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What are the orange balls on sushi?

If you’ve ever visited a Japanese restaurant or looked at Instagram-worthy sushi pictures online, you’ve probably noticed those bright orange balls that seem to decorate sushi everywhere. What are they? What do they taste like? Is their purpose purely aesthetic? 
Written by: Kelly Choi
Tobiko is the collection of orange balls you often see on top of or around sushi

These little orange balls throw up countless questions and we’re here to answer them. So the next time you’re eating sushi with friends, you can instantly answer the age-old question: what are those orange balls and can I eat them?!

What are the orange balls on sushi called? 

The mysterious orange balls on sushi do have a name: tobiko. This translates to flying fish roe, which is used in Japanese cuisine and commonly in sushi. Tobiko are small fish eggs in comparison to salmon roe, for example. But Tobiko is larger than masago, which is capelin roe. 

What is tobiko (orange sushi balls)? 

Tobiko are the small orange balls you often see on top of or around sushi. They’re crunchy, salty, smoky little garnishes that add the final finishing touch to beautifully crafted rolls. These little orange pearls add some much-needed crunchiness and texture to the soft and creamy sushi ingredients, not to mention that they look great, adding a real wow factor! 

Tobiko is naturally bright orange, but can often be infused with other flavours and colours, turning them green or black. These magical orange balls can be flavoured with wasabi and soy sauce, often added to Japanese salads to bring some extra flavour. 

Is tobiko good for you? 

In moderation, tobiko can be very nutritious as it’s high in vitamins, including selenium, which is responsible for the production of antioxidants. It’s also packed full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for your skin. 

However, tobiko shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities as it’s also high in cholesterol. This isn’t a problem though as tobiko is normally served as a small garnish on top of sushi, meaning you won’t be indulging too much. 

How is tobiko used on sushi? 

Tobiko is a versatile ingredient that adds a lot of value to sushi: the distinctive orange fish eggs are tasty and look fantastic too. Here are just some of the ways to introduce tobiko into your sushi ingredients.


One of the most popular uses of tobiko is as a garnish on sushi and sashimi. Tobiko often garnishes many sushi dishes, including gunkan maki. This delicious traditional sushi roll consists of a ball of rice wrapped in seaweed or smoked salmon, topped with the bright orange pearls of tobiko. It’s easy to make for sushi novices but looks amazing, mostly thanks to the beautiful tobiko garnish. 

As tobiko is so versatile with its subtle flavours and a wonderful crunch – and can be added as a garnish to any sushi dish or salad. Popular sushi salads often consist of rice, smoked salmon, avocado and tobiko, making a hearty and tasty bowl. 

Sushi filling 

If you want to go the extra mile with your tobiko, then you can add it to your sushi fillings. The crunchy eggs add some great texture throughout the roll and are perhaps easier to eat when incorporated with other ingredients. Tobiko can be added to any of your favourite sushi recipes, so why not mix it in with some cream cheese for your next Philadelphia roll? It’ll nicely counterbalance the creamy texture of the cheese, bringing a crunch and a salty, smoky flavour.

Directly on the rice for inside-out sushi rolls 

If you’re looking to impress your next dinner party guests, then you might want to try your hand at tobiko sushi. These are inside-out sushi rolls, also known as uramaki, where the nori seaweed sheet is on the inside and the sushi rice is on the outside. This creates a sticky outer layer that’s perfect for rolling in tobiko. The little orange eggs stick to the exterior of the sushi, creating a beautiful effect. Tobiko sushi is traditionally made from seafood, cucumber and avocado. You’re free to choose the fish filling, from smoked salmon to crab sticks – the world’s your oyster!

You’ve successfully levelled up your sushi game now that you know what those orange balls are on sushi! Not only can you now impress people with your knowledge, but you can also use tobiko to garnish and enhance your sushi. Our sushi making kits come with everything you need to create delicious, restaurant-worthy sushi from the comfort of your own kitchen.



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