Roe vs. Caviar – What’s the Difference?


What is the difference between fish roe and caviar? This is one of the most common questions we get from our readers.

Fish Roe vs. Caviar Summary

Practically speaking, fish roe and caviar are the same – they both refer to fish eggs. The difference is that in practice, they refer to different types of fish eggs.

Caviar is a specific type of fish egg from the sturgeon fish species (Acipenseridae) only that is cured in salt and then aged. This species is known for its special roe that is expensive, relatively scarce, and exhibits a complex nutty and buttery flavor.

Fish roe, on the other hand, is essentially fish eggs from any fish species such as salmon and trout to tobiko and masago.

Roe is eggs from all marine animals such as shrimp, squid, lobster, and of course, fish.

Caviar (left) and fish roe (right)

In this guide, we’ll explore all the differences between fish roe and caviar. Read on to learn more.

Caviar vs. Fish Roe Comparison Table

If you’re in a hurry, have a look at the table below which summarizes the differences between fish roe and caviar.

Fish RoeCaviar
ColorYellow, Orange, RedGrey, Black, Brown, Green +
SpeciesVariousSturgeon only
TasteNone, fishyNutty, buttery, creamy, mild fishy
ExtractionC-sectionNo-kill, C-section
Egg SizeSmallMedium-Very Large
Fish SizeSmall-MediumMedium-Large
SourceFarmed, WildFarmed, Wild

Caviar vs. Fish Roe Prices

One of the most important differences between caviar and fish eggs is their price. The priciest caviar can be well over 40 times more expensive than the fish roe.

Caviar PricesFish Roe Prices
$900 to $30,000 per kilo$60 to $400 per kilo

Caviar (sturgeon fish roe) is more expensive for a number of reasons such as demand, popularity, age to maturity, production and extraction costs, and more. Check out our guide on Caviar & Fish Roe Pricing to learn more.

Roe vs. Caviar Nutritional Value

Is caviar more nutritional than other roe and fish roe? Let’s take a look at the nutritional value of a variety of fish compared to caviar for a 1-ounce (28g) portion.

Fish Roe (Mixed)*Caviar
Vitamin A**3-31%8-10%
Vitamin D**17-19%3-6%
Vitamin E**11-14%2-4%
* Nutritional value varies between species ** Percentage of daily value

As we can see from the results, caviar is more calorific, packs more protein and fat but has a smaller vitamin content compared to fish roe. Caviar also packs more of certain minerals such as calcium, selenium, and choline but less folate and phosphorus.

Roe vs. Caviar Color

Fish egg colors vary a lot, even within the same fish families. In this section, we’ll explain how to distinguish sturgeon roe (caviar) from other fish roe.

Roe, other than caviar, comes in a wide range of bright yellow, orange and red tones compared to caviar, which comes in darker tones of brown, green, grey, and black.

Caviar colors, which are all considered Black Caviar, come in three general color pallets:

  • Grey to black tones
  • Amber to green tones
  • Gold to brown tones

These can be visualized in the image below focusing on the top two rows. While this is only a sample of colors, you can see the color range is broad.

Red vs. Black Caviar

Red fish roe comes from salmon, trout, and other similar fish families whereas black caviar come exclusively from the sturgeon family.

Red fish roe is commonly referred to as red caviar, however, it’s important to remember that caviar comes exclusively from sturgeon fish. Sturgeon fish do not produce red eggs so theoretically, red caviar does not exist!

As explained in the previous section, black caviar refers to three distinct color pallets so don’t be surprised if your “Black Caviar” has a rich green or golden brown color.

Red CaviarBlack Caviar
Real Caviar?NoYes
ColorsYellow, Orange, RedGrey, Black, Brown, Green

Salmon Roe vs. Caviar

If you’ve been reading along, you’ll already know that salmon roe consists of orange and red fish eggs with a simple flavor and pronounced fishy notes. It is inexpensive and commonly found in grocery stores or on your favorite sushi.

Comparatively, caviar consists of black and dark tones with an amazing combination of nutty and buttery notes. Caviar is a delicacy and luxury food item found in specialty stores and fancy restaurants.

Caviar vs. Roe Taste

Another important difference between caviar and roe is the taste. Why would anyone pay forty times more for caviar if it tastes just as good as fish roe?

The best caviar is characterized by having a complex flavor that bursts out of the firm and perfectly textured eggs.

Caviar is rich and buttery, slightly salty and savory (similar to oysters) with a nutty and earthy finish.

While some types of caviar are a bit fishier than others, high-quality caviar will never be very fishy.

Roe, on the other hand, is characterized by simple and very subtle flavors, albeit, much more fishy and soft compared to caviar.

Caviar is a delicacy with a complex flavor profile that can be appreciated by those with refined pallets and a deep appreciation of fine cuisine.

Indeed, the demand for caviar would be nonexistent if it tasted the same as regular ol’ salmon or trout roe.

Roe vs. Caviar Production

Section coming soon!

Key Takeaways

  • Caviar is fish roe (eggs) specifically from the sturgeon family of fish
  • Fish roe is eggs from all species of fish
  • Roe are eggs from all marine animals such as lobster, shrimp, squid, and fish
  • Caviar and fish roe are both extremely nutritional
  • Caviar colors range from brown and green to grey and black
  • Fish roe colors range from pale yellow to bright red
  • Caviar has a creamy and nutty flavor with light notes of fish
  • Roe has a more bland flavor with stronger notes of fish


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