For decades, Beluga caviar was king. It was synonymous with opulent parties and the finest Champagne. Caviar connoisseurs prized the rich yet delicate flavor and the irresistible pop of its large eggs. Unfortunately, producers overfished the Beluga sturgeon, Huso huso, to meet the growing demand. To prevent its extinction, the US banned the importation of Beluga caviar in 2005 to give the sturgeon a chance to repopulate. Today, Beluga caviar is back on the menu sustainably and ethically, thanks to the founders of gourmet shop Marky’s, who legally imported Huso huso broodstock before the ban. Nearly two decades later, they produced their first Beluga caviar, raised in the US. Our Beluga caviar guide tells you its history, why it is so expensive, and, most importantly, how delicious it is.
What Does Beluga Caviar Taste Like?
Beluga caviar is the most decadent and rich caviar I have ever tasted. The light gray eggs are large for sturgeon caviar and have a pop that many other species don’t have, which is incredibly satisfying. It has a nutty, buttery flavor and a creamy texture. The finish is long-lasting and very rich. I tried it with some friends, and we all noticed how rich-tasting it is compared with other types. Because it’s so flavorful, a little goes a long way. While some pricy caviars aren’t worth the money, in my opinion, Beluga caviar certainly is.
Where Can You Legally Buy Beluga Caviar in the US?
In 2003, before the ban, Mark Zaslavsky of the gourmet store Marky’s opened Sturgeon Aquafarms in the Florida panhandle and legally imported live Beluga, Sevruga, and osetra sturgeon to breed. Marky’s successfully bred the fish and now believes that it has more Huso huso sturgeon in Florida than exist in the wild in the Caspian Sea. In total, they have raised over 80,000 sturgeon. As well as selling caviar from these fish, they sell or donate fertilized eggs and larvae to assist repopulation efforts.
In 2016, Sturgeon Aquafarms received a permit exception to trade Huso huso sturgeon. This means that Marky’s is the only company that legally sells Beluga caviar in the US. If you ever find someone selling wild Beluga caviar in the US, don’t buy it. It’s either illegal or fake.
Why Is Beluga Caviar So Expensive?
Beluga caviar is significantly more expensive than every other type of caviar. For example, one ounce costs $830, while Beluga-hybrid caviar goes for $175 per ounce and osetra caviar is around $100 an ounce.
Why does Beluga caviar cost so much? First, it’s rare. Marky’s is the only place in the US that legally sells it. Secondly, Huso huso sturgeon are among the slowest-growing fish on Earth. It took Sturgeon Aquafarms nearly 20 years to produce its first caviar. This means they paid the expensive costs of importing, breeding, and raising thousands of sturgeon for close to two decades before they had a product to sell.
What Is Hybrid Caviar?
Because the Huso huso sturgeon takes so long to mature, some producers use Huso huso-hybrid sturgeon (either naturally occurring or bred in an aquafarm) to lower their costs. A few examples of hybrid caviar are Sevruga, Kaluga, and Siberian. These hybrid caviars have some of the same warm, buttery notes of pure Beluga mixed with typical flavors of the other species. While these hybrids are usually more expensive than many other types of caviar, they are still less expensive than Beluga.