For many of us food people, our fridges, freezers, and kitchen shelves tend to be a hodge-podge of new food products on the market. Olive oil in squeeze bottle form. Frozen XLB (xiao long bao). Extremely cool-looking vinegars. Okay, I guess I should just speak for myself: I’m describing my kitchen. And right now, you’ll notice a clear theme: There are so many new condiments and snacks made of seaweed. There are hot sauces whipped with bullwhip kelp. Seasoning salt flecked with wakame bits and red pepper. Little ice cubes made entirely of, yes, seaweed.
I ate a lot of oceanic greens in the name of research for this recent story about how and why to add seaweed to your diet, and I learned a lot, not just by eating but by reading and interviewing seaweed-loving chefs and experts. Any traditional coastal cuisine features some of the nearly 12,000 species of seaweed. Tendrilled yuyo tops ceviches in Peru and Chile. Wiry limu kohu is a constant in poke in Hawaii. The roasted red algae known as nori, gim, and zicai is a staple in East Asian cuisines (folded with sushi, finishing steamed rice). The boom in seaweed snacks and other food products may be new, but seaweed as a culinary staple certainly is not.
The global seaweed market is growing 8–10 percent each year and is expected to nearly double by 2028, which means we can expect a lot more algae—and in unexpected places—in our future. I’m all for it because my body felt good after all this seaweed research. “It’s like a multivitamin,” says Nalani Kaneakua, founder of Ko‘olau Limu Project. This ocean veg is packed with tons of minerals and vitamins (calcium, zinc, iron) and has been known to promote gut health (fiber). So without further ado, here are the latest seaweed products we’re loving.
Spend any time in Southeast Alaska and you’ll become intimately familiar with bullwhip kelp. The giant, ropy seaweed washes up on shore after storms and will wrap itself around your boat propeller if you’re not careful. (Also: can be used as a vuvuzela-like horn!) It’s delicious too, at least as prepared by Juneau-based Barnacle Foods. Their rings of pickled bullwhip kelp provide crunch on salmon burgers or chopped up and folded into tuna salad, and their bullwhip hot sauce combines the brininess of seaweed with the spice of piri piri. You’ll want to dash it on everything. —MacKenzie Chung Fegan, senior commerce editor
This is a burger I truly crave. What I love about it, along with the fact that the ingredient list includes nutrient-packed foods like mushrooms, pea protein, black beans, and quinoa, is that its texture is uniform—no stray corn kernels or bean skins in sight. These patties are chewy, salty, and smoky, and while nothing about the taste screams “seaweed,” there’s definitely a note of brine in there. Size-wise, this veggie burger is thick enough to make its presence known but thin enough to leave room for all those toppings I love. I’d eat it even if it weren’t made of planet-saving seaweed. —Amanda Shapiro, contributing editor
Maine-based Atlantic Sea Farms makes jarred seaweed salad-like creations (beet-laden kraut, sea-chi—as in kimchi) and frozen cubes of kelp for blending into salad dressings or smoothies, but my favorite of their offerings is the ready-cut kelp. It tastes salty like the ocean and bitter and vegetal like a leafy green. I love having it in my freezer at all times, so I can quickly defrost it for a simple side. I’ll toss the kelp with sesame oil, salt, minced garlic, and a little bit of sugar and soy. —E.I.
After reading up on seaweed’s ability to sequester carbon—and generally fretting about what we’re going to eat when, well, you know—I decided I wanted to incorporate more of that good green stuff into my diet. And just like that, a very chic ad for Rootless stopped me in my tracks mid-scroll. The brand sells a series of tasty little seaweed snacks made from dates, almonds, seeds, and seaweed that they claim are like “nature’s multivitamin,” packed with calcium, magnesium, iodine, iron, and other vital micronutrients that supposedly keep us happy and healthy. I’m not a scientist, but I can tell you that the Orange Pistachio bites are supremely delicious. They’re barely sweet, with fragrant, floral vibes and pleasantly briny notes from the seaweed. And I appreciate that Rootless doesn’t try to mask the seaweed flavors but instead enhances them. Like a gummy vitamin, the only tough bit is sticking to one per day. —Ali Francis, editor
This California collab features mild Piment d’Ville chile powder from Booneville Barn Collective blended with wakame seaweed flakes from Daybreak Seaweed Co. The addition of dried garlic and onion flecks makes for a versatile everything bagel seasoning with a marine kick. It’s dynamite sprinkled on avocado or tomato toast, DIY hand rolls, or hard boiled eggs drizzled with soy. —M.C.F.