What Is Masago And How To Store Smelt Roe


What is Masago(smelt roe)?

Masago is a type of fish roe, or eggs, that comes from the capelin fish. Capelin is a small, silvery fish found in cold waters like the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

Scientifically it is termed as Mallotus villosus.

It’s a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine, especially sushi. It is known for its tiny size, vibrant orange color, and slightly salty, briny taste.

Here are some key points:

  1. Size: The eggs are very small, typically only about 1 millimeter in diameter. This makes them perfect for adding pops of texture and color to dishes.
  2. Color: While the natural color is a pale yellow, it’s often dyed bright orange or red for aesthetic purposes.
  3. Taste: It has a mild, salty, and slightly fishy taste. It’s not as strong-flavored as some other types of roe, like tobiko (flying fish roe).
  4. Texture: It has a crunchy, popping texture that adds a fun element to dishes.
  5. Nutrition: It is a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12. However, it’s also high in sodium, so it’s best to enjoy it in moderation.

Other names of Masago

Smelt roe is commonly known as masago in Japanese cuisine. It is also known by other names such as Masago(in Japanese), Smelt roe(English), Orange Row, Capelin roe, and Flying fish roe.

Smelt roe nutritional value

Now let’s see what value it adds to your body.

Smelt roe is not only low in calories, but it also provides protein and healthy fats. Plus it provides more than 50 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 in each serving.

One tablespoon (about 15 grams) of masago, the tiny orange fish eggs often used in sushi, contains:

  1. Calories: 40-45
  2. Fat: 2-3 grams, mostly healthy fats like omega-3s
  3. Protein: 3-4 grams
  4. Carbohydrates: Less than 1 gram
  5. Vitamin B12: 53% of the Daily Value (DV)
  6. Selenium: 15% of the DV
  7. Magnesium: 12% of the DV
  8. Iron: 11% of the DV
  9. Sodium: 10% of the DV
  10. Vitamin D: 9% of the DV

It is also a good source of other nutrients, including phosphorus, riboflavin, and folate.

Benefits of Smelt Roe

It is packed with nutrients that offer a surprising array of health benefits. Here are some of the health benefits of eating it:

1. Brainpower Booster.

It is a great source of vitamin B12, which is essential for cognitive function and memory. Studies have shown that adequate B12 levels may help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

2. It is Heart-Healthy.

It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the good fats that play a key role in keeping your heart healthy. Omega-3s can help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and decrease your risk of heart disease.

3. Thyroid Guardian.

Selenium, another abundant nutrient in masago, is crucial for proper thyroid function. It helps regulate the production of thyroid hormones, which control metabolism, mood, and energy levels.

4. It is a Micronutrient Powerhouse.

Masago isn’t just about the big three nutrients. It’s also a good source of other essential vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron, phosphorus, riboflavin, and folate, all of which contribute to overall health and well-being.

5. It helps in Weight Management.

Despite being a delicious and satisfying treat, it is surprisingly low in calories and carbohydrates. This makes it a perfect snack option for those watching their weight, as it can help you feel full without packing on the pounds.

6. Sustainable Seafood Choice.

Compared to larger fish, capelin (the source of masago) is lower on the food chain and has shorter lifespans. This means they accumulate less mercury, making masago a more sustainable and eco-friendly seafood choice.

Overall, it is a delicious and nutritious little gem that can add a pop of flavor and a boost of health to your diet. So next time you see those orange orbs at the sushi bar, don’t hesitate to give them a try!

Also Read: Avocado: The Superfood You Need in Your Diet.

The potential downside of Capelin roe

While it offers a good source of nutrients and potential health benefits, there are also downsides to consider when consuming it:

1. High Sodium Content.

As mentioned earlier, one tablespoon of masago packs around 10% of the recommended daily sodium intake. Excessive sodium consumption can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems. If you have hypertension, are at risk of cardiovascular issues, or follow a low-sodium diet, it’s best to limit or avoid it altogether.

2. Potential for Allergic Reactions.

Like other types of seafood, it can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Symptoms may include skin rash, hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis.

If you have any history of seafood allergies, it’s important to be cautious when trying it for the first time.

3. Sustainability Concerns.

Some masago comes from wild-caught capelin, a small forage fish. Overfishing of capelin can have negative consequences for the marine ecosystem. Look for masago sourced from sustainable fisheries or farmed varieties to help ensure responsible consumption.

4. Mercury Contamination.

While not as high in mercury as some larger fish, it can still contain trace amounts of this neurotoxin. This is especially concerning for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children, as mercury can harm brain development.

How to include Masago in your diet?


Including it in your diet is as simple as eating an apple. We have listed some ways to include it in your diet.

Here are some ideas for how to include it in your diet:

  1. Sushi: The most common use, as vibrant orange pops of flavor atop nigiri sushi or nestled within maki rolls.
  2. Sashimi: A sprinkle of masago adds a contrasting texture and salty accent to fresh sashimi slices.
  3. Poke Bowls: A vibrant and flavorful topping for poke bowls, complementing the fresh fish and creamy avocado.
  4. Salads: A delightful topping for salads, adding pops of flavor and texture alongside greens, vegetables, and protein.
  5. Soups: It can be added to soups for a seafood flavor.
  6. Savory Dips: Mix it with mayonnaise, sriracha, and lime juice for a spicy and umami-rich dip for crudités or seafood.

Also Read: What is Moringa Powder? 14 Benefits, Risks, Uses.

How long can masago last and how to store it?

Now, the main question arises, how long can it last, and how to store it properly?

The shelf life of masago depends on whether it’s opened or unopened and on how you store it:

Unopened Masago:

  1. Refrigerator: Up to 5 days. Store it in its original sealed container in the coldest part of the fridge, typically the back.
  2. Freezer: Up to 6 months. Transfer it to an airtight, freezer-safe container before freezing.

Opened Masago:

Refrigerator: 2-3 days. Transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the coldest part of the fridge.

Storage tips:

  1. Refrigerate: Always store unopened masago in the refrigerator, at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below.
  2. Airtight container: Once opened, transfer any leftovers to an airtight container to prevent it from drying out or absorbing other flavors from the fridge.
  3. No freezing and thawing: Avoid freezing and thawing it multiple times, as this can affect its texture and quality.
  4. Freezing tip: If you plan to freeze it, portion it out into smaller containers before freezing. This will make it easier to use just the amount you need.

Signs of spoilage:

  1. Discoloration: If it turns a dull or grayish color, it’s past its prime.
  2. Odor: Fresh masago should have a mild, slightly salty scent. If it smells fishy or off, discard it.
  3. Texture: Spoiled masago may become mushy or slimy.

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