Masago: What It Is, How It Tastes & More

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If you’re a fan of sushi, you’ve probably come across the word “masago” and wondered what it was.

The capelin or caplin, Mallotus villosus, is a small forage fish of the smelt family found in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans and masago are its roe.

Masago is a type of fish egg, but it’s not a real egg. It’s a type of fish roe, also known as “smelt eggs” or “capelin eggs.” It’s a small, yellowish, orangey-red, slightly sweet type of fish egg produced by female capelin fish, unlike the larger, more expensive, male tobiko.

Let’s look at what masago is, how it’s used, and how to pronounce it correctly.

What is masago

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Unlocking the Mystery of Masago

Masago is a type of Japanese food that is commonly found in many seafood dishes. It is a small, naturally red, and slightly sweet type of fish egg that is produced by the female capelin fish. Unlike its larger and more expensive cousin, tobiko, masago is a staple in many traditional Japanese diets due to its convenient and affordable consumption.

The Unique Characteristics of Masago

Masago offers a unique flavor and texture that is different from other types of fish eggs. Here are some key characteristics of masago:

  • Smaller in size compared to other types of fish eggs
  • Slightly sweet and smoky flavor
  • Low in fat content
  • High in nutrients
  • Often used as a substitute for tobiko due to its similar taste and texture
  • Can be found in a variety of colors, including red, black, and orange

The Many Uses of Masago

Masago is a popular ingredient in many Japanese dishes, including sushi, rice bowls, and salads. Here are some ways that masago can be used:

  • Sprinkled on top of sushi rolls to add extra flavor and texture
  • Mixed into rice bowls to create a complex and satisfying dish
  • Used as a garnish for salads to add a pop of color and flavor
  • Included in certain types of sushi rolls, such as the California roll
  • Used as a substitute for tobiko in dishes where a slightly different texture is desired

Where to Buy Masago

Masago can be found in many Japanese grocery stores and online retailers. It is often sold in small containers or packages and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. When buying masago, look for products that are fresh and have a slightly firm texture.

Discover the Flavorful World of Masago

Masago comes in a variety of colors, including red, orange, green, and yellow. Here are some notes on its appearance:

  • The color of masago can be natural or dyed.
  • It is usually smaller than tobiko and has a pale, attractive color.
  • The texture is sandy and crunchy, with a popping sensation that is excellent for beginners.
  • When mixed with other ingredients, masago adds a smoky, slightly salty flavor and a crunchy texture.

How Masago Tastes Compared to Other Types of Roe

Masago is often compared to other types of roe, such as tobiko and caviar. Here’s how it differs:

  • Masago is smaller than tobiko and has a less pronounced flavor and saltiness.
  • Compared to caviar, masago is less complex in flavor and texture.
  • However, masago offers a unique taste and texture that is certainly worth trying.

How to Use Masago in Your Cooking

Masago is a versatile ingredient that can be included in a variety of dishes. Here are some ideas:

  • Add masago to sushi rolls for a crunchy texture and mild flavor.
  • Use masago as a topping for steamed vegetables or mixed into a salad for an additional pop of flavor.
  • Try masago in a seafood combo with squid or other types of fish for a unique taste experience.
  • Note that masago contains a high amount of sodium, so use it sparingly.

Get Creative with Masago: Recipes and Serving Ideas

Making sushi at home is easy, and adding masago to your rolls can take them to the next level. Here’s how to do it:

  • Cook sushi rice according to package instructions and let it cool.
  • Place a sheet of nori (dried seaweed) on a sushi mat, shiny side down.
  • Spread a thin layer of rice evenly over the nori, leaving a 1-inch edge at the top.
  • Add a piece of seafood or other ingredients of your choice to the center of the rice.
  • Sprinkle masago on top of the seafood.
  • Roll the sushi tightly, using the mat to create a tight seal.
  • Let the sushi rest for a few minutes before cutting it into pieces and serving.

Masago Rice Bowl

A masago rice bowl is a quick and easy meal that can be loaded with your favorite ingredients. Here’s how to make it:

  • Cook sushi rice according to package instructions and let it cool.
  • Combine soy sauce, water, and a pinch of sugar to create a sauce.
  • Cut up your desired ingredients, such as avocado, cucumber, and crab meat.
  • Spread the rice evenly in a bowl.
  • Add the ingredients on top of the rice, creating a colorful and delicious mixture.
  • Sprinkle masago on top of the bowl for an added burst of flavor and texture.
  • Drizzle the sauce over the top and stir gently to combine.

Masago Salad

Masago can be a great addition to any salad, adding a unique and delicate element to the dish. Here’s how to make a masago salad:

  • Combine fresh greens, such as spinach or arugula, in a large bowl.
  • Add your desired ingredients, such as sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and sliced avocado.
  • Sprinkle masago on top of the salad.
  • Drizzle a soy-based dressing over the top and toss gently to combine.
  • Make sure to store any leftover masago in the freezer to prevent it from going bad.

Masago Garnish

Masago can be used as a beautiful and tasty garnish for a range of dishes. Here’s how to use it:

  • Sprinkle masago on top of a sushi roll or rice bowl to add a pop of color and texture.
  • Use masago to create a unique and eye-catching topping for your favorite seafood dishes.
  • Add masago to the top of a leafy green salad to create a highly flavorful and incredibly delicious dish.

Masago Storage

It’s important to store masago properly to ensure it stays fresh and delicious. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Make sure to check the expiration date on the package before buying.
  • Once opened, masago should be stored in the freezer to prevent it from going bad.
  • When using masago, make sure to let it cool to room temperature before adding it to any dishes.
  • When cutting masago, use a sharp and straight pin to prevent it from becoming too sticky.
  • When adding masago to dishes, make sure to sprinkle it evenly to create the perfect balance of flavor and texture.

With these recipes and serving ideas, you now know how to create incredible dishes using masago. Whether you’re a sushi lover or simply looking for a new way to add flavor to your favorite dishes, masago is a unique and essential ingredient to consider.

Why Masago is a Nutritional Powerhouse

Masago is a type of roe, typically found in sushi rolls, that is low in calories but high in nutrients. Consuming masago gives the body a number of important nutrients that are critical for proper function. Masago contains a good amount of protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for cardiovascular health and can help regulate inflammation in the body.

Packed with Amino Acids

Masago is packed with amino acids, including leucine and lysine, which are important for muscle repair and synthesis. These amino acids are particularly important for athletes and those who engage in regular exercise. Masago also contains a number of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin D.

Small but Mighty

While masago may be small in size, it packs a big nutritional punch. Just one ounce (28 grams) of masago contains a high number of nutrients, including 17% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin B12, 10% DV for folate, and 7% DV for vitamin D. Masago is also low in carbs and high in polyunsaturated fats, making it a healthy addition to any diet.

Immune System Boost

Masago is rich in nutrients that are important for immune system function, including vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients help produce red blood cells, regulate nerve function, and support DNA synthesis. Masago also contains a small amount of mercury, which can be beneficial in small amounts for lung function and immune system health.

Masago vs Tobiko: What’s the Difference?

  • Masago is typically smaller and cheaper than tobiko.
  • Masago has a pale yellow color and a slightly softer texture than tobiko.
  • Tobiko is larger and has a smoky flavor and firmer texture.
  • Tobiko is generally more expensive than masago due to its appearance and taste.

Taste and Flavor

  • Masago has a pretty mild taste and flavor, while tobiko is sweeter and gives a burst of flavor with every bite.
  • Masago is a suitable replacement for eggs in dishes, while tobiko is typically used as a garnish or topping for sushi.
  • Overall, tobiko is considered to have a more complex and rich flavor than masago.

Ingredients and Benefits

  • Masago is made from the roe of the smelt fish, while tobiko is made from the roe of the flying fish.
  • Both masago and tobiko are high in nutrients and low in calories, making them a healthy addition to any dish.
  • They both contain natural ingredients and are a great way to add a pop of color and flavor to your food.

Where to Find and Buy

  • Masago and tobiko can be found in most specialty food stores and sushi restaurants.
  • They are typically priced differently depending on the store and the species of fish used.
  • It’s always a good idea to check with your local retailers to see which one is the best and most affordable option for you.
  • When shopping for masago or tobiko, look for a nice firm texture and a duller appearance, as this is a sign of freshness.
  • Ultimately, the choice between masago and tobiko comes down to personal preference and the specific dish you are looking to pair it with.

In summary, while masago and tobiko may seem similar at first glance, there are certain differences that set them apart. Depending on your taste and the dish you are having, you may find that one is more suitable than the other. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal preference and how much money you are willing to spend.


So, that’s what masago is. A Japanese food ingredient made from fish eggs that’s used in sushi and other dishes. 

You should now know the differences between masago and tobiko, and how to use masago in cooking and recipes.

Check out our new cookbook

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

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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.