What Is Beluga Caviar?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Beluga caviar is a delicacy that comes from the beluga sturgeon, which is also sometimes referred to as the "European sturgeon." The caviar comes from the roe, or eggs, that are deposited by the female beluga sturgeons. The fish are most commonly found in the basins of the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. They are also sometimes found in the Adriatic.

Abalone shells with mother of pearl, which is often used to make caviar spoons.
Abalone shells with mother of pearl, which is often used to make caviar spoons.

Unfortunately, the beluga sturgeon has been overfished and is in jeopardy. One of the main reasons for this overfishing is the market demand for beluga caviar. In fact, the beluga sturgeon is currently listed as "threatened" under the subcategory "critically endangered" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) List of Threatened Species. In hopes of allowing the fish to repopulate, some countries have banned the importation of this caviar. In some cases, those bans have been lifted or partially lifted.

Beluga caviar has a deep black color.
Beluga caviar has a deep black color.

The value of beluga caviar is astounding. The price for just two pounds (about 1 kilogram) can range between $7,000 USD (US Dollars) and $10,000 USD. The cost, of course, depends on the supply and how difficult it is to procure the caviar as well as the distance between the place where the caviar has been harvested and its final point of sale. Despite the bans and partial bans on this type of caviar, some caviar connoisseurs have found ways to acquire the delicacy.

Caviar appetizer with crème fraîche and basil.
Caviar appetizer with crème fraîche and basil.

Like most kinds of caviar, beluga caviar is served with a non-metallic spoon. Common materials for caviar spoons include bone and mother of pearl. This is because a metal spoon is said to transfer a metallic taste to the caviar, which has a very delicate flavor. Some caviars are served as a garnish. Beluga caviar, on the other hand, is served on its own with minimal garnish or accompanying foods. It is common for this type of caviar to be served simply on toast. It is quite common for caviar to be served with other luxury foods and beverages. Fine champagne, for example, is often enjoyed along with the roe.

Beluga caviar is often served with salmon roe.
Beluga caviar is often served with salmon roe.

The distinguishing characteristics of beluga caviar, other than its price tag and its delicate flavor, are it color and the size of the individual eggs. This type of caviar is deeply black in color. Furthermore, beluga sturgeons create very large eggs. The size of the eggs are quite similar to the size of green peas.

The fish that produce beluga caviar are commonly found in the basins of the Caspian Sea.
The fish that produce beluga caviar are commonly found in the basins of the Caspian Sea.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments

burcinc

Are there different grades of beluga caviar. I too thought that beluga caviar is not meant to be garnish and should be served simply with crackers. But I'm seeing more and more recipes where beluga caviar is a garnish for dishes like oysters, scallops and even potatoes. I'm guessing that these use lower grade beluga caviar that is not as expensive. Does anyone know?

fify

@discographer-- Yes, beluga caviar has a big price tag, but it's justified. It takes about twenty years for a beluga sturgeon to mature and moreover, the population has decreased a lot. So it's very difficult to come by but those who have been lucky enough to taste it say that it's worth it. It's supposed to be one of the best caviars in the world, delicate and creamy. A friend of mine is on the waiting list for it. He said that it might take four years for his name to come up on the list.

There is another version of black beluga called "diamond." It has a light yellow to dark beige color. This kind is even more rare and even more expensive.

discographer

Two pounds for $10,000?! That's so expensive!

Even if this type of caviar was easily found, I could never afford it. The only caviar I've been able to afford so far is American hackleback. It's good but I've been wanting to try some of the rarer, better varieties. With price tags like this, it's impossible.

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