have the distinctive flavor and buttery texture that caviar enthusiasts love. These products are a great alternative to the caviars that are more difficult to find.
What Is Caviar?
Caviars are unfertilized eggs from fish known as roe. These eggs are harvested only from sturgeon, which belongs to the Acipenseridae family. Another common type of fish roe is the bright orange salmon eggs or ikura, it’s the caviar you always see on top of sushi. But, the only egg considered caviar is sturgeon roe.
Typically circular in shape, caviars are little bright balls with colors ranging from jet black to deep khaki green. But the color depends on the type of caviar, though.
Caviar has a delicate flavor profile that is smooth, buttery, but not fishy or salty. It can also have a nutty flavor comparable to hazelnuts. The classic “Caspian pop” of real caviar happens when the egg explodes on the roof of your mouth.
It’s essentially a delicacy and more than a lavish touch to certain recipes, it is also super healthy. Caviars are packed with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin B12, and other vitamins and minerals.
Where Do Caviars Come From?
True caviar comes from wild sturgeon, which belongs to the Acipenseridae family. They were traditionally harvested from wild sturgeon wandering in the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.
The fishermen would catch the fish and remove the roe sacks that housed the eggs. Then, they will send the sturgeon back into the sea, only for the fish to die.
Although the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea supplied most of the world’s caviar for many years, certain species of the sturgeon, most notably the gigantic Beluga, are severely endangered. Overfishing has jeopardized the species’ survival. And this resulted in a decline in population.
Farmed caviars have been dominating the market recently, with most of the caviars farmed all over the world. According to a recent Insider report, China produces one-third of the world’s caviar. Chinese caviar suppliers are dominating the market. This makes the luxury product more affordable and available in the US.
But how did these fish innards become such a cherished delicacy?
Many people seek this delicious delicacy not only for the sensuously rich taste and luxury it imparts but also for the health benefits it offers.
Types of Caviar
Import of the Beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea has been banned since 2005 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) due to its endangered status. Caviar from beluga hybrid species, however, is still available in the US market.
Kaluga, Russian Osetra, and American Hackleback caviars are surprisingly economical. These are excellent caviar options. And, they make for a great alternative to Beluga caviar.
The Amur Kaluga sturgeon, species Acipenser Huso, is also called the River Beluga. Kaluga caviar is ethically farmed fresh and harvested from China’s Amur River. And, it is said to be one of the world’s biggest freshwater fish.
In size, color, and flavor, traditional Kaluga is very comparable to Beluga caviar. It has a lusciously rich and creamy taste. To many connoisseurs, its smooth buttery texture with a satisfyingly strong pop that satisfies the tongue is its most distinct feature.
Russian Osetra Caviar
Russian Osetra caviar is regarded as the finest caviar available today, next to Beluga caviar. It’s harvested from the Acipenser Gueldenstaedtii sturgeon. Which is a Russian sturgeon swimming in the Caspian Sea.
It has firm, medium, and distinctly separate globes with a hue ranging from light, pearlescent gray to dark brown. This caviar’s rich, delectably salty flavor has acquired a passionate following within the global fine dining scene.
There are also various types of Russian Osetra Caviar. The Golden Imperial Russian Osetra Caviar, for example, has large, beautifully golden globes. It has a delicious buttery flavor and a creamy texture. Which makes it one of the top-quality caviars choices among aficionados.
American Hackleback Caviar
Hackleback caviar is one of the most popular domestic sturgeon caviar due to its distinct flavor and gleaming black eggs with accents of emeralds and gold. If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative to Beluga, Hackleback is the best caviar you can get without spending much.
This caviar is harvested from the Mississippi River’s American Shovelnose sturgeon. The globes are typically small in size. It also has a nice, firm texture. In terms of flavor profile, it has a subtle sweetness and pleasantly buttery flavor comparable to that of the finest Sevruga caviar.
Hackleback is the last American wild caviar. This is because it is the only commercially harvested sturgeon in the US.
The Best Caviars
The OLMA Beluga Hybrid Caviar, as the name implies, is caviar harvested from a Beluga hybrid. The succulent eggs are housed in a glass jar, making them perfect for easy storage. Many consumers praised this OLMA for its buttery taste, and it lingers on the palate deliciously.
Tsar Nicoulai’s caviar is everywhere. One of their most popular products is the Tsar Nicoulai American Sturgeon Classic Caviar, boasting a rich, clean and earthy flavor. The beads are deep brown to black, medium sizes that are perfect for garnish.
You may eat caviar with your mother of pearl spoons or on top of a soft mild base, such as gently toasted bread or Russian blini. The creamy finish complements a glass of Champagne or a dry sparkling white wine well.
The BESTER CAVIAR Premium Osetra Sturgeon Black Caviar is harvested using exclusively traditional methods, ensuring high-grade sturgeon roe. This black caviar has a smooth, nutty, and creamy flavor with a clean lingering taste and no mushy texture.
You can best serve caviar with warm blini and baked potatoes, as a topping on sushi and sashimi, or on your mother of pearl spoons. It pairs well with drinks like Champagne brut or vodka.
Buttery, nutty, malossol, with a nice firmness, the BLACK PEARL Ossetra Sturgeon Caviar has that pop of freshness that you’d expect to get from caviar. Its colors can be pearl-gray or dark-gray, with a delicious and lasting aftertaste that is inherent to sturgeon caviar.
It’s a fan favorite among Russian consumers. This caviar tastes good when eaten, or when placed on top of accompaniments. You can have it sit on top of your eggs or pasta and you’ll have a restaurant-style meal at home.
The La Mer Noire Brand Premium Ossetra Sturgeon Caviar is fresh, lightly salted, and unpasteurized, which preserves the caviar’s natural flavor. A consumer-described the first pops of this caviar as “oceanic.” It has a nice savory, buttery, and nutty aftertaste.
If you can’t resist it, you can go all out and grab your mother of pearls spoons and scoop a handful for a melt-in-your-mouth experience. It’s creamy, not too salty, and without the fishy aroma that some products have.
Signs of Good and Bad Caviar
It can be hard to tell which caviar is good and which ones are bad. When it comes to taste, it shouldn’t be bitter, salty, or overpoweringly fishy. The highest quality caviar is delicately salted and produced in the traditional “Malossol” style, which is a Russian word that means little salt.
Another thing that makes good caviar is its low salinity, buttery flavor, and lack of lingering taste. If it tastes off, it’s likely old or of bad quality.
When it comes to texture, the caviars should be firm enough to part with your tongue. They should explode in your mouth, delivering a buttery, nutty taste that runs over your tongue. The tone must be bright and clear, with a nice luster.
Another thing that makes the best caviar is its enticingly delicate ocean essence. And should never have artificial colors.
Farmed Caviar vs. Wild Caviar
Caviars manufactured from farmed fish have a more consistent quality. They tend to have a gentler, fresher, cleaner quality than some wild-caught Russian ones. Which can have a harsher, fishier, and more overpowering flavor.
Wild caviars are rare to come across, though. While some consumers still prefer the classic version, the lengthy life of sturgeon and decreasing population give it an impractical or pricey choice for both consumers and producers.
These factors drove sturgeon farmers to breed caviars of larger size. As well as clearer colors, and tight beads. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a better taste.
Pressed Caviar and Pasteurized Caviar
Caviar can be either pressured or pasteurized. Pressed caviar naturally presses the cracked and shattered eggs into a type of jammy paste. They have been properly treated, salted, and pressed, and they can contain varieties of roe.
Pasteurized caviar, on the other hand, heats the eggs, which makes them last longer. They become perishable and you won’t have to refrigerate them before consumption. But these caviars lose some of their freshness and the coveted pop texture.
Pasteurization is known to diminish finished products’ quality, but it enhances food safety.
Storing Caviar: Where and for How Long?
Ideally, you should store caviar in the coldest part of your refrigerator with temperatures ranging from 34 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid placing your caviar inside your fridge’s door. If you want to store them in a container, you can add some ice before refrigerating them to keep them cold.
You can store unopened caviar tin or jar in the refrigerator for 10 days to 2 weeks. But it’s best to consume them fresh since caviar gets saltier as it ages. Also, the quality of the caviar will degrade the longer it’s stored.
Best Caviar FAQs
What is the highest quality caviar?
Beluga is high-quality caviar and is often regarded as the best caviar. Ossetra, however, is the most well-known and popular caviar worldwide. Depending on the region and dialectic spellings, the latter is sometimes referred to as Oscietra, Osetra, or Asetra.
What is the best caviar to try first?
If you’re new to caviar, you might want to start with the paddlefish, whitefish, or salmon roe. These caviars are easier to find and are less expensive.
Where does the world’s best caviar come from?
Russia and Iran have historically dominated the caviar export industry. The exquisite eggs are harvested from the Beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, which used to make up 90 percent of the world’s caviar.
But due to the endangered beluga sturgeon, certain caviar producers like China farm them in pollution-free waters, which makes this delicious delicacy more accessible and affordable.
Is caviar eaten raw?
Caviar is never cooked; instead, it is salt-cured. This method of preservation adds a bit of flavor to the caviar. It also allows the caviar to be stored for a longer period of time. The caviar can also be either pasteurized or unpasteurized. However, many connoisseurs think that pasteurization impairs flavor.
But can you eat it raw? It’s considered a delicacy and is frequently eaten raw as an appetizer. True caviar can be served and eaten raw even when the roe is cooked. It is delicate and fresh with a rich flavor.
Does caviar need to be refrigerated?
Yes. You must keep canned caviar chilled in the coldest section of your fridge. The optimal temperature for caviar preservation is 27 degrees Fahrenheit.
Are caviar eggs fertilized?
Caviar sold in the market for human consumption isn’t fertilized. A fertilized caviar will only lose its distinct flavor and texture.
Not all caviars are the same. You’ll find really low-quality ones that just don’t have the luxurious nuance that you expect to experience. So, if you find the best caviar from one of my recommendations, cherish every pop. And don’t forget the Champagnes, of course!