Paging Dr. Frischer: Dulse

Fact is indeed stranger than fiction: picture a type of marine algae that tastes like bacon! It’s high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and protein…and is fat free.

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It’s called dulse (rhymes with pulse), and is available online (try Amazon) and at some Whole Foods markets. I bought this seaweed dried, in whole-leaf form, and fried it in a small amount of olive oil for about one minute on each side. The saltiness (it grows in salt water, after all), the nice crunch, the slight greasiness of the olive oil, and the flavor are definitely reminiscent of bacon.

My wife - let’s just say that she was highly skeptical – shared it with me, and even she enjoyed it! My office staff, typically more interested in chocolate than in marine vegetation, was enthusiastic as well. 

Dulse has been harvested and eaten, often in soups, in Northern Europe for hundreds of years or more. The earliest written accounts date back to the 15th century. Today, it is dried and sold for up to $90 a pound as a cooking ingredient or nutritional supplement, often in powder or flake form.

Bon Appétit suggests: To achieve that bacon-like effect, pan-fry some dried whole-leaf dulse with oil over medium-high heat until crisp, then slap it between two slices of bread with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise for a DLT. Eat raw or cooked dulse as a snack, or add it to sandwiches and salads.

At Oregon State University, researchers who were originally developing a super-food for abalone developed a new strain of dulse that grows very quickly and can be farmed. Chefs working with it have come up with a long list of recipes ranging from crackers and salad dressing to beer and ice cream.

What makes this seaweed exciting is that it isn’t difficult to produce, and the Oregon strain in particular could become an efficient and lucrative crop. Dulse has a shelf life of about ten days in the refrigerator, and can last a very long time in dried form. 

My conclusion is that dulse is tasty, nourishing, and has the potential to be a pretty flexible ingredient in recipes. If you are choosing nutritionally between bacon and seaweed…seaweed wins!