What is the smelt egg in sushi?

In this short article, we will answer the question “What is the smelt egg in sushi?” and will discuss the other frequently consumed fish eggs.

What is the smelt egg in sushi?

They are capelin roe, a little fish found in great quantities in the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Pale orange is how it appears in nature. Similar to the last one, this one’s hue is altered by the use of components. 

The most frequent hues are crimson, black, and vivid orange. They go by the names masago or smelt roe as well. Due to its extremely small size, it means “very small sand.

It is frequently used to garnish and enhance many foods and sushi by adding shine, colour, and texture. When served as temaki or gunkanzushi, where the roe is heaped over the seasoned rice ball and covered in nori, it can also serve as the primary attraction. 

It is available in wasabi, orange, and black varieties to accommodate the widest range of user requirements. The most likely location to come across them is at a sushi restaurant where they are frequently utilised as delectable toppings or inside sushi rolls. 

These eggs resemble tobiko or flying fish eggs, however, they are a little bit smaller and less chewy. Masago is likewise less vividly orange-red than tobiko, though it is usual for them to be dyed to look more like tobiko. 

Because they are less expensive than tobiko, they are frequently used as a replacement. We’ll go through the health advantages of consuming roe and show you what other kinds of fish roe are most frequently utilised in Japanese cooking.

What additional kinds of fish eggs are most frequently used in Japanese cooking?

In addition to smelt eggs (or masago), flying fish roe and salmon roe are frequently used (Tobiko). Learn more about them now:


Salmon roe is known as ikura. They have a smooth texture, are orange-red in colour, and are rather large in comparison to other species. Its primary characteristic is that it detonates the mouth. Because of its sticky nature, it is also rather delicate to handle. 

It is easily perforated when not handled carefully, releasing all of its delicious contents. Ikura is most frequently consumed as part of sushi, although it can also be eaten as sashimi or on top of a serving of white rice.


Tobiko is the roe of a flying fish. They are tiny, measuring only 0.5 to 0.8 millimetres. Its size is between that of ikura and masago. It has a salty flavour and a crunchy consistency. Its flavour is stronger and more distinct than Masago’s.

It is orange-red in its natural state. To alter its colour and flavour, it can be blended with other organic substances. They are frequently coloured red, yellow, green, and black (with squid ink and yuzu, a type of citrus) (beetroot).

This is one of the types that are most frequently used in Japanese cuisine. Tobiko is frequently consumed in sushi, mostly as a topping for gunkan nigiri and to cover the outside of uramaki. It can also be made into sashimi and served in a cucumber cup.

Did you know that probiotic fish eggs are being developed by scientists?

Consumers are becoming more conscious of the connection between nutrition and health and are seeking out food items with useful qualities. In this respect, probiotic foods contain living microbes that, when given in sufficient quantities, boost the host’s health. 

However, probiotic dairy products—particularly yoghurts and fermented milk—dominate the market, which does not cater to the needs of the entire population because many people avoid dairy. 

Lactose intolerance is thought to affect 25% of people worldwide, whereas milk allergy affects 1.9 to 7.5% of people, mostly children. The creation of non-dairy probiotic products is thus an alternative.

On the other hand, cultural and dietary shifts have led to the expansion of oriental cuisine, which is characterised by heavily processed raw fish and derivatives and poses a risk of illness transmission, including gastroenteritis. 

In this way, a probiotic “fish roe” that is similar to salmon and is commonly used in Asian cuisine was developed as part of a PhD thesis project at the Institute of Microbiology of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. 

Probiotic bacteria like Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or Bifidobacterium animalis are present in this “ova,” which is made of a polysaccharide and may have positive health effects on those who consume them. 

According to the researchers, combined consumption of developed and natural roe in prepared foods can help to shield the consumer from illnesses like gastroenteritis, which can come from either the meal he is now eating or from other sources. 

Other advantages include vitamin synthesis by probiotic microorganisms and the avoidance or alleviation of constipation. Additionally, it gives a chance for those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk proteins to consume probiotic microorganisms. 

In a sensory test with customers, the product received an approval rating of 82%, and more than 60% of tasters said they would definitely buy it. The research is currently undergoing adaptation in preparation for potential commercialisation and industrial production.


In this short article, we answered the question “What is the smelt egg in sushi?” and also discussed the other frequently consumed fish eggs.


Rangel Guimarães, Renata & Vendramini, Ana & Santos, Antônio & Leite, Selma & Miguel, Marco. (2013). Development of probiotic beads similar to fish eggs. Journal of Functional Foods. 5. 968-973. 10.1016/j.jff.2013.01.002. 

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