Tobiko vs Masago: The Differences


Upon stepping into any sushi restaurant, you’ll be treated to a tantalizing array of traditional Japanese dishes dazzling in both color and taste. Two ingredients that often add a pop of color and an added layer of flavor to sushi are Tobiko and Masago. But what is the difference between these two types of roe, and why should a sushi enthusiast, like yourself, care? Let’s dive into the world of Japanese cuisine and find out.

Tobiko and Masago are both types of fish roe used in Japanese cuisine, but they come from different species of fish – Tobiko from the flying fish and Masago from the capelin fish. Tobiko is larger, more colorful, and has a crunchier texture with a slightly sweet and smoky flavor. On the other hand, Masago is smaller, more neutrally flavored, and tends to be softer in texture. In terms of cost, Tobiko is generally more expensive than Masago.


What is Tobiko?

Tobiko is a type of fish roe (eggs) that comes from the Tropical Flying fish. It’s widely used in Japanese cuisine, especially in sushi, to add a unique aesthetic appeal and a delightful crunch.

salmon tobiko roll

The unique characteristics of Tobiko include its larger size compared to other types of roe, bright red-orange color, and distinctly crunchy texture. Flavor-wise, Tobiko has a subtle smoky or salty taste, which doesn’t overpower the other flavors in sushi but complements them beautifully.

Types of Tobiko

When it comes to Tobiko, there is a wide array of options available, each boasting its own distinct color and flavor profile. Let’s delve into the different types of Tobiko that you can explore:

  1. Black Tobiko: This visually striking variant features tiny black fish roe bursting with intense flavor. With its rich and savory taste, black Tobiko adds a touch of elegance to any dish or sushi roll.
  2. Red Tobiko: Vibrant and eye-catching, red Tobiko showcases bright orange-red fish eggs that lend a delightful burst of sweetness to your palate. Its slightly briny notes make it an excellent choice for enhancing both aesthetic appeal and taste in various culinary creations.
  3. Green Tobiko: Offering a refreshing twist on traditional tobikos, green tobikos are infused with natural ingredients like wasabi or seaweed extract which impart their unique flavors onto the fish roe. The result is a vibrant green hue that adds not only visual appeal but also an invigorating kick to your dishes.

These varieties of tobikos provide chefs and food enthusiasts alike with an exciting range of choices when it comes to incorporating these delightful pearls into their gastronomic endeavors. Whether you prefer the boldness of black tobiko, the sweetness of red tobiko, or the zestiness of green tobikos – each type promises to elevate your dining experience by adding layers of taste complexity while lending an artistic touch to your plate presentation.

Taste and Texture of Tobiko

Tobiko, renowned for its distinctive taste and texture, offers a culinary experience that is unparalleled. Combining subtle sweetness with a hint of saltiness and a delicate smoky undertone, each bite awakens the senses and leaves an impression on the palate.

Its firmness adds crunchy texture, creating a gratifying mouthfeel that captivates connoisseurs. With its unique combination of flavors and textures, tobiko elevates any dish it graces to new heights of culinary excellence. Whether as a garnish or incorporated into seafood preparations, it continues to enthrall taste buds worldwide.

What is Masago?


On the other hand, Masago is the roe of the Capelin fish, a type of smelt found in cold waters such as the Arctic. Like Tobiko, Masago is also frequently used in sushi.

Masago is smaller than Tobiko and has a more vibrant orange color. When it comes to taste, Masago is less pronounced than Tobiko, with a mildly sweet yet savory flavor. The texture is less crunchy than Tobiko, but it still offers a slight pop when bitten into.

See Also: What is Masago

Types of Masago

When it comes to types of masago, one characteristic that sets them apart is their vibrant colors. In order to achieve these visually appealing hues, masago is often dyed using natural food coloring techniques. The most commonly found variations include orange masago and red masago.

Orange Masago: Orange masago boasts a delightful sunny hue that instantly catches the eye. This type of masago undergoes a dyeing process that results in its distinct coloration. The bright orange shade adds an enticing visual element to any dish it graces, making it a popular choice for both culinary professionals and home cooks alike.

Red Masago: Meanwhile, red masago offers a striking burst of color that elevates the presentation of any meal. Through careful dyeing methods, this type of masago achieves its intense crimson tone. Its deep red appearance not only enhances the aesthetics but also stimulates the appetite with its bold presence on sushi rolls or other seafood delicacies.

Taste and Texture of Masago

When it comes to the taste and texture of Masago, there are a few key characteristics that set it apart. First and foremost, Masago boasts a delightful combination of mild sweetness and saltiness that adds depth to any dish it accompanies. This unique flavor profile helps elevate the overall culinary experience.

In terms of texture, Masago offers a softer consistency when compared to its counterpart, Tobiko. The individual eggs of Masago have a slightly more delicate and tender mouthfeel, giving them an enticing pop as you bite into them. This softness allows for easier incorporation into various recipes or as a garnish on sushi rolls.

Tobiko vs Masago: The Differences

While both Tobiko and Masago are used as garnishes in sushi due to their vibrant colors and unique textures, several notable differences set them apart.

OriginFlying fish roeCapelin fish roe
ColorComes in various colors (e.g., red, black, green)Generally orange or golden hue
SizeLarger grainsSmaller grains
TasteMild, slightly salty, and fishyMilder, sweeter, and less fishy
TextureFirm and crunchyTender and less crunchy
PopularityCommonly used in sushi and Japanese cuisinePopular in sushi and other Asian dishes
Culinary UsesSushi toppings, garnish, and ingredient in various dishesSushi toppings, garnish, and ingredient in various dishes
Caviar ComparisonNot considered caviarNot considered caviar
Price RangeUsually more expensive than MasagoGenerally more affordable than Tobiko
VarietiesDifferent colors and flavor infusions availableLimited color variations
Fish Roe SourceFlying fishCapelin fish
Flavor Infused TobikoYesLess commonly flavored
AvailabilityWidely available in specialty grocery stores and onlineReadily available in grocery stores and online
Culinary UsesOften used as a sushi topping and in gourmet dishesCommonly used as a sushi topping and in Asian cuisine
Shelf LifeShorter shelf life due to larger grainsLonger shelf life due to smaller grains
Nutritional ValueRich in omega-3 fatty acids and proteinContains essential nutrients like omega-3 and vitamins
Taste VersatilityVersatile in absorbing flavors and complementing dishesLess versatile in adapting to various flavors
Culinary ImportanceValued for its unique crunch and burst of flavorAppreciated for its color and texture enhancement
Common PairingsSushi rolls, nigiri, sashimi, and seafood dishesSushi rolls, poke bowls, and salads
Common SubstitutesMasago can be a substitute for Tobiko in some dishesTobiko is less commonly used as a substitute

Firstly, Tobiko is larger and crunchier than Masago. The size and texture of Tobiko make it more desirable for sushi chefs who want to add a distinctive crunch to their dishes.

In terms of color, while both can be found in various colors depending on the flavorings added, Tobiko generally has a brighter red-orange hue compared to the paler orange of Masago.

As for taste, Tobiko has a more pronounced flavor with its subtle smokiness, while Masago is milder with a slight sweetness.

When it comes to nutritional values, both are rich sources of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids but contain high sodium levels. However, since they are consumed in small amounts, they don’t significantly contribute to your daily nutrient intake.

See Also: How Long is Sushi Good For?

Trying Tobiko and Masago: A Guide for Sushi Enthusiast

If you’re keen on trying these delightful additions to your sushi, start by ordering rolls that feature either Tobiko or Masago. Some popular options include California rolls topped with Tobiko or spicy tuna rolls sprinkled with Masago.

When tasting, pay attention to the texture and how it complements the overall dish. Remember that while both types of roe have their unique characteristics, neither should overpower the other flavors in your sushi.


Tobiko and Masago: two small ingredients that pack a big punch in Japanese cuisine! By understanding their differences and unique characteristics, you can further appreciate the complexity and depth of flavors in your sushi. So next time you’re at your favorite sushi spot, don’t hesitate to try something new – be it Tobiko or Masago.

Do you have any experiences with Tobiko or Masago you’d like to share? Or perhaps you’ve discovered other interesting types of roe? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. And if you found this article helpful or interesting, why not share it with your fellow sushi enthusiasts? After all, sharing is caring – especially when it comes to great food!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between Tobiko and Masago?

Tobiko is the roe of the flying fish and is larger, crunchier, and more flavorful than Masago, which is the roe of the capelin fish and has a more neutral flavor.

2. Can I substitute Tobiko with Masago in a recipe?

Yes, you can substitute Tobiko with Masago in a recipe, although the texture and flavor of the dish may slightly change.

3. Are Tobiko and Masago safe to eat?

Yes, both Tobiko and Masago are safe to eat as long as they are properly prepared and stored. However, like other seafood, they should be consumed in moderation due to their high sodium and cholesterol content.

4. Can I eat Tobiko or Masago if I am allergic to fish?

If you have a fish allergy, it’s recommended to avoid Tobiko and Masago as they are both derived from fish.

5. Are Tobiko and Masago sustainable?

The sustainability of Tobiko and Masago largely depends on the fishing practices of the companies that harvest them. It is always best to buy from reputable sources that prioritize sustainable fishing practices.

6. Can vegetarians eat Tobiko or Masago?

No, Tobiko and Masago are not suitable for vegetarians as they are derived from fish.

7. How do I store Tobiko and Masago?

Both Tobiko and Masago should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within a few days of purchase. If you need to store them for a longer period, they can be frozen for up to a month.

Tobiko vs Masago: The Differences

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Laura Ritterman


  • tobiko

  • masago


  • Choose from your favorite between tobiko and masago
  • Gather the required ingredients
  • Serve and enjoy

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