After nori and kombu, wakame is the third most widely used edible sea vegetable, or seaweed, in Japan. Like these others, its use has spread to west. It’s now easily found in natural foods stores. This concise guide to wakame offers tips, ideas for using, and links to plant-based recipes.
Sometimes called sea mustard or Japanese kelp, its flavor is relatively mild, making it a good choice for those who aren’t fond of strong sea flavors.
Wakame nutrition notes
Practically calorie- and fat-free and low in carbohydrates, wakame is rich in calcium and also provides good amounts of magesium, phosphorus, and iron. It also contains an array of trace minerals such as iodine and selenium, and moderate amounts of several B vitamins and vitamin C. Notably, wakame is a good source of the B vitamin folate. See a complete nutritional profile here and learn about its benefits.
How to buy wakame
Look for wakame in natural foods stores and online sources, shelved near other sea vegetables, aka seaweed. Dried wakame usually comes in cellophane packages that weigh only a few ounces.
Much of the dark-green, long-leafed sea vegetable is harvested from the Hokkaido area of the Sea of Japan, though it’s now harvested from the waters near Korea and northern China as well. The packages in which you buy it will identify its origins.
Popular brands in the Western market include Eden Foods, Emerald Cove, and Vitamin Sea. There are plenty of other imported brands that you’d be more likely to encounter in Asian groceries. Wakame comes in packages that are about 2 ounces in weight and is rather expensive, though a little goes a long way.
To reconstitute, cut or tear off as much as needed and soak in warm water for 10 minutes; of course it’s best to follow directions given on packages of individual brands. Chop into shorter lengths if desired. Wakame expands two to three times its dry volume, and turns a brighter shade of green.
Simple ways to use wakame, and links to recipes
Classic seaweed salad: One of the most common uses for wakame is as the main ingredient in Asian-style seaweed salads. Here’s one for Japanese Seaweed Salad. This is a good companion with vegetable sushi rolls!
Sunumono salads: Wakame is used as an element in other types of cold salads, particularly those containing cucumbers. a traditional Japanese-style cucumber and wakame salad is a type of sunumono — vinegary cold dishes that add savor to the plate. Here’s a simple recipe for cucumber and wakame salad.
Miso soup: One of the most common uses for wakame is as an ingredient in simple miso broths. Use about 1/4 cup chopped reconstituted wakame per cup of water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add miso to taste, diluted in enough water to make it pourable before adding to the broth. Here’s an easy recipe for Vegan Miso Soup that contains both wakame and kombu.
In other Asian-style soups: Chopped wakame is equally welcome in more elaborate Asian-style soups, such as hot-and-sour vegetable soups and soups containing Asian noodles like soba or udon.
Tofu scrambles: Add a small amount of chopped reconstituted wakame to vegetable-rich tofu scrambles. Wakame, Kale, and Konnyaku Fried Rice with Scrambled Tofu sounds amazing!
A simple dip with a sea flavor: Combine 1/4 cup or so finely chopped reconstituted wakame, 3/4 cup plain vegan yogurt, 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon yellow mustard, and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir together well a tangy, offbeat dip for vegetables, batter-fried tofu, crackers, or chips.
Pea soup enhancer: Add 1/2 to 1 cup chopped reconstituted wakame to your favorite split pea soup about 30 minutes before the soup is done. Here’s a recipe for Seaweed and Split Pea Soup for you to try.
Rice embellishment: A small amount of reconstituted chopped wakame adds a nice boost of flavor and nutrients to simple rice dishes. Try Easy Wakame Brown Rice.
Daikon condiment: Combine 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped reconstituted wakame with a large grated daikon radish. Season with soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar to taste and use as a condiment served in small portions on the side of the plate.
More sea vegetable guides
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