Aonori: How to use dried seaweed powder & flakes & where to buy
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Seaweed is an important part of Japanese cooking because it has a distinct flavor known as “umami” or the 5th taste.
One common misconception is that all seaweed flakes and powders are essentially the same but that’s not true.
Aonori flakes and aonori powder are made from a specific type of Japanese edible seaweed which is dried and turned into seasoning for foods like okonomiyaki. Dried aonori powder, as well as flakes, are used in recipes and as seasoning toppings
Japan’s most famous seaweed product has to be nori, which is that dark green thing used to wrap sushi rolls.
However, there is another Japanese seaweed that is incredibly versatile but is less well-known outside of Japan.
Today, I’m going to introduce you to aonori, or you might know it as green laver.
It looks like microscopic flakes of nori, thus it’s easy to confuse aonori with crushed nori at first. The two seaweeds, however, are fundamentally distinct.
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In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is aonori?
- 2 What is aonori used for?
- 3 Aonori vs nori
- 4 Best aonori brand to buy
- 5 How to make aonori flakes
- 6 Aonori substitutes
- 7 Furikake vs aonori
- 8 FAQs
- 9 Takeaway
What is aonori?
Aonori (青のり) is a type of dried edible seaweed from Asia, used as a seasoning for many Japanese dishes.
Aonori is pronounced: ah-oh-no-ree
Aonori, not to be confused with nori, is a type of edible seaweed grown off the coast of Japan.
If the aonori is fresh, it can be eaten raw. However, in Japan, dried and powdered aonori flakes are commonly used.
It’s an earthy, robust, bold, savory, and aromatic dried and crushed ingredient that’s used to garnish or season a variety of Japanese meals like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, onigiri, yakisoba noodles, and more!
As a topping, aonori is sold in its dried form, crushed into either small flakes (like bonito flakes) or ground into a finer powder form.
This doesn’t affect the flavor but if you want to use it as a food topping, the flakes are more appetizing compared to the dark green colored powder.
Some people like to call aonori dried green laver in English. It refers to the same type of edible seaweed from the species genera Monostroma and Ulva.
Aonori, which is high in magnesium, iodine, and calcium, is eaten dried in fine powdery flakes all over Japan because it’s considered a healthy seasoning compared to condiments like salt.
What are aonori powder and aonori flakes?
Aonori flakes and aonori powder are made of the same prime ingredient: aonori seaweed. But the difference is the texture.
While they’re both green-colored seasonings, the powder is milled into a finer texture whereas the flakes are larger and visible, similar to bonito flakes.
Dried aonori seaweed flakes are the most popular and many Japanese brands sell them in plastic packages.
The powder can be used in stews, curries, or other liquidy dishes as well but it’s mostly used as a topping on top of the other ingredients (like on takoyaki) or in combination with seasoning spices and condiments (like furikake, which you can easily make yourself).
What does aonori taste like?
Aonori, like kombu (kelp), wakame, and other seaweeds used in Japanese cooking, is used to provide deep, delicious umami to a variety of meals. Umami is best described as ‘savory.’
Aonori has a scent similar to matcha green tea powder, which is created by a chemical called Dimethyl sulfide (DMS).
This is formed by phytoplankton and some land-based plant species.
The flavor is mostly bold, earthy, and savory like most other types of edible seaweed.
What is aonori used for?
Aonori is used as a spice in many Japanese recipes. Like many other seaweeds, is high in vitamins and minerals like calcium, iodine, magnesium, and beneficial amino acids.
The aonori seaweed flakes can be used as toppings for other foods like Okonomiyaki (runny cabbage pancakes). But, I’m listing the top foods for which you can use aonori powder or flakes.
Aonori produces its signature marine and savory flavors when sprinkled over or blended into a heated dish: part brine, half earthy smoke.
Aonori flakes are commonly used to garnish yakisoba, crispy takoyaki (fried octopus balls), and onigiri rice balls in Japan. Also, it’s commonly used on top of okonomiyaki, natto, and even salads.
Some people like to add some aonori to their noodle dishes like yakisoba.
Aonori is used in powdered condiments such as furikake (rice seasoning made with seaweed flakes, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), sesame seeds, and shichimi togarashi (a Japanese spice blend) because of its fine texture and strong flavor.
Aonori can also be incorporated into tempura batter and added to the dashi base of marinades or appetizers like miso soup
Another fantastic way to use aonori is to season soups and salads, stir-fries, and a variety of other meals, not just Japanese dishes.
It can also be combined with other condiments like mayonnaise, to make a nice dipping sauce, marinade, or dressing.
Make it authentic by using real Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise
Aonori vs nori
One of the most common mistakes people make is that they think aonori is just another name for nori. Others falsely assume that nori is the same thing as aonori but these are actually different types of seaweed.
Aonori, nori, and aosa (a third type of seaweed) are not the same thing and can bedistinguished by a few fundamental characteristics.
While all three are seaweeds, aonori, which belongs to the Monostroma algae genus, has a stronger, earthier flavor and a brighter green hue than its counterpart.
Nori, on the other hand, is a dark green algae with a saline flavor and a tinge of smokiness that derives from the Pyropia genus of red algae.
Aonori is usually dried and ground into flakes, which can then be used as a flavoring or garnish. Nori, on the other hand, has a milder flavor and is usually used to make sushi, though it may also be used as a garnish the same way like aonori flakes or powder.
Can I use nori instead of aonori?
Yes, you can use the nori instead of aonori if you don’t mind having a different flavor.
Just keep in mind that nori is much saltier while aonori is earthy. If you’re looking for the exact same flavors, you won’t be too happy.
However, there are similarities between these two products because they are still both seaweed varieties.
If you’re looking for flavorful aonori, you can use any of the related seaweed types but Nori is probably the closest to aonori.
Best aonori brand to buy
Japanese consumers are very loyal to some specific aonori brands.
The most popular has to be the world-famous Otafuku aonori flakes.
These are the top sellers because the flake is small and fine, so it just “melts” on top of the hot takoyaki sauce. It’s a truly flavorful condiment.
Takaokaya AoNori-Ko Seaweed Flakes is another great option but it has a bit of a stronger flavor compared to Otafuku. It’s also slightly finer ground, but not quite a powder.
Therefore, this one is more like a powder because the flakes are very small.
How to make aonori flakes
Making aonori at home is pretty hard and time-consuming. It’s much easier to buy the aonori flakes from the store.
Aonori is a special type of seaweed from the coast of Japan. Unless you live in Japan, it’s hard to get your hands on this fresh ingredient.
Some aonori bloom throughout the summer, but the majority are small and unfit for consumption.
The spores form in the fall when the sea temperature is around 25 ° C, and they grow quickly after that, from winter to spring, and until early summer.
If you ever find it, you can then dry the seaweed.
Once you have fresh aonori, you need to dry it by leaving it exposed to the sun. Then it must be ground up into a fine powder or break it into larger flakes.
Because aonori flakes are used as a topping for dishes like okonomiyaki and takoyaki, you can still enjoy the taste of foods that don’t contain aonori.
This dried seaweed is not one of the main ingredients yet it still provides plenty of delicious flavors.
There’s no doubt adding aonori flakes on top of those dishes enhances their flavor and provides a sense of true Japanese culture.
In addition, foods topped with aonori flakes will have a more attractive and pleasing appearance.
You can buy the aonori flakes in most Japanese (or Asian) grocery stores or on the internet.
But what if you can’t find any and want suitable substitutes?
Here are your options:
Nori is a form of seaweed that can be used in place of aonori flakes.
It’s a necessary ingredient when preparing sushi rolls or rice balls, so you should be able to locate it easily at Asian grocery stores.
Nori has a milder flavor than aonori, but if you use the shredded nori, the dish will resemble aonori flakes in appearance.
In contrast to aonori flakes, most nori on the market is square.
However, if you can buy shredded nori in supermarkets, use it as a topping. If you obtain the square-shaped one, simply pull it apart with your hands or shred it with kitchen scissors.
Spring or green onion
Although it’s not a seaweed variety, the green onion is a top aonori substitute. The green onion is finely minced and sprinkled on top of foods like takoyaki just like aonori flakes.
The flavors are different so you won’t have that earthy and savory umami flavor of aonori but green onion has a pleasantly sweet and savory taste. It also has a bit of crunch when it’s nice and fresh.
Furikake is a Japanese rice seasoning made of sesame seeds, herbs, fish flakes, and of course, various types of dried seaweed flakes.
Thus the flavor of this seasoning is a great substitute for the aonori powder of flakes.
There are several types of furikake all made up of various combinations of spices, herbs, and types of seaweed flakes.
The most popular aonori substitute is called Yukari furikake. It’s made using red shiso leaves which have a sour and salty taste. This rice topping is sprinkled over onigiri (rice balls).
The scent is quite unique but it’s a bit similar to the aonori so you can use it as an alternative.
However, it’s much saltier than aonori seaweed flakes so use it sparingly.
Furikake vs aonori
Have you heard of furikake rice seasoning? Furikake means “to sprinkle over” in Japanese. This is a rice seasoning and herb blend which contains seaweed.
Furikake can be made of several ingredients which are all dry items such as egg, seaweed, or sesame. The various varieties of furikake contain different seaweed and spice combinations.
But, furikake is used to season a bowl of plain white rice, salads, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and many other Japanese dishes.
Furikake is NOT the same as aonori though. Aonori refers to a single type of dry seaweed in the form of flakes or powder whereas furikake contains many different ingredients.
The flavor of furikake is definitely more complex and tastes salty, nutty, savory whereas aonori is earthy and robust.
In Japan, rice is commonly eaten plain. In the West, however, rice is commonly served as a side dish, which is why furikake is so prevalent in Japanese daily life.
Furikake rice spice, inspired by cuisines and ingredients like eggs and seaweed, sukiyaki, and cod roe, lends a savory kick to every bowl!
Furikake is now a general phrase for a mixture of sesame seeds, seaweeds, herbs, fish flakes, and salt that gets its name from the Japanese word for sprinkling.
It’s widely pressed into rice-based treats like onigiri and served on top of bowls of steamed rice to add another layer of flavor, texture, and nutrition.
The similarity between the furikake and aonori seaweed is that they’re both seasoning or toppings for other foods.
Some questions are still unanswered so I’m here to share the answers you’re looking for.
How do you store aonori?
Aonori has a shelf life of about 12 months but if you want it to taste good and maintain its crunchiness, you need to store it in ziplock bags in a dry place.
You’re likely wondering how to keep aonori fresh?
The thing about aonori is that it’s made of 20% protein. It also has lots of moisture so you need to extend the shelf life of this product by keeping it in a dry, cool place, away from sunlight.
When it comes to storing aonori, it’s best to keep it re-sealed in the same container it came in, or in any zip-lock bag or firmly sealed jar to avoid it going bad.
Because prolonged exposure to air might cause moisture to form in aonori, it’s necessary to keep it in jars with tight lids to prevent water from entering.
By carefully preserving aonori, you can extend its shelf life. It’s best if you keep it somewhere dry.
You must keep it fresh, therefore whether you have opened it or not, make sure it is stored in a moisture-free environment.
Moisture can make aonori go bad, thus it must be kept dry but also far from the sun’s rays.
Once it goes bad, it will alter its smell and taste and it becomes unsafe to eat.
Can you put aonori in the fridge or freezer?
It is possible to store aonori in the fridge in its original packaging. Be sure to seal the bag to avoid any water from getting inside.
Freezing the dry aonori powder of flakes is not a good idea because it can lose its texture once you thaw it for use in your recipes.
But, if you must, you can technically freeze aonori and it will maintain its freshness and the good thing is that it doesn’t spoil.
Does aonori go bad?
Yes, dry aonori goes bad just like any other type of food. Its shelf life is approximately 1 year so after that, it goes bad.
Every home that cooks Japanese food should have a packet of aonori in their pantry but always check the best before date before you use it.
If you’re seeking those first signs of aonori spoiling, have a look at the factors below:
Take a small quantity of aonori in your hand and crush or rub it, then smell and taste it to see if it’s still potent enough to be effective.
If stuff stinks, it’s time to get rid of it. Another potential outcome is that the aonori loses its natural scent and that means it’s becoming flavorless.
The aonori should be discarded if the flavor isn’t discernible or the aroma isn’t strong.
Is aonori vegetarian?
Yes, aonori is vegetarian and also vegan because it’s not an animal. It is a sea vegetable known as edible laver.
Is aonori healthy?
Yes, aonori is full of vitamins and minerals the body needs.
This type of dried seaweed has numerous health benefits. For example, it is good for the skin, improves digestion, and maintains healthy hair and teeth.
Also, aonori is full of minerals, vitamins, and even antioxidants.
Here are the nutrients you’ll find in this seaweed:
Vitamins: A, C, E, K, B1, B2, B6, B12, folate, and Niacin.
Also, aonori is high in fiber which is good for your gut health and digestion. Iodine is also a common component of the aonori and it helps thyroid function.
Aonori, a type of sea green, is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the earth. It has the highest concentration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, vital fatty acids, amino acids, and dietary fiber of any sea vegetable.
This Japanese seaweed is most commonly used to lend a layer of umami-rich flavor to meals like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and yakisoba.
Simply sprinkled on top, the seaweed improves the dish while also providing a distinct and pleasant and savory aroma.
If you’ve never tried aonori before, sprinkle some Otafuku aonori on your next rice meal or on top of your healthy salad, and observe how tasty it is!
Still not a big seaweed fan? Here’s how you can make sushi without seaweed (recipe, tips & ideas)
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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.