What is Dulse Seaweed?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Dulse is an edible alga which grows widely along the shorelines of the North Atlantic. It has been harvested as a source of food for thousands of years, and continues to be popular in Northern Ireland, Iceland, and parts of Canada. In addition to being eaten plain as a food source, dulse seaweed and other algae are processed for inclusion in various packaged foods, typically as a thickener or stretcher. Consumers who are interested in trying dulse seaweed can try checking local health food stores, and some larger markets may stock it as well, usually in dried form.

Dulse seaweed has been harvested as a food source for many years.
Dulse seaweed has been harvested as a food source for many years.

There are a number of alternate names for dulse seaweed including sea parsley, dilsk, creathnach, and söl. Formally, the seaweed is identified as Palmaria palmata. The algae is high in vitamins, especially vitamin B, and it also supplies a lot of fiber and a comparatively large amount of protein. In regions where other plants do not grow well, dulse seaweed has traditionally been an important dietary supplement. Many people acquired a taste for the alga, and continue eating it for pleasure.

Dulse seaweed is popular in parts of Canada.
Dulse seaweed is popular in parts of Canada.

The best place to find dulse seaweed is in the intertidal zone, the area of the shoreline alternately covered and exposed by the tides, although dulse also grows in deeper water. It is characterized by long trailing red to purple fronts which can measure as much as 16 inches (40 centimeters). Harvesters collect the seaweed and either eat it fresh or spread it out on netting to dry, making June through September the prime harvesting months, since the seaweed can be processed and dried outside.

Once dried, dulse may be powdered so that it can be used like a condiment, or it may be left in chunky form. The seaweed is added to things like soups and stews, and retains a slightly chewy texture through drying and cooking. The cooked seaweed also retains a hint of a marine flavor, and analysis has suggested that dulse also contains the elusive umami, or fifth taste.

There are numerous varieties of edible seaweed which have played an important role in the human diet for centuries. People in coastal areas who are interested in learning more about edible seaweeds might want to take a plant identification or wildcrafting class which focuses on marine plants and organisms. In addition to learning how to identify dulse seaweed, students can also learn about other types of kelp and algae, and the best ways to process them for eating.

Kelp is normally consumed in soups and shredded in salads.
Kelp is normally consumed in soups and shredded in salads.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have eaten Dulse my whole life and will continue to until I die. Being from the South Shore of Nova Scotia Canada, it was pretty much part of my Grandfather's "Candy Dish". I have never added it to anything, just eat it straight out of the bag so after stumbling across this blog, I think i may give it a try and see what flavors I can enhance with it.


They're using dulse as an ingredient on "Chopped." It'll be interesting to see how they use it. The chefs hadn't heard of it before.


Today I tried dulse for the very first time. I put ii on an Amy's pizza! Wow! It was so good I couldn't believe it! I will be adding it to lots of my dishes!


I had some dulse here on the north coast of Ireland at the weekend. It was excellent and ate it straight from the bag while i was having a stroll. Later i added it to some vegetables i had cooked.


As a child in Nova Scotia, we enjoyed DULSE every day. I moved to NH quite a while ago and was unable to get it. Now I found Maine Coast Sea Vegetables and buy it two pounds at a time. I believe it is one of the best health foods a person can consume. Oh, by the way, I love it.


Dulse is quite tasty and a great substitute for bacon for vegetarians. Today I made a "BLT" with some Dulse I sauteed in some olive oil with some smoke flavoring and fresh ground pepper. It gets crispy. In a sandwich it tastes just like bacon, but better as it was not chewy, stringy or clogging my arteries.

Fried and crispy it's a nice snack or garnish on salad too. It also makes a nice addition to pasta. My favorite is sauteed, crisp dulse tossed in angel hair pasta with diced tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and black olives.

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