How Long is Caviar Good For?

Caviar is one of those fancy people foods, right? Wrong! Caviar has become a luxury item that many people can enjoy even on everyday occasions.

While beluga caviar claims the title as the largest, rarest, and most expensive caviar at close to $3,500 per pound, this delicacy of fish roe can come from several types of fish, and even a few non-fishy sources for those who don’t eat fish for much less than $3,500.   

However, once you invest in such a luxury item, you want to make sure that it doesn’t go bad before you have the chance to eat it. So just how long is caviar good for?

Generally speaking, if the package is unopened, caviar will stay fresh for about a month; however, opened caviar will only last about 3-5 days in the fridge. Make sure to store it in the very bottom drawer of the fridge to prolong its shelf life.  

For the most part, caviar does not keep its quality for as long as other specialty products and requires specialized treatment to increase its relatively short shelf-life.

The ideal temperature for storing caviar is around 28 to 30 ⁰F. The average temperature of a typical refrigerator is usually set between 33 to 40⁰ Fahrenheit.

However, most refrigerators will not reach the ideal temperature for caviar, so to keep the caviar fresh, put it in the very bottom drawer, which is usually the coldest part of the fridge.

Freezing caviar will usually destroy the delicate texture of the roe.

The best way to store caviar on a regular basis is usually in the refrigerator. Most caviars will keep for about a month in the fridge before opening and serving.

If you plan on keeping it longer, the freezer is the way to go. 

However, if you can’t resist popping the tin open and eating it right away, you won’t have long to keep your caviar fresh.

Here are some ways to know if your caviar is fresh and how to keep it that way.

How Do You Know If Your Caviar is Fresh or Expired?

To know whether your caviar is fresh or expired there are several commonsense things you can do to find out. 

For example, checking the packaging allows you to check for damage and to make sure the seal is intact.

Checking for a fresh or foul smell is definitely something that you should do.   And check the expiration date.

If the date is close to expiring or has expired, the caviar is probably not fresh.

Step 1: Check the Packaging for Openings or Damage

If it is open, check to make sure the caviar inside the package is still sealed.

Expired caviar can be served, but it loses flavor and texture further from the use-by date.

If the packaging is damaged or the inside of the package is not sealed, throw it away because it could be a sign that the caviar stored is dangerous to consume.

Step 2: Smell the Caviar

Spoiled caviar can have an almost overpowering fishy smell to it which is not pleasant at all. Fresh caviar should have a fresh, clean smell.

If your caviar has gone bad, it will not be hard to notice.

You may notice a change in odor when the cans or jars start to rust as well. It’s best to dispose of those cans or jars immediately if you notice rust on the metal.

Always check the color of the caviar you plan to serve and know exactly what your product should look like beforehand so that you won’t be disappointed if it ends up being out of date.

For some roes, older caviar turns black, while other fresh caviars maintain a natural yellow, gray, or orange color.

However, some more expensive caviars, such as beluga caviar are jet black when completely fresh, and changes to a grayish color just before it goes bad, even a little brown if it sits longer.

See if the eggs float. Fresh eggs should sink to the bottom of a glass of water, while expired caviar will float to the top.

If you see any floating caviar, it’s best to throw the whole tin out.  

Fresh eggs will make a slight indentation if touched and will hold together very well. Expired caviar will weaken and break apart easily if touched.

Fresh water-packed caviar will have small, firm opaque beads; if the eggs look milky white and feel soft, don’t eat them.

Also note, if they’re tightly covered with skin and difficult to squeeze, chances are you’re dealing with a bad batch of caviar from a can that has gone off prematurely.

This should give you an idea of how long it’s been sitting on the shelf and how long you have before you need to eat it.

Tartlets with red and black caviar isolated on white background.

How Long Will Caviar Last in the Fridge?

In the fridge, the amount of time before caviar spoils depends largely on how the caviar was processed, whether it was pasteurized or not, how it has been stored, and how much it has been exposed to the air.

Generally speaking, the shelf life of a vacuum-sealed container of caviar is between 4 to 6 weeks at temperatures between 26° to 36° F.

Depending on the type of caviar you have, it may keep longer than the 6 weeks, but the quality of the roe will most likely suffer after a month.

If the caviar is pasteurized and still sealed, it could be kept for about one year.

Pasteurizing roe does decrease the quality of its texture and flavor, but using high heat to kill bacteria and other contaminants is the safest means of protecting fresh products. 

Pasteurized caviar and pressed caviar are the only types of caviar that do not need to be refrigerated when unopened.

Every other type of caviar does need to be refrigerated when opened to maintain its quality and taste, as well as prevent spoiling.

Of course, the best way to preserve the quality of your caviar is to keep it unopened and refrigerated until it is time to serve it.  

Keeping the containers vacuum sealed prevents any contamination from the environment, which makes the smaller size containers a better option for personal use rather than the larger containers.  

For sealed containers, chilled caviar (except for Premium Sturgeon caviar) in tins and jars can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 18 months, given the product is chilled at the temperature recommended on the packaging, however, always check the bottom of the jar for the expiration dates.

Once a jar of caviar is opened, air enters and creates a perfect environment for bacteria and contaminants to grow and multiply.

If you are serving caviar, remember that perishable foods like caviar only keep for about two hours if unrefrigerated, and one hour if the temperatures in the serving area are 90⁰ F or above, before they need to be thrown out. 

However,  if the caviar is refrigerated within this time frame, caviar can be kept for two to three days, as long as the container is resealed and stored in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, under a bag of ice.

After the jar or can has been opened, minimize the caviar’s exposure to air, so any leftovers you plan on saving for later should be returned to the fridge.

To limit air exposure during re-storing, put the lid back on tightly.

With screw-top glass jars, first use a piece of food-grade plastic wrap to cover the open product before screwing on the lid. You could even wrap the whole container with plastic wrap as well.

No matter the quality of the caviar, any low salt caviar should be stored in a refrigerator, at about 32⁰ F or lower, preferably on a sealed bag of ice to maintain the ideal temperature.

Whether you’re storing an opened container or a sealed tin from the store, make sure to keep it in your fridge’s bottom drawer (or coldest part), if necessary, on a bag of ice (Source).  

If the caviar has been frozen, it can be thawed in the fridge. Once-thawed caviar should be stored as chilled on a bag of ice and can be kept up to 10 days. 

However, there are some common mistakes people make when storing caviar in the fridge.

Other food getting into the caviar. You must take caviar out of the container with clean tableware (preferably not metal).

If food gets into the caviar container it will lead to bacteria, or other microorganisms fermenting in the container, and the caviar will go bad. 

Storing caviar without a lid.  Leaving caviar in the fridge without a lid is a mistake because the caviar will absorb the odor and flavor of the other food in the fridge.

Not only that, but without a lid, the caviar will dry out and the moisture from the packaging and caviar will evaporate.

Long freezing. According to experts, freezing caviar is permissible, but should only be resorted to as a last resort.

Caviar does not deteriorate in the freezer, but it loses its taste and becomes watery. Also, rich in various vitamins and microelements, caviar loses some of its beneficial properties, or their effect decreases.

Touching caviar with your hands. Our skin contains multitudes of microbes.

While some are useful and some are harmless, many can cause harm in certain conditions.

If someone touches caviar with bare hands, this enables the microbes to migrate to the product, which could cause the caviar to deteriorate faster and become inedible.

After opening your jar or tin of caviar to serve to your guests, or eat by yourself, there is a very short timeline for keeping the caviar out of the fridge.

No matter the type of caviar, Romanoff, Salmon, or even Cowboy Caviar, experts recommend not keeping the caviar out for more than 48 hours, or less if the temperature is high, or you risk introducing the bacterium that cause food poisoning.

How long will caviar last in the freezer?

Freezing generally extends the shelf life of unopened non-pasteurized caviar about a year.  

Once the container is thawed and opened, however, the caviar will begin to dry out from air contamination, which causes the caviar to lose flavor and texture. Pasteurized caviar does not normally need to be frozen to extend its shelf life.

No matter if the product is pasteurized or not, freezing caviar can help extend the shelf life of some caviars for more than a year.

Roe from certain species keep better in a frozen environment than others, but each time you freeze and thaw caviar will intensify the softening of the flavor and texture of the caviar.  

Under no circumstances can you freeze the expensive kinds (Beluga, Osetra, or Sevruga Sturgeon caviar); they are too delicate to be frozen.

Freezing the caviar is not necessarily the problem when discussing the taste and texture of caviar. The best way to keep caviar’s perfect taste and texture, according to experts, is not to freeze it.

When caviar is frozen the membrane around the roe becomes tougher, which can have an adverse effect on different parts of the caviar, such as the texture of the caviar (which can range from firm to melt-in-your-mouth, to a “pop” and crackle effect), a less intense flavor, or the caviar could burst after thawing.  

To reduce these effects, reduce the time the caviar is frozen and increase the time you thaw the caviar.

For the best results, it helps to freeze caviar in an air-tight container and to fill it to the very top.

Before freezing, salmon roe must be placed in a colander and rinsed, letting excess liquid drain. Then the caviar is salted with a little vegetable oil and sorbic acid added to it.

Put the salted salmon roe in small clean, dry glass containers. Seal the containers.

Put the salmon rot in the freezer, set to the “fast freeze” mode. Make sure there are no temperature drops in the freezer.

When you freeze fish roe, it helps that the caviar is fresh (if purchased by weight, it must be frozen on the first or second day after purchase; if canned, it must be frozen no more than 3-4 days after opening.).

After opening, the caviar must be poured into glass containers. Before freezing, salmon roe must be placed in a colander to remove the liquid. 

Some experts say to rinse with water, but this method could cause the eggs to burst after thawing. Simply stirring with a spoon in the sieve to remove the liquid is fine.

Sandwiches with red and black fish caviar on lettuce.

It is necessary to use dry and clean jars (made of glass) for storage, which can be hermetically closed, and monitor the temperature in the freezer to reduce the risk of temperature fluctuations.

Plastic containers and disposable cups could cause the caviar to react with the polymers in the plastic and make the food taste off.  

Gently spoon the caviar into the glass jars (about 50-100 grams). The smaller the volume, the easier it is to eat within 1-2 days after defrosting it.

Next, pour odorless vegetable oil into each jar of caviar (1 tsp for 50 grams of caviar). Gently shake the jar so the oil is evenly distributed throughout the caviar.

The vegetable oil will protect the eggs from breaking during the freezing process. Salmon roe frozen in this way will retain its appearance, structure, and taste.

Frozen caviar does need several days to thaw for several days before you intend to serve it.

A rapid thaw will damage the roe and cause them to burst, which leads to a very mushy caviar, rather than individual eggs.

The best way to defrost frozen caviar is to keep it in a covered container while it thaws. Take it out of the freezer and pop it into the fridge. Put it in the coldest part of the fridge that you can.

This is usually towards the back of the fridge. Allow the caviar to defrost slowly for several hours.

If possible, take it out of the freezer the night before you plan to use it and allow it to thaw out all night.

Some roe, however, cannot be frozen, like “real” sturgeon caviar.  It is too delicate.  For the fresh roe, it should pop when you bite down on it.

Freezing causes the roe to become mushy and lose its signature pop.

How Long is Caviar’s Shelf Life?

Caviar should be eaten within three weeks of purchasing.

However, when stored correctly small tins of vacuum-sealed caviar can last for several months. However, once opened caviar only lasts a few days.

The shelf life of caviar also includes whether you can leave it out while serving it.

Experts recommend that due to air contamination, caviar should only sit out while serving for two hours at the most, and only one hour if the temperature is over 90⁰F no matter the kind of caviar it is.  

The more air the caviar is exposed to, the more chances there are for microbes and bacterium to cause food poisoning.

The ideal temperature for storing unpasteurized caviar is 28° – 34° to preserve the best quality. The bottom, back part of the fridge is the coldest.

Additionally, you can put your unopened tin in a bowl of ice in the fridge. Since caviar is salted, its freezing point is a bit lower.

It’s best to consume the whole tin once opened.

However, opened caviar can be preserved for a few extra days by placing a layer of plastic wrap on the surface of the caviar before applying lid.

This will minimize the caviar’s contact with air and increase its shelf life.

ItemFridge/

 

Unopened

Fridge/ OpenedFreezer/

 

Unopened

Freezer/

 

Opened

On Shelf/ unopenedOn Shelf/ opened
Romanoff CaviarN/AEat within 7 days.Can add up to 1 year6 months to 1 year2 years before opening (pasteurized)2 hours
Cowboy CaviarNA4-6 days0 days0 daysNA1-2 hours
Salmon Caviar4 to 6 weeks 1-2 weeks.Up to 1 yearUp to 1 yearN/A2 hours
Malossol4 weeks10 days1 yearUp to 1 yearN/A2 hours

Does Caviar Go Bad?

Strictly speaking, yes, it does. Caviar that is exposed to open air can lose its freshness, become exposed to microbes, and depending on temperature, become spoiled, potentially leading to food poisoning.

Any caviar in a previously opened container that’s left at room temperature should be assumed to be expired after a 24-hour period.

How to Tell If Caviar Is Bad

No one wants to spend money on an expensive delicacy and have it go bad when it’s time to serve or eat it. 

Fresh caviar should sink to the bottom while sour or expired caviar will float on top.

If you notice some floating egg caviar, it’s probably best to just throw the whole batch out.

Here are some other ways to tell if your caviar has turned, such as smell; dark, or discolored eggs; a bitter taste; and sticky mucus. 

A Horrible Smell

The smell of spoiled caviar is impossible to confuse with anything else.

As the protein breakdown, products “smell” so specifically that there is usually no doubt about the product’s spoilage. 

Fresh caviar should only have a faint, pleasant smell of the sea.

All other smells, like rancid fat, alcohol, oxidized metal, and rotten fish, are signs of spoiled caviar, which should never be on a festive table, but in the trash can as soon as you smell it.

The Caviar Has a Bitter Taste

Although caviar of some fish, like the Sockeye Salmon, is bitter on its own, in the caviar of most other fish, there should be no bitterness at all, even in an aftertaste.

There are several reasons that caviar could have a bitter taste, such as the gallbladder of the fish being damaged during cutting; banned preservatives were used and not indicated on the package; fat oxidation occurred because the caviar was exposed to the open air for too long; the caviar was stored incorrectly or subjected to freezing-thawing processes.

The Caviar Eggs Are Dark or Discolored

If you see that caviar eggs acquired a dark color or are rotting, throw them away immediately, or you can get severe food poisoning.

The Caviar Is Sticky

If the caviar is covered with a slippery, dark-colored mucus then the caviar is spoiled.

The Ingredients Aren’t Fresh (non-fish varieties)

For varieties like Cowboy Caviar, if the vegetables, beans, or herbs aren’t fresh, the caviar won’t be as tasty, nor will it last as long. 

What is Caviar?

Specifically, caviar is food made from salted fish eggs or hard roes and sold in small tins.

True “caviar” comes from the sturgeon family of fish from the Black and Caspian Seas, which fetches the highest prices due to their quality.

In the United States, caviar is defined as the cured roe of sturgeon or other large fish, eaten as a delicacy.

So, the United States allows manufacturers to label any salt-cured Fish Roe as Caviar, no matter what fish it comes from since it is salted using the same process. 

While caviar connoisseurs might only eat the roe from sturgeons, there are several other options for people who would like cheaper options, such as salmon roe, trout roe, hackleback roe, paddlefish roe, or even cowboy caviar and seaweed caviar.

For those who do not like to wait for someone to harvest, cure, pack, and ship their caviar, there is a way to make your own as well.

No matter what type of fish the eggs are harvested from, the two main ingredients for any caviar are fish roe and salt which create two dominant tastes for the dish.

As many caviar lovers will tell you, don’t imagine some smelly fish, think more in the direction of the cool breeze you can sometimes feel on the sea.

This is the fresh part of the aroma. The roe is a soft gelatin orb that can pop in your mouth and release the liquids contained inside.

Cake with black caviar and parsley on a metal platter.

What Kinds of Caviar Are There?

There are many kinds of caviar from the Black and Caspian Seas, which is considered “true” caviar since it comes from the sturgeon, as well as fish roes that many people call caviar.

However, the different kinds of fish roe have different color eggs, different tastes, and even different ways to process the eggs.

One way to classify types of caviar is to separate them by ways of processing.

Malossol

A literal translation of a Russian term for “little salt.” This process is used to show that the fish roe was processed using the least amount of salt possible.

Many agree that less salt is better for the quality of the caviar, but less salt also means that the caviar becomes highly perishable and therefore more expensive.

Salted

Technically, all caviars and roes are salted in some ways. However, some are more salted than others.

Most connoisseurs prefer the Molossol process with less salt content.

Pressed

Also known as payusnaya or pajusnaya, this type of caviar is made from the broken, weak, or even damaged eggs that come through the sieving process.

They are treated, salted, and pressed to produce caviar that has a jam-like consistency and is mostly used in recipes or as a spread.

Pasteurized: Pasteurized caviar tends to be firmer than the other types. The caviar is heat-treated and then vacuum-packed into glass jars for preservation.

Most connoisseurs claim this changes the texture and taste of the caviar. 

The “Real Caviar” Types

Farmed Caviar”

American Caviar: American caviar is from the roe of sturgeon that is native to the U.S., such as Wild Atlantic Sturgeon, Lake Sturgeon, White Sturgeon, among others.
Paddlefish Caviar: Paddlefish roe is sometimes marketed as American Caviar and is often marketed as a great alternative to Beluga caviar, due to its smooth texture and rich, buttery flavor. The eggs are clear and glossy, with colors that range from light gray to steel gray.

Hackleback Caviar: Hackleback caviar comes from the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

It has firm, medium-sized beads that come in a rich, glossy black color. It has a sweet, buttery, and slightly nutty taste and makes a great substitute for Beluga and Sevruga caviars.

Bowfin Caviar: Bowfin Caviar, or sometimes better known as “Cajun caviar” or Choupique, has small black beads. They are firm with a mild flavor, but the texture is sometimes chalky, which makes them better for use in recipes.

Salmon Caviar: Salmon caviar is popular with sushi chefs all over the world, especially for its bright reddish-orange color and medium to large sized eggs, even larger than Beluga eggs.

The eggs have a distinctive flavor of salmon and an intense “popping” sensation when eaten. Some people liken it to eating “pop rocks,” the popping candy.

Whitefish Caviar: Whitefish caviar comes in a wide range of colors, such as black, red, and golden orange.

The eggs are small and crunchy, but the flavor is so mild, that chefs love to infuse assorted flavors into them, like saffron, or ginger, wasabi, and even truffle.

Lumpfish Caviar: Lumpfish caviar is one of the  types that can be pasteurized. It comes from the cold, Nordic waters and is actually great tasting.

The roe is fine-grained and slightly crunchy and comes in red or black. It also has a distinct briny flavor which makes it ideal for garnishes and appetizers.

Homemade Caviar: Homemade caviar is made from harvesting the eggs/ roe from the skein (sack that holds the eggs).

The female fish must be at least 10 years old before they can migrate upstream to lay their eggs, which is when a lot of them are caught, which is why mature fish are harder to find. 

You can either fish for your salmon or buy a salmon with the roe.  It is best to eat freshly made caviar within 2-3 days.

Keep it covered and refrigerated, and don’t double-dip your spoon when getting caviar out of the container. This will cause it to go bad even faster.

When making caviar at home: Avoid using metal utensils. The metal will oxidize the salmon roe. Instead try using wooden or ceramic spoons and glass bowls.

Use filtered water to clean and process the salmon roe. Fish eggs take on extra water very easily by the process of osmosis, so using chemical ladened tap water can have a negative impact on the delicate taste of salmon caviar.

Homemade Caviar II:

This type of caviar is made from agar agar, vegetable oil, and your favorite liquid (fruit juice, coffee, balsamic vinegar, etc).

Step One: Choose your liquid—Strong flavors work best. These little pearls are made to impart big flavor! 

Step Two: Choose your oil. The flavored gelatin gets dropped in chilled oil to give it a spherical shape.

The oil needs to be kept overnight in the refrigerator, so it’s important to choose one that will not become overly cloudy when chilled.

Canola oil, vegetable oil and grape seed oil are all good choices.  

Avoid using olive oil as it will become too firm.  Place the oil in a 9×13-inch metal pan and store in the fridge overnight.

The oil must be very cold for the gelatin to set properly.

Step Three: Salt the water bath. The container of oil needs to be placed in a bath of ice water. Adding salt to the ice water will help keep the super cold so the gelatin will set immediately

Step Four: Choose a dropper. A plastic squeeze bottle from Wilton (used for candy making) will work well for this,  but you could also use an unused or clean eye-dropper or even a syringe.

All of these are inexpensive and easy to find at craft and cooking stores. They will also have squeeze bottles and culinary syringes and drug stores will stock medicine droppers (called pipets).

Non-Fish Caviars

Cowboy Caviar: Cowboy caviar has nothing to do with fish eggs. In fact, it’s a great alternative for those who might need an appetizer at your party, but don’t eat meat or fish.

It is a zesty, tangy mix of black beans, black-eyed peas, corn, and other fresh veggies.

You can enjoy it as a dip with tortilla chips or eat it as a salad, sort of like a mix between a dip, salsa, filling, or salad.

Seaweed Caviar: Seaweed caviar also has no meat ingredients, so it is also vegan and vegetarian friendly.

Seaweed, also known as kelp, can be categorized into three types of algae; red, green, and brown.

Seaweed is not a real plant, but a multicellular large algae, so-called macroalgae. 

To make seaweed caviar, the seaweed, or kelp is dried and processed into a powder.

Then the powder is prepared with salt, spices, water, and citric acid, and processed into a liquid.

The end results become little pearls of “caviar.” The kelp can then be flavored like other caviars or things like wasabi.

Delicious homemade cod roe fish meatballs.Fish cutlets decorated with salmon.

Final Considerations

Caviar is a delicacy that is becoming more readily available throughout the world in many different varieties.

Although most people aren’t shelling out $3500 per 2 ounces of the most expensive caviar, we don’t want to waste our money on bad caviar or have our caviar go bad while we wait to enjoy it.  

Caviar is characterized by a distinctive pop against your tongue or teeth, and in doing so releases a rich, buttery consistency that incorporates both the olfactory and taste sensors. 

According to scientist, when both the sense of smell and taste are engaged, it stimulates the desire to eat. 

Eating caviar should deliver a faintly sweet, nutty or indescribable melt in your mouth combination of flavors.

In all cases, even Cowboy Caviar and Seaweed Caviar have the umami flavor associated with the salt cure and the flavor of the sea, as well as the accompanying refreshments. 

So, enjoy this nutritional, delicious, and fun delicacy, just be mindful of how long you decide to keep it in the fridge. Or, even better, eat it all at once.

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