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What is Salmon Roe?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Salmon roe is the eggs of the salmon fish, cured and used like other roe products, including the famous caviar of Eastern Europe and Russia. Depending on the region, it may be viewed as a delicacy, and the quality and cost of this product varies widely. As a general rule, it is less expensive than caviar, although it lacks the complex and rich flavor associated with that food. Many markets carry salmon roe in the chilled foods section and also in shelf-stable cans.

Like other forms of roe, salmon eggs are collected by harvesting female fish shortly before spawning, when they have a large and very well-developed egg mass. The eggs are cut out, allowing the rest of the fish to be processed while the roe is carefully preserved. Traditionally, roe has been salted, but it can also be preserved in brine, frozen, eaten fresh, crushed and mixed into various pates and spreads, or even dried.

As a general rule, whole roe is the most costly, because it is very difficult to keep the individual eggs whole and crisp. If the eggs become broken or crushed, they decline in value. The value is also determined by the preservation technique used, with lightly salted, chilled roe being very valuable, while heavily salted, compressed cakes are much cheaper. Flavor, of course, is also a factor, as handling roe requires a delicate hand.

In Japan, salmon roe is known as ikura. In other regions of the world, it is often called “salmon caviar,” to enforce the similarities between salmon and sturgeon roe, the original caviar. It can be used in a wide variety of ways, ranging from a garnish on sushi to an inclusion on a buffet with crackers and other spreads. It is traditionally eaten cold and often plain to allow the natural flavors of the roe to come through. Generally, heating it is not advised, as it can compromise the flavor.

When purchasing high-quality salmon roe, it's best if consumers can taste the roe first. The individual eggs should crack open with a crisp “pop” when pressed against the roof of the mouth, and the roe should have a faintly salty, slightly fishy flavor with a thin sheen of oil that does not become overwhelming in the mouth. Greasy, soft roe is an inferior product, and it should be rejected. People who purchase packaged roe that turns out to be of low quality should return it for a replacement.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By literally45 — On Dec 06, 2012

@fBoyle-- If it has been cured, it should not be unhealthy. If you catch salmon yourself and have fresh roe that way, you must cure it to kill any bad bacteria that might be in it. Otherwise, it might make you sick.You can cure roe by freezing it or using special curing powders that they sell for roe.

Otherwise, salmon roe is healthy, it has a lot of healthy oils and protein in it. I like it too, but I try not to overdo it if I have any because I have high cholesterol.

By fBoyle — On Dec 06, 2012

I'm hooked on fresh salmon roe. It is so delicious. Is eating salmon roe often unhealthy?

By turquoise — On Dec 05, 2012

@elizabeth2-- I'm sure they're pretty good, otherwise they wouldn't have become a delicacy food across the world. But I still can't get myself to eat salmon roe, even though I do love baked salmon. It just seems wrong to me. I think I would be very conscious of the fact that these are hundreds of tiny eggs I'm eating.

I know we eat chicken eggs, but we don't eat the shells, so it's easy to forget that they're actually the eggs of the chicken. With salmon roe, you really cannot ignore that reality.

By anon155185 — On Feb 22, 2011

There's more to food than you think. Apart from the really high nutritional content (some of the best omega-3 fats, low omega-6 (bad, we eat too much already) and intensely dense vitamin and mineral content, there is also "energy" of a certain kind if you believe in it.

Essentially, every egg could have turned into a whole salmon, and eating one is like eating the entire stored potential of the whole life of the salmon. In the same way seeds, sprouts, and young immature animals are considered better than the parent plant they come from.

By elizabeth2 — On Feb 12, 2011

I first tried salmon roe caviar at a fancy event my fiance dragged me to. I was nervous about eating it at first, but everyone else at our table had some, and I didn't want to be criticized for not trying some too.

It turned out that it was actually pretty good. Not at all the disgusting experience I thought it was going to be.

By reader888 — On Feb 10, 2011

I love salmon roe. I didn't think I would like caviar of any kind, until a friend got me to try it on a dare. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it turned out to be. Now I make a special trip, at least once a month, to buy salmon roe at a store that I know always has a supply high in quality.

I've always wondered though, who's idea it was to first eat raw fish eggs? I can't imagine someone looking at them and thinking it was a good idea.

Who ever it was, I'm sure glad they did!

By calpat — On Feb 09, 2011

My husband loves caviar, and fresh salmon roe is his newest discovery. I have never understood the appeal of eating raw fish eggs. It seems gross to me, but my husband swears that they are delicious -- he still has not convinced me to try them.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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