The Ocean’s Nutritional Superstar: Seaweed

Sustainable, vegan and delicious, seaweed has plenty of qualities to boast.

Seaweed Salad With Fresh Herbs and Chile

Seaweed Salad With Fresh Herbs and Chile Recipe opens in a new tab

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 opens in a new tab, 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.

Seaweed, Carrot and Avocado Salad

Seaweed, Carrot and Avocado Salad Recipe opens in a new tab

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. 

Spicy Seaweed Salad With Brown Rice and Salmon

Spicy Seaweed Salad With Brown Rice and Salmon Recipe opens in a new tab

Prep School

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! 

Tofu-Seaweed Wraps With Wasabi

Tofu-Seaweed Wraps With Wasabi Recipe opens in a new tab

Culinary Cues

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):

Are you ready to try it? What are your favorite ways to enjoy seaweed?

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