Smart Ways to Cook with Seaweed (That Have Nothing to Do with Sushi)

Rich flavor plus vitamins, minerals, and muscle-building protein have made seaweed a hot health food. Chefs are in love, and they're using the green in clever ways that go beyond the sushi roll.

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There are so many types of seaweed, and the fun part is playing with the range of flavors and textures, says chef Kim Alter of Nightbird and Linden Room in San Francisco, who uses the ocean veggies often. Some are soft, some crunchy, others snappy, but they all bring a rich umami flavor to your food and a nice briny hit (and are higher in protein than you'd expect). If you're just starting to cook from the sea, try these three varieties first: nori, which are crisp, papery sheets with an earthy taste; wakame, kelp-like leaves that are salty-sweet; and hijiki, thin strips with a slightly bitter flavor. "Their versatility makes them ideal to experiment with," Alter says. And they're easy to find. Here's a primer to cook from.

Crisp up spicy chips.

Top ribbons of wakame with shichimi togarashi (a Japanese spice mixture also known as seven-spice powder), lemon pepper, or a combination of our favorite spices and place on a roasting rack in a 300° oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Enjoy on their own, with onion dip, or with fruity salsa.

Make sea tacos.

Add any herbs, cucumber, canned tuna, and a citrus vinaigrette to a bowl of rice, then fold up squares of seasoned nori and use them as mini taco shells.

Turn them into salad croutons.

Rehydrate hijiki by soaking it in water for 30 minutes, then add it to a quinoa salad (like this grilled shrimp black quinoa salad) for extra crunch. Mix in a sesame dressing to tie the flavors together.

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