What are Kelp Noodles?

Celeste Heiter

Kelp noodles are a pasta-like food made from a sea vegetable called kelp. The noodles typically contain a simple list of ingredients that includes only sea kelp, water, and a seaweed-based salt. Kelp noodles may be eaten raw or cooked and may be used in a variety of dishes.

Dried kelp.
Dried kelp.

Noodles made from sea kelp are fat-free and low in carbohydrates. They are rich in vitamins B and C, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. Kelp noodles are high in protein and dietary fiber and are considered a good source of iodine.

Kelp noodles can be a good source of iodine.
Kelp noodles can be a good source of iodine.

Kelp noodles are favored by vegetarians, vegans, and those individuals who eat a diet of raw foods only. They are well-suited for special diets practiced by diabetics and those hoping to lose weight. They are also popular among those who suffer from food allergies since they contain no gluten, rice, or yeast.

Kelp used to make noodles has long, graceful leaves and grows in thick forests in warm, shallow saltwater. The seaweed-based salt in kelp noodles is called sodium alginate, which is extracted from brown algae. It forms a gelatinous substance that serves as a texturizing agent.

The texture of uncooked noodles is somewhat rubbery and crunchy; however, they will soften if soaked in an acidic liquid such as lemon juice or vinegar. The flavor of kelp noodles is neutral, but they will absorb the flavors of dressings and sauces. To prepare kelp noodles for an uncooked dish, they need only to be rinsed.

When served raw, kelp noodles may be used for salads or cold noodle dishes. When cooked, they may be added to soups, casseroles, and stir-fry dishes. For texture and extra nutritional value, they may also be softened and pureed in fruit or vegetable smoothies.

Kelp noodles are well-suited for both Asian and Western cuisines. In European-style recipes, they are compatible with pasta sauces such as pesto, marinara, and Alfredo. In Asian dishes, they may be seasoned with soy sauce or flavored oils such as chili, sesame, or peanut. One brand of kelp noodles is even flavored with green tea.

The noodles are typically packed in water in sealed plastic bags. They will keep for extended periods of time at room temperature, but once opened, they must be refrigerated. Kelp noodles are available in Asian markets, health food stores, and upscale food markets. They are also available for mail-order purchase.

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