For a long time, Caspian Sea caviar from the Beluga, Osetra or Sevruga sturgeon was the only accepted type of caviar in the market. Today, the definition has expanded both semantically and geographically. Caviar is now farmed and harvested not only in Russia and Iran, but also in many different – and surprising - parts in the world, like Bulgaria, France, California, and even Uruguay.
Although die-hard purists will always maintain that caviar comes from sturgeon only, more modern connoisseurs now concede that there are many other tasty alternatives to the traditional —and pricey— Caspian sturgeon caviars. A wide variety of roes that are typically referred as caviar, like Hackleback, Paddlefish, Salmon, to name a few, and are extremely popular, high quality and widely consumed.
Types of Caviar: Traditional Sturgeon Caviars
The most luxurious caviar in the world, Beluga caviar from the huso huso sturgeon is the epitome of culinary sophistication. With large, pearlescent eggs, of a light glistening grey, Beluga is prized for its smooth, buttery texture, and a rich and subtle flavor that melts in the mouth.
It’s not Beluga, but this is truly the next best thing. Of the higher-end caviars, golden Osetra is a strong contender for the title of ‘best caviar in the world’. Osetra Caviar varies in color from golden to brown, firm grains of medium size and a nutty and rich flavor.
Of all the sturgeon species, the Sevruga from the Acipenser stellatus sturgeon, reproduces the quickest, and therefore is much more available, which translates into lower market prices for this delicious caviar. You’ll find that these small and delicate grey to black eggs are a pleasure to bite into, with a crunchy texture. While other caviars dissolve in your mouth, Sevruga playfully crackles and pops with a more intense flavor.
Sometimes confused or mislabeled as Sevruga, this smallish caviar comes from Sterlet sturgeon, Acipenser ruthenus. Sterlet caviar is light to dark grey, with small grains that have an intense flavor.
Known as river beluga, Kaluga, from the huso Daricus, comes from the Amur River basin, and like most sturgeon caviars these days it is mostly farm-raised, which allows for sustainability and strict quality controls. Kaluga caviar is incredibly similar to Beluga – creamy, smooth, with an almost buttery texture and a great firm pop, and is today one of the top of the line caviars in the market. Combining all the wonderful characteristics of Beluga caviar, you can eat luxurious Kaluga caviar knowing you are consuming eco-friendly, sustainable caviar of the highest quality.
Many a restaurateur will tell you this is worthy substitute for the pricier sturgeon caviars, especially the pricey Sevruga. Paddlefish comes from the American Spoonbill sturgeon, Polyodon spathula, a fish found in lakes and rivers in the South of the United States. Paddlefish looks very much like Sevruga caviar, with eggs that are small and blackish-grey, and a crisp and light flavor.
This is another contender when looking to substitute the classic Caspian sturgeon.
Hackleback comes from the American Shovelnose sturgeon, a fish found in Mississippi River. Similar to the Sevruga caviar both in the size and texture of its eggs, Hackleback has small firm eggs that are a dark brown to black. Hackleback sturgeon has the smooth and delicate flavor of a Caspian sturgeon caviar, but milder and with a little extra nutty punch.
Types of Caviar: Other Caviars & Roes
This roe is worth getting for looks alone. Eggs of a beautiful peach color glisten and sparkle as you place them over some fresh blini or sprinkle them over dishes as a garnish. Widely available in the cold waters of Alaska and Russia, the prices of salmon caviar are dramatically lower than those of sturgeon. The flavor is very fresh, succulent and superbly juicy.
These tiny and colorful roes come from different small flying fish from Iceland. The small fish eggs are naturally black, but are dyed and flavored with a variety of ingredients to make them more intense. They’re typically found topping sushi and nigiri dishes. This is not caviar to eat by itself, but rather to use as a garnish.