Bottarga: The Secret Ingredient You Need to Try in Your Next Dish

We may earn a commission on qualified purchases made through one of our links. Learn more

Bottarga is a Mediterranean delicacy of salted, cured fish roe (fish eggs), typically from grey mullet or tuna. The product is similar to the softer cured mullet roe, karasumi from Japan and East Asia.

Let’s look at the history, production, and uses of this unique ingredient.

What is bottarga

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

Unpacking the Magic of Bottarga

Bottarga is a delicacy that is produced by carefully drying and pressing the egg sac of a female fish, usually mullet or tuna. The process involves removing any unwanted matter and then drying the sac until it becomes hard and similar to a piece of hard cheese. This product is then sliced and used in a number of dishes to add a rich and unique flavor profile.

How is Bottarga Produced?

The production of bottarga takes a number of stages, starting with the careful removal of the egg sac from the female fish. The sac is then cleaned and any unwanted matter is removed. The sac is then mixed with salt and sometimes starch to prevent it from sticking together. The sac is then left to dry for a number of weeks until it becomes hard and slightly translucent. The final product is then sliced and packaged for sale.

Where to Buy Bottarga?

Bottarga can be found in specialty food stores or online. The price of bottarga can vary significantly depending on the fish used and the production process. Cheaper versions are available, but they may not be as consistent or as high quality as the more expensive options. It is important to read the data on the packaging carefully to make sure you are getting the product you want.

Is Bottarga Affordable?

Bottarga can be an expensive product, but there are more affordable options available. Local versions of bottarga can be found in some areas and may be more budget-friendly. It is important to consider the quality of the product when making a purchase, as cheaper versions may not be as consistent or as high quality as the more expensive options.

What’s the Flavor of Bottarga?

Bottarga is a unique ingredient that has a distinct flavor that is hard to describe. It is often referred to as the “Mediterranean caviar” due to its culinary reputation. The flavor of bottarga is primarily salty and subtly fishy, with hints of the sea. The salinity of the bottarga is aggressive, and the fishiness is definite but not overpowering.

The Differences Between Tuna and Mullet Bottarga

Bottarga is produced from the roe of either grey mullet or tuna, and the two types have some differences in taste and texture. Tuna bottarga is more expensive and highly prized, with a more pronounced flavor and a powerful aroma. Mullet bottarga, on the other hand, is more subtle in flavor and has a little less saltiness.

How to Use Bottarga in Cooking

Bottarga is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of dishes. It can be served as a standalone dish, sliced thinly and served with bread or crackers. Bottarga can also be grated and used as a finishing touch to pasta dishes, salads, and risottos. It can also be added to sauces and stews to create a more complex flavor profile.

The Fascinating History of Bottarga

Bottarga is a traditional food that originated in the Mediterranean area thousands of years ago. The practice of preparing bottarga is said to have started with the Phoenicians, who were known for their advanced techniques in food production.

The Production Process

The process of producing bottarga is highly advanced and requires careful preparation. The first stage involves carefully removing the eggs from the female fish, making sure to avoid any unwanted pieces. The eggs are then mixed with starch and dried to achieve a consistent texture. The resulting product is a hard, solid piece that can be sliced and added to dishes.

The Different Forms of Bottarga

Bottarga comes in different forms, depending on the area where it is produced. In some countries, it is available in a red, spicy form, while in others it is a white, rich and slightly sweet version. In Western countries, soy sauce is often used as an additional ingredient to prevent the bottarga from drying out too fast.

Preparing and Using Bottarga

Bottarga is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Chefs often add it to pasta dishes, sauces, and even as a topping for pizza. When preparing bottarga, it is important to store it properly to prevent it from going bad. It is recommended to cool and store it in a steady temperature.

The Expensive and Highly Sought-After Delicacy

Bottarga is a highly sought-after delicacy and is considered to be one of the most expensive foods in the world. Diners who have tried it often consider it to be a must-have for any dinner party. Its strong and rich profile makes it a popular choice for those who want to add an additional layer of flavor to their dishes.

Unleashing the Full Potential of Bottarga: How to Use It in Your Dishes

Before we dive into the different ways to use bottarga, let’s take a quick look at how this revered ingredient is made. Bottarga is actually the roe pouch of a female grey mullet fish, which is removed and salted heavily to remove any unwanted moisture. The pouch is then left to dry and harden for a few weeks, after which it is ready to be sliced and grated for use in various dishes.

Transforming Your Dish with Bottarga

Bottarga has a strong, spicy, and rich flavor profile that can add a unique twist to any dish. Here are some ways to use it:

  • Grate it over pasta dishes: One of the most famous ways to use bottarga is to grate it over pasta dishes. Its salty and slightly fishy taste pairs well with starch-based dishes, such as spaghetti or linguine in a white wine sauce.
  • Add it to sauces: Bottarga can also be added to sauces to give them a unique flavor. Try mixing it with heavy cream and a bit of red pepper flakes for a spicy, creamy sauce that pairs well with seafood.
  • Use it as a prosciutto substitute: Thinly sliced bottarga can be used as a substitute for prosciutto in sandwiches or antipasti platters. Its delicate flavor and texture make it a great addition to any charcuterie board.
  • Mix it with sugars: For a unique twist on a dessert, mix grated bottarga with sugars and sprinkle it over fruit or ice cream. The sweetness of the fruit or ice cream will balance out the salty flavor of the bottarga.

The Technique of Slicing Bottarga

Slicing bottarga thinly by hand is a delicate process that takes time and practice to master. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Start by breaking off a small piece of the bottarga.
  • Steady the bottarga with one hand and use a sharp knife to remove the outer layer.
  • Slice the bottarga thinly, aiming for a consistent thickness.
  • The final thickness will depend on the desired degree of texture and flavor.

Experience the Sea with Bottarga

Bottarga is a unique ingredient that can add a touch of the sea to any dish. Whether you’re grating it over pasta or using it as a prosciutto substitute, bottarga is sure to impress your dinner guests. So next time you’re looking to add a new ingredient to your kitchen, consider going for bottarga.

Exploring the Different Types of Bottarga

There are a few key differences in the way that bottarga is produced, depending on the region and the type of fish used. Some notes on the production process include:

  • Tuna bottarga is usually produced by carefully cleaning the roe, salting it, and then drying it in the sun or in a controlled environment.
  • Mullet bottarga is often produced by soaking the roe in saltwater, then drying it in the sun or in a controlled environment.
  • Some producers add additional flavors to their bottarga, such as soy sauce or hot peppers, to give it an extra kick.
  • The way that the bottarga is sliced can significantly impact the texture and flavor of the final product. Thinly sliced bottarga is generally more delicate and easier to use, while larger pieces can be more difficult to work with.

Where to Find Bottarga: Tips and Tricks for Buying this Ancient Delicacy

Bottarga is a special and unique food that has a long history dating back to ancient times. This savory delicacy is made from the roe of grey mullet or tuna that has been salted, pressed, and dried. Bottarga is commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine and is known for its rich umami flavor and unique texture. However, due to its difficult and time-consuming production process, bottarga is significantly more expensive than other similar products like caviar or Parmigiano cheese. In this section, we will explore where to buy bottarga and how to find the best quality product that fits your budget.

Types of Bottarga and Where to Buy Them

There are different types of bottarga, and each has its own unique flavor and texture. Here are some examples of the different types of bottarga and where to find them:

  • Grey mullet bottarga: This is the most common type of bottarga and is usually the most affordable. You can find it in specialty food shops, fish markets, and online retailers.
  • Tuna bottarga: Tuna bottarga is less common than grey mullet bottarga and is generally more expensive. You can find it in specialty food shops and online retailers.
  • Kristal bottarga: This is a new type of bottarga that originated in Italy and is made from sturgeon roe. It is significantly more expensive than other types of bottarga and can be difficult to find. You may need to order it online from specialty retailers like Gustiamo or Marshallberg Farm.

How to Choose the Best Bottarga for Your Budget

When it comes to buying bottarga, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you get the best quality product for your budget:

  • Look for a thin, hard line: The best bottarga will have a thin, hard line running through the middle. This line is the membrane that separates the two halves of the roe sac and is a sign of quality.
  • Grated or sliced: Bottarga can be purchased grated or sliced. Grated bottarga is easier to use and is often less expensive, while sliced bottarga is more visually appealing and is better for presentation.
  • Consider your budget: Bottarga is an expensive product, so it’s important to consider your budget when shopping for it. Grey mullet bottarga is usually the most affordable option, while tuna and Kristal bottarga are significantly more expensive.

Uses for Bottarga in Everyday Dishes

While bottarga is a special and unique product, there are many ways to incorporate it into everyday dishes. Here are some ideas:

  • Add grated bottarga to pasta dishes like spaghetti alla bottarga or linguine with bottarga and lemon.
  • Use sliced bottarga as a topping for crostini or bruschetta.
  • Spread bottarga on crackers or bread for a quick and easy snack.
  • Add grated bottarga to scrambled eggs or omelets for a savory breakfast.
  • Use bottarga as a substitute for Parmigiano cheese in dishes like risotto or Caesar salad.

Maximizing the Flavor: How to Effectively Use and Store Bottarga

When it comes to storing bottarga, it’s important to do it the right way to preserve its flavor and texture. Here are some tips on how to store it best:

  • Keep the bottarga aside from other foods in the fridge to avoid any cross-contamination.
  • If the bottarga is still in its original packaging, keep it in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to use it.
  • Once you’ve opened the bottarga, peel off the wax coating and grate what you need. Then, wrap the remainder tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge.
  • If you have a whole bottarga, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. It can last for several months if stored properly.


So, that’s Bottarga? It’s a delicious Italian food made from the dried fish roe. It’s usually made from either tuna or mullet and has a rich, subtle flavor. You can use it in a variety of dishes, from pasta to pizza to salads, or just eat it on its own as a snack. So, go buy some now and enjoy!

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.