Understanding Tobiko: The Colorful World of Japanese Roe



In your quest to decipher the sushi menu, you may have come across the word “tobiko.” Please explain. How does it compare to caviar? Sushi is a vibrant and exciting cuisine, but placing an order for it can be intimidating.

What Is Tobiko?

Tobiko, a type of roe made from flying fish eggs, is very similar to microscopic caviar. Classical caviar, on the other hand, is made from sturgeon eggs and is larger and darker in color. Flying fish are a type of fish found in tropical and temperate seas, and they are named for their ability to gracefully glide above the water. Their mature, unfertilized eggs are collected before they hatch and kept in salt. Each egg is smaller than 1 mm in size. These eggs are a staple in Japanese cooking, and for good reason: they can range in hue from a golden orange to a vivid reddish-orange. Therefore, tobiko is fondly called “Japanese caviar.”

What Does Tobiko Taste Like?

Tobiko acquires its deliciously balanced salty-sweet-with-a-touch-of-citrus flavor during its curing in salt. Tobiko may be little, but it adds a welcome crunch to a sushi roll thanks to its firm texture. In addition to being delicious, tobiko is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial to our health.

Tobiko vs. Caviar

Let’s tell the difference between these two delicious fish egg dishes. First of all, caviar comes from sturgeon and tobiko comes from flying fish. As sturgeon populations decline due to overfishing, caviar becomes larger, darker, and more expensive. It’s briny yet subtle flavor makes it a standout treat on its own.

However, tobiko is typically used as a supporting ingredient due to its diminutive size and vivid color. Despite its diminutive stature, it can pack a powerful salty punch, making for an interesting eating experience.

Types of Tobiko

The variety of tobiko’s color palette is when the fun really starts. Because eggs can take on the flavor and color of whatever they’re cooked with, there’s a wide range of possibilities:


This is authentic, unprocessed tobiko; it has been salt-cured and contains no artificial flavors or colors. It typically takes on an orange tone.


Tobiko with no flavoring, artificially colored an attractive reddish orange.


Depending on whether it has been infused with beets or chilies, can have either a gentler, earthier flavor or a hint of spice.


Wasabi gives meals a sharp and spicy flavor, and the addition of food dye gives it a vibrant green color. Sugar, mirin, soy sauce, sake vinegar, and dashi can all be added as seasonings.


Citrus fruits, specifically yuzu, and occasionally a splash of yellow food colouring are responsible for the color and flavor of yellow tobiko.


Known for its distinctively nutty flavor, obtains its deep color from squid ink, though the effect can be amplified by combining blue, red, and yellow dyes.

How Is Tobiko Used?

It is the ideal topping for sushi and sashimi because of its salty crunch and small size. It can also be used in other sauces, such as spicy mayo, while still maintaining its form. Tobiko is used as a garnish on a wide variety of fish meals and salads beyond sushi. As an appetizer, it can be spread on crackers or eaten straight off a spoon. On occasion, it will stand in for real caviar on a blini.

Where to Buy

Even though tobiko isn’t typically on your grocery list, you can find it at places like Whole Foods. You may also find this tasty component in the marketplaces of Japan and other Asian countries.


In sum, tobiko is an exciting, tasty, and aesthetically pleasing addition to Japanese food. Sushi connoisseurs and foodies alike can’t get enough of it because of how many different ways it may be prepared and the wide range of colors it comes in.


Is tobiko the same as caviar?

There is no comparison between it and caviar. Unlike sturgeon eggs, which are used to make caviar, the eggs of flying fish are used to make tobiko. They range in texture, hue, and taste.

What does it taste like?

Tobiko is a type of seaweed that has a salty, sweet, citrusy flavor. When eaten, it provides a light crunch.

Where can I buy it?

You may find it at places like Whole Foods and Asian or Japanese grocery stores.

What are its different colors?

It can be found in a rainbow of colors, from yellow to black.

How is it used in culinary dishes?

Sushi, sashimi, and other fish dishes are commonly topped with it. It’s also great as a standalone appetizer or a tasty addition to sauces and salads.

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