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Caviar (also: Persisch خاویار Xāviār ) is cleaned and salted roe (eggs, also: grain / pearl) from various species of sturgeon , which were mainlycaughtin the Black Sea , Sea of ​​Azov , Arctic Ocean and Caspian Sea . The most common species are the sterlet , ( Acipenser ruthenus ) as the smallest, the Siberian sturgeon ( Acipenser baerii ), the Russian sturgeon ( Acipenser gueldenstaedtii ) and the beluga ( Huso huso ), the largest species. Caviar is sometimes called "black gold". Up to now, caviar has mostly been obtained by slaughtering the sturgeon, as only immature eggs (also: grain / pearl) were stable enoughto survivethorough cleaning of gonadal tissue and salting. According to a patent from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) , caviar has been made from stripped eggs since 2014 without killing the sturgeon. In the meantime, the AWI issues licenses worldwide for the sustainable process of ice stabilization in order to enable the production of high-quality caviar from stripped eggs from living sturgeon. The FAO / WHO has included the process of obtaining sturgeon eggs without killing them and processing them into caviar in the Code of Practice for Caviar 2016.

Definition of caviar

According to the FAO Codex Alimentarius , only caviar from the sturgeon family, Acipenseridae, is "real caviar". The salted roe of other fish species, such as the sea ​​hare , is called German caviar. Icelandic caviar is made from capelin roe . These products are called caviar substitutes in specialist shops.

Depending on the preparation, a distinction is made between Malossol (mildly salted) and barrel caviar (salt caviar, heavily mixed with salt ). The most expensive caviar is the beluga caviar. Due to trade bans on wild caviar and overfishing, farmed caviar is becoming increasingly important. After intensive research and development work, caviar from aquaculture can be equated with wild caviar. Alongside China and Saudi Arabia , Israel is a major exporter.

Subdivision of the caviar

Types of caviar

Different types of caviar

There are four types of sturgeon caviar, named after the species of sturgeon they come from:


Beluga comes from the European Hausen ( Huso huso ), which is also called Beluga sturgeon. It is considered the finest and most expensive of the caviar types. It is also the largest with a diameter of 3.5 mm. The eggs are light gray to anthracite in color and have a very thin skin. (blue lid color; very mild) When lifting with a chopstick or small spoon, a faint, smacking or crackling noise occurs; the caviar "sings".

Ossietra ( A. gueldenstaedtii )

Ossetian caviar

Ossietra (also Osietra , Ossetra or Ossiotr ) has a diameter of 2 mm and is taken from the Ossietra sturgeon ( Acipenser gueldenstaedtii , Russian sturgeon ). Compared to Beluga caviar, it is harder-shelled and less sensitive. The grain is silver-gray to black and usually has a golden sheen. (yellow lid color; nutty aroma). Many individuals in the Volga, outwardly classified as Acipenser gueldenstaedtii , have been genetically identified as Acipenser baerii on the basis of sequence analysis of the mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene.

Ossietra ( A. baerii )

The Siberian sturgeon , Acipenser baerii , is most commonly bred in Western Europe . The Siberian sturgeon offers a darker ossietra from anthracite to black and a spicy aroma, which is also called Sibirian Ossietra or Imperial baeri. Depending on the age of the sturgeon, its grain size is 2.2–2.5 mm on average at slaughter. With multiple harvest and stripping of the fully ripe, absolutely clean eggs, they can reach a diameter of 3.4-3.9 mm.


Sevruga are the eggs of the Sevruga sturgeon ( Acipenser stellatus , Sternhausen ) and have a very thin shell and a diameter of 2 mm. The eggs come in all shades of gray. (red or orange lid color; strong and spicy)

White caviar

Sturgeons with a pigment disorder (" albinos ") are bred and produce a yellowish-white caviar. This caviar is considered the most expensive food in the world. Only around 12 kg are produced annually. One of the few production sites is near Salzburg .

Caviar selection

In addition to the classic varieties, the caviar varieties are selected by wholesalers:

  • Royal Black Caviar is the name given to the selected caviar from young Ossietra (18–20 years), which is deep black and has a grain size approx. 1.5 mm.
  • Imperial caviar is the name of the light, golden-brown shimmering Ossietra caviar (30–40 years old) with a grain size of 2–2.5 mm.
  • Ossietra Baeri (Imperial Baeri, Sibirian Ossietra) is the anthracite to black Ossietra caviar from the Siberian sturgeon, which, depending on the age of the sturgeon, is 2.2-2.5 mm on average when slaughtered from aquaculture in Germany, France. With multiple harvest and stripping of the fully ripe eggs using the Vivace process from Germany, they can reach a diameter of 3.4-3.9 mm.
  • Almas caviar is very light in color and comes from particularly old beluga sturgeons (60–80 years old). Almas is now very rare and accordingly expensive. The grain of the Almas caviar has a size of approx. 3.5 mm.

This selection of caviar was introduced by well-known caviar traders in the 1980s and initially established itself as a criterion in the evaluation of caviar, especially in Europe. However, modern methods of caviar production are setting new standards and the terminology for determining the caviar quality is being discussed again in the FAO committees for the Codex Alimentarius, among others. a. to achieve a global standardization of the criteria.

Other names

  • Press caviar; Pajusnaja is an old Russian specialty that has almost been forgotten. The caviar is homogenized (loses its graininess) and slowly compressed in a complex drying process. Creamy or in a solid form, it can be used in upscale gastronomy in petit fours, "caviar lolly", "caviar shot" or scraped as "truffle caviar".
  • Breeding caviar refers to the roe of sturgeon from aquaculture . The preferred sturgeon species are still Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii), but also Russian sturgeon (Acipenser Guldenstaedtii), white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), Adria sturgeon (Acipenser naccarii) and sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus), Amur sturgeon (Acipenser schrenkii) and some intersections.
  • Malossol caviar describes slightly salted caviar (salt content below 6%; see guidelines for fish, crustaceans and molluscs and products made from them. )
  • Barrel caviar (or salt caviar or press caviar ): denotes caviar with around 10 to 12% table salt.

"Caviar" of other fish species

“German caviar” on quail eggs

German caviar

German caviar is obtained from the roe of the sea ​​hare . This is unevenly grainy and is colored black. It serves as an inexpensive substitute for real caviar.

Salmon caviar

Salmon roe

Salmon caviar is very different from real caviar, as the eggs have a natural reddish color and are much larger. The same applies to the eggs of the trout caviar and char caviar, which are slightly smaller than salmon caviar .

Preparation and consumption

Tin with 113 g of Russian caviar
Special place setting for consuming the caviar on noble occasions
The classic from Helmut Thieltges in the Hotel Sonnora: Tart made of beef fillet tartare with imperial caviar

If the surface of the caviar is smooth and shiny after opening the can, this is called a clean mirror . However, if individual eggs stick to the lid of the can, this is evidence that air has penetrated the can or stayed in it. The roe is then not of good quality or even spoiled.

The traditional form of packaging is the airtight, internally coated, slip-lid jar for caviar that is only salted but not heated. Pasteurized caviar (by briefly heating it to 60 ° C) is supplied in screw-top jars and ring-pull cans and can be kept unopened for over a year. On the other hand, caviar Malossol salted, which was produced by slaughtering the sturgeon, has a shelf life of approx. 3 months, whereas when harvested from live sturgeon it can be kept for 6-8 months.

Since environmental awareness is increasing even in the luxury caviar segment, producers tend to use environmentally friendly packaging such as B. Glass. It is therefore no longer true today that glass gourmets only receive pasteurized caviar. In addition to unpleasant flavors, metal cans (tinplate) tend to rust, which is a clear reason for complaint for customers. In addition to glass, aluminum packaging (ring pull) and plastic cans are more product-friendly, but their manufacture is associated with high energy consumption and waste production and is not necessarily appropriate for the high-quality product.

Caviar should not be eaten with metal or even silver spoons, as these have a negative effect on the taste, but rather spoon with plastic or mother-of-pearl . Champagne and dry white wine , e.g. B. Chablis , are recommended as a companion to caviar, as they underline its taste characteristics. Also, vodka drink it. The use of pastries (e.g. crackers) as spoons is also widespread. Another variant is consumption with a little lemon juice and lightly peppered. In some restaurants, caviar is served with crème fraîche , onions and black pepper on a warm blin .


By overfishing , poaching and habitat destruction wild stocks of sturgeon have declined dramatically over the past 20 years. All 27 sturgeon species have been under the protection of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( CITES) since 1998 . It is officially no longer allowed to sell wild-caught caviar.

In the meantime, among others, German breeding farms have succeeded in obtaining roe from the difficult to keep sturgeon. It is hoped that the wild population of the sturgeon will slowly recover. However, poaching is by no means over, the catch quotas on the lower Volga and the Caspian Sea are still far exceeded. Ecologists therefore warn consumers not to buy or eat caviar of unknown origin. A help is to pay attention to the correct CITES number on the bottom label, because all genuine sturgeon caviar products must be provided with this code.


Although it would be sufficient to preserve the natural product caviar only with salt, it is often colored with brilliant black BN (E 151), indigo carmine (E 132), yellow orange S (E 110) and quinoline yellow (E 104) and with sorbitol , sodium glutamate , guar gum , xanthan gum , locust bean gum and sodium benzoate is added. At the 30th meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Committee for Fish and Fish Products it was found that no ADI values ​​(Allowed Daily Intake) could be set by the JECFA for borax (E 285) as additives and preservatives and that borax is therefore not permitted in the standard. Nevertheless, numerous producers still use borax. Iran, China and Russia add borax (E 285) to caviar for Europe, with a maximum amount of 4 g / kg. Borax is banned as an additive in the USA and is therefore only contained in caviar shipments to Europe. The toxicology of borax has been well researched, it is considered dangerous to health. It damages fertility and reproduction is impaired, it accumulates in the body because it is only excreted in small quantities. In addition, borax can irritate the eyes, respiratory system and skin - at the moment borax is only approved for the preservation of real caviar (sturgeon roe).

Vegetarian caviar

El Bulli : Melon Caviar, 2004

“Vegetarian caviar” is made on the basis of alginate from brown algae with flavoring , coloring and other additives. It imitates real caviar in appearance, consistency and taste. In addition, there are preparations made from a wide variety of foods in molecular cuisine, which, thanks to the use of alginate, are reminiscent of caviar in appearance and consistency. A well-known example is the "spherical melon caviar" by Ferran Adrià .


The term caviar probably goes back to an Iranian tribe who live on the Caspian Sea. If one follows reports of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, caviar was already in the 5th century BC. Consumed. The khedives were known for their physical strength and ate a lot of caviar. The prepared Störei was called Cahv-Jar and means "cake of joy" or "cake of strength". There are further assumptions about the origin of the term: A common opinion is, for example, that the word caviar (Persian: khaviar) comes from the Persian “khag-viar” - a term used in the Middle Persian language area for “black little fish egg”. It is also possible to derive it from the Persian word "Caviyar", a combination of "Caya" (egg) and the suffix "-dar" (carrying).

In the Middle Ages, the sturgeon became more and more common in European society. In 1324 the English King Edward II declared the sturgeon to be a “royal fish”: only people at the royal court were allowed to eat sturgeon. This tradition continues to this day, any wild-caught sturgeon from the waters around the UK is still owned by the monarch.

For a long time, the Russians had a patent issued to the citizen Lianosoff on roe revenue utilization in the Caspian Sea (1893-1928). In 1928 this monopoly fell in favor of an Iranian-Soviet company with shares of 25% and 75%. This contract in turn was dissolved in 1953. All rights went to an Iranian company.



The proportion of production from aquaculture is constantly increasing because the classic sturgeon species, to which we owe Sevruga, Ossietre and Beluga caviar, are as good as fished out. Of the 27 known sturgeon species, 17 are considered extinct. There are currently around 90 aquacultures worldwide that are operated with the aim of producing caviar. The annual production of all sturgeon breeding facilities is estimated at 200–250 tons.

In 2013, around 58 t of caviar were produced in German aquaculture companies. This was 14% more than in the previous year. However, this figure does not include the amount of caviar that is produced in companies that buy the sturgeon live from aquaculture companies and then extract the caviar.

Italy is considered the largest producer of caviar in Europe and the second largest in the world after China with 70 percent of the fish farmed. Aquaculture in Calvisano produces around 60 t of sturgeon eggs per year (as of 2015). Over 4 t are exported to Russia, but the country of origin is not shown there in order to circumvent import embargoes.


According to the Federal Statistical Office, 17,400 kg of caviar were imported into Germany in 2002 . Compared to the previous year, this was a decrease of 5.4%. The sturgeon was primarily due to Iran (77%, 13,400 kg), Russia (16% 2,800 kg) and Romania (5%, 800 kg). If the import figures are used as a benchmark, the demand for caviar seems to be significantly lower today than in the 1990s: in 1993, almost 100,000 kg of caviar were imported into Germany. However, the decline in imports is also related to the internal production of caviar in aquaculture facilities and breeding farms.

At the moment (December 2015), depending on the source and quality, about 2,000 to 4,500 euros per kilogram of Beluga-Malossol are required in retail  ; Sevruga and Ossietra cost about half the price. At 100 to 500 euros per kilogram, salmon caviar is much lower in price.

In 2006 a general import ban on caviar was imposed on goods from Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan . The export quotas were withdrawn from the countries by CITES, the UN convention for the protection of species, because information on the management of the sturgeon stocks in the Caspian Sea and on caviar smuggling were refused.

To prevent the beluga sturgeon from becoming completely extinct, the USA issued a general import ban on beluga caviar with effect from September 30, 2005.

See also



  • Caviar without bloodshed - researcher lets sturgeon live. Documentary, Germany, 2014, 29 min., Script and director: Till Oeppert, production: Radio Bremen , first broadcast: July 26, 2014 on ARD .
  • Caviar - the treasure from Iran. Documentation, Germany, 2009, 60 min., Written and directed: Dariusch Rafiy, production: arte , WDR , series: 360 ° - GEO Reportage, first broadcast: May 2, 2009, on GEO TV.
  • The caviar mafia. Millions of fish eggs. Documentation, Germany, 2007, 30 min., Script and director: Rita Knobel-Ulrich , production: NDR , series: ARD-Exclusiv, first broadcast: April 28, 2007 on NDR.
  • Black, red - gold value. Caviar luxury to spoon. Documentation, Germany, 2005, 30 min., Script and direction: Eva Gerberding and André Schäfer, production: Radio Bremen , first broadcast: January 1, 2006 on ARD .
  • The main thing is caviar! Documentary, Germany, 2004, 43 min., Script and direction: Eva Gerberding and André Schäfer, speaker: Mechthild Großmann , production: Florianfilm, Radio Bremen , arte , series: culinary delights, first broadcast: November 29, 2004 on arte, by Florianfilm .

Web links

Commons : Caviar  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Caviar  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Florence Fabricant: Champagne Sommelier, Candied Fruit Slices and More. In: New York Times . December 23, 2013, accessed September 23, 2016 .
  2. Laura Hertreiter: Incident. (PDF, 337 kB) (No longer available online.) In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , No. 253 ,. November 2, 2012, p. 1 , archived from the original on June 27, 2013 ; accessed on September 23, 2016 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. ^ Joint FAO / WHO Food Standards Program Codex Alimentarius Commission; Thirty-ninth Session, REP16 / CAC, July 2016.
  4. Juliane von Mittelstaedt: Holy roe . In: Der Spiegel . No. 33 , 2012, p. 80 ( online ).
  5. at 40:56
  6. Video on albino breeding: rarity. White caviar from Austria is worth gold . In: Die Welt , December 18, 2012, 1:55 min., (Accessed on July 27, 2014).
  7. Caviar selections . on , accessed on July 27, 2014.
  8. ^ A b Protecting An Endangered Species - CITES. Accessed September 10, 2018 .
  9. a b A History of Desire - The Legend of Caviar - Attilus Kaviar. Accessed September 10, 2018 .
  10. ^ History of the caviar . on , accessed on July 27, 2014.
  11. Denis Wright: Persia (caviar). Atlantis Verlag, Zurich / Freiburg i. B. 1970, p. 177 ff.
  12. Farmed Caviar: Good Eggs, Bad Eggs , December 12, 2013, Manager Magazin
  13. Production of fish in aquaculture increased by 4.2% in 2013 . Federal Office of Statistics
  14. Italy delivers its caviar to Russia
  15. Russians eat caviar from Italy
  16. The comeback of caviar: aquaculture makes it possible
  17. Europe's largest caviar production facility Calvisius Kaviar from Lake Garda, November 21, 2017, Gourmetwelten
  18. ^ Table of contents ( Memento from August 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) from Radio Bremen
  19. Note
  20. ^ Table of contents by ARD
  21. ^ Table of contents from Radio Bremen
  22. ↑ Table of contents ( Memento of the original from September 23, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. from arte @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /