Seaweeds for Seafood Flavoring

Looking back, I have to chuckle at myself. There was a time I was reluctant to try unfamiliar foods. Seaweeds were certainly in that category. I have since learned, seaweeds are not just a food or an ingredient, but they are very rich in nutrients. They contain ten to twenty times the minerals of land plants and are also rich in vitamins. In our plant-based community we have been delighted to learn that seaweeds can add that “fishy” flavor to plant-based “seafood.”

When I teach a class with seafood-like food, I’m always asked “What should I get?” I’m far from an expert. Listed are seaweeds that are in my pantry that I use as a seasoning.

Nori is the sushi wrapper. Nori is easy to find and the least expensive of all seaweeds. It has a sweet and salty flavor with a distinctive ocean aroma. It can be eaten raw or lightly toasted. To use in recipes, I make it into a powder. This is simple as the sheets are easy to tear and add to a blender. Store as a seasoning in an airtight container. I find it versatile and easy to add a sprinkle whenever I want a hint of fishy flavor to Caesar Salads, Seafood Chowder, and Chickpea Tuna Salad.

Kelp Powder, Kombu and Wakame When used as a seasoning, these are all used the same way. These can be used almost on a daily basis. I always add a pinch to the water when cooking whole grains and beans. Doing this increases the nutritional value of the food I’m cooking. Adding a pinch of these also aids in digestibility of whole grains and legumes.

To use these in plant-based cooking these need to be turned into a granular type powder. Even though you do that with the nori, the kombu and wakame are very brittle so they require more effort to pulverize. Asian stores have the best prices and carry a variety of seaweeds, however they are packaged with unfamiliar names, therefore I purchase these at health food type stores. Kelp can be purchased as a powder. Kombu and wakame are dried in strips and sold in bags.

Dulse has a dark red-blue color and a flaky appearance. It’s great for sprinkling and has a salty flavor. Because of its pronounced coloring I use dulse the least. When I sprinkle it in Caesar Salad, to me it becomes reminiscent of anchovies. I also like it in Seafood Chowder and Chickpea Tuna Salad. However, when used this way I will also add a sprinkle of nori for the fishy flavor. Dulse is available in health food type stores.

Old Bay Seasoning is not a seaweed but I included it here because it’s a seasoning that can be used to flavor seafood. It’s often used in traditional seafood chowders and crab cakes. Old Bay Seasoning is available in the spice section of most grocery stores.