6 Ways to Cook with Healthy Seaweed at Home

seaweed harvest

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If you want to eat a little healthier, try adding some seaweed to your diet. That’s the suggestion of a team of Danish researchers who reviewed 35 separate studies on the health effects of seaweed. They concluded that adding a small amount of seaweed to processed convenience foods like hot dogs and frozen pizza could help improve our health.

“Certain substances in seaweed may be important for reducing cardiovascular diseases. We think this knowledge should be available for society and also be put to use,” said Ole G. Mouritsen, co-author of the study published in Phycologia.

Seaweeds are a nutritional goldmine, full of healthy proteins, antioxidants, minerals, trace elements, dietary fiber, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. They’re also deliciously salty, but contain better-for-you potassium salts rather than sodium salts, which can raise blood pressure.

Mouritsen’s suggestion is to sneak more nutrients into people’s diets by adding them to fast food. And because seaweed had umami, it can even enhance the flavor of processed snacks.

“We know that many people have difficulty distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy food. By adding seaweed to processed foods we can make food healthier. In many cases we also get tastier food,” Mouritsen said.

The researchers suggest people eat 5 to 10 grams of seaweed per day to enjoy the maximum health benefits. That might be easy to do if Chipotle and Pizza Hut start adding the stuff to their dishes, but until they do, it’s up to you to work this superfood into your diet. You can find dried seaweed at Asian markets, natural foods stores, and many other grocers. Once you have it in hand, it’s a surprisingly versatile ingredient, adding tasty flavor to soups, salads, and more. To help inspire you, here are seven recipes you can make featuring ultra-healthy seaweed.

1. Spicy Tuna Maki

rolling sushi at home, japanese food

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Many people’s first (and often only) culinary encounter with seaweed is in sushi. While it may seem intimidating, sushi is not that hard to make at home, provided you have the right tools, like a sushi mat. In this recipe from Chowhound, sheets of dried seaweed, or nori, are wrapped around a mix of ahi tuna and spicy mayo for a delectable, healthy snack.

Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces sashimi-grade ahi tuna (yellowfin or bigeye), chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil or Sriracha hot sauce
  • 4 sheets nori, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 cups cooked and cooled sushi rice (see ingredients and instructions below)
  • Pickled ginger
  • Wasabi
  • Soy sauce

For the sushi rice:

  • 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups raw sushi rice

Directions: To make the sushi rice, stir together the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl until the latter are dissolved.

Put the rice in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Using your hands, swirl the rice to wash it, then drain off most of the water. Repeat until the water runs clear — this will probably take 3 rinses. Drain the rice into a fine-mesh strainer and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Put the rice in medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add 3 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook, covered, until the water is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.

Spread the cooked rice onto a rimmed baking sheet and slowly pour the reserved vinegar mixture over it, turning the rice gently to combine. Set the rice aside, fanning it occasionally with a sheet of paper until it comes to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Use within an hour.

As you wait for the rice to cool, mix together the tuna, onions, mayonnaise, and chili oil or hot sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.

Place a bamboo sushi mat on a flat work surface with the slats running horizontally. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the bamboo mat. Place a half sheet of nori on the plastic wrap.

With wet hands, spread about ½ cup of the room temperature rice over the surface of the nori, leaving about a ½-inch of nori uncovered on the furthest edge. Press and spread the rice firmly but gently, wetting your hands again if needed to prevent sticking.

Spoon a thin line of the tuna mixture down the center of the rice.

Begin rolling the edge of the bamboo closest to you, over the tuna mixture, using the mat to press down on the sushi roll firmly but gently as you roll.

When you get to the raw edge of nori, use your finger to lightly wet the nori, then continue to roll up so it’s sealed. The nori should stick to itself when the roll is complete.

Remove the plastic wrap and set the roll aside, covering with a damp cloth while you work to finish the remaining rolls. Repeat until all of the rice has been used. Cut the roll in half, then into thirds so each roll results in 6 pieces. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce.

2. Winter Solstice Fruit Salad with Kirsched Sea Spaghetti

dried apricots

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Seaweed is often associated with Japanese and Korean cuisine, but it also pops up frequently in recipes from other coastal areas, including Ireland, which is where this recipe for a winter fruit salad with sea spaghetti comes from. The sweet fruits, which are marinated in brandy, make this dish a healthy option for dessert. Sea spaghetti, or long strands of pasta-like seaweed, might be hard to find in your local grocery store, but you can buy it online. Recipe from Irish Seaweed Kitchen.

Ingredients:

For the fruit salad:

  • 7 ounces dried figs or prunes, or a mix of both
  • 7 ounces unsulphured apricots
  • 2 ounces sultanas
  • ½ pint green tea
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Generous dash of pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon dark molasses sugar or honey
  • Generous dash of kirsch or cherry brandy
  • Raspberry syrup (optional)
  • 2 handfuls of frozen summer fruits: a mix of gooseberries, blackcurrants, and raspberries
  • 1/4 stick cinnamon
  • 1 medium-sized can of sliced peaches

For the sea spaghetti:

  • 3/4 ounce dried sea spaghetti, rinsed in cold water and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3½ fluid ounces of water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Dash of kirsch or cherry brandy
  • Dash of raspberry syrup

Directions: The night before you plan to serve the salad, soak the sea spaghetti in the water, honey, kirsch or cherry brandy, and syrup. Let sit overnight on top of a cool range or in a cool oven (150 degrees Fahrenheit).

Soak the prunes, apricots, and sultanas in green tea, lemon juice, pineapple juice, honey, kirsch, and raspberry syrup (if using) and let sit overnight. Defrost the frozen summer fruits at room temperature, preferably overnight.

Simmer the dried fruits and defrosted summer fruit, except the raspberries, gently together in the stock liquid with ¼ stick cinnamon for 20 to 30 minutes or until the gooseberries or other hard fruits are cooked. Add the prepared sea spaghetti, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to a large serving dish and add the raspberries, the sliced canned peaches, and the peach juice. Mix everything together gently. Taste and add honey if necessary. Add kirsch to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Serve with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, custard, or creme fraiche.

3. Furikake Wonton Crisps

furikake crisps

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Furikake is a Japanese seasoning that typically includes dried seaweed, along with sesame seeds, dried fish, and other ingredients. Here, it serves as a savory topping for fried wonton chips. You can eat these crunchy snack foods on their own or try serving them with a fresh seafood dish like an ahi poke. Recipe from Chowhound.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package 3-by-3-inch square wonton wrappers (about 60)
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup furikake

Directions: Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds.

Slice wonton wrappers in half diagonally to form two triangles. Lightly brush 2 baking sheets with vegetable oil and arrange triangles in a single flat layer without touching, about 24 triangles per sheet. Lightly brush the top of each triangle with vegetable oil and season with salt. Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of the furikake over each baking sheet.

Bake until the surface of the wontons just begins to blister, about 4 minutes. Rotate the pans between the racks and bake another 4 minutes, until the crisps are golden brown all over. Transfer crisps to a serving dish and repeat with remaining wonton triangles. The cooled crisps can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

4. Honeyed Kelp and Ginger Tea

Tea, mug, drink

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Try preparing a cup of this honeyed herbal tea with a little dried kombu (edible kelp) if you want to fight off a winter cold. Kombu is high in immunity boosting vitamins A and C, as well as iron, calcium, and iodine, according to the Washington Post, while many people swear by ginger as source of relief from the common cold. Recipe from the Cornish Seaweed Company.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon dried chopped kombu
  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger root
  • ¼ teaspoon green tea leaves (optional)
  • Honey to taste

Directions: Boil water. Remove from heat and add the kombu, ginger, and green tea. Let steep for 5 minutes, then strain into mug. Sweeten to taste with honey and serve.

5. Miso Soup

miso soup

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Wakame, a type of seaweed used in many Japanese soups, is a good source of vitamins A, C, and E, and may even help promote weight loss (though you’d have to eat an enormous amount of the stuff if you really wanted to shed pounds). Still, this tasty green is a welcome addition to this nourishing miso soup recipe from Epicurious.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dried wakame
  • ¼ cup shiro miso (white fermented-soybean paste)
  • 6 cups dashi (a type of Japanese stock made from kelp and bonito fish flakes)
  • 1/2 pound soft tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens

Directions: Prepare the wakame by combining the seaweed with warm water to cover by 1 inch and let stand 15 minutes, or until reconstituted. Drain in a sieve.

Stir together miso and ½ cup dashi in a bowl until smooth. Heat remaining dashi in a saucepan over moderately high heat until hot, then gently stir in tofu and reconstituted wakame. Simmer 1 minute and remove from heat. Immediately stir in miso mixture and scallion greens and serve.

6. Seaweed Salad

Seaweed Salad

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Seaweed is a green after all, which means it makes perfect sense to eat it in a salad. The ingredients list for this seaweed salad recipe from The Splendid Table is on the long side, but you won’t mind once you sample the result. With healthy wakame and dulse seaweed, plus avocado, cucumber, carrot, and ginger-soy dressing, this is a incredibly nutritious meal you’ll actually want to eat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce dried red dulse seaweed
  • 1 ounce dried green wakame seaweed
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • ½ teaspoon wasabi powder
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and sliced paper-thin
  • 4 red radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces daikon radish, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 firm-ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon toasted black sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 4 green onions, slivered

Directions: Place the two types of seaweed in a large bowl. Cover with cold water and let soak for 5 to 10 minutes, until soft. Drain, pat dry, and transfer to a serving bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar, ginger, wasabi powder, soy sauce, and sesame oil to make the dressing.

Spoon half the dressing over the seaweed. Add the lime juice and toss gently. If necessary, add a small amount of salt to taste. Place the carrot, radish, daikon, cucumber, and avocado around the edges of the seaweed. Season the vegetables lightly with salt and drizzle with the remaining dressing.

Sprinkle with the white and black sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and green onions, then serve.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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