Ikura vs. Tobiko vs. Masago vs. Kazunoko vs. Tarako Roe

Ikura (いくら) is a popular sushi topping made of mature salmon roe or trout roe, which comes in individual-shaped spherical balls, typically pickled in soy sauce.

And as you may know, Sujiko (筋子) is similar to it, also widely enjoyed in Japan, often in Onigiri.

Ikura vs. Tobiko vs. Masago vs. Kazunoko vs. Tarako

Ikura (いくら)Ikura Roe

Both Ikura and Sujiko are large compared to other fish eggs commonly eaten in Japan, such as Tobiko (とびこ), Masago (真砂子), Kazunoko (数の子), and Tarako (タラコ).

These four are all tiny fish eggs, but can you tell them apart? Today, let me explain what each is for people who answer No.

What is Tobiko (とびこ)? 

Tobiko Roe

First, Tobiko (とびこ) is a flying fish roe, typically picked in salt. It is beautifully orange, but the hue varies depending on the coloring and seasoning used in the processing.

The diameter of the egg is about 1 mm, and Tobiko has a much crisper texture than Ikura.

In Japan, the roe often comes in battleship rolls or Chirashi Zushi, and some people also like to use it in pasta and salad dishes, as Tobiko goes well with mayonnaise.

What is Masago (真砂子)?

Masago (真砂子), also known as Shishamokko (ししゃもっこ), looks like Tobiko, and the usage of both is almost the same, as the former uses capelin roe as a substitute for flying fish roe. 

The literal meaning of Masago in Japanese is sand grains, and in size, it is slightly smaller than Tobiko. 

What is Kazunoko (数の子)?

Kazunoko Roe

Kazunoko (数の子) is yellow roe incorporated in Osechi, a selection of Japanese dishes for the New Year. It is a mass of herring eggs featuring a pleasant, crisp texture.

In Japan’s market, it comes in 3 forms, Hoshi Kazunoko (干し数の子: Dried one), Enzo Kazunoko (塩蔵数の子: Salted one), and Ajitsuke Kazunoko (味付け数の子: Seasoned one).

Hoshi Kazunoko and Enzo Kazunoko are expensive, and before eating, you need to soak them in water for a while to rehydrate and remove excess salt.

What is Tarako (たらこ)?

Tarako Roe

Tarako (たらこ), meaning cod roe in Japanese, is salted cod roe, which we commonly eat with a bowl of white rice at meals. It is edible as is but sometimes grilled.

Besides rice, Tarako goes well in various dishes, including Ochazuke and pasta, and pairs deliciously with mayo.


To simplify, here is the summary table of the primary difference between Ikura, Tobiko, Masago, Kazunoko, and Tarako.

Main Ingredient Form
Ikura Salmon roe or Trout roe Individual, Large
Tobiko Flying fish roe Individual, tiny balls
Masago Capelin roe Individual, Tiny
Kazunoko Herring roe A mass of small eggs
Tarako Cod roe Tiny eggs with the sac intact

(Reference Pages: Wikipedia とびこ, 数の子, たらこ )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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