Whether it’s dulse, laver, nori, agar, spirulina or wakame, seaweed continues to be a hot food topic among nutrition experts, chefs and food foragers. (In fact, we love it so much, we recently wrote about dulse, a seaweed known for bacon-like flavor.) That’s because the vegetable of the sea is tasty, sustainable and works with many diet needs (vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, to name a few), making it a versatile pantry staple. Here are some things to know about using seaweed in your cooking.
Nutritional Notes on Seaweed
In the U.S., seaweed is readily available dried, making it a concentrated source of flavor and nutrients. Just a five-gram portion of Gimme Organic roasted seaweed snacks is considered a good source of vitamin C and has 25 calories. Iodine, sodium and water primarily comprise the ocean’s water, and so seaweed contains varying amounts of those nutrients plus trace amounts of other ones, such as calcium, vitamin A and iron. For example, seaweed is generally one of the best sources of iodine (an essential element that plays a role in metabolism), but a small seaweed sheet’s iodine content can vary from about 10% DV to almost 2000% DV for the mineral. And while it tastes salty, a serving of salted and roasted seaweed snack sheets generally contains a relatively small amount of sodium at less than 5% DV per serving.
While there isn’t much prep involved with dried seaweed, always check it for debris (just as you would pick through dried peas or beans). Many recipes — though not all — call for soaked and drained seaweed, so make sure to allow an extra 15 to 30 minutes or so for this step. (Use this valuable time to prep the recipe’s other ingredients.) And keep in mind that some dried seaweed sheets can expand dramatically in liquid, so don’t be alarmed!
Similar to a wine’s terroir, seaweed’s flavor is a product of its surrounding environment. Ocean-y, briny, meaty and savory are some of the tasting notes seaweed claims because of where it’s grown and harvested. What’s more, seaweed contains the protein that contributes umami, the essence of meaty, full flavor. And dried seaweed is a plant-friendly way to add rich flavor to your cooking (without gluten, meat or other foods you might avoid).
Here are some ideas to incorporate the sea veggie in entrées, sides, snacks and all manner of dishes (not just Asian-flavor profiles):
Use in a healthy weeknight dinner of salmon, rice and seaweed salad.
Make sushi rolls with nori sheets.
Use seaweed as the flavorful green component in a vegan wrap sandwich.
Garnish a rice bowl with shredded nori sheets.
Make a side salad with carrots and avocado.
Make a quick southeast Asian-flavored side for pork or chicken.
Pair with cucumbers and radish in this light salad.
Shred snack-size toasted sheets, and sprinkle on roasted fish to add a tasty, textural element.
Use dulse to make a flavorful popcorn seasoning.
Use crushed dulse or nori mixed with coarse sea salt for a flavor booster to potatoes, eggs and rice.
Sprinkle kelp granules atop soups and salads, or into salad dressings.
Flavor ramen broth, soup broth or even a pot of beans, discarding seaweed before serving.
Are you ready to try it? What are your favorite ways to enjoy seaweed?