Everything You Need to Know About Masago

A popular addition to most sushi

The fact that you’re reading this means you have come across Masago and want to know more about what it is. Well, Masago is a common ingredient found in Japanese cuisine.

Although originating in Japan, Masago has increased in popularity throughout various regions of the world but still remains most famous with sushi chefs within Japan.

Masago is the edible fish eggs of the capelin fish. You can distinguish it thanks to vivid, bright colors. And, you will know the taste and texture of Masago as soon as it’s in your mouth. Versatile with a beneficial health profile, Masago can be enjoyed in many recipes.

With its healthy fats, essential nutrients, and healthy levels of protein, Masago is a food you should try at least once. 

If you want to find out more about this tasty ingredient, read on as we find out exactly what Masago is, what it tastes like, and the effects it can have on our health.

Masago: What is it?

Also known as ‘smelt roe,’ Masago is a type of edible fish egg that comes from the fish species capelin.

These fish are mostly found in the North Pacific, North Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans. Belonging to the smelt family of fish, the capelin is enjoyed as a staple food in species such as harp seals, codfish, seabirds, seals, whales, and the Atlantic cod.

fresh raw capelin fish for masago

With a small stature and a silvery-green body, capelin closely resembles sardines. But, unlike sardines, capelin are sought after to make various products such as Masago. In fact, over 70% of caught capelin is used for fish meals and fish oil products. The remaining 20% to 30% is used to produce Masago. 

Although harvested for edible purposes, the meat of capelin is rarely consumed. Masago roe, however, is commonly used as the main ingredient in a range of traditional Japanese dishes.

Masago is harvested when the female capelin are full of eggs. However, this occurs before any spawning takes place. Once the eggs have been retrieved, they are mainly used as ingredients in sushi roll toppings. The eggs have a pale yellow tint to them but they are often dyed with bright, vivid colors such as red, orange, and green. This is to make dishes more interesting to look at.

What Does Masago Taste Like?

Masago has a sweet as well as savory flavor. They are popular as the small eggs provide an additional kick to most dishes.

As well as sushi recipes, Masago is often used in other seafood dishes and is commonly used to boost the flavor profile of various sauces and dips, too. 

While it tends to have quite a mild flavor, Masago is sometimes mixed with other ingredients such as wasabi, ginger, and even squid ink to produce a stronger, more heightened taste for dishes.

Masago Health Benefits

As with other forms of fish roe, Masago is a pretty nutrient-dense food. It’s low in calories but very high in some important nutrients. These include selenium, B12, and magnesium.

Just 1-ounce of Masago contains 6 grams of protein, 7% of the daily value for Vitamin C, 10% of the daily value of Vitamin E, 12% of the daily value of Vitamin B12, 12% of the daily value of B2 (Riboflavin), 6% of the daily value of Folate, and 16% of the daily value of Selenium.

The same amount also contains just 40 calories, 2 grams of fat, under 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 6 grams of protein.

Masago is also a natural source of vitamin D so is a great food to help combat fatigue, depression, anxiety, or insomnia. 

Masago, and other types of fish roe, is also loaded with amino acids such as valine, lysine, leucine, isoleucine, and phenylalanine. These building blocks of protein are essential in muscle repair and protein synthesis.

Masago Health Drawbacks

Although there are many health benefits to Masago, there are also some drawbacks to the fish eggs. Firstly, Masago contains around 10 percent of the daily value recommended of sodium to an individual in just one tablespoon.

For those who suffer from heart complications or high blood pressure, Masago may not be the best option. Too much sodium can also lead to stomach cancer and bone deterioration.

sushi roll topped with masago

Although Masago is relatively healthy on its own, it is often mixed with unhealthy ingredients, especially in sushi recipes. Many of these ingredients contain refined carbs and other harmful components that can lead to a risk of foodborne illnesses and parasitic infections. 

In small doses, however, Masago is deemed to be a healthy food for a variety of dishes.

Final Thoughts

Masago is a popular type of edible fish egg from the species capelin. Predominantly used in Japan, Masago is most often found in sushi and other seafood dishes. 

Low in calories but high in key nutrients like protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, Masago can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Just eat in moderation due to the relatively high sodium levels within the eggs.

Thinking of making sushi at home? Check out which brand of sushi rice you should buy!

What’s your favorite way to eat masago? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.