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 and is typically pickled in soy sauce.

As you may know, additionally in Japan, the roe similar in appearance to Ikura eggs, “Sujiko (筋子)” is also widely enjoyed, often in the rice ball Onigiri.

Ikura (いくら)Ikura Roe

Japanese Roe: Tobiko vs Masago vs Kazunoko vs Tarako

Actually, both Ikura and Sujiko have a large size compared to other fish eggs that are commonly eaten in Japan, such as “Tobiko (とびこ)”, “Masago (真砂子)”, “Kazunoko (数の子)”, and “Tarako (タラコ)”, all of which are tiny fish eggs.

But can you tell them apart? For people who will answer “no” to this question, today let me explain what each is.

What is Tobiko (とびこ)? 

Tobiko Roe

First off, “Tobiko (とびこ)” is made by pickling flying fish roe in salt. In general, the salted roe has a clear orange color, but the hue varies depending on the coloring agent and seasoning used in the making process.

The diameter of the fish egg is about 1 mm and Tobiko has a more crisp, harder texture than Ikura.

In Japan, the salted flying fish roe is often used in battleship roll sushi or Chirashi Zushi, and some Japanese people like to use it in pasta or salad. In fact, Tobiko goes well with mayonnaise.

What is Masago (真砂子)?

“Masago (真砂子)” is a fish roe that looks very similar to Tobiko. This is because the Japanese roe is made with capelin roe as a substitute for flying fish roe. In size, Masago is a bit smaller than Tobiko but goes well with sushi, salads, and pasta as well.

The literal meaning of Masago in Japanese is “fine sand grains”, and Masago is also known as “Shishamokko (ししゃもっこ)” in Japan.

What is Kazunoko (数の子)?

Kazunoko Roe

“Kazunoko (数の子)” is yellow fish roe that is commonly incorporated in Osechi, a special Japanese dish for the New Year. It is a mass of tiny herring eggs which has a pleasant, crisp bite.

The majority of Kazunoko products available in Japan are classified into 3 types, “Hoshi Kazunoko (干し数の子: Dried Kazunoko)”, “Enzo Kazunoko (塩蔵数の子: Salted Kazunoko)”, and “Ajitsuke Kazunoko (味付け数の子: Seasoned Kazunoko)”.

Hoshi Kazunoko and Enzo Kazunoko are expensive and, before eating, need to be soaked in water for a while to rehydrate, when excess salt is removed.

What is Tarako (たらこ)?

Tarako Roe

Tarako (たらこ)“, literally meaning “cod roe” in Japanese, is salted cod roe that is commonly eaten throughout the year here in Japan. Tarako is eaten either as it is or after grilling and pairs perfectly with white rice.

Other than rice, it can be used in various foods and the typical example includes Tarako Chazuke, Tarako Spaghetti, and Tarako Mayo.


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

Main Ingredient Form
Ikura Salmon roe or Trout roe Individual, Large
Tobiko Flying fish roe Individual, tiny balls
Masago Capelin roe Individual, tiny balls
Kazunoko Herring roe A mass of tiny balls
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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: