Dulse 101 – The Basics
Dulse, or Palmaria palmata, is a type of seaweed or sea vegetable. It has dark burgundy leaves (fronds) that grow about 20 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide. The fronds are soft and leathery with a skin-like texture. The plant is a perennial that regrows new fronds each year. It grows in the North Atlantic Ocean region and is found on both the European and North American coasts. In North America, dulse is found as far north as Arctic Canada and as far south as Long Island, New York. In Europe, it is found off the northern coast of Norway, and as far south as Portugal. Dulse may also be found in the northern Pacific regions. There, it is known as Pacific dulse, or Devaleraea mollis. In different cultures, dulse may also be known as dillisk or dilsk (Ireland and Scotland), red dulse, sea lettuce, or söl (Iceland). Records show that dulse has been harvested as food for at least 1,400 years.
Dulse is often eaten fresh as a vegetable in areas local to where it is harvested. Otherwise, dulse is often sold dried, as large pieces of leaves or crumbled, as flakes. Dulse is known for its salty flavor, and may be used in place of soy sauce or salt when seasoning foods. Along with its saltiness, dulse has a deep umami, slightly smoky flavor. Some people fry the fresh leaves, making a crispy bacon-like substitute. It is sometimes referred to as “the bacon of the sea” or “vegan bacon.” The dried leaves are often used as toppings for salads, potatoes, and popcorn.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Dulse is a low-calorie food, with one tablespoon of dried dulse flakes containing about 10 calories. It contains potassium, iron, magnesium, iodine, copper, manganese, sodium, and many more minerals, as well as Vitamins A, C, B6 and B12, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. It is exceptionally high in iodine, an essential nutrient for good thyroid function. Even though dulse has a somewhat salty flavor, it is not exceptionally high in sodium. A one tablespoon serving of dried dulse flakes contains 50 mg of sodium, which is 2% of the Daily Value.
Toxin and Heavy Metal Removal. According to Anthony William, the Medical Medium, Atlantic dulse is an excellent food for removing heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and aluminum, as well as toxins such as radiation, pesticides, and more, from the body. Dulse pulls toxins from deep, hidden places in the digestive tract, binds onto them, and carries them out of the body through the feces, without releasing any along the way. Atlantic dulse is a critical component of his Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie.
Immune System and Thyroid Booster. According to Anthony William, the Medical Medium, the iodine in Atlantic dulse helps to boost the immune system. It also works with zinc in helping to stop a viral infection in the thyroid. This helps to reduce inflammation of the thyroid, helping it to function more efficiently. Dulse also helps to protect the thyroid from the effects of radiation. He suggests we consume two tablespoons of dulse daily to get its full benefits. Note that if you have thyroid issues, and especially if you take any type of medication for a thyroid disorder, please consult with your healthcare provider before including dulse into your diet. There may be limits on how much dulse you should consume based on its iodine content. Your thyroid medication may need to be adjusted when adding dulse to your diet.
Antimicrobial Properties. Years ago, traditional medical practices were to use a poultice of dulse applied to wounds to prevent infection. This practice is supported by modern science, which has shown that dulse has antibacterial properties.
Iron Content of Dulse. If you suffer from iron deficiency, including dulse in your diet on a regular basis can help to correct that problem. A one-fourth cup serving of dulse flakes provides 4 mg of iron (22% of the recommended Daily Value of iron). Since the iron is plant-based, including a Vitamin C-rich food (such as an orange) in the same meal as the dulse will boost the absorption and utilization of the iron found in dulse. Adding dulse to a dish that contains tomatoes (which contain Vitamin C) will also satisfy that need.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. In a study published in the June 22, 2011 issue of the journal Lipids in Health and Disease, researchers found that dulse (Palmaria palmata) contained a high proportion of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Getting ample EPA in the diet helps to protect us from coronary heart disease, high blood fats (especially high triglycerides), high blood pressure and inflammation. Consuming dulse can help to keep our cardiovascular system healthy.
Bone Health. In Anthony William’s book “Medical Medium Life-changing Foods,” Atlantic Sea vegetables (which includes dulse) are “especially beneficial for the bones, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue, and teeth…”. Dulse contains a wide array of minerals that can help to support the health of our skeletal system. This is especially important for growing children and women as they age and become more prone to osteoporosis.
Sodium Content of Dulse. Since dulse grows in the ocean, it naturally contains sodium. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet and you want to consume dulse, one option is to soak your dulse in advance to help remove some of the sodium. Another option is to limit the amount of dulse you consume so you can stay within your sodium limits.
Note of Caution. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should use caution before adding a large amount of dulse to their diet because of its high mineral content. Please check with your healthcare provider before making substantial changes to your diet.
How to Select Dulse
Although dulse grows in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, it is wise to opt only for dulse grown in the Atlantic. The Pacific Ocean has been greatly polluted with mankind’s trash. Hence, anything growing in that region will contain some degree of contaminants from the trash in the water. Dulse grown in the Atlantic Ocean will have far less contaminants and is considered to be a healthier option.
How to Store Dried Dulse
Store plain dried dulse in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. For extended storage, it may be kept in the refrigerator or freezer. Seasoned dried dulse often was made with oil in addition to seasonings. The oils can go rancid over time when kept at room temperature. Therefore, seasoned dried dulse should keep longer in the refrigerator and longest when kept frozen. It should be placed in an airtight freezer container for optimal storage. Use a rigid container when storing whole leaves to help prevent them from being crushed during storage.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Dried Dulse
* Add some dulse flakes to soups, stews, and casseroles for a salty, umami flavor.
* Add some dulse flakes to cooked beans for a hint of plant-based bacon flavor.
* Use dulse flakes as a flavorful garnish on eggs.
* Add some extra flavor and nutrients to avocado toast by sprinkling on a pinch of dulse flakes.
* Lightly sprinkle dried dulse flakes on a salad or any other food as a salt substitute.
* Some people will lightly pan-fry dulse leaves bringing out their bacon-like flavor and texture. Dulse cooked this way is sometimes added to boiled potatoes, turnips, or other vegetables. It may even be added to sandwiches for a meatless bacon-like flavor.
* Some people boil dried dulse leaves to soften them, then drink the broth to get the nutrients released during cooking.
* Dulse flakes may be sprinkled lightly on pizza before it is baked for added bacon-like flavor.
* If you want to reduce the saltiness of your dulse, rinse, then soak it for 20 to 30 minutes in water. Drain well, and use as desired.
* If a recipe calls for a sprinkle of dulse flakes and you don’t have any, you may substitute a sprinkle of sea salt. If you have them available, other types of sea vegetables may be used as a substitute for dulse. Examples include arame, wakame, hijiki, or kombu.
* If you want a salty, savory snack, you could simply snack on dried dulse leaves.
* Use dulse leaves to make a “DLT” sandwich. That’s dulse, lettuce, and tomato. Using dulse leaves will be much easier in this case than dulse flakes.
* Add dulse flakes to a smoothie for a savory, salty flavor and to help remove toxic heavy metals from the body.
Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Dulse
Capers, curry powder, dill, ginger, parsley
Foods That Go Well with Dulse
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans, cashews, eggs, fish, peanuts and peanut butter, sesame seeds and paste, bean sprouts, tahini, tofu, walnuts
Vegetables: Cabbage (i.e., Chinese, napa, red), celery, greens (i.e., collards), mushrooms, onions, potatoes, scallions, spinach, sweet potatoes, vegetables (in general), watercress
Fruits: Apples, avocado, coconut, lemon (juice and zest)
Grains and Grain Products: Grains (in general), noodles, oats, pastas, popcorn, rice
Dairy and Non-Dairy Products: Butter
Other Foods: Miso, oil (i.e., olive, sesame)
Dulse has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Chili (esp. vegetarian), curry, dips, Irish cuisine, pasta dishes, pates, pizza, salads, sandwiches, Scottish cuisine, soups (esp. bean), stews, stir-fries, wraps
Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Dulse
Add dulse to any of the following combinations…
Basil + Sun-Dried Tomatoes + Walnuts
Dill + Lemon Zest + Parsley
Ginger + Sesame Oil
Lemon + Tahini
Lemon Juice and/or Zest + Walnuts
Sea Salt + Sesame Seeds
Kale, Mushroom and Lentil Pilaf with Dulse https://maraseaweed.com/blogs/recipes/kale-mushroom-and-lentil-pilaf-with-dulse
Ultimate Superfood Salad with Dulse Seaweed https://maraseaweed.com/blogs/recipes/ultimate-superfood-salad-with-dulse
Vegetarian Soba Noodles with Dulse https://maraseaweed.com/blogs/recipes/vegetarian-soba-noodles-with-dulse
Detox Coriander Pesto with Dulse https://maraseaweed.com/blogs/recipes/detox-coriander-pesto-with-dulse
Pea Soup with Dulse Seaweed https://maraseaweed.com/blogs/recipes/pea-soup-with-dulse-seaweed
Cabbage, Broccoli, and Cashew Stir-Fry with Dulse https://maraseaweed.com/blogs/recipes/cabbage-broccoli-and-cashew-stirfry-with-dulse
Stuffed Tomatoes with Dulse https://maraseaweed.com/blogs/recipes/stuffed-tomatoes-with-dulse
Curried Lentil and Vegetable Soup with Dulse Seaweed https://maraseaweed.com/blogs/recipes/curried-lentil-vegetable-and-dulse-soup
Gluten-Free Chocolate Dulse Cake https://maraseaweed.com/blogs/recipes/gluten-free-chocolate-dulse-cake
Dulse Smoothie with Berries and Irish Moss https://pacificharvest.co.nz/recipe/berry-dulse-smoothie/
Dulse Chips https://pacificharvest.co.nz/recipe/dulse-chips/
DLT – Dulse, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich Recipe https://pacificharvest.co.nz/recipe/vegan-blt-sandwich/
Seaweed Popcorn Seasoning https://pacificharvest.co.nz/recipe/seaweeed-popcorn-seasoning/
Butternut Squash Soup with Smoked Kelp and Dulse https://pacificharvest.co.nz/recipe/butternut-soup-with-dulse/
Roasted Mushroom, Feta, and Smoked Dulse Pasta Recipe https://pacificharvest.co.nz/recipe/smoked-dulse-pasta-recipe/
Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
William, Anthony. (2016) Medical Medium Life-Changing Foods. Carlsbad, California, USA: Hay House, Inc.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.