British Columbia

Dulse: seaweed that tastes like bacon, healthier than kale

It could be a dream come true for vegans — a seaweed that tastes like bacon and that has twice the nutritional value of kale.

To be used to make bacon-flavoured beer, rice crackers, salads and more

Oregon State University researchers have patented a new strain of a succulent red marine algae called dulse that grows extraordinarily quickly, is packed full of protein and has an unusual trait when it is cooked - it tastes like bacon. (Stephen Ward)

It could be a dream come true for vegans — a seaweed that tastes like bacon and that has twice the nutritional value of kale.

Researchers at Oregon State University are growing a marine plant called dulse and are planning to use it as a salad leaf, salad dressing, in peanut brittle, rice crackers, bread and even in beer.

This red-coloured type of seaweed has a smokey, meaty flavour when cooked and is an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, said Michael Morrissey, director of the Food Innovation Center at OSU.

When dried, it contains up to 16 per cent protein, Morrissey added.

New fast-growing strain developed

Peanut brittle and rice crackers are just some of the many food creations researchers have been experimenting with using dulse. (Stephen Ward)

Dulse is a naturally-occurring red marine algae that grows along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines.   

Scandinavians have been eating it for centuries, Morrissey said, despite its high market price of roughly $90 per pound in dried form.

Now, researchers at OSU have patented a more affordable method of growing dulse in an agricultural setting and at a never-before-seen pace.

In this new system, the plants nearly double their weight every ten days, Morrissey said.

Environmentally sustainable solution

For nearly 15 years, shellfish biologist Chris Langdon and colleagues at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center have been growing dulse as a kind of superfood for the abalone they were studying.

It only recently occurred to them that they could grow it as a superfood for humans as well.

Nutrition aside, this new strain of dulse can be sustainably raised and harvested with very low environmental impacts, researchers said, since the seaweed only needs saltwater and sunshine to grow.

The scientists hope to begin commercializing some of the early food prototypes this fall, but consumers shouldn't expect to see dulse bacon on the shelves for at least a year, Morrissey said. 

To hear the full interview with Michael Morrissey, listen to the audio labelled: Bacon-flavoured seaweed.