The 10 Best Caviars
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in July of 2015. Navigating the waters to find the best caviars can be somewhat tricky, since terminology is anything but standard, and issues related to legality and sustainability are a little murky. The ones we’ve included on this list, though, offer a fine starting point for both newbies and enthusiasts alike, whether for a party or a solo treat, and are proof that it is possible to find the good stuff. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 17, 2020:
If you are someone who has never looked into buying caviar before, you may be surprised at how expensive some options are and wonder how much these premium selections really differ from the low-cost jar you can find at your local store. You might also wonder if they are truly worth the extra cost. While it would be easy to just say yes and leave it at that, the truth is that it depends. For example, some people who don't have very sensitive palates might barely be able to tell the difference. Of course, that is true for many gourmet foods. On the other hand, those with discerning taste will immediately notice the difference. Rather than just salty, like some lesser quality brands are, a good caviar is more fresh and briny and will have a more intense fish-forward flavor.
On this list we have included options to suit every budget, and from a variety of fish species. Historically, the very best caviar came from beluga sturgeon roe, but over the years this has resulted in them becoming critically endangered. And while you may still be able to get it in Russia and some other countries, we believe it should be avoided for sustainability reasons. Luckily, by creating hybrid species, some company's have found a way to produce caviar of essentially the same quality, but without the sustainability issues, such as the Olma Beluga Sturgeon Hybrid. However, this is still extremely expensive. The Ossetra variety is going to be the next best thing after that, and for this species we recommend Bemka Russian Ossetra Crown, Black Pearl Ossetra Malossol, and Sasanian Premium.
On the more budget-friendly side of things, we have Bemka Paddlefish and Agustson Lumpfish Combo. The former is a better choice for the aficionado who still wants something luxurious on a limited budget, whereas the latter might be a good choice for a beginner who just wants to test out something very affordable before making the determination if they consider it worthwhile to move onto the better stuff.
April 27, 2019:
We wanted out list to represent the incredible variety this product has to offer. So, with that in mind, we included Roland Red Lumpfish, which should be the perfect addition to hors 'd'oeuvres, whether those are crackers and cream cheese or caviar eggs. It's distinct flavor will take appetizers from dull to memorable. Now, for those connoisseurs of the stuff who want something so perfectly-balanced and smooth that they can eat it off of a spoon, there's Bemka Russian Ossetra Crown. It has just the right amount of saltiness that makes you tolerate and even crave bite after bite. When something truly luxurious is in order for those vodka cocktail hours, Black Pearl Ossetra Malossol, harvested from a pristine lake in nearly uncharted territory, will do you justice. Sasanian Premium is another high-end option to bring out for guests. It's unpasteurized, which in the world of caviar, makes it one of the most esteemed varieties.
Tsar Nicoulai Crown Jewel If you are truly looking for the best the market has to offer, this rare and exceptionally velvety option is worth considering. Though very expensive, its flavor is second to none. It is the largest beaded caviar the company offers, and it is speckled with flecks of silver and gold, making it appear as stunning as it tastes. tsarnicoulai.com
Caviar Russe Caspian Sea Gold Osetra At one time solely reserved for royalty, this roe is now available to anyone who appreciates the finer things in life. It offers a very complex flavor that stands apart from the one-note taste of lesser varieties. You can feel good about eating it too, as it is sustainably harvested to ensure future generations will also get a chance to try this luscious indulgence. caviarrusse.com
Marshallberg Farm Osetra Sampler Being one of the only Ossetra Russian sturgeon caviars produced in the United States, this should be on every connoisseur's list to try. Unlike many other producers, they do not mix roe from multiple fish to ensure the flavor and consistency is the same from the first bite to the last in the tin. This sampler pack allows you to try their classic, holiday, and superior grades. thecaviarfarm.com
A Brief History Of Caviar
Today, sturgeon numbers are on the rise, with farmed fish representing the bulk of the caviar haul.
When I was a little kid, someone told me that fish eggs were considered fancy cuisine. I couldn't believe that anyone could eat something so disgusting, and then I went right back to my Pop Tarts covered in Colby-Jack cheese.
Now that I've actually had caviar, I see what the fuss was about. These fish eggs — usually sturgeon, although other fish like salmon and trout are sometimes used, as well as beluga in higher-end dishes — are actually quite tasty, even if they don't pair well with brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts.
Genghis Khan's grandson, Batu, is the earliest recorded caviar connoisseur, as Orthodox Christian monks in one Russian village, eager to get on his good side, served him hot apple preserves topped with sturgeon eggs. After the feast, the monks and their village were spared, so Batu must have been a fan.
The dish soon grew to be popular all throughout Eurasia, so much so that the European sturgeon became extinct due to over-fishing.
Fortunately, by the time the European fish disappeared, Atlantic sturgeon from the United States was ready to fill the void. These Yankee fish were just as tasty as their continental cousins, and far more abundant. In fact, at one point there was so much caviar that it was served in bars the way peanuts are today. By the 19th century, however, American sturgeon were being over-fished, as well, with the bulk of the catch being sent to Europe.
That left the Caspian Sea as the primary venue for obtaining caviar. However, in the 1950s, the Soviets began to dam up many of the rivers that fed the Caspian, and without access to spawning grounds, sturgeon numbers began to fall. Caviar was an important part of the European diet — especially since it was associated with the aristocracy — so Russian scientists began to immediately search for ways to artificially breed the fish.
They were able to do this by building hatcheries underneath their dams. Eventually, one scientist defected to the United States, bringing with him the secret to breeding the fish. He settled in California, and as a result the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento River have played host to a bustling sturgeon population.
Today, sturgeon numbers are on the rise, with farmed fish representing the bulk of the caviar haul. Finding great tasting, sustainably-farmed caviar is as easy as it's ever been, which will come in very handy indeed if any more of Genghis Khan's descendants decide to go on a rampage.
Tips For Choosing The Best Caviar
First off, it's important to know that you don't have to spend a bundle to have great caviar. Thanks to farm fishing, prices are dropping all over the world, and you no longer need a co-signer just to enjoy a fine dining experience.
Be aware, however, that true river beluga isn't available in the U.S. due to the species' vulnerability, so any beluga you buy will be farm-raised.
The main thing that determines a caviar's price is the breed of fish used (salmon or lumpfish will produce cheaper roe than river beluga, for example). Be aware, however, that true river beluga isn't available in the U.S. due to the species' vulnerability, so any beluga you buy will be farm-raised.
There are also some unfamiliar terms you may see thrown around when you're shopping. If you see the word malossol on a tin, that means that it was made using a minimal amount of salt. This purportedly makes for better caviar, but it also makes it less stable, so only get it if you're planning on chowing down soon.
You may also notice caviar that's been pasteurized. This means it's been slightly cooked, so it will stay fresh for much longer than other varieties, and many pasteurized options can be stored at room temperature.
If you see pressed caviar, on the other hand, then you're looking at a spread that's been made of broken or damaged eggs. Some food snobs will turn their nose up at pressed caviar, but it's still quite tasty, and is often used as a spread in other recipes.
Regardless of what you buy, the important thing is to indulge yourself, so bust out the cravat, put on your finest monocle, and be sure to tell your butler to let the Bud Light breathe before serving.
How To Serve Caviar
If you're going through the trouble of serving caviar at a party, you need to look like you know what you're doing, or else the effect will be ruined and your guests will fail to be shamed by your superior sophistication. Fortunately, I'm not about to let that happen.
Of course, half the fun is in feeling like a sophisticated member of the aristocracy, which is why I drink mine with chocolate milk served out of a highball glass.
One thing you need to know is what kind of dish to use. It's best to keep the caviar in its original tin until you're ready to eat it, at which point you can transfer it to a serving bowl. It's perfectly fine to serve it out of its original tin, or you can use a gold or plastic bowl — just don't use silver.
The same goes for the spreading utensil. A mother of pearl spoon is considered proper, but no one will judge you for using plastic. There's a widespread belief that touching caviar with metal will spoil the taste, but this seems to be a myth, and most tins use metal lids anyway.
Take it out of the fridge about 15 minutes before it's time to serve, and try to consume it within an hour. Caviar doesn't react well to open air, so don't leave it out, and try to finish it all in one sitting (as if you needed any encouragement).
Traditionally, the eggs are spread over brioche toast or boiled potatoes, but you have my permission to put it on whatever you like. It pairs well with vodka (naturally), champagne, or a dry white wine. Of course, half the fun is in feeling like a sophisticated member of the aristocracy, which is why I drink mine with chocolate milk served out of a highball glass.