Beluga caviar is the most desired and most expensive caviar in the world. Known for it’s incredible taste, colors, and texture, it’s the Ferrari of fish eggs.
You read that right – fish eggs – beluga caviar doesn’t come from beluga whales (whales don’t lay eggs!), it comes from the Beluga (hush huso) sturgeon fish.
In this article, we dive into everything there is to know about beluga caviar, including why a kilogram of it could set you back over $35,000!
- What is Beluga Caviar?
- Where Does Beluga Caviar Come From?
- What Animal Does Beluga Caviar Come From?
- What is the Price of Beluga Caviar?
- Where Can You Buy Beluga Caviar?
- How is Beluga Caviar Harvested?
- Black Beluga Caviar & Other Colors
- Is Beluga Caviar Illegal?
- What Does Beluga Caviar Taste Like?
- Beluga Caviar Nutrition Facts
What is Beluga Caviar?
Beluga caviar is basically the salt-cured eggs of the huso huso sturgeon, also known as the Great Sturgeon (pictured below).
The beluga sturgeon eggs are extracted from a female before she is ready to spawn (give birth). The eggs are then separated, filtered, and cured in salt before being aged and later packaged for consumption.
The eggs typically have a light grey or metallic color, however, some can be a darker color resembling black.
Beluga vs Sturgeon Caviar
Huso Huso (beluga) is sturgeon caviar. The beluga sturgeon is one of the 25 or so species of sturgeons. The main difference between beluga and other sturgeons caviar is the taste and texture of the eggs. Beluga caviar is also more popular, in-demand, and rare compare to other sturgeon caviars.
However, certain kinds such as Osetra and Sevruga have very similar flavor profiles and are often considered excellent substitutes, especially in the U.S. market.
Where Does Beluga Caviar Come From?
Anatomically, beluga caviar comes from a female beluga sturgeon as discussed in the previous section.
Geographically speaking, wild beluga caviar comes from the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, however, the majority of the product on the market is now farmed.
Wild Beluga Caviar
Wild beluga sturgeon can only be found in the Caspian and Black Sea. These two seas are at the intersection of Eastern Europe, Western Asia, Southern Russia, and Northern Middle East regions.
Russia is the only country to have shores lines on along seas, which explains why Beluga caviar is often associated with the country.
The two seas border a total of 10 countries as follows:
- Caspian Sea: Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Azerbaijan
- Black Sea: Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine,
Aquaculture (Farmed) Beluga Caviar
The beluga caviar enjoyed is mostly farmed as a result of the species being critically endangered. In fact, it’s been illegal to import wild beluga sturgeon and beluga caviar in the U.S. since 2005.
Some of the largest beluga caviar farms in the world are found in Florida, USA and in the Lombardy region of Italy.
Is Beluga Caviar from Russia?
Wild beluga caviar was heavily exported from Russia until the species became critically endangered and banned from imports. The majority of the beluga caviar consumed these days is not from Russia but rather from farms around the world.
What Animal Does Beluga Caviar Come From?
Beluga caviar comes from a fish called the sturgeon. More specifically, the Beluga (huso huso) sturgeon species only.
This critically endangered species can grow to well over 10 feet long (3.3 meters), weigh over 600 pounds (265 kilograms) and live over 100 years of age.
Beluga Fish Caviar
Many of our readers regularly ask us what fish does beluga caviar come from?
Beluga fish caviar is the fish eggs of the Beluga sturgeon. All real caviar comes from the sturgeon fish family but Beluga caviar comes from the Beluga species in particular, pictured below in the wild.
Beluga Whale Caviar
While the name “beluga” is typically associated with a type of whale, some of you may wonder if beluga caviar comes from the beluga whale.
As adorable as whale eggs would be, beluga caviar is not whale eggs. As a matter of fact, whales are mammals (like humans) and don’t lay eggs.
That being said, Beluga whale caviar doesn’t exist and if anyone tries to sell you some, stay clear.
What is the Price of Beluga Caviar?
One of the most popular questions we get from our readers is how much is beluga caviar? Once that question is answered, they wonder, why is beluga caviar so expensive?
Beluga caviar is the most expensive out of all the different types of sturgeon caviar. Although prices vary, you can expect the following prices for real, purebred beluga sturgeon caviar:
|1 ounce (28 grams)||$850+|
|1 pound (454 grams)||$11,000+|
|1 kilogram (1,000 grams)||$20,000+|
As you can see, the price per ounce for beluga caviar starts at $850 while a pound can go well over $11,000!
Where Can You Buy Beluga Caviar?
Depending on where you reside in the world, beluga caviar can be commonly purchased at fisheries, speciality stores or online shops.
Buying Beluga Caviar in the U.S.
The market is quite restricted in the United States since imports are illegal. Beluga caviar can be purchased online exclusively from Marky’s, which sources its caviar from Florida-based farmer Sturgeon AcquaFarms.
Buying Beluga Caviar in Canada and in Europe
In Canada and in Europe, the market is less restricted. Beluga caviar can be found at upscale fisheries and specialty shops or online stores such as Quintessence Caviar.
How is Beluga Caviar Harvested?
Harvesting caviar is long and complex process. Essentially, it involves getting the eggs out of the fish right before the female is ready to give birth.
The eggs are most commonly extracted after slaughtering the fish, after which the egg sac is removed. More recently, no-kill methods have been on the rise such as the C-Section method and the Milking method.
Milking is the most preferred no-kill method. It involves dosing the fish with a chemical that induces labor. The fish’s belly is then rubbed to extract the eggs and later returned to the water.
The C-Section method involves opening up the fish to extract the eggs sac and then closing it back up. However, this method is quite complex and could lead to infections and other health complications.
How Long Does Beluga Caviar Last?
As we explain in our Guide to Storing Caviar, fresh caviar that is sealed can last between 4 and 6 weeks refrigerated at around 28 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 to 0 Celsius) in its original packaging.
A jar of beluga caviar that has been opened can last up to 24 hours at room temperature.
Although not recommended, a sealed jar of caviar that is frozen can last up to a year. Notably, freezing caviar will disrupt its taste and texture.
Black Beluga Caviar & Other Colors
Contrary to common belief, purebred beluga caviar isn’t actually black. While it’s most commonly light, metallic grey, it can take on a darker color similar to an eggplant.
Many hybrids such as beluga and Kaluga crossbreeds can be very dark or black in color. Further, several other species of the sturgeon caviar such as Siberian, Kaluga, White, Hackleback, Sevruga, and hybrids are commonly black.
Interestingly, Albino beluga sturgeons produce white caviar known as Almas, which means “diamond” in Russian. It is considered the most rare and best caviar in existence.
Albino (Almas) Beluga Caviar
Albino beluga sturgeons produce white eggs known as Almas beluga caviar. Typically found in the Southern part of the Caspian Sea near Iran, Almas caviar comes from albino beluga sturgeons that are over 100 years of age.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is not only the most expensive caviar but also the most expensive food in the world regularly trading hands over $35,000 a kilogram.
According to historians, Almas caviar has been a delicacy dating back to the ancient Greeks (480 BC), who imported from the Northern part of the Black Sea.
Is Beluga Caviar Illegal?
Wild beluga sturgeon caviar has been banned in the U.S. since 2005. However, there are numerous companies around the world that produce legal farmed caviar such as Sturgeon AquaFarms in Florida.
Why is Beluga Caviar Illegal and Banned in the U.S.?
Wild beluga caviar was banned in the U.S. after the species was identified as critically endangered. This was an effort to protect the remaining wild population of the species after numerous years of overfishing.
Further, due to pollution and the destruction of the fish’ natural habitats, reproduction slowed considerably and demand kept rising rapidly.
What Does Beluga Caviar Taste Like?
Beluga sturgeon caviar have a creamy taste that is lightly salted with nutty and ocean-like flavors. This type of caviar has a very faint taste of fish.
Beluga Caviar Nutrition Facts
Caviar is quite the nutritious snack, some might even consider it a superfood.
Beluga sturgeon eggs are packed of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. According to the USDA, a portion of only 28 grams (1 ounce) of caviar contains over 24 vitamins and minerals.
Beluga caviar contains Vitamin A, B-6, B-12, D, and E and important minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.