Taramosalata (Greek Fish Roe Dip)

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“Free style”, easy-looking recipes are either a blessing or a curse. I have no idea to which category belongs taramosalata, but I am proud to say that even my very first humble attempt to prepare it gave flavoursome, satisfying results. I wonder why I waited so long before making this easy home-made version of the famous fish roe dip.

As many of you probably know, taramosalata is a Greek fish roe dip (“tarama” means fish roe and “salata”… salad) and is usually made with carp or cod roe, oil, lemon juice and bread crumbs or mashed potatoes. According to Wikipedia similar roe spreads apparently exist also in Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. I am not Greek nor have any links with these nationalities, but taramosalata has kept me company since early childhood. I have always been crazy for what I knew at the time as “caviar paste” and buttered bread with a generous layer of  this delicacy was one of my beloved snacks. Since the only brand I knew was Swedish, I had been convinced until recently that it was a traditional Swedish product. Since I have never tasted taramosalata made in Greece, nowadays the only two commercial taramosalatas I like also come from Sweden.

I had no idea what the home-made taramosalata should taste like, so I have no comparison, but what you see above was very different from what I used to buy. In a good sense of course; it’s not as horribly salty, not as “violent” and strangely addictive… I couldn’t stop myself from snacking on it all evening… According to Wikipedia, taramosalata is served in Greece on the first day of Easter Lent, but personally I could have it every single day, all year long. I have no idea what the Greeks serve it with (it’s my first Greek recipe on this blog!) but until now a slice of buttered French baguette is my favourite choice. I have also greatly enjoyed it with crunchy Finnish rye bread and with German pumpernickel. Taste wise taramosalata pairs well with cucumber and dill. I like to serve it as a snack on small toasts when my taramasalata-loving friends come for drinks and cannot wait to make them taste my home-made version.

After reading many different recipes on Greek cooking blogs I realised everyone made taramosalata in a different way. Unfortunately Katerina, my favourite Greek blogger, hasn’t written about it, so I finally decided to improvise and develop my own recipe. The result has got almost nothing in common with what I have known until now (on the other hand I used roe from a different fish), but the paste is delicious. Since I improvised a lot, I encourage you to treat the below recipe only as a guide line and adapt it to your own preferences and products you use.

TIPS: I have used here cheap IKEA herring roe bought for the purpose of what I considered a risky experiment. You can use any other fish roe of course. According to many people the whiter the roe, the better the quality.

I have preferred extra-virgin olive oil, but it has a stronger taste and is slightly bitter compared to canola oil which is more neutral. Up to you to decide.

With the below small amount a small baby food processor works the best.

I found that taramosalata greatly improves after several hours in the fridge, so I advise you to prepare it in advance.

Preparation: 15 minutes+ 2-3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (yields about 200 ml/ 1 1/2 cup):

85 g (3 oz) cured fish roe (for this first experiment I have used cheap herring roe bought at IKEA)

2- 3 slices of soft white bread (without crust) soaked in water and squeezed

125 ml (1/2 cup) oil (I have used extra-virgin olive oil, but canola oil has a more neutral taste)

1/2 small onion, chopped

chili powder and salt to taste

juice from 1/2 lemon

(fresh dill)

Put the fish roe, 2 soaked slices of bread, the onion and half of the oil in a food processor and mix until smooth and fluffy.

Add more oil and mix once more.

If the consistency is too thick, add more oil and mix once more.

If it’s too liquid, add the third soaked bread slice.
Season with lemon juice, chili and salt and mix once more. Chill for a couple of hours.
Serve sprinkled with fresh dill.

 

 

44 thoughts on “Taramosalata (Greek Fish Roe Dip)

  1. A_Boleyn

    I’m not a fan of these types of cold dishes for a number of reasons … mostly textural, so I’d be afraid to even try to eat one of these as an appetizer, let alone make a batch. It took me almost 40 yrs to get over a bad caviar experience but now I love sushi. Maybe someday. 🙂

    1. Sissi Post author

      I suppose a lot depends on the variety of food one eats as a child… I used to eat black pudding, tripe, herrings, fish roe, so I have never had any problems as long as something was flavoursome. I still remember how shocked I was to learn that some people are afraid to taste black pudding which for me was just a different sausage type.
      Caviar has apparently to be of a very high quality, otherwise it’s not good (I don’t like it too much either but I have never tasted very good caviar…). Moreover, strictly speaking only sturgeon roe should be called caviar. The rest is just roe, but producers of course like to call everything caviar to make it sound expensive.

      1. A_Boleyn

        I first tasted real sturgeon caviar as a teenager and the experience made me unwilling to try anything similar … fishy, cold, briny again for many years. It took me a long time to actually try salmon roe (the popping in your mouth thing … scary stuff) and then the tamago/tobiko in sushi but now I find them acceptable if not necessarily the best thing I’ve ever tried.

        The jelly like texture of head cheese that my mom made or bought was off-putting as well.

        I’m sure this roe mixture is tasty but I’d have to really nerve myself up to try it. And there are so many other tasty things out there I’d rather have first. 🙂

        1. Sissi Post author

          I see. I’m not sure if you would like taramosalata then because it is quite fishy. More fishy than tobiko I think. Of course we all have different food preferences. I cannot stand for example the majority of very sweet desserts and even as a child hated cakes from the majority of pastry shops because they were horribly sweet to me…

  2. Eha

    One of my very favourite things to have in the fridge and SO easy to prep! I normally use smoked roe: a pair are about 20-25 cms long – I thought they were cod, but seem, on second thought too small? I do not use chilli [that one is actually strange to me?] but probably more of lemon and red onion! Actually: methinks I could live on this 🙂 !

    1. Sissi Post author

      I should ask Katerina, but I don’t think chili makes it less genuine 😉 I put chili in many dishes. I also prefer smoked roe spread, but still have to look if I can find smoked roe here.

      1. Eha

        Actually we liked very similar foods as children! Agree with you regarding sturgeon roe being the ‘only caviar’!! Sissy, imagine – you are on a KLM flight Sydney > Rome [well, yes, it did happen to be first class], almost empty cabin, flying breakfast time over the Med > Rome! Proper caviar WAS on the breakfast menu: fave of both my husband and !. We were only in our early 20s! Seconds and thirds etc. Finally the lovely stewardess walked over with what was left of 500 [yup, five hundred] gms in the familar blue/white/black tin ‘Don’t know why you like it, but there’s not mcuh left and I don’t want to have to write it up on the log – so here’s more toast’!!! Yes, ma’am by Rome there was nought left and we did not feel sick 🙂 ! And I still remember: it sure would not happen today!!

        1. Sissi Post author

          You were really lucky that day! Sadly I think this would never happen today… (Although, who knows.. if you stumbled upon someone who wouldn’t know “why you like it”…. 😉 ). I don’t travel in business class, but a friend who does it sometimes during business trips told me he has already had a disgusting sandwich as a lunch on a three-hour flight which of course cost his boss a fortune…

  3. Jeno @ Week Nite Meals

    Hi Sissi! Happy Holidays! I’ve not tasted fish roe dip, the caviar I tasted was so salty and “Violent”, I’ve not given it another taste ever again!

    Americans are not as adventurous when it comes to food choices, I can imagine this to be tasty if you grew up eating it, and anything home made has to be on a much superior level than store bought ones!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Jeno. Caviar is much much stronger in taste than fish roe mixed with bread and oil. Personally I’m not a big fan of caviar (on the other hand I wish I could taste the highest quality…). I thought this spread was worldwide known. Happy Holidays to you too!

  4. Mr. Three-Cookies

    Very interesting, this is the first time I am hearing of taramosalata. The Swedish caviar spread is made with cheese or some similar I think, and the fish roe remains intact, its not pureed. I guess white bread and oil may produce sort of a similar result – similar fat content and consistency. I am curious to try oil and bread based spread.
    Beautiful photo by the way

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Mr. Three-Cookies, for the compliment! It’s not easy to take photos in the winter…
      Swedish fish roe spread I buy (both Ikea and two Abba brands I know from my childhood) doesn’t contain any cheese (although there is something disgusting and cheesy too sold at Ikea I think….). The IKEA spread contains also breadcrumbs and potatoes too (I have it in front of me) and of course lots of oil. It is puréed more than mine (it is not visible but there are many intact roes in mine), but there are also whole roes. On the other hand, I don’t know other Swedish brands and even less home-made recipes…

    2. Mr. Three-Cookies

      The one I had long time ago had cheese I thought – maybe it wasn’t cheese. I liked it but haven’t bought it in years – thanks for the reminder, I will get it soon.
      I only tried ‘home made’ version once in a restaurant – it was caviar with maybe creme fraiche or something similar, could have been bread/oil.

  5. Katerina

    Ha, ha, you got me on that Sissi. I don’t like taramosalata at all my friend! As much as I have tried to come to like it unfortunately I couldn’t! I don’t know why, I guess it is something in the smell that isn’t so much attractive, but my mom makes a perfect taramosalata and everybody says it is really good, so I can ask for the recipe and send it to you and you can tell me what you think. Indeed taramosalata is eaten during all fastening periods and especially during the big lent before Easter. Yours look very pretty and I am sure it tasted great! I am sorry for this but as I told you I can make up for the lack!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi, Katerina. This is a surprise, although taramosalata has a very strong taste indeed… On the other hand I know French people who don’t like cheese, so nothing should surprise me 😉 I would love to know how your mum makes taramosalata because I will certainly make it many times in the future (there is something addictive about it… I cannot stop snacking on it). In short, I would be very grateful if you told me her recipe one day (and if it’s not a secret!). I’m done with commercial stuff!

  6. Eva Taylor

    And again, you post a recipe that is indeed a favourite of mine, Sissi. Truth be told, I have (a long time ago) purchased a small container of this delicacy to be shared but once tasted couldn’t help myself to finishing it off! By spoonfuls! There is something entirely addictive about the flavours in this dip. I really don’t dare make this dip because my husband doesn’t eat it at all, so it would be up to me. And that’s dangerous. Particularly when I just bought a beautiful new dress for new years eve!
    I will keep my eyes open for the Ikea roe, I must say I haven’t seen it at our local Ikea but maybe I haven’t looked very hard.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Eva. I understand your problem very well: I’m also the only one who likes it and I find it also addictive enough to make me snack on it every time I open the fridge… It’s dangerous. This home-made version was sooooo good and I felt so guilty emptying the bowl alone… I finished it today for late breakfast on crunchy bread. I don’t think herring roe is the best roe I had, but it was an excellent material for experiments (it’s incredibly cheap here).

  7. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles

    Awesome! When I saw your title ‘first Greek recipe’ I thought… spanakopita, tzatziki, Greek salad 😉 – all the common, and less exotic perhaps, ones came to mind (although I love each of those) – and then I arrived at your refreshing fish roe dip! I have never had fish roe dip but I suspect my husband (who’s been known to eat kippers for breakfast – oy! ;-)) would love this! Your seasonings sound just right to me too… a little lemon, some onion, a pinch of dill = perfect accompaniments to this savoury delight. Very nice recipe Sissi and as always, you are opening me up and introducing me to lesser explored foods in my repertoire.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you very much, Kelly. I must admit that since I have always associated fish roe past with Sweden, taramosalata is not the first dish that comes to my mind either when I think about Greek cuisine. Taramosalata is surprisingly delicate compared to fish roe alone (although it is “fishy” of course).

  8. mjskit

    I know from experience that you and I share a lot of the same tastes when it comes to food; however, fish roe isn’t one of them. 🙁 I’m not a big fan of it even thought I have tried it in many ways. One time at a B&B buffet I scoop a whole spoonful of what I thought was couscous on my plate. It turned out to be fish roe. I tried it, but … Oh well. I tried! 🙂

    1. Sissi Post author

      MJ, I totally agree and you know what? Even though I like certain fish roe types (salmon, flying fish), I hated the taste of the herring roe I made this taramosalata with (and frankly was sceptical what it will produce, but finally it was a big surprise), so maybe you will enjoy taramosalata in spite of disliking the fish roe? Give it a chance one day!

  9. Kiki

    Sissi: We share the same taste for sure, I would like to invite you to my dinners too (laugh). I simply adore this dish since many many years. Remembering correctly I first ate it in the 70th visiting Greek with my parents. And it is still my ichiban appetizer whenever I am visiting a greek restaurant. Wether made from wheat bread or potato – it will be delicious and it is not that fishy! So mjskit should try it: most people don’t know it is made of fish roe – it is pink and smooth and nice.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Kiki, I would give a lot to be invited to one of your magical dinners… I would be honoured. I have just answered MJ saying the same: even though I like roe from certain fish varieties, I hated herring roe, but I loved the taramosalata made with it. It is too fishy maybe to people who don’t like fish. Talking about fish, I have just finished the Douglas Adams’s detective book with the scary fridge you have written me a fragment from! I loved it.

  10. Charles

    Hi Sissi – I was first “introduced” to tarama about 10 years ago by a student at my university. Tarama and blinis and I remember eating well more than my share and being pretty much addicted to the stuff ever since. I’m very curious – what actually is the difference between tarama and taramasalata (I mean the kind of tarama that is sold in stores in little tubs)… is what they’re selling actually taramasalata?

    Well, regardless, it looks delicious. I’m a die-hard fan of the stuff so I’d be the one standing in the corner at a party guarding the bowl and scooping it all up 😀

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Charles. I’m glad you are a fan of taramosalata too! (As I have mentioned “tarama” means “fish roe” in Greek, so the French have simply made an error calling their stuff tarama… Of course the home-made version is 100 times better! (And I’m saying this after my very first, shy experiment! Do try it one day. I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas!

  11. Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb

    I wish I had had the chance to try this as a kid, I have never even heard of it before. I ll trust your good nose and try to make it or hunt for it in the Greek restaurant here. I would be nice to know what the greek one tastes like and yours, side by side.

    Belated MErry Christmas Sissi!

  12. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    I like all kinds of fish roe in Japanese food so I think I’d love the Greek version too! Whenever you said it’s so good and addicting, it’s very tempting!! I know I’d like it too. 🙂 Hope you had a nice Christmas! I cannot believe this year is almost the end… so fast! Too fast… Looking forward to your new posts next year!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi, Nami. I am sure that as someone who likes fish roe you would love it. And it’s so easy to make at home (commercial ones can be really disgusting and bland…). I also hope you are having wonderful holidays.

  13. Tessa

    What an interesting and delicious looking recipe! I love fish roe so this is a must try. I hope that you are having a wonderful holiday season!

  14. shuhan

    Love taramasalata too (: I’ve had it in greece and it converted my friend who wasn’t a fan of cod roe! p.s. happy hols sissi! It’s been a while since you posted so I guess you must be taking a good break! I missed wishing you a merry christmas, so here’s wishing you a happy new year at least! xxxxxx

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi, Shuhan. I am glad you are a fan too. I wish I could taste it in Greece too… I also know many people who hate fish roe, but love this. Thank you for the kind wishes and Happy New Year to you too!

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