Scientists cause a stir-fry with bacon-flavoured seaweed

Woman holding a wooden board with dulse seaweed on top

If you’ve ever been asked whether you want bacon with your beanburger then at last you can answer “yes” with a clear conscience.

That’s because researchers at Oregon State University have just developed a bacon-flavoured seaweed that could revolutionise the meat free eating experience – and may even win over dyed-in-the-wool omnivores.

The university’s Food Innovation Centre has engineered and patented a new strain of dulse, a red marine algae, that when cooked has the smell and taste of bacon.

Dulse is already widely used in powdered form as a cooking ingredient and has been popular in Ireland, Iceland and Canada for centuries, though less so in its fresh form.

Lead researcher Chris Langdon believes the particular flavour of this new strain could make it the latest superfood for meat reducers and diners with an eye on their arteries.

“This stuff is pretty amazing,” he says. “Why you fry it … it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it’s a pretty strong bacon flavour.”

Another plus for health-conscious eaters is that dulse contains a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and has twice the nutritional value of kale.

The fast-growing algae looks a bit like red lettuce and is produced in tanks using a system of recirculated seawater. Its cultivation does not depend on proximity to the sea, however, making its potential culinary reach truly global.

Oregon State University, which is 50 miles from the North Pacific coast, currently produces about 9 to 13 kg of it a week in two tanks, Langdon says.

“Theoretically you could create an industry in eastern Oregon almost as easily as you could along the coast, with a bit of supplementation. You just need a modest amount of seawater and some sunshine.”

Given that bacon is often cited as the animal product which meat free eaters most hanker after, vegetarians and MFM supporters will be hoping this is more than just a flash in the pan.

If you’ve tried some, please let us know your thoughts – and recipes!

Watch a video about the new dulse products