Vegans Rejoice! Finally, a Damn Good Substitute for Bacon
Seaweed isn't just for rolling sushi anymore. The food science world is introducing chefs and home cooks to dulse (rhymes with pulse), kale's wacky seaweed cousin that tastes surprisingly like bacon and may even be the next big superfood.
Bacon and dulse seaweed have three very special flavors in common: salty, umami, and a hint of sweet. Combine these flavors with a crispy textural component and ding ding ding!—we have a bacon substitute that is about to make vegetarians and vegans across the globe go wild.
Jason Ball is an experimental chef at Oregon State University's Food Innovation Center in Portland who is finding remarkable ways to use dulse seaweed. During his research last year, he discovered that this translucent red seaweed tastes very similar to bacon when it's fried.
So far, Ball and his team have successfully made dulse ice cream, instant dulse ramen, and smoked dulse peanut popcorn brittle. Ball's overall goal is to create manufactured food products featuring dulse that can be found on shelves of grocery stores as early as this fall.
In case you don't want to wait around for these products to come out, we've got the lowdown on how to make food using dulse right now, in your own kitchen.
- Snack on dulse right out of the bag with a drizzle of olive oil on top.
- Pan-fry dulse in oil until crispy and place on a sandwich or burger (see below).
- Add to a stir-fry; dulse goes great with seafood and vegetables.
- Crumble up oven-roasted dulse and sprinkle over popcorn (see below), scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, pizza, or baked potatoes.
- Add granulated dulse to salad dressing.
- Use as a ramen or soup topping (see below).
Pan-fried dulse is the best way to emulate bacon in its truest form. This is done by flattening dulse out into strips and frying it in 1/8-inch of oil.
Dulse is so thin and delicate that it only takes 15 to 20 seconds on each side before it is perfectly crisp and ready to eat. Fried dulse will turn a bright, golden color and look crinkly like aluminum foil.
Pan-fried dulse is wonderful in sandwiches. It adds a nice crunch as well as a salty umami flavor to burgers, grilled cheese, turkey clubs, and my favorite, BLT sandwiches. In this case, we can call it a DLT.
To make a DLT, all you need is:
Once you have your ingredients, you can toast up the bread and spread on a little butter or mayo (vegan, if you wish). Then layer on the dulse, lettuce, tomato, and optional avocado (because avocado makes everything better).
If you're anything like me, you tend to stuff your sandwiches too full, so you may need a toothpick to hold it together. Transfer your DLT onto a plate and enjoy it with a bag of potato chips.
Mara Seaweed shares this way to use dulse: quick breakfast muffins with eggs and dulse, seasoned with the seaweed before baking.
Sea of Change Trading likes to sauté dulse and sprinkle it onto popcorn. Dulse popcorn is savory and salty without having to actually add any salt.
If there were ever a time to be adventurous and try new foods, the time is now. Food scientists like Ball are inspiring cooks everywhere to experiment with new ingredients like dulse. I was even lucky enough to find it on the menu at Plant Food + Wine in Venice Beach, California. I ordered a ramen dish featuring dulse, and it was so incredible that I now want to recreate the dish at home.
As dulse continues to grow in popularity, it is likely that you will start to see it available on restaurant menus and stocked on the shelves of your local grocery store. So keep your eye out for dulse, because it's coming—and it's amazing.