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Masago: The Tiny Fish Eggs with Big Culinary Impact

Masago you’ve likely come across these tiny, vibrant orange fish eggs. Masago, also known as capelin roe,




What is Masago? If you’ve ever enjoyed sushi, you’ve likely come across these tiny, vibrant orange fish eggs. Masago, also known as capelin roe, is a delicacy often used in Japanese cuisine. Originating from the cold waters of the North Atlantic, these fish eggs are harvested from capelin, a small forage fish. Masago’s delicate texture and subtle flavor make it a popular ingredient in many dishes, especially sushi and sashimi.

Nutritional Profile of Masago

Masago is more than just a burst of flavor in your mouth; it’s packed with nutrients. A single tablespoon of masago contains around 40 calories, making it a low-calorie addition to your meals. It’s rich in essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin B12, magnesium, and selenium. Moreover, masago is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for maintaining heart health and brain function.

Heart Health

Thanks to its omega-3 fatty acid content, masago can be beneficial for your heart. Omega-3s help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease. Regular consumption of masago can contribute to better cardiovascular health.

Brain Function

Omega-3 fatty acids in masago also play a significant role in brain health. They can improve cognitive function and may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases. Adding masago to your diet can be a tasty way to boost your brain power.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s found in masago can help reduce inflammation in the body. This can be particularly beneficial for those with chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis.

Fishing Practices

Masago is harvested from capelin, a small fish found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. These fish are caught using sustainable fishing practices to ensure that their populations remain healthy and abundant.

Processing Methods

Once harvested, the roe is carefully extracted from the capelin. It is then cleaned, salted, and sometimes dyed to enhance its vibrant orange color. This process ensures that the masago you enjoy is fresh and safe to eat.

Differences in Origin

While masago comes from capelin, tobiko is harvested from flying fish. Both are used in sushi, but they have distinct differences.

Taste and Texture Comparison

Masago has a milder flavor and a slightly softer texture compared to tobiko, which is known for its crunchiness and bold taste.

Nutritional Differences

Nutritionally, both masago and tobiko are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. However, tobiko tends to have higher levels of certain nutrients, like Vitamin B12.

Sushi and Sashimi

Masago is a staple in sushi and sashimi. Its subtle flavor complements various types of fish and other sushi ingredients.

As a Garnish

Sprinkle masago on top of salads, soups, or rice bowls for a pop of color and flavor.

In Sauces and Dressings

Masago can be mixed into sauces and dressings, adding a unique taste and texture to your dishes.

Masago Sushi Rolls

One of the most popular ways to enjoy masago is in sushi rolls. It adds a delightful crunch and a burst of flavor.

Spicy Masago Sauce

Mix masago with mayonnaise and a bit of sriracha for a spicy sauce that pairs well with seafood and vegetables.

Masago Salad

Combine masago with fresh greens, cucumber, and a light dressing for a refreshing and nutritious salad.

Japanese Cuisine

Masago is most commonly associated with Japanese cuisine, where it is used in sushi, sashimi, and various seafood dishes.

Scandinavian Dishes

In Scandinavian countries, masago is often used in smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) and other seafood dishes.

Modern Fusion Recipes

Chefs around the world are incorporating masago into modern fusion recipes, blending it with flavors from different cuisines.

Buying Tips

When buying masago, look for bright, vibrant eggs. They should be slightly firm to the touch and have a fresh, ocean-like scent.

Storage Methods

Store masago in the refrigerator and use it within a few days of purchase. For longer storage, you can freeze masago, but be sure to thaw it slowly in the refrigerator before use.


As with any seafood, some individuals may be allergic to masago. If you have a known seafood allergy, it’s best to avoid it.

Environmental Concerns

Overfishing of capelin can have environmental impacts. Opt for masago sourced from sustainable fisheries.

Mercury Content

Like other seafood, masago may contain trace amounts of mercury. It’s safe to eat in moderation, but pregnant women and young children should consume it sparingly.

Sustainable Fishing Practices

Many producers are adopting sustainable fishing practices to ensure the long-term health of capelin populations. Look for certifications from organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) when purchasing masago.

Certifications to Look For

Certifications from organizations like the MSC or Seafood Watch can indicate that the masago you are buying is sourced sustainably.

Vegetarian Alternatives

For those who prefer not to consume fish, there are vegetarian alternatives made from seaweed that mimic the texture and flavor of masago.

Other Types of Roe

If you can’t find masago, other types of roe, such as tobiko or ikura (salmon roe), can be used as substitutes in most recipes.

Homemade Masago Recipes

Making masago at home can be a fun and rewarding experience. Start with fresh capelin roe, clean it thoroughly, and cure it with salt.

Tips for Beginners

If you’re new to making masago, start with small batches and experiment with different curing times and flavorings to find what you like best.


Masago may be small, but it packs a big punch in terms of flavor and nutritional value. Whether you’re a sushi enthusiast or a culinary explorer, incorporating masago into your dishes can elevate your dining experience. From its health benefits to its versatile uses in the kitchen, masago truly is a tiny fish egg with a big impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is masago raw?

 Yes, masago is typically served raw, especially in sushi and sashimi.

Can you cook masago?

While masago is usually served raw, it can also be used in cooked dishes, like sauces and baked sushi rolls.

Is masago the same as caviar?

 No, masago comes from capelin, while caviar comes from sturgeon. They have different flavors and textures.

How long does masago last in the fridge?

 Masago can last up to a week in the refrigerator if stored properly.

Is masago gluten-free?

Yes, masago is naturally gluten-free, but always check labels to ensure no gluten-containing additives have been used.

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