What is Seaweed? Let’s dive into the treasures of the sea.

What is Seaweed?

There are many types of seaweed on the market, which can make it overwhelming to figure out which edible seaweed to use for what purpose. In this article, we’ll break down what seaweed is, potential nutritional benefits, and recipes to help you incorporate seaweed into your diet.

What is seaweed?

Seaweed has become a very familiar term these days, but what is seaweed exactly? Seaweed is broad term that refers to numerous marine plants and large macroalgae. Seaweed is broken into categories by color; red (Rhodophyta), green (Chlorophyta) and brown (Phaeophyta). Brown seaweed includes some 1500 species, green 7000 species and red 4000 species. Unlike sea grasses and land plants seaweed does not have flowers, roots, or leaves - instead they have stipes (stem like) and blades (leaf like). Seaweed also produces its own food by utilizing sunlight and converting carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and sugar (known as photosynthesis). It can be found growing in oceans, rivers and lakes providing homes for many sea creatures.  Many types of seaweed are edible, making them an abundant and sustainable food source for both marine and land dwellers alike.

  • Seaweed vs Kelp

    Seaweed vs Kelp is something of a misnomer. Kelp is a form of brown seaweed that grows in cooler, shallow waters often near the coastline. Giant kelp can grow up to 200 feet in its lifetime and like many other types of brown seaweed, often grows in groups or forests. By attaching itself to the substrate, kelp can stand fast against the currents and waves. Some familiar types of kelp are wakame, arame, and kombu. Kelp is often used in seaweed salads, seaweed snacks, mineral powders and even toothpaste!

Types of seaweed

The main four types of seaweed you will encounter most often are wakame, arame, kombu and nori. Each variety has classic ways that it is used and will be familiar to most. Arame, wakame, and kombu are all brown algae seaweeds and specifically a type of kelp. Nori is a form of red algae seaweed, popular for making sushi and seaweed snacks.

  • Wakame

    Wakame, also known as “Sea Mustard”, is a type of brown algae and a species of kelp. The dried version of this edible seaweed needs to be rehydrated prior to use and will expand 2 -3 times in size when hydrated. After it is rehydrated wakame turns a beautiful, brighter green color with a soft, silky, noodle-like texture. Wakame delivers an umami flavor with a salty, slightly sweet taste. Three popular recipes using wakame are the classic Japanese seaweed salad, miso soup and sunomono which is a cucumber and seaweed salad.

  • Arame

    Arame, also known as "Sea Oak", is a species of kelp that has a mild, slightly sweet flavor making it easily adaptable to a variety of uses. Usually sold in a dried state it consists of dark brown strands with a firm texture. Rehydration is required for use in cooking which generally takes about five minutes. This nutritional powerhouse can be added to muffins, soups, and salads to name a few options. Arame is also used for fertilizer and harvested for alginate which is used in food production as a stabilizer or thickener.

  • Kombu

    Given the honor of being called the “King of Seaweed” Kombu is a form of brown algae and a species of kelp. It has a briny, deep umami flavor reminiscent of mushrooms! Commonly used as a base (called dashi) to make stock or added to dry beans when cooking in order to increase their digestibility. Because of its intense umami flavor, it is used like bay leaves to enhance the flavor of sauces and soups of any type. Kombu powder can also be used to make a face mask for your skin, often recommended for oily or acne prone skin due to its antimicrobial and antioxidant characteristics.

  • Nori

    Nori is a type of red algae and the most well-known type of seaweed. Harvested, washed, shredded, dried and pressed into sheets this edible seaweed dresses up sushi all around the world. Chewy or crispy in texture, nori has a touch of salt and sweetness, but a powerhouse of umami flavor. Nori is used in many classic Japanese recipes; sushi, onigri, furikake, miso soup, and as an accompaniment to plain rice. You may also find nori used to make seaweed snacks, salad toppings, and as a powder to be added to everything from soup to popcorn.

  • Dried seaweed

    Seaweed that is intended for consumption is often dried and packaged to prolong freshness. In order to maintain that freshness, it is recommended that you ensure it is in a sealed package and stored in a cool, dry, dark location. If you want to extend the life even further, it can be frozen or refrigerated in an airtight container. Watch for changes in color or texture to determine if it is still good for use.

Is seaweed good for you?

In recent years as seaweed has grown in popularity it has also found its way into potential applications for medical use. According to Today's Dietitian studies have been conducted indicating potential applications for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

In terms of dietary applications for health, seaweed is full of fiber, protein, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and high amounts of vitamins and minerals. This can be a double edged sword, as too much of a good thing is still too much. Being informed is always the first step. For example, individuals with certain health conditions or taking certain medications may need to take caution when introducing seaweed to their diet. Anyone taking blood thinners or suffering from an autoimmune disease should consult a medical professional prior to eating seaweeds as they can cause unwanted side effects or interfere with medications.

In addition to medical conditions there are some nutrients (these vary based on the type of seaweed) that are very high and not naturally eliminated by the body when in over abundance. Livestrong.com points out that iodine and sodium content for many seaweeds is very high in just a small amount. Iodine is an essential nutrient that must be consumed, but too much iodine can cause damage to your thyroid.

Seaweed, like many things, has great benefits when eaten as part of a balanced and varied diet. Staying mindful, balanced, connected to your body, and informed is the smart move.

    • Seaweed nutrients

      High mineral content in seaweed includes calcium, iodine, iron, copper, and magnesium. Brown seaweeds are high in magnesium, one example is kombu which has 8 grams per serving which is over 50% of the daily recommended amount for an adult. Some red and green seaweeds are high in vitamin B12, nori contains 5mcg (2.4 mcg is the RDA) for an 8 gram portion. For those that grow in direct sunlight they are high in vitamin A, C, E and some forms of vitamin B (1,2,3,6,9,12). Lastly, the iron content in some cases can be very high – an 8 grams serving of dulse flakes has more iron than 3.5 ounces of lean beef.

      There is a decent amount of variation in the different forms of seaweed and often the serving sizes are small, so reading the nutritional label can be a good place to start for specifics.

Seaweed for Miso Soup

Wakame is the seaweed most often used in miso soup, but any of the four main varieties can be used for miso soup. In a traditional Japanese dashi stock, both kombu and wakame are used to make the classic dish. Arame makes a lovely topping to any steaming bowl of soup, and adding a crispy, toasted slice of nori is great for dipping or floating on top.

Seaweed recipes

  • Seaweed Snacks

    If you are looking for a really simple way to elevate your meal, then try out these simple, healthy and delicious seaweed chips made with nori, almond butter and miso.

  • Seaweed roll

    Seaweed rolls are an endlessly versatile way to enjoy sheets of seaweed such as nori, flat noodle-like wakame, crispy arame, or kombu powder for a nice umami bomb.

  • Seaweed flakes

    Seaweed flakes can be a great way to add some of that briny, umami flavor in small amounts. They can be added to smoothies, soups, salads, sushi and sandwiches. These treasures are really packed with flavor and nutrition, so a little can go a long way! Check out one classic and one unexpected way to use seaweed flakes in these recipes below.

  • Seaweed wrap

    It’s always a treat to find a new way to wrap up a bunch of delicious goodness. We think that nori is a great fit for that job!

Umami, That’s Good!

UMAMI The mysterious & savory fifth taste

What does umami mean? 

Umami is a word coined by Kikunae Ikeda, the Japanese chemist known for his research into the source of savory flavor. The word is derived from “umai” meaning delicious, and “mi” meaning taste. Umami is often defined in the English translation as “pleasant savory taste.”

What are umami flavors? 

Umami is the term used to describe the fifth sense of taste. The four basic tastes had been identified for a long time; sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 1900’s that a Japanese chemist by the name of Kikunae Ikeda unearthed the fifth taste that we now know as -- UMAMI. Ikeda’s research led to the discovery of the source of this savory flavor: glutamic acid.

Because of its savory qualities, glutamic acid is processed and used as one of the components in the controversial seasoning MSG, which is used as an additive in certain foods to enhance the flavor.

But don’t get glutamic acid and MSG confused. Glutamic acid itself is not MSG. In fact, it’s a naturally occurring amino acid and a building block of protein that aids in transmission of nerve impulses in the brain.

By seeking out foods that are naturally rich in glutamic acid, you can enjoy rich, savory, umami flavors while avoiding chemical additives.

Umami foods 

There are many umami foods naturally rich in glutamic acid. For example, green tea, shiitake mushrooms and tomatoes. Another excellent example is dashi broth, which is made with kombu and rich in umami flavor. (In fact, it was kombu that inspired Ikeda’s research).

Other foods where you can enjoy that savory flavor naturally include fermented foods, like tamari, miso, and kimchi.  Aged cheese such as parmesan are also well-known umami foods.

You can even amp up an old favorite like potato salad by using a savory condiment such as HealthSavor Miso Mustard, which contains 26% chickpea miso.

Miso Mustard Umami Potato Salad
Miso Mustard is the perfect ingredient for adding umami to classic summer dishes, like this savory potato salad.

Umami ramen 

One of the easiest ways to make a delicious umami ramen is to use miso in your broth. Ramen broth recipes vary widely, and often have a vegetable, pork or chicken stock base. To make your broth blast off with flavor try adding three tablespoons of Miso Master Organic Traditional Red Miso paste per quart of liquid to your recipe.

To add miso paste to your broth, first mix the miso paste with warm water and stir until the mixture is smooth. Then add the mixture to your broth. This helps the miso incorporate better into your soup base. (NOTE: To maintain the integrity of the healthy bacteria in miso paste, refrain from boiling.)

You can also substitute soba noodles for ramen if you’re looking for a buckwheat alternative.

Umami seasoning

Perhaps the most famous method of adding umami flavor to dishes is the inclusion of MSG. However, many individuals avoid added MSG in their diets, meaning they must find their savory satisfaction elsewhere.

Miso is one of the easiest and most versatile ways to add a savory element to foods. Miso comes in multiple varieties that range in concentration of flavor meaning there’s an option for everything from salmon and sauce to bread and dessert.

Make it umami with miso

Miso Master Organic Miso comes in six different varieties for a range of flavors. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to use when.

Short-term miso varieties

Our short-term miso is aged for thirty days. This produces a lighter color and milder flavor. Short-term miso is excellent for adding to desserts, baked goods, salad dressings, and vegan cheeses. Our short-term miso varieties are:

Long-term miso varieties

Our long-term miso is aged for a minimum of one year.  This produces both a darker color and a more concentrated flavor.  Long-term miso is exquisite in stews, soups, sauces and marinades. Our long-term miso varieties are:

Miso Mustard Umami Potato Salad

Miso Mustard Umami Potato Salad
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Miso Mustard Umami Potato Salad

Miso Mustard Umami Potato Salad

  • Yield: 6 servings 1x




  1. Cut baby red potatoes into quarters or halves and place in large pot.  Cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes uncovered.  Potatoes should not fall apart and be barely cooked through. 
  2. Once the potatoes are done cooking they should be strained and rinsed in cold water to stop further cooking.  Allow them to drain in a colander while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  3. Cook petite peas on the stove or microwave according to package instructions.  Rinse in cold water and set aside to drain along with the potatoes.
  4. Make the dressing by adding all the ingredients into a small bowl and whisking until creamy and fully blended. 
  5. Pour dressing over cooled potatoes, add peas and toss gently.  Place potato salad in the refrigerator to let all the flavors absorb and to finish cooling the potatoes. 
  6. Add salt to taste and garnish with sesame seeds if desired.