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A display of bottarga
Alternative names Botarga, bottarga, butàriga, and many others
Course Hors d'oeuvre, pasta dishes
Main ingredients Fish roe
Cookbook: Botargo  Media: Botargo

Botargo is the Italian name for a delicacy of salted, cured fish roe, typically of the grey mullet frequently found near coastlines throughout the world, that often is featured in Mediterranean cuisine and consumed in many other regions of the world. The food bears many different names and is prepared in several different ways.

The product is similar to the softer cured mullet roe, karasumi from Japan and East Asia. Sometimes the delicacy is prepared from tuna.

Names and etymology[edit]

Closely related names are used for the delicacy in various languages: batarekh or butarkhah (Arabic), botarga (Occitan, Spanish, and Catalan), bottarga (English and Italian), boutargue (French), butarga (Portuguese), and butàriga (Sardinian). Dissimilar names include avgotaraho (Greek αυγοτάραχο), and poutargue (French).

The English name, bottarga, was borrowed from Italian.[1] The Italian form is thought to have been introduced from the Arabic buṭarḫah بطارخة (plural buṭariḫ بطارخ), but ultimately derives from Byzantine Greek ᾠοτάριχον (oiotárikhon) < ᾠόν 'egg' + τάριχον 'pickled'.[1][2][3]

The Italian form can be dated to ca. 1500, since the Greek form transliterated into Latin as ova tarycha occurs in Bartolomeo Platina's De Honesta Voluptate (ca. 1474), the earliest printed cookbook, and an Italian manuscript dating shortly afterward that "closely parallels" this cookbook attests to botarghe in the corresponding passage.[4] The first mention of the Greek form (oiotárikhon) occurs in the writings of Simeon Seth in the eleventh century, who denounced the food as something to be "avoided totally",[5] although a similar phrase may have been in use since antiquity in the same denotation.[6]

It has been suggested that the Coptic outarakhon might be the intermediate form between Greek and Arabic,[1] but this does not satisfactory explain how the "B" sound was introduced into the Arabic term buṭarḫah, whereas examination of dialectical variants of Greek ᾠόν 'egg' include, Pontic Greek ὠβόν (traditionally where the mullets are caught) and ὀβό or βό in parts of Asia Minor, suggesting the Arabic was borrowed directly from these dialect forms.[2] The modern Greek name comes from the Byzantine Greek, substituting the modern word αυγό for the ancient word ᾠóν.


Bottarga is made chiefly from the roe pouch of grey mullet. Sometimes it is prepared from Atlantic bluefin tuna (bottarga di tonno) or swordfish.[7] It is massaged by hand to eliminate air pockets, then dried and cured in sea salt for a few weeks. The result is a hard, dry slab that sometimes is coated in beeswax for preservation purposes.[8][9] Not all Bottarga is coated in beeswax as some producers simply keep the natural casing of the roe intact, which contains the eggs securely once dried and salted.[9][10] The curing time may vary depending on producer and the desired texture as well as the preference of the consumers, which varies by country.


Sometimes called the caviar of the south, bottarga usually is sliced thinly or grated when it is served. The delicacy currently is served in many regions, including the following.


In Croatia, the delicacy is known as butarga or butarda. It usually is fried before serving.


In the French region, Provence, it is named Poutargue and produced in the city of Martigues.[11] It also may be called boutargue in France.


In Greece, avgotaraho is produced primarily from the flathead mullet caught in Greek lagoons. The whole mature ovaries are removed from the fish, washed with water, salted with natural sea salt, dried under the sun, and sealed in melted beeswax.

Avgotaraho Messolonghiou,[12] made from fish caught in the Messolonghi-Etoliko Lagoons is a European and Greek protected designation of origin, one of the few seafood products with a PDO.[13]


In Italy, it is best known in Sicilian and Sardinian cuisine as bottarga; its culinary properties may be compared to those of dry anchovies, although it is much more expensive. Often, it is served with olive oil or lemon juice as an appetizer accompanied by bread or crostini. It also is used in pasta dishes.[8][10]

Bottarga is categorized as a Traditional food product (prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale). It varies by region, in particular, is produced in Sardinia from flathead mullet and in Sicily from Atlantic bluefin tuna.


In Lebanon it is served sliced, where each slice is covered with a piece of raw garlic and the whole is immersed in olive oil, then eaten with flat bread.

North Africa[edit]

Bottarga is produced in Mauritania.[14] Senegal,[15]


In Turkey, bottarga is known as tarama, also called haviar and is made from grey mullet roe. It is listed in the Ark of Taste. It is produced in Dalyan, on the southwestern coast of Turkey, from the mature fish migrating from Lake Köyceğiz.[16]

United States[edit]

The Anna Maria Fish Company in the Cortez Fishing Village located in Manatee County, Florida processes grey mullet roe into its bottarga that they sell locally, ship internationally, and make available to a few restaurants in the Gulf of Mexico region near Sarasota Bay.[17] The county tourist bureau states that the process of making bottarga was depicted in Ancient Egyptian murals and that documentation from the 1500s exists that the Native Americans along the western coast of Florida were consuming dried mullet roe when encountered by European explorers.

Other locations in Florida also process bottarga.[18][19]

See also[edit]

  • Karasumi: salted and dry-cured mullet roe of Japan and East Asia


  1. ^ a b c "botargo". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.); 1st edition
  2. ^ a b Hughes, John P.; Wasson, R. Gordon (1947), "The Etymology of Botargo", The American Journal of Philology 68 (4): 414–418, doi:10.2307/291531 JSTOR 291531
  3. ^ Dalby, Andrew (2013) [1996]. Siren Feasts. Routledge. p. 189. ISBN 0-415-11620-1. 
  4. ^ Hughes & Wasson 1947, p. 415, n4. Italian MS in the Bitting Collection in the Rare Book Room of the United States Library of Congress. In Platina, the word is the Latin transliteration of "ὠβά τάριχα"
  5. ^ Andrew Dalby, Siren Feasts, 1996, ISBN 0-415-11620-1, p.189
  6. ^ ᾠά τάριχα 'eggs [of fish] preserved by salting', citing Diphilus of Siphnos quoted in Athenaeus III, 121 C. Hughes & Wasson 1947, p. 415
  7. ^ Coroneo, V. (2009). Brandas, V., Sanna, A., Sanna, C., Carraro, V., Dessi, S., Meloni, M.. "Microbiological characterization of botargo. Classical and molecular microbiological methods". Industrie Alimentari 48 (487): 29–36. 
  8. ^ a b Riley, Gillian (2007). The Oxford Companion to Italian Food. Oxford University Press. pp. 63–4, 209, 500. ISBN 0198606176. 
  9. ^ a b Gall, Ken; Reddy, Kolli P.; Regenstein, Joe M. (2000), Martin, Roy E., ed., Marine and Freshwater Products Handbook (2000): 403. (CRC Press): 416, ISBN 1566768896  Missing or empty |title= (help); |contribution= ignored (help)
  10. ^ a b Jenkins, Nancy Harmon (2003). The Essential Mediterranean: How Regional Cooks Transform Key Ingredients. HarperCollins. pp. 41–43. ISBN 0060196513. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Katselis G.,et al. (2005). Fisheries research 75:138-148
  13. ^ Agriculture - Quality Policy - (PDO/PGI) Fresh fish, molluscs and crustaceans and products derived therefrom
  14. ^ "Imraguen Women's Mullet Botargo", Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, full text
  15. ^ "La Bottarga tra Sardegna e Senegal", Affrica, 1 June 2010, full text
  16. ^ Petrini, Carlo (2004). Slow Food: The Case for Taste. Columbia University Press. p. 129. ; "Haviar". Ark of Taste. Retrieved April 2014. 
  17. ^ The Taste of Bottarga, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau in Bradenton, Florida
  18. ^ Chris Sherman, "Roe, Roe, Roe at Mote", Florida Trend, 10/4/2012 full text
  19. ^ John T. Edge, Bottarga, an Export That Stays at Home, New York Times July 22, 2013 full text