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What Does Seaweed Taste Like And How Is It Used In Cooking?

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Am I the only one who freaks out whenever seaweed touches my leg in the sea? I bet I’m not. Well, I seldom freak out when I see seaweed in my snow crab sushi roll because it’s freaking delicious! 

Asian cuisines and seaweed are almost synonymous not just because of its appetizing flavor, but also because seaweed is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients (especially iodine).

Now, what does seaweed taste like

Since they’re obtained from the seas, you might suppose what they taste like. Worry not, I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity of describing the extraordinary taste of her majesty – SEAWEED! 

The 4 Tastes Of Seaweed You Need To Know

1. Salty

Salty? I’d never have guessed. 🤔 Joking aside, seaweed tastes salty and ocean-like because it absorbs some of the sea salt from the water in which it grows. Another reason is that it contains a high level of sodium and iodine.

DID YOU KNOW? Seaweed is the best source of iodine available.

Wait, why do we need iodine? 

Verywell Health has the answer: “Iodine is an essential mineral, meaning your body needs it to function properly. You can’t produce it independently and must ingest it through your diet or as a supplement. Iodine is important for thyroid function.” 

Contrary to it, “sodium is needed to maintain a balance of body fluids and keep muscles and nerves running smoothly”, as stated by FDA

2. Fishy

Seaweed tastes fishy because it contains high levels of iodine and it’s made of algae, which can have the same taste as fish. 

Keep in mind that the taste of seaweed can vary depending on the type of seaweed, how it was processed and cooked. 

3. Umami

According to Cambridge Dictionary, “umami is a strong taste that is not sweet, sour, salty, or bitter and that is often referred to as ‘the fifth taste’”. 

Seaweed tastes umami because it contains high levels of glutamate, which is the chemical that gives food its savory flavor. Hence, seaweed is commonly used in broths and soups. 

PRO TIP: Another way to get that umami flavor is by using specific types of seasoning such as Accent seasoning, and monosodium glutamate (a main ingredient in Accent seasoning) is exactly the one that will provide it.


4. Briny

The briny taste is salty with a hint of the ocean. It can be found in different types of food, such as seafood, olives, and anchovies.

Seaweed tastes briny because it contains high levels of sodium chloride, which is the same salt found in seawater. 

NOTE: Different Cooking Methods Of Seaweed Result In Different Flavors 

Cooking greatly affects the flavor of seaweed. Some cooking methods change the flavor entirely: 

Roasted seaweed: Roasting seaweed intensifies its sweet flavors that are combined with saltiness. Roasted seaweed can also taste like smoked bacon. 

Cooked in a smoker: If you cook the seaweed in a smoker, this will result in intensified smoky flavors. 

Boiled seaweed: There is no difference between boiled and fresh seaweed. 

How Is Seaweed Used In Cooking?

Seaweed is used in different types of seaweed dishes. You will find seaweed in sushi (in most cases, alongside raw tuna), butter, tea, salads, sashimi, wasabi, pasta, soups, kimchi, dried seaweed, and furikake.

I like to enjoy it in my favorite type of sushi, the snow crab sushi roll.

Seaweed can also be used as a food flavoring agent in soups, stocks, and sauces, or it can be used as a wrapping for sushi. Of course, it can be roasted like marshmallows or dried to make seaweed flakes.

Vegans also use it to create a complex flavor profile of kimchi, usually instead of fish, in order to make up for the umami flavor.

The most common seaweed used in cooking is Nori.

Nori, also known as laver and sea lettuce, is a seaweed with a delicate, savory flavor and a crisp texture. It can be found dried or fresh, and it is usually eaten as a wrapper for sushi or onigiri (rice balls).

The taste of nori depends on how it is prepared. When it is eaten raw, the taste of nori will be salty. When it is cooked, the saltiness will be reduced.

What About The Seaweed Texture?

If you’ve ever been in close contact with seaweed when swimming, then you know it feels like squishy, slimy goop. Seaweed texture can range from rubbery to crispy and crunchy

Seaweeds have a thallus body, which is classified as undifferentiated vegetative tissue. They don’t have true stems, leaves, and roots. 

Seaweed can often look similar to kale, but the flavor profile of kale is something entirely different, so you need to be careful not to confuse them with one another.

5 Interesting Facts About Seaweed

I’m sure these fascinating facts about seaweed will help you understand the importance of this unique marine plant:

1. Most of the world’s oxygen comes from seaweed! 

“Researchers say that roughly 70% of the world’s oxygen is produced by sea species including phytoplankton, kelp, and algal plankton. In comparison, rainforests make up 28% of oxygen production, while 2% comes from other sources.” (2) 

2. Seaweeds have many purposes.

The most common seaweed types include dulse, kombu, kelp, wakame, hijiki, and other marine algae.

Some seaweed types are used to make food, while others are used in medicine, cosmetics and in animal feeds. They are also used as fertilizers

3. Many seaweeds contain anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agents.


Here are some astonishing medicinal effects of seaweed, as stated by National Ocean Service

• “Their known medicinal effects have been legion for thousands of years; the ancient Romans used them to treat wounds, burns, and rashes. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the ancient Egyptians may have used them as a treatment for breast cancer.” 

• “Certain seaweeds do, in fact, possess powerful cancer-fighting agents that researchers hope will eventually prove effective in the treatment of malignant tumors and leukemia in people.” 

4. Seaweeds don’t have roots or flowers.

“Seaweeds may seem like they have roots, but they actually just attach to something underwater. Larger seaweeds, such as kelp, have root-like “tails” called holdfasts that help them hold firmly to a rock. Only a few types of seaweed can survive free-floating in the ocean.” (2)

5. Seaweeds play a crucial role in underwater ecosystems.

“They provide food and shelter for fish and other marine animals, like sea urchins and crustaceans. Living at the base of the food chain, they support many other life forms in aquatic communities. For instance, kelp grows in colonies and forms underwater forests, which provide shelter for various marine organisms.” (2)

Final Thoughts

Seaweed has been consumed for centuries by many cultures around the world. It is one of the most fascinating marine species due to the fact that it has many purposes and countless health benefits for humans and the entire planet. 

In the end, even though I didn’t bring you any seaweed, I hope you’ve understood what seaweed tastes like and what a significant role it has in our lives. 😊

1. Ajinomoto, What Is Umami?, accessed 17 March 2023.

2. Kvaroy Arctic, 22 Seaweed Facts To Know In 2022, accessed 17 March 2023.