Taramasalata is a Greek fish roe salad also known as tarama dip usually made during Lent. Follow this recipe for a creamy, traditional and delicious dip made with bread.
Many of you know this Greek tarama dip as taramasalata, probably because the name comes form tarama which is the fish roe. However, in Greece it’s called taramosalata probably because it sounds better to our ears. As with many foods, every household has it’s favorite unique recipe, but there are two basic variations of this dip: one made with bread and one without. This recipe uses bread and it’s one of my favorites!
Taramosalata is a dish most often prepared during Lent and it usually accompanies other Lenten foods like this Greek brown lentil soup, these amazing Greek baked chickpeas (Revithada) or even a plate full of homemade falafel. And though you can eat it plain, slathering it on a slice of bread like this carob and whole wheat bread with walnuts is almost obligatory.
Tarama is the roe (microscopic eggs) of either carp, cod or mullet which is preserved with the addition of salt. There are two types available in Greece: white and pink Tarama. White tarama is the best quality fish roe, it is undyed and (from what I’ve heard) it may be difficult to find in many countries.
Pink tarama has had color added to it (I really don’t know the reason, probably some people find it more appetizing that why) and it can also contain other additives, so it’s not 100% fish roe and salt. If you want to read more about tarama you can visit this tarama and taramasalata article (by dianekochilas.com).
What does Taramasalata taste like?
I would best describe it a “fishy” mayonnaise but in a good way! Because tarama is actually tiny fish eggs preserved in salt, taramasalata is full of umami flavor. Additionally, the lemon juice gives it a zingy taste and freshness while the oil (because it’s emulsified the same way as with mayonnaise) provides creaminess and body. Leaving it in the fridge overnight will let all the different flavors to mature and blend together better.
How to make taramosalata
- If you use the onion, blend it with the water and then strain through a strainer (this makes the taramasalata lighter than using the onion whole).
- Add all the ingredients except the oil to a food processor and blend until everything is smooth.
- With the machine running, add the oil in a thin stream.
- Once done, taste and adjust the lemon juice and the salt if needed.
What oil to use in Taramasalata
Though I love olive oil and I try to use it in as many recipes as I can (like this chewy tahini & olive oil chocolate chip cookies or this vegan olive oil cake also known as fanouropita), in this recipe I prefer to use a neutral tasting vegetable oil like sunflower oil or corn (maize) oil. Olive oil will alter the flavor of the taramosalata and can also make it taste bitter. If you want to use olive oil I would suggest choosing a very mild one and use half olive oil and half sunflower oil.
What bread to use for taramasalata
In my Taramosalata Youtube video you’ll see that I use white sandwich bread. It’s softer, with mild flavor and it will make the fish roe dip very creamy and smooth. Also if you don’t have a kitchen scale, you just use the number of slices the recipe requires and you’re set.
Do you need to soak the bread in water?
Many taramasalata recipes tell you to soak the bread in water and then squeeze it to remove the extra moisture. But since some people squeeze harder than others, you can never be sure how much water goes into the dip. Soaking is usually done when the bread is stale and it’s used to soften it and make it easier to blend.
This recipe uses soft, white sandwich bread which doesn’t need soaking to become softer or to blend better. In addition, the water is measured by cup (or weight) so you know exactly how much goes into the recipe.
What to do if the fish roe is very salty
It’s very difficult to know beforehand if the tarama is too salty. Once you make the taramasalata and it seems salty, you can add more bread, oil and lemon juice to compensate.
If you already know that your tarama is salty (probably you’ve made one batch before or your mom who bought it told you), you can soak it in water for 30 minutes to remove the excess salt.
What can you eat taramasalata with?
- Slather it on a slice of bread like this quick beer and olives bread
- It’s a perfect side for this Greek brown lentil soup
- Also a great side for these Greek baked giant beans (Gigandes)
- Eat it with homemade pita bread
- Use it as a spread in sandwiches
- Eat it with homemade Falafel
- Dip some fried calamari in it
- Pair it with soft baked chickpeas (Revithada)
- Make an appetizer with sea food like this easy Mediterranean baked octopus
- Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves)
- Chips are also nice!
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) water
- 1/2 red onion (optional)
- 4 slices (100 grams) white sandwich bread
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) good quality white tarama (fish roe)
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) fresh lemon juice
- a pinch of sugar
- 1/4 cup (55 grams) mild olive oil
- 1 cup (230 grams) sunflower oil
Blend the onion with the water for a few seconds, then pass the mixture through a strainer and collect 1/2 a cup (120 grams) of onion water (this method gives some onion flavor to the taramasalata without making it too heavy)
Process: Transfer the bread, the fish roe (tarama), the lemon juice, the pinch of sugar, the onion water and the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and blend for 1-2 minutes until everything is smooth and homogenized.
With the machine running, add the sunflower oil gradually in a thin stream. As you add the oil the mixture will start to thicken (it's the same thing as making mayonnaise). Scrape the bowl with a spatula and process for one more minute.
Taste and adjust the lemon juice and the salt if needed. Serve or transfer to an airtight food container and store in the fridge for up to 10 days.
- White tarama is not exactly white but brownish (beige?) in color. It’s called white to differentiate it from the red-colored inferior variety.
- This recipe makes a mild-tasting taramasalata. If you prefer a stronger taste, you can increase the tarama by 1 tablespoon. The quality of the tarama (fish roe) plays a great role in the final outcome. If you use red tarama or if your tarama doesn’t smell strong, you may have to use a double amount to get the right flavor.
- If you can’t find fish roe, the next best option is to make a version with salmon roe.
- The onion is optional. If you’ve never made taramasalata before, I suggest leaving it out, and if you feel something is missing add it the next time you make it.
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