What seaweed can you eat raw?

Seaweed, also known as sea vegetables, are aquatic plants and algae that grow in saltwater. Many types of seaweed are edible and can be enjoyed raw as a nutritious addition to salads, wraps, and poke bowls. Eating raw seaweed provides a range of health benefits as it is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. However, not all seaweeds are safe or palatable to eat raw. This article explores different types of raw seaweed that are good to eat and provides tips on how to source and enjoy them.

Why eat raw seaweed?

Here are some of the top benefits of eating sea vegetables raw:

  • Excellent source of vitamins – Seaweeds like nori contain vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin K, and folate.
  • Rich in minerals – Raw seaweeds provide minerals like iodine, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc.
  • High in antioxidants – Antioxidants called polyphenols in seaweed help combat free radicals.
  • Fiber-rich – Eating raw seaweed boosts fiber intake, aiding digestion and gut health.
  • Low calorie – Raw seaweeds are very low in calories, making them a healthy addition to any diet.
  • Umami flavor – Seaweeds impart a savory, umami taste to dishes.

Edible raw seaweeds

The most common varieties of raw sea vegetables that can be eaten without cooking are:


Nori is perhaps the most popular edible seaweed. These paper-thin sheets are made from Porphyra algae and have a mildly nutty, umami flavor. Nori is a staple of sushi rolls, and it can also be snacked on raw, crumbled over meals, or reconstituted in water to make wraps.


Wakame is a delicate, sweet seaweed that has tender green leaves. It is often served in miso soup, but the soft leaves and stems of wakame are also lovely to add raw to salads and rice bowls. Soaking it briefly rehydrates it.


Dulse is a flaky, reddish-purple seaweed that grows wild on the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It is soft and chewy when raw, with an earthy, mineral-rich flavor. Dulse makes a nutritious addition to raw dishes, sandwiches, and snacks.


Arame has fine, black strands and a mild, sweet taste. To eat it raw, simply soak the dried seaweed in cold water for 15 minutes to rehydrate it before using it in salads, noodle dishes, and more.

Sea lettuce

As the name suggests, sea lettuce has tender leaves that resemble lettuce. It has a subtly salty, ocean-like flavor that adds interest and nutrients when used raw in dishes like ceviche and poke bowls.

Other edible raw sea vegetables

Some other common varieties of raw seaweed you may come across include:

  • Ogonori – Delicate, bright green sea moss
  • Irish moss – Gelatinous red seaweed
  • Gracilaria – Crunchy, wild red algae
  • Kombu – Tough, mineral-rich kelp
  • Hijiki – Black, noodle-like seaweed

Non-edible raw seaweeds

While many sea veggies can be eaten raw, some varieties should always be cooked before eating. These include:

  • Kombu – Contains a toxin if eaten raw
  • Sargassum – Potentially toxic if uncooked
  • Alaria – Can cause digestive upset when raw
  • Codium – Toxic compounds require cooking

Spirulina and chlorella are types of blue-green algae, yet they are not classified as sea vegetables. It is best to consult an expert before experimenting with eating any raw seaweed that you cannot positively identify.

Availability and selection

The most readily available raw sea greens are nori, wakame, and dulse. Look for them in the international foods or refrigerated produce section at well-stocked supermarkets. Asian and health food stores also have a wider variety of dried and packaged seaweeds. For the freshest quality, shop at stores with high seafood turnover.

When buying dried seaweed, look for brittleness and bright, vibrant colors. Avoid any with signs of moisture, mold, or foul odors. With raw seaweed salads and slaws, pick those packed in liquid rather than sealed in oil. The product should not have discoloration, separation, or stale smells.

Storage and handling

To preserve freshness and nutritional potency, store seaweed properly. Whole dried sea vegetables will retain quality best in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate raw, pre-cut seaweed and seaweed salads since they are highly perishable. Consume any soaked or reconstituted seaweed within a couple days and keep prepared seaweed dishes chilled.

Always wash sea vegetables before eating them raw. Give them a quick rinse then soak briefly in cool water to remove excess salt, grit, and impurities. Be careful not to oversoak them as they can become waterlogged and lose their crisp texture.


While raw seaweed is safe for most people when eaten in moderation, there are a few health risks to know about:

  • High iodine content – Some seaweeds like kelp have very high iodine levels. Too much iodine can cause thyroid issues for sensitive individuals.
  • Heavy metals – Seaweeds absorb whatever is in ocean water. Heavy metals like arsenic or lead can accumulate and contaminate seaweeds.
  • Digestive issues – The fiber content of seaweed may cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea for some people.
  • Food poisoning – Improperly handled seaweed can harbor bacteria like salmonella and E. coli.

Pregnant or nursing women, those with thyroid problems, and anyone on medication should consult a doctor before regularly consuming raw seaweed.

Healthy ways to enjoy raw seaweed

Beyond sushi, raw sea greens can be worked into all kinds of delicious dishes. Some simple ways to eat more raw seaweed include:

  • Sprinkle crumbled nori over soups, salads, noodles, rice, and veggies.
  • Make nori wraps with hummus, sliced veggies, avocado, and sprouts.
  • Mix arame, wakame, and dulse into grain bowls and cold soba noodle salads.
  • Blend seaweed like dulse into smoothies, dressings, dips, and sauces.
  • Top chia pudding or yogurt with strips of raw nori and sesame seeds.
  • Add shredded sea lettuce to cold rice paper or rainbow veggie rolls.

Raw seaweed’s crisp texture and mild, salty umami flavor complement both sweet and savory dishes. Experiment with different varieties to see which you enjoy most.


Eating raw sea greens like nori, wakame, and dulse offers an easy and tasty way to reap the abundant nutrients of the sea. Raw sea vegetables add delightful flavor, texture, color, and health benefits to many foods. While not all types of seaweed are safe or palatable uncooked, nourishing raw sea greens are widely available. With some caution and creativity, raw seaweeds can be a great addition to a healthy, balanced diet.

Leave a Comment