What is Nori?

Mary McMahon

Many Asian foods call for the use of nori, a type of edible seaweed which is dried or toasted, and often sold in sheets. It has been consumed in Japan and China for centuries, and is an important part of Japanese cuisine especially. Most Western consumers are familiar with nori because it is used to wrap sushi, although the distinctive salty, slightly grassy flavor is also delicious eaten plain as well.

Nori is commonly used in soup.
Nori is commonly used in soup.

Nori comes from the genus Porphyra, which contains a variety of species that are commercially grown and harvested, including Porphyra yezoensis and Porphyra tenera. The sea dwelling algae are grown in enclosed nets, which can be easily pulled out of the water for harvesting. In color, the genus ranges from red to green, and grows in wavy fronds which can be found growing naturally on rocks and attached to other seaweeds such as kelp.

Japanese cuisine commonly features nori.
Japanese cuisine commonly features nori.

Once the seaweed is harvested, it is washed and shredded before being pressed into molds to dry, forming paper like sheets of seaweed. Nori is often sold plain just like this for use in a variety of foods including soups. However, it can also be toasted and flavored for use in other dishes or for consumption as a snack food. Toasted nori flavored with soy sauce and dipped in sesame seeds, for example, is a popular treat in Japan.

Seaweed is processed and dried to create nori, the dry wraps used for sushi.
Seaweed is processed and dried to create nori, the dry wraps used for sushi.

Nori comes in a wide range of colors and flavors, depending on what type of seaweed was used and how it was treated. Some can be reddish to brown in color, while dark green nori is familiar to many consumers. In addition, sheets that are dark purple or almost black can be found, and are very popular for making sushi because the dark color contrasts well with the white sushi rice.

Nigiri sushi assortment.
Nigiri sushi assortment.

In addition to being used in soups and sushi, nori is also shredded and scattered on rice dishes and stir fries. Finely shredded nori often appears as a condiment, thanks to the salty flavor and crunchy texture. Some consumers also greatly enjoy eating whole sheets dipped in soy sauce. Some Chinese cooks use nori or other seaweeds as well, especially in traditional soups featuring fish and other sea vegetables.

Because of its popularity for sushi, toasted nori is readily available in most markets around the world. Specialty stores may also carry special snack foods made from it, along with untoasted nori and other dried seaweeds. When using nori to cook, make sure to handle it carefully, and do not allow it to get wet, because it will grow soggy and rubbery. If you do not use up an entire package, seal it well so that it will not get moist or stale.

A piece of futomaki wrapped in nori.
A piece of futomaki wrapped in nori.

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Discussion Comments


I have been interested in eating healthy lately, but being a kid living in an American household my parents and I pretty much only eat fast food. Finally I got my license and was able to buy foods I wanted. But this nori is delicious! Wrapped rice balls are great, ramen (traditional) and salads with nori is great! I really appreciate eastern foods now. So delicious, natural and good for you!


I crave Nori! I was eating it like no tomorrow this past week. Glad I saw this post to dip it in soy and sesame seeds. Yum Yum! I've introduced it to my co-workers, but yeah, they're used to eating junk (so sad). 'Nuff said. I'm going to go get my Nori!



This is true, the West is beginning to discover the richness of East Asian foods and medicines which have been proven over time and used for a variety of ailments. Vitality medicines like Korean ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba are quite effective in improving brain function. The West is slowly learning to be careful about what it ingests and manufactures. The high prominence of psychological disorders in the West can be solved with Eastern medicines.



I noticed that many Asian friends of mine tend to be able to stay healthy for a very long period of time, and have dealt with many diseases that we in the West still do not understand. I think that this is a result of Eastern medicine as well as their diet.


Maritime Asian cultures have learned to cultivate every aspect of the flora and fauna of their surroundings. Korean and Japanese cultures have flourished off of seafood for generations, and have perfected the arts of raw fish and seaweed consumption. The benefits of their diets are reflected in their longevity and wellness.


Nori is also quite popular in Korea, where cooking employs a lot of wet product and seafood. Ramen noodles are a product of Korea, as well as many other innovative and important food items that we use on a daily basis. Korean food is the best Asian food because it is both healthy and addictive, with many spicy soups and delicious seasoned vegetables, including nori.

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