How to make caviar

Posted | 12 comments

When I present my caviar plate at a party, those who dare to taste it are intrigued to find out how I make it. When I resolved to make caviar, I could not find much information in English about how caviar is made. The basics I learned from Russian forums online and then I had to practice and experiment on my own. It was quite a quest, but I love the results and I enjoyed the process.

First of all, you need to have fresh caught whole salmon.

cav 1The best species for caviar  are Chum (dog) salmon, second: Coho (silver) and large Sockeye (red).  Pink salmon are my last, pink salmon eggs are pale in color, and while they taste fine, their presentation is not remarkable, and considering how much work it is to make caviar, and that I have the best available, I use the best.  However, if I had only pink eggs, I would gladly use them.  Salt water King salmon make excellent caviar, but they are not very abundant in recent years.

Its better to use the salmon row immediate after it has been taken from the fish.

cav 2But if you must collect salmon row for later, put them into zip lock bags, so that they remain moist, and keep them cool until you’re ready to begin.

Before you start, you need to make a brine. I use 4 parts of water, 1 part of salt.  The salt MUST be real salt: either rock or sea salt, NOT table salt. Look at the ingredients, if there is more than one ingredient, its not salt. Salt only. Real salt is essential, at first I tried to use table salt, which has a dozen ingredients, and it was disappointing.  When I switched to real salt, the result became excellent.

This brine need to be boiled until the salt is dissolved and then it needs to cooled down. The fish eggs will be soaked in cold brine. You need to make brine in advance, because it takes a long time to cool.

When the brine is ready and cold, and fish egg sacks at hand, the work on separating individual eggs from the skein begins.  (The skein is the membrane that holds the eggs together.)

cav 3In the picture that follows, I am using a cookie rack as a screen to work the eggs off from the skein, and a baking pan as a receptacle.   You also need a small bowl for discarding the membranes, and some paper towels to clean you hands when it becomes necessary.

Cav 4Take one fish egg sack at the time and gently open flat.  The row sack will only open from one side, you’ll see, the skein does nor completely encircle the eggs.  Its like making butterflying steak, but without knife. Then, gently  drag that open side on the rack holding with one hand and the other hand massaging (but gently) and the eggs will start falling through the rack down to the pan. The sack is very fragile, you will tear a few apart until you’ll learn how to do it gently. It takes some time to get most eggs out, but some always stay and those you can share with seagulls.

When your finished separating the eggs from the skein,  you will have a bowl of separated fish eggs. These eggs you will mix with the cold brine to cure them into caviar.

cav 5I pour brine over the eggs, I usually don’t measure that part, as much brine as to cover the eggs and maybe an inch more. But the time to soak them you need to measure. About 5 minutes are required and you gently and slowly swirl the eggs around with a wooden spoon.

cav 6Next, pour the eggs over a sieve, and repeat the process again, but this time soak for about 8-10mins, in new batch of brine, discard the old one. Yes, the time window is pretty small. All together eggs have to be soaked about 15-18mins. If you forget for a half an hour, that’s it, it will be too salty. If you soak the eggs for just 10 minutes,  then they will not be sufficiently cured to last in you refrigerator until the holidays.  There is some room for variation, if the caviar is going to be consumed immediately, then you can soak a few minutes less, if they are for sometime in winter, then more time is needed.  If they taste too salty for your palate, then keep them in your fridge for a few months, the salty flavor moderates with time.

After the eggs are soaked and strained for the second time, its time to dry them.  When I say dry them, I do not mean until they are crunchy, but only that they have to be allowed to drip off excess moisture.

cav 7

I have large, wide sieves, I bought from Asian market. Spread the caviar in a thin layer. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow the caviar to drip for 4-6 hours, a little less if its warm outside, a little longer if its cool.

cav 8After your caviar is dry its ready to go to the jars and be stored to the fridge. Caviar is perishable, even though preserved naturally with salt, you need  to keep it refrigerated also . It can last in the fridge until next fishing season or you can enjoy it immediately.  Fresh caviar is delicious, but the classic caviar flavor is gained only after the eggs have matured for a few weeks.

How I serve caviar.

If you don’t have access to fresh salmon, but would like to buy some caviar at the store I’d recommend that you check your local Russian or Eastern European store. Most cities have them. Usually caviar costs around $30 per lb.  If you have seen  imitation caviar and if you are wondering why it cost so much less,  and what nutritional value it has, or what is made from, then check out the following link. This lady agreed to share her video on imitation caviar. She also has many excellent made videos on other recipes that I really enjoy.

Do you think its worth the effort? Would you do it?



  1. Is it possible to use freshwater steelhead eggs to make caviar?

  2. Thanks for the easy recipe. I used pike roe to make caviar. I put it in the freezer later on to get rid of the tapeworm hazard.

  3. I just returned from a fishing trip in Alaska where I made some coho caviar. Unfortunately I wasted a lot of eggs trying to get them out of the skeins but still wound up with 16 oz. Delicious. I learned to enjoy all kinds of caviar when stationed in Russia long ago; even invented a caviar Dagwood Sandwich featuring sturgeon and salmon caviar separated by blini with melted butter and sour cream. That was in the good old days when even the most expensive sturgeon caviar could be bought for $40 a kilo in the Soviet dollar stores. These days it’s a lot more expensive and while salmon caviar is cheaper than farm-raised sturgeon or paddlefish, it still sells for about $80 per 4oz jar so making your own is a definite plus. Unfortunately, most of my friends in Colorado recoil in horror at the thought of eating “bait.”

  4. Holger,
    don’t worry about your friends, more caviar left for you, and they are free to eat hotdogs 🙂

  5. Will this recipe work with paddlefish roe? I´ve never had cavier but wish to make and try some this year.

  6. Vince,
    Try the UAF website for making steelhead caviar. It looks about the same to me.

  7. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I recently acquired 2 pounds of coho roe. Having made lots of salmon caviar in the past, I thought I had the brine ratio and 18-minute timing just right, but this batch came out very salty — OK to eat a little at a time but far too salty to pig out. The only thing I did differently was prepare the brine the previous day (4 parts water, 1 part Kosher salt) and let it cool overnight. My question is: Does brine get saltier the longer it sits after boiling? Osr did I screw up some other way?

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  12. You can keep your caviar in the freezer also if brining it so long is not agreeable with your pallet. I like to add a little smoke flavor to my eggs but it’s tricky to not over dry them.

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