What is Masago?

Have you ever had sushi and wondered where those tiny orange spheres on various rolls came from? They’re called masago. What is masago? They’re a staple of Japanese cuisine and many other cuisines around the world. While they don’t have the same flavor or texture as lobster, shrimp, yellowtail, nori, or rice, they’re nevertheless an important and beloved ingredient for many.

Is Masago Real Fish Eggs?

Capelin roe is the capelin fish egg, a species of smelt. Healthline defines roe as “completely developed eggs of several varieties of fish,” noting that capelin, or smelt, resembles sardines. According to How Daily, masago means “sand” in Japanese, referring to the roe’s small size.

Its rich, vivid orange color distinguishes Masago. You will find capelin in the arctic oceans (north pacific) worldwide. Its roe is tiny, measuring only one millimeter in diameter. Whales, puffins, Atlantic cod, and other ocean predators rely on capelin fish as a food supply. Capelins essentially eat plankton, but they will eat larger crustaceans when available.

Capelin eggs (masago) are harvested and consumed in various East Asian countries. Masago is a popular component in multiple varieties of sushi. Still, most people are unaware that capelin eggs are considered a superfood.

What Is Fish Roe?

Fish roe

Roe, also known as hard roe, is the fully ripe internal egg masses in the ovaries of fish and some marine animals such as shrimp, scallops, sea urchins, squid, and the discharged exterior egg masses. Roe is a type of shellfish that you can use as a cooking ingredient in various meals and a raw ingredient in delicacies like caviar.

Marine animal roe, such as lumpsucker, hake, mullet, salmon, Atlantic bonito, mackerel, squid, and cuttlefish, are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids. Still, you can find omega-3s in any fish roe. In addition, among the elements included in fish roes is a substantial amount of vitamin B12.

Is Masago Raw?

When we harvest masago naturally, it is a pale yellow tint. To appeal to consumers, commercial masago makers often dip the fish roe in orange food coloring to make it brighter and more vibrant in color. Yes, masago is the capelin fish’s flavored and colored raw edible eggs. 

Ways To Use Masago

  • As sushi roll toppings: This is the most common usage of masago, which gives sushi rolls like the California Roll a vibrant color and crisp texture.
  • Masago sauce: It’s a creamy and tasty sauce made with light cream sauce and masago, and it’s commonly served on top of Japanese spaghetti noodles.
  • Added to the fillings inside the roll: When making maki sushi, it’s sometimes mixed in with the contents to provide flavor and texture.

Benefits Of Masago


Masago is an excellent source of protein. You can find 6 grams of protein in a small portion of roughly 28 grams. This is about the same amount of protein as a large egg weighing approximately 50 grams.

Selenium and Vitamin B-12: Masago contains a lot of selenium. As a result, it is a potent antioxidant for the human body. Seafood contains a high concentration of selenium. As a result, it can help minimize oxidative stress and improve the thyroid and immune systems.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have a slew of health advantages. These fats are polyunsaturated (healthy fats). They are not only a necessary component of one’s cell membrane, but they can also aid in the regulation of inflammation and blood coagulation. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in studies to help reduce the risk of cardiac diseases such as coronary artery disease and heart failure.

Low In Mercury

Compared to other large fishes like mackerel and swordfish, capelin has a low mercury content because it is a small feeder fish. Furthermore, research has shown that fish roe has the lowest mercury concentration compared to other parts of the fish, such as muscle tissue and certain organs. That is why eating masago can help minimize mercury exposure to a bare minimum.

Disadvantage Of Masago

The salt concentration of masago is relatively high. When salty components like ordinary salt or soy sauce are often combined, the sodium concentration eventually rises. Cutting back on salt is the key to keeping blood pressure in check for those with high blood pressure or cardiac problems. Overdoing it on salt can lead to many other ailments, including stomach cancer and bone loss. vitamin b12

Because masago is a shellfish, some people may be allergic to it. They should refrain from using any fish or by-products. Fish roe includes vitellogenin, one of the most allergenic compounds in the human body. The sixth most allergenic food element is fish roe.

Does Masago Taste Like Caviar?

Masago is not precisely caviar, as it is a form of a fish egg or roe because it comes from a different fish species. Consider it like wine. Although both champagne and prosecco use grapes, they are known by other names. Masago is in the same boat. Caviar is traditionally the roe of the sturgeon fish.

It is costly. The price will only go up when you consider that the Sturgeon has been placed on the endangered species list. Masago, on the other hand, is considerably less expensive. Therefore, Masago could be a good substitute for caviar if you seek a less expensive option.

Masago is a mildly flavored fish. It doesn’t share the intense flavor of caviar. It appears to be less shady. Masago has a slightly smoother texture than larger fish roe due to its small size. It has a slightly salty flavor with notes of the sea. It has a faint fish flavor that reminds me of oily fish like mackerel or herring.

Are Tobiko and Masago Same?

Masago and Tobiko

While the flavors of masago and tobiko are pretty similar, and people sometimes misunderstand the two to be the same, there are significant variations between what you’re tasting whether you order one or the other. Masago is smaller and cheaper than tobiko, so you’ll see it on the menu more frequently.

Masago is generally colored to imitate the brightness of tobiko and make it more visually appealing, but tobiko has a natural, bright red coloration. Masago has a little softer texture than tobiko, according to popular belief. According to Healthline, masago is low in calories but high in nutrients, making it a healthy alternative to many other foods.

It’s also found naturally and isn’t usually processed, which is always a plus for health. “Tobiko is a good source of proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium, a mineral responsible for the formation of antioxidants,” writes Izzy Cooking. However, you should exercise caution while eating both masago and tobiko: both contain significant cholesterol levels, so you should consume them in moderation.

There isn’t much difference in health benefits between the two because they are so similar in taste and nutrient makeup. Any nutritional difference between them would be startlingly slight. You may claim that tobiko’s higher nutrient content makes it more desirable than masago, although the two are generally very similar in terms of what they contain.

What Is Masago in Sushi?

Masago is a common term for smelt roe, which are edible eggs from the smelt family Mallotus villosus (Capelin fish). It’s commonly used to coat the outsides of sushi rolls as well as in the preparation of sushi fillings. It is frequently seen in orange, green, or red, although it is truly a delicate yellow color. When cooking masago sushi, they use food coloring to tint it orange, green, or red.

Masago is one of the most coveted sushi ingredients. These small orange balls can elevate a plain sushi plate to something more opulent and sophisticated despite their diminutive size. They have a crunchy texture, and the flavor is salty and sweet with a trace of bitterness.

Where to Buy Masago for Sushi?

It is no longer difficult to locate any ingredient for Asian cuisine at a Western supermarket. Asian components are becoming increasingly well-known, utilized, and accessible. There’s a good possibility you’ll be able to find masago at your local grocery store or gourmet shop. If not, seek out a store that specializes in Asian items.

How Long Does Masago Last?

So, you’ve purchased a quantity of masago and are ready to utilize it in sushi rolls, but you’re not sure what to do with it or how long it will last? To begin, if you have fresh masago, store it in the coolest area of your refrigerator at 28-32 degrees Fahrenheit for best usage. Next, if you have frozen masago, keep it frozen until you’re ready to use it; once opened, it has a maximum shelf life of 4 to 5 days.

It’s worth noting that, unlike other fish delicacies such as caviar, masago freezes nicely. So you’ll have plenty of time to try out your sushi creations!

How To Store Masago?

If you aren’t lucky enough to acquire fresh masago, you’ll most likely use it frozen. It’s also beneficial to understand how to preserve it properly. You don’t want to purchase it only to have it go to waste.

It’s not good to keep thawing frozen food because it will quickly deteriorate. It’s better to thaw it once and then separate it into small pieces to chill. You’ll only have to pull the teeny-tiny amount you’ll need rather than the entire thing.

You can freeze masago for up to a year. If properly preserved, it can last up to half a year (in a sturdy container to avoid the eggs from being destroyed). If you defrost it, you must consume it within 4 days of defrosting and kept cool in the refrigerator.

How to Make Masago Sauce?

The Japanese masago sauce with Kewpie mayonnaise and Huy Fong Sriracha sauce is one of the most well-known masago sauces. It’s a quick and straightforward masago sauce recipe that goes well with various foods. And, as you can see, to prepare this spicy sauce, you only need those two ingredients plus the masago.

Many of you may not be able to locate those components, so we will show you how to prepare a tasty masago sauce using ordinary pantry ingredients.

Masago Sauce Ingredients

  •   2 tablespoons Kewpie mayonnaise
  •   2 tablespoons Huy Fong Sriracha sauce
  •   ½ fresh lime
  •   2 teaspoons fresh Masago roe


  1. Put two tablespoons of Kewpie mayonnaise in a medium bowl, followed by two tablespoons of Sriracha sauce. The traditional masago sauce uses homemade Kewpie mayonnaise. But you can, of course, use a store-bought alternative instead.
  2. Pour the juice of half a lime over the mayonnaise mixture. Don’t use the whole limone; use half a lime, about one tablespoon, because too much lime juice will make the sauce runny.
  3. Add two teaspoons of masago capelin roe to the mixture. Then mix the ingredients until combined.

Final Words – What is Masago?

The edible eggs of the capelin fish are known as masago or smelt roe. Protein and nutrients are abundant, including omega-3s, selenium, and vitamin B12. If you have high blood pressure or have allergic reactions to seafood, avoid roe products that contain added salt, MSG, or high fructose corn syrup.

Also, restrict masago if you have high blood pressure and avoid it entirely if you have a seafood allergy. Give masago a try if you can tolerate shellfish and search for an intriguing ingredient to add a unique flavor to your meals.