What Are Kelp Noodles? Plus, Tasty Vegan Recipe Ideas

When most people think of seafood, the first images that spring to mind are likely of animals, like lobsters, fish, or shrimp, for example. But actually, seafood doesn’t have to involve sea creatures at all. Our oceans are also home to nutritious vegetables, one of which is kelp, a type of long, brown seaweed. 

Kelp is incredibly versatile; it can be eaten raw, roasted, pickled, or steamed in various dishes, but one of the most popular ways to eat it is in noodle form. Here’s what you need to know about kelp noodles, from what they are to how they taste to how to cook with them—plus, a few delicious vegan recipe ideas.

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RELATED: 7 Vegan Asian Noodle Recipes to Try: From Pad Thai to Ramen

What are kelp noodles?

Kelp noodles were first developed in Korea, where they are called cheon sa chae. While they kind of look like glass noodles (also known as cellophane noodles) because they are often semi-transparent in appearance, they are processed completely differently. 

Glass noodles are made with starch and water, but kelp noodles are made with dried, peeled, and ground strips of kelp. These are then mixed with water and sodium alginate—a type of salt naturally present in the cell walls of kelp. The result is a versatile, gluten-free, and smooth noodle that can be used in stir-fries, salads, curries, and more. 

Do kelp noodles taste fishy?

Kelp naturally grows on the world’s coastlines, and in its least processed form, it does taste a little “fishy” (and that makes sense because it has lived and grown in the same environment as fish). But, if you’re not a fan of fishy flavors, don’t be put off by kelp noodles. This is because, when it’s processed into noodle form, kelp isn’t really fishy at all. In fact, kelp noodles actually have an incredibly mild, neutral taste, and they are more about adding texture to a dish rather than boosting its flavor profile. Although that said, they are very good at absorbing flavors from the other ingredients you cook them with. 

Are kelp noodles good for you?

While kelp noodles are high in sodium alginate (which has very little nutritional value), they are still a source of nutrients, like calcium, iron, iodine, and vitamin K. Plus, they contain antioxidants, they’re low in calories, and they’re also a good source of dietary fiber. 

How to cook with kelp noodles

There are many ways to prepare kelp noodles. In fact, if you want a very low-effort dish, you don’t even have to cook them at all, as they can be safely consumed raw. But if you prefer your meals hot, then one of the best ways to cook kelp noodles is by stir-frying them, but you can also add them to broths. 

Vegan recipes with kelp noodles

Want to give kelp noodles a try, but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled some of our favorite vegan kelp noodle recipes below.

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1 Vegan Pesto Kelp Noodles

Pasta and pesto is a tried, tested, and much-loved combination. But if you fancy giving this faithful dish an upgrade, swap Italian pasta for smooth, silky kelp noodles, which will absorb the flavors of homemade pesto beautifully. For extra tangy, salty flavor, mix in a generous helping of capers. 
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VegNews.KelpNoodle.ThePlantCollectiveThe Plant Collective

2 Kelp Noodle Lo Mein

Developed in China, lo mein is usually made with tossed egg noodles. But if you want to swap in a vegan, gluten-free option, kelp noodles make a great alternative. This dish, which you can pack with all your favorite stir-fried vegetables, is quick to make, just as tasty as takeout, and nutritious.
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VegNews.KelpNoodle.TheSpruceEatsThe Spruce Eats

3 Spicy Tahini Kelp Noodles

Thanks to their mild, neutral taste, kelp noodles are arguably at their best when they’re paired with a bold, flavorful sauce. This recipe calls for a mix of creamy, thick tahini, which is mixed together with peanut butter, ginger, and chili garlic for an ultra-satisfying midweek meal with just the right amount of kick.
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VegNews.KelpNoodles.GlueandGlitterGlue & Glitter

4 Sesame-Shiitake Kelp Noodles

If you’ve run out of unique and tasty lunch ideas, this recipe for sesame-shiitake kelp noodles, topped with a creamy peanut sauce, is well worth a try. The tasty dish, which also features succulent sauteed mushrooms, comes together in around 20 minutes.
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VegNews.KelpNoodles.SimpleVeganBlogSimple Vegan Blog

5 Kelp Noodle Salad

Arguably, salad has an unfair reputation for being boring. But this recipe proves it is anything but. Not only is it bursting with flavor, but it’s super quick to throw together (seriously, you just need a spare 10 minutes) and easy, too. You don’t even need to fry the noodles, just rinse and soak in hot water with baking soda and lemon juice. Or if you prefer, you can add them in totally raw.
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VegNews.KelpNoodle.LivKaplanLiv Kaplan

6 Kelp Noodle Pad Thai

Pad Thai is one of Thai cuisine’s most-loved dishes. While it’s usually made with rice noodles, you can easily swap these out for kelp if you prefer. It’s also typically topped with peanuts, but if you fancy a change, this dish suggests swapping these out for pili nuts (which are another type of nutrient-packed tree nut).
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VegNews.KelpNoodle.TheAllNaturalVeganThe All Natural Vegan

7 Red Curry Peanut Kelp Noodle Salad

Fragrant, flavorful Thai red curry also pairs beautifully with kelp noodles. In this recipe, the noodles and vegetables (like broccoli and bell pepper) are left raw, before they are dressed with red curry paste, miso, spices, and peanut butter, and topped with an extra serving of chopped peanuts. 
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For more on noodle recipes, read: