Bored of the same old leafy greens? Try this flavour-packed, nutritious seaweed salad recipe! This simple Seaweed Salad is perfect when paired with sushi, or your favourite Asian dish! This salad is easy to prepare is it’s ready in less than 5 minutes!
Thanks to the UK heatwaves, I’ve been spending more time at the beach, so this weekend I thought I’d make good use of my trip to the beach and forage for some of my favourite seaweed. I picked bags full of tender sea lettuce and gutweed so I’ll be sharing a few of my favourite seaweed recipes. For those of you who don’t already know, I’m literally obsessed with seaweed, so I'd like to introduce you to two of my favourite seaweeds that grow in abundance in the UK and are easy to identify for even a first-time forager: Sea lettuce, also known as Ulva lactuca or Ulva rigida, and Gutweed, which is also known as Ulva intestinalis or Ulva linza. For the seaweed salad recipe I used a combination of gutweed and sea lettuce.
How does this seaweed salad taste?
This seaweed salad is exploding with delicious flavours from the ginger, garlic, sesame oil and red pepper flakes. There is a big misconception that all seaweeds have a fishy taste, but I find that sea lettuce and gutweed are on the mild side, making them a great choice for people trying fresh seaweed for the first time.
I feel like seaweeds are one of the most underrated foods in the UK. They’re a powerhouse of nutrients, grow in abundance, easy to find, incredibly tasty and hugely rewarding if you know which ones to pick and what to do with them. You can put your mind at ease while foraging for seaweeds as there are no toxic seaweeds that can be picked on foot in UK waters, so you can sample just about any seaweed you can get your hands on, simply make sure that you water you gather your seaweed from is free from contamination.
What types of seaweed to use and where to forage for them
I've attached images of the two seaweeds I've used for this salad. The first image is sea lettuce, and the second image is gutweed.
Sea Lettice is easy to identify with its vibrant, green colour and is usually found as thin, translucent sheets. Sea lettuce can be eaten fresh or dried and it’s a great addition to soups and stews. It’s found from early spring - late summer in rockpool edges and clinging to rocks by the sea.
A bright green mass of tuberous seaweed or it is sometimes found as flattened tubes (Ulva linz). For this recipe I used the type of seaweed with flattened tubes as they're much easier to clean. Gutweed can found from early spring - late summer in rockpools high up the shore, attached to the surface of the rocks. Gutweed can be eaten raw, dried or deep-fried, but my preferred method is to blanch them for 1-2 minutes in boiling water before adding them to salads.
How to clean seaweed
With gutweed, you have to make sure to remove any sand and grit from its tubes – wash thoroughly, then squeeze out excess moisture. If you’ve got the flat variety of gutweed, it’ll be much easier to clean. Add the gutweed to a large bowl or bucket of water and wash well, empty and refill the bowl or bucket with clean water and wash 3-4 more times until the water runs completely clear. Use the same process to clean sea lettuce.
Where can I purchase seaweed?
Not everyone will be keen to forage for seaweed, so if you’d like to make this salad without having to take a trip to the beach, you can find many varieties of dried seaweed in Asian supermarkets. Asian markets usually sell packets of assorted dried seaweed, specifically for making a salad. If you don’t have an Asian market nearby, you can buy it online on Amazon or at specialty grocery stores. You may not be able to find dried sea lettuce or gutweed, but any type of seaweed that’s commonly used in salads, especially Wakame seaweed, can be used for this recipe. Simply rehydrate the seaweed before tossing with the dressing.
Health benefits of seaweed
Seaweeds are a powerhouse or vitamins and minerals! Did you know that some variety of seaweeds (most notably dulse) come closer than any other wild food to providing a fully balanced diet from a single food source? Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, which supports healthy thyroid function. One thing to be cautious of is to avoid eating too much seaweed if you’re sensitive to iodine or have an overactive thyroid. Seaweed also contains high levels of vitamins A and C and are also a great source of calcium. They’re high in plant-based protein and are a potent source of antioxidants. If these amazing health benefits aren’t enough to inspire you to try some seaweed, then what is?!
Seaweed Foraging Tips
Please be mindful and treat seaweeds with the same respect you would the plants and trees, taking no more than you need, and picking them in a way to make sure they will regrow. Here are a few foraging tips:
Most seaweed foraging will take place in slippery rock pools. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, be extremely cautious and do not hold the knife or scissors in your hand as you navigate your way around the rock pools. Also tread between rather than directly on rocks
Be aware of water pollution and water quality. Don’t pick seaweed from stagnant water, rockpools that aren’t regularly refreshed or busy harbours
All seaweeds need careful harvesting to ensure that they continue to grow and flourish. I recommend using a sharp knife or scissors to harvest seaweeds, as this will allow them to regrow as well as making the cleaning process a lot easier for you as the gritty holdfast (seaweed's equivalent of a root) will stay on the rock.
Make sure the seaweed is attached to the rocks and cut the upper two thirds, leaving the lower third intact.
I recommend you harvest the seaweed at rocky beaches and in rock pools rather than sandy beaches as they’ll be much easier to clean.
Harvest between early spring and late summer. The seaweed will be larger towards summer and the nutritional value will be higher too.
Ingredients for seaweed salad
Seaweed -- I've used a combination of gutweed and sea Lettuce in this salad, but you can use any tender seaweed of your choice.
Soy sauce -- Make sure to use a reduced sodium soy sauce or the salad will taste overly salty.
Rice vinegar -- I've used rice vinegar, but you can use apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar instead.
Sugar -- A bit of sugar will help to balance out the acidity in the dressing. I've used white granulated sugar, but you can use any sugar or sweetener of your choice.
Ginger -- You'll need some fresh ginger that has been finely grated.
Garlic -- fresh garlic adds a lovely flavour to this salad. You could use dried garlic granules, but it won't taste as good as fresh garlic.
Lime juice -- a squeeze of lime juice will brighten up the dressing. You'll need the juice of half a small lime, but if you don't have lime, you could use the same amount of lemon juice instead.
Sesame oil -- I would suggest you use toasted sesame oil for a delicious nutty favour.
Chilli flakes -- you can you any chilli fake of your choice, however you may need to adjust the amount you add depending on how hot the chilli power or flake is.
Toasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds -- the sesame seeds add a lovely crunch and texture to the salad. Make sure to toast the sesame seeds to intensify that delicious nutty flavour.
How to make seaweed salad
Give the seaweed a thorough wash to get rid of any sand. Place the seaweed in a medium pot and cover with boiling water. Let it blanch for 1-2 minutes. If you’re using dried seaweed, then cover with hot water and let it rehydrate for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the dressing: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes.
Strain the seaweed in a colander and rinse with cold water. Make sure to remove as much excess liquid as possible, squeezing the seaweed if necessary.
Add the seaweed to the bowl of dressing and toss well to coat.
Serve right away or place in the fridge for 30 minutes for the flavours to marinate. When ready to serve, garnish with toasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds.
How to serve seaweed salad?
This delicious Seaweed Salad can be served as a starter with an Asian inspired menu, or it can be served as a vibrant, tangy side dish to accompany any meal. Serve chilled with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds for added crunch.
Storing seaweed salad
Place any leftover seaweed salad into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This salad is great for preparing in advance as the longer the seaweed is left to marinate in the dressing, the better it will taste and the more tender it will be.
Tips for making seaweed salad
The longer the seaweed is left to marinate in the dressing, the better it will taste and the more tender it will be, so for maximum flavour, prepare this salad at least 1 hour before you intend on serving.
There is nothing worse than having a gritty texture in salads, so make sure to remove any sand and grit from the seaweed by washing it thoroughly and making sure to use clean water between washes.
If you're not using your fresh seaweed right away, you can store it in the freezer for up to 6 months. Simply wash the seaweed, pat dry, then place in small freezer bags and freeze. When you're ready to use the seaweed, place it it a bowl of hot water and allow it to thaw, then drain and use right away.
Gutweed and sea Lettuce can be eaten raw in this salad, though I'd recommend blanching them for a few minutes as the texture becomes more tender.
Gutweed can be a little difficult to toss, so in order to evenly coat each piece of seaweed with the dressing, get stuck in with your hands and massage the dressing through the thin strands of seaweed.
Serve the seaweed with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. The delicious nutty flavour of the toasted sesame seeds compliments the fresh taste of the seaweed.