Dulse vs. nori butter

We recently had a chance to try out some seaweed butter recipes.

Typically seaweed butter recipes call for dried nori, which is expected due to the availability of dried nori in most grocery stores. We wanted to try using fresh seaweeds, nori and dulse. After nori and dulse butters were made, we used them on a variety of simple dishes to compare flavors.

Directions to make seaweed butter using fresh seaweeds.

  1. Grab a large handful of fresh nori or dulse (~2-3 oz).

  2. Add seaweed to a food processor with a little water and puree.

  3. Strain pureed seaweed through a coffee filter to remove excess water.

  4. Heat a skillet to medium-low and melt a half stick of non-salted butter (4 Tbs).

  5. Mix in strained pureed seaweed.

  6. Transfer mixture to a dish, cover, and refrigerate.

    The seaweed butter can stay in refrigerator for up to two weeks and can now be used at any time in place of regular butter.

Now for the fun part. We used the nori and dulse butter on a a few simple dishes to assess the flavor enhancement and differences. We tried both butters on fried eggs, sauteed zucchini, sauteed mushrooms, bread, mixed veggies, and asparagus.

Dulse Butter: Dulse kept its red color when used to saute vegetables. It gave a much more umami meaty flavor to dishes compared to nori. This is to be expected as dulse contains more glutamic acid which is responsible for umami flavor. Dishes that used dulse had little to no ocean flavor. Dulse butter would be good for any dish where a more savory flavor is wanted.

Nori Butter: Nori butter became dark green when sauteed. Dishes cooked with nori had more ocean flavor than dulse, likely because nori has a higher concentration of lipids. Longer chain fatty acids, like fish oils, give a stronger ocean flavor and are good for human health. Nori butter would better complement seafood dishes like crab, oysters, and fish.

Overall the seaweed butters were well received, even by people that don’t particularity enjoy seafood. The crowd favorite was umami mushrooms, white mushrooms sauteed in dulse butter. These were very simple dishes so the differences in the butters could be detected, that being said, adding new elements such as garlic and lemon would be great things to try.



Pureed nori in melted butter

Pureed nori in melted butter

Umami mushrooms sauteed in dulse butter

Umami mushrooms sauteed in dulse butter

Nori butter in dish

Nori butter in dish

Sauteed zuchini with dulse butter.

Sauteed zuchini with dulse butter.


The man who discovered umami

Did you know we owe seaweed for helping discover umami?

Kikunae Ikeda a Japanese chemist and professor at Tokyo Imperial University had been studying a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes called dashi. Through numerous chemical assays, Ikeda had been trying to isolate the molecules behind its distinctive taste. In a 1909 paper, Ikeda claimed the flavor in question came from the amino acid glutamate, a building block of proteins. He suggested that the savory sensation triggered by glutamate should be one of the basic tastes that give something flavor, on a par with sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. He called it “umami”, riffing on a Japanese word meaning “delicious”.

Ikeda’s paper was not well received, and it took over a hundred years for the term “umami” to be internationally recognized. Over the decades, scientists began to put together how umami works. Each new insight brought the claim put forth by Ikeda into better focus. The discovery that made umami stick was about 20 years ago, showing that there are specific receptors in taste buds that pick up on amino acids. Multiple research groups have now reported on these receptors, which are tuned to specifically stick onto glutamate.

Ikeda, found a seasoning manufacturer and started to produce his own line of umami seasoning. The product, a monosodium glutamate (MSG) powder called Aji-No-Moto, is still made today. (Although rumors have swirled periodically that eating too much MSG can give people headaches and other health problems, the US Food and Drug Administration has found no evidence for such claims. It just makes food taste more savory.)     

While other food items have umami flavors, it was seaweed that gave the term life.

Umami- What it is and how you get it from seaweed

You may have come across the word umami, it’s commonplace in Japanese restaurants and on packaged foods such as ramen or seaweed. Umami can be described as a pleasant "brothy" or "meaty" taste with a long-lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue.

Umami, is a loan word from the Japanese  (うま味), umami can be translated as "pleasant savory taste." The word was first proposed in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda. It wasn’t until 1985 the term was recognized as a scientific term to describe the taste of glutamates and nucleotides at the first Umami International Symposium in Hawaii. This symposium is still active today.

The English synonym would be Savory

Seaweeds are known to produce Umami flavor and are commonly used to make broths. A recent article published in the Journal of Food Measurement and Characterization outlined ideal flavor extraction process for Laminaria japonica, and showed all the flavor components. Below is a breakdown of the chemical constituents of the Umami taste in Laminaria japonica.

“Electronic tongue and electronic nose were used to assess the taste and flavor of the hydrolysate, respectively. Hexanal (43.31 ± 0.57%), (E)-2-octenal (10.42 ± 0.34%), nonanal (6.91 ± 0.65%), pentanal (6.41 ± 0.97%), heptanal (4.64 ± 0.26) and 4-ethylcyclohexanol (4.52 ± 0.21%) were the most abundant flavor compounds in the enzymatic hydrolysate with % peak areas in GC–MS. The contents of aspartic acid (11.27 ± 1.12%) and glutamic acid (13.79 ± 0.21%) were higher than other free amino acids in the enzymatic hydrolysate. Electronic tongue revealed a taste profile characterized by high scores on umami and saltiness .”