In this article, we're clearing some things up about kelp. We'll tell you what it tastes like, what makes it different from seaweed and how to use it in your cooking.
Let's get started...
What Does Kelp Taste Like?
While it's true that kelp is going to taste ocean-like in general, as in salty and briny, there are many different varieties, and each is a little different.
We'll give you some examples...
Saccharina latissima, also called sugar kelp, is a touch sweeter than your average sea plant. Alaria esculenta, which also goes by the names of winged kelp, dabberlocks and badderlocks, is quite mild with a nutty quality.
Overall, it will always have an ocean flavor to it, but it's more complex than you might think.
The texture of kelp is different in dry and wet form. Kombu, a popular type, may be parchment-like and crisp when dry while other kelps can be pretty tough.
It's generally recommended that you soak kelp before eating it to get the tender, chewy texture people associate with seaweeds.
Are Kelp and Seaweed the Same?
This subject can get a little weedy, if you'll excuse the pun. Broadly speaking, kelp is a type of seaweed, which is an edible algae that grows in the ocean. But there are generally accepted differences between them.
Kelp is what is categorically defined as brown seaweed (versus green and red). It's also larger than typical seaweeds and has wide fronds.
However, thicker seaweeds exist. Wakame (a seaweed rather than a kelp), for instance, can be broad "leafed," though you'll likely encounter a skinny version called hiyashi wakame in Japanese seaweed salad.
Finally, don't get confused when you see skinny kelp noodles—these are made with kelp extract and shaped into matchstick pieces.
Can You Eat Kelp Raw?
By all means, eat kelp raw if you like! It's sold in both toasted and untoasted forms, and the untoasted kinds can be enjoyed straight out of the package.
As we mentioned earlier, soaking can improve the texture, but the crunch of crispy dried kelp can be quite nice on top of a salad or rice and veggie bowl.
How Do You Eat Kelp?
Kelp is added to a huge variety of foods. You can use it in veggie sushi or seaweed salad for starters, but it's also used in salad dressings, soups and mock tuna salad as it adds a "fishy" quality.
You can find kelp flakes in the store, which you'd shake on top of your meals like salt. We recommend seasoning soups with any kind of kelp for a rich umami flavor.
Kelp Serving Tips
If you've never cooked with kelp before, fear not. These videos will break down the steps involved in some tantalizing vegan foods.
For your vegan miso soup base, prepare this plant-based dashi, a Japanese soup stock.
Here's what you need:
- Dried shiitake mushrooms
Love kale chips? Give these kombu-infused kale chips a try for the perfect salty-savory snack.
Here's what you'll need to buy:
- Hulled hemp seeds
- Miso paste
- Astragalus powder (we think you could leave this out if you prefer)
Kelp is type of seaweed that ranges from sweet to nutty in flavor, though you can count on that salty, ocean-like taste in whichever type you buy. Eat it raw, sprinkled on top of your lunch plate in place of salt, or in vegetable stocks and soups. Make homemade vegan dashi with it and you'll be able to have vegan miso soup whenever the mood strikes.