Tobiko: All About this Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

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For those who have never tried it, fish roe like tobiko can be a little mystifying. There are so many different types out there, and they’re used in different foods. In addition to this, fish roe isn’t accessible for everyone – maybe caviar is too expensive to justify buying, or maybe there just isn’t a place that sells tobiko anywhere near you. Naturally, there’s bound to be questions about it!

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So join me and learn everything there is to know about this fascinating food.

Table of Contents

Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

What Is Tobiko?

What Is Tobiko Made From?

Tobiko is the name for roe that comes from a certain species of flying fish.

The term ’roe’ refers to the eggs of fish of any species, primarily edible eggs. This flying fish roe is harvested, then salt cured to become what we know as tobiko.

Is Tobiko A Fish?

While this is a common misconception, tobiko is the term for the roe, or eggs, of the fish.

But what fish does tobiko come from?

The fish species that tobiko comes from is flying fish, most commonly the Cheilopogon Agoo variety. They are better known as Japanese flying fish.

Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

Is Tobiko Real Fish Eggs?

What are tobiko eggs? Are they even real? There are so many different colors, how could that be!

Well, yes, they are genuine fish eggs – though they generally undergo the process of salt curing to preserve shelf life and improve flavor before being sold.

As for the third question, I promise I’ll answer it soon!

Is Tobiko Caviar?

Tobiko vs caviar…. an age old debate.

This roe is not the same as caviar, as it uses – or rather, is – a different species of fish egg. Caviar exclusively comes from sturgeon, while tobiko is a product of flying fish.

On top of that, the two also have different tastes and textures – for example, tobiko is sweeter than caviar.

Is Tobiko Fertilized?

Farmers/fishermen always harvest the eggs before they have a chance to become fertilized. They intercept the female fish prior to laying their eggs, meaning that there is no chance for a male to come along and fertilize them.

Tobiko Varieties

What Is Wasabi Tobiko?

Wasabi (green) tobiko is flying fish roe mixed with wasabi.

It is mildly-medium spicy, and looks green due to the wasabi extract.

What Is Tobiko Sushi?

This roe is often on sushi dishes as a garnish – you may have seen them before on California-inspired Vegas rolls, for example.

While it suits pretty much any kind of sushi, some restaurants may have their own roll recipes specifically dedicated to and based around it.

Tobiko vs Masago

This roe differs from masago in the same way it differs from caviar and ikura – it comes from a different species of fish.

Caviar, as explained earlier, comes from sturgeons, while tobiko and ikura come from flying fish and salmon, respectively.

Masago, on the other hand, comes from a type of fish called capelin. This fish is a species of smelt. The eggs are much smaller than those of the aforementioned species, and have a very fine texture.

Unlike some other roe, masago is also generally pretty inexpensive. In fact, it’s even cheaper than flying fish roe!

Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

What Color Is Tobiko?

Why Are Fish Eggs Different Colors?

Many sushi chefs like to distinguish themselves and add an element of artistry to their foods – and an easy way to do that is by coloring fish roe.

While some varieties are technically ’dyed’, they are typically infused with other naturally occurring ingredients to achieve this.

Flying Fish Roe Natural Colour

Tobiko’s natural coloration is a bright orange!

Much like salmon roe (ikura), this orange color is present due to naturally occurring compounds and pigments within the roe.

Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

What Is Black Tobiko?

Black tobiko is almost always roe that has been dyed with squid ink.

While this doesn’t affect the taste or texture of the roe much, it may enhance any already present briny flavors.

What Is Red Tobiko?

Red tobiko is typically made by infusing the roe with beet juice.

This brings out and highlights the sweetness of this roe variety, whilst also adding a little earthiness.

What Is Green Tobiko?

Green flying fish roe is one of the most common colored varieties. It is often also called ’wasabi tobiko’ as the color is achieved by infusing the roe with wasabi.

It generally has the same flavor profile as the regular kind, but ranges from being mildly spicy to medium heat.

What Is Yellow Flying Fish Roe?

And conversely, yellow is the least likely color variety you’re likely to find!

Yellow flying fish roe is ’dyed’ with yuzu, a Chinese citrus fruit popular in Japan. It adds a sharp yet light citrusy flavor to the roe.

Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

How Is Flying Fish Roe Farmed?

Much like other varieties of roe, it’s produced by harvesting unfertilized eggs from female fish. Then, any impurities are removed and the batch is selected for quality.

After this, the roe is cured with salt to improve shelf life and enhance the flavor of the eggs. This process imbues the roe with a smokey, salty taste and a crunchy texture.

The eggs are harvested from female flying fish – in particular, most of the roe comes from Japanese flying fish. To harvest, the farmers or fishermen take advantage of the natural behaviors displayed by female fish. These fish lay eggs on flotsam, so large seaweed balls are created for the fish to lay on.

Once the eggs are laid, the sea weed balls are immediately removed from the water and the eggs are harvested. This is to ensure that male fish don’t get the opportunity to fertilize them.

Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

Flying Fish Roe Nutrition

Are Fish Eggs Healthy?

Whether or not they are healthy for you depends on your personal dietary needs, as well as the amount you plan to consume.

Tobiko roe is rich in protein and, like fish, has abundant omega-3 fatty acids. There is a high content of valuable nutrients in it, making it a great food for filling those dietary needs.

However, it may not be suitable for everyone – at least in a large quantity. It is cured with salt, and is so is high in sodium and cholesterol. This means it is best consumed in moderation by those who have high blood pressure and other such ailments.

However, this makes the roe an even better choice for those suffering from low blood pressure and sodium deficiencies. Check the nutrition table below to find out whether this roe suits your needs.

Nutrition Table

Total Fat0 grams
Saturated Fat0 grams
Trans Fat0 grams
Cholesterol40 milligrams
Sodium340 milligrams
Total Carbohydrates3 grams
Sugars3 grams
Protein1 grams
Serving size of 1 tbsp (15 grams) seasoned tobiko
Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

How Long Is Tobiko Good For?

How Long Does Flying Fish Roe Last?

Tobiko is an excellent food for freezing, as it can last for up to six months. In addition to this, its texture and flavor do not change after freezing.

However, once thawed, it needs to be consumed quickly. It’s best to consume it within three to four days after thawing or when storing in the refrigerator.

Does Tobiko Need To Be Refrigerated?

While it is salt cured, it does need to be refrigerated if you don’t plan on immediately eating it. In the fridge, it can last for around three to four days.

Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

How To Eat Tobiko

Can You Eat Tobiko Raw?

While like eating ‘raw’ salmon, these eggs may seem raw but are actually thoroughly pasteurized through the process of salt curing.

While other types of fish roe can be eaten raw, it is unclear whether this roe is on that list.

What Does Flying Fish Roe Taste Like?

Traditionally, this food is salt-cured. The result of this is a salty, smoky taste.

However, it surprisingly is said to be sweeter than other varieties of fish eggs (roe), so they taste very different to caviar or ikura.

Tobiko When Pregnant – Is It Safe?

Like the side effects of eating shrimp while pregnant, the thought of eating raw fish eggs during pregnancy can be unnerving and bring up questions of safety.

The main takeaway is this – so long it is cooked or pasteurized and refrigerated, its okay. In fact, it may even pro be beneficial!

How To Make Flying Fish Roe Pasta – Sweet Shrimp Spaghetti

Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!

I chose to use this recipe here as it offers an opportunity to learn how to use this roe in your dishes, without making sushi (which can be tricky). It’s a great starter recipe as its quick, easy, and requires minimal preparation.

Despite having limited ingredients, rest assured that it’s very flavorful and indulgent.

To top it all off, this pasta is absolutely perfect for dinner parties – it’s the epitome of a simple, yet fancy-looking dish.

To elevate your pasta just that little bit further, consider using angel-hair pasta or capelini, and using shiso flowers to garnish and season.

If you’re struggling to source certain ingredients, check out your local pan-Asian or Japanese grocer. In lieu of that, you can usually find great quality world-wide ingredients online.

Serves: 6 people

Prep Time:Cook Time:
25 minutes2-5 minutes
Total Time: 30 mins


Your type of pasta of choice, I used spaghetti
1 nori sheet to garnish, finely chopped (optional)
Regular or yuzu tobiko to garnish
30 amaebi (sweet shrimp), peeled
1 lemon’s worth of zest
Finely ground sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil


Time needed: 30 minutes.

How to make Tobiko Pasta

  1. Heat up pasta water

    To begin, place a large pot of heavily salted water on the stove. Turn the heat up high and bring the water to a boil before adding in the pasta.

  2. Cook noodles

    To begin, place a large pot of heavily salted water on the stove. Turn the heat up high and bring the water to a boil before adding in the pasta. Then, cook the pasta till it’s al dente. Drain the water out when done and rinse with cold water.

  3. Prepare shrimp

    While your pasta cooks, set aside between 3 – 6 of the peeled amaebi – these will be used as a garnish. Then, finely cut the remaining shrimp into 5mm pieces (yes, that finely). You should also aside around 1/3 of your roe to use as a garnish.

  4. Prepare pasta

    Rinse your pasta with cold water, then add it to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle in a generous amount of extra virgin or olive oil and mix it in, making sure it lightly coats all of the spaghetti strands. After this, sprinkle in the salt to taste and mix once more

  5. Mix and season

    Mix in the chopped amaebi and the rest of the roe (should be around 60 grams). Use the finest side of your grater to grate the zest over your pasta and mix everything up again, ensuring that it’s all well incorporated. Check to see if the amount of salt is okay, adding a little more if necessary.

  6. Divide and garnish

    Divide the pasta between six appetizer plates and garnish each plate with the remaining whole shrimp, roe, and shiso.

Tobiko: All About This Fish Roe + Bonus Recipe!


What Is Tobiko Made From?

Tobiko is the name for roe (or eggs) that comes from Japanese flying fish.

Is Tobiko Caviar?

Caviar comes from the sturgeon fish and is colored black, while tobiko is orange and harvested from flying fish.

Does Tobiko Need To Be Refrigerated?

It does need to be refrigerated if you don’t plan on immediately eating it. It lasts 3-4 days refrigerated.

Tobiko: The Basics Summarized

Tobiko is the name of the unfertilized roe (eggs) from a certain species of flying fish. These eggs are harvested before fertilization after the female fish lay them. Then, the eggs are inspected for quality and salt-cured to improve flavor and shelf-life. At this point, they may be dyed with squid ink, yuzu, wasabi, or beets.

From there on, you can use the eggs as garnishes in different dishes – most commonly, sushi. They have a crunchy texture with a distinct, salty-sweetish, smoky seafood flavor.

I hope that this guide has been useful and that I answered any questions you may have about tobiko!

Learn more about seafood on the blog:

By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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