Dec. 29th
written by scott

Hot Sauce Salmon Roe
Spherification is tricky, not just because of the chemistry involved, but because the technique has become associated with the most farcical extremes of modernist cooking.  However, when used with purpose and not simply ‘cause, spherification can still provide an element of surprise and delight to your cooking.  Tomorrow, I’m going to cook salmon (sous vide, if you’ve been playing along at home) with mascarpone and greens, an homage to the salmon crostini at Spur.  I wanted to top the fish with a spoonful of salmon roe for added saltiness and for their funny, squirm-inducing texture.  Unfortunately, roe is expensive.  So, I came up with a substitute: spherified hot sauce that looks like salmon roe.

I experimented with the right balance of sodium alginate, sodium citrate and calcium chloride until I had little salmon pearls that held their shape but released a gushing interior when you bite into them.  In all honesty, the recipe below is an approximation of the winning batch since the actual measurements were lost in the frustration of my failed trials. 

Makes: 1 caviar tin’s worth
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes

Shopping list:


  1. Combine the hot sauce, 15g water, sodium alginate and sodium citrate in a small bowl.  Mix until combined and no lumps remain.  The mixture should have a consistency thicker than the original hot sauce but thinner than ketchup. 
  2. Combine 1 liter of water and the calcium chloride in a medium bowl.  Whisk or blend until all of the calcium chloride has dissolved.  Prepare a separate medium bowl of just water.
  3. Using an eye dropper, drop the hot sauce mixture into the calcium chloride bath one drop at a time.  For best results, hold the eye dropper parallel to the counter and about 1” above the surface of the water.  Drop 20-30 drops at a time, stirring the water occasionally. 
  4. Remove the spheres using a mesh strainer.  Shake off the excess water, then transfer to the plain water bath.


  1. 29/12/2010

    New post: How to Make Faux Salmon Roe from Crystal Hot Sauce

  2. MarcSeattle

    @seattlefoodgeek that is so fucking cool. You’re my hero.

  3. 30/12/2010

    @MarcSeattle <blushing> thanks! they were really tasty with the salmon, mascarpone and a sweet watercress foam. Yay science!

  4. MarcSeattle

    @seattlefoodgeek that sounds amazing!!! I’ve been turning out of town friends on to your blog. They’re all loving it!

  5. 30/12/2010

    @MarcSeattle That’s so sweet of you. Thanks! I’ve been turning out of town friends onto you. No complaints yet 😉

  6. MarcSeattle

    @seattlefoodgeek bitch.

  7. Larry Heimendinger

    So you have created Great Balls of Fire. Jerry Lee Lewis would be proud. Perhaps we can experiment and use this technique for chocolate, saving me the effort of rolling balls out for truffles.

  8. Jen

    Is it really cheaper to acquire these specialized ingredients than it is to buy caviar? (I’m ignorant when it comes to caviar pricing as well.)

  9. 30/12/2010

    For the amount shown in the photo, no. But $40 worth of ingredients will make about a pound of fake roe. Plus, ita cool :-)

  10. 31/12/2010

    AH, thanks Scott…i have recently purchased a spherification kit with the intention of making veggie caviar. I have to admit, i have a soft spot for this technique but have yet to delve into it…now with your instructions I feel ready to tackle it! THANKS for the inspiration! beautiful!

  11. ZUKIE

    I just recieved my chemicals.Itried it today with some watermelon. Is there any recomendations for books on this subject. I have alot of ideas for caviars but dont know where to start as far as how much of each ingredient to add.

  12. 13/07/2011

    I’m Only aware of one book on the subject, and that’s Modernist Cuisine. Unfortunately, trial and error or careful experimentation seem to be the only ways to develop these recipes :-(

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