Sea Moss is a seaweed often used as a thickening agent in puddings, beverages, ice cream and more when animals products can’t be used, or in a raw food diet.
Sea Moss is a seaweed considered to have numerous health benefits and sometimes is called a superfood. It’s thought to be healing to the digestive tract, used in weight loss programs and a source of many nutrients, however there aren’t many studies to confirm all of the benefits.
It’s an ingredient that I’m familiar with as it is often used in the Caribbean, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I tried preparing it myself. I was wandering through a local market in Trinidad and walked away with a package of dried Sea Moss and dried hibiscus.
What is Sea Moss and Irish Moss?
Sometimes the names sea moss and Irish moss are used interchangeably, and while they both are seaweed there are differences.
- Irish Moss (chondrus crispus) is a seaweed that grows in colder waters around Europe, North America, and Canada.
- Sea Moss grows in warmer waters around Asia, South America and the Caribbean.
- Irish Moss tends to have flat leaves while Sea Moss (gracilaria) tends to have thicker, branch-like sections.
- The nutrient composition in Irish Moss and Sea Moss can differ based on the species of algae and the waters it is grown in.
A number of years back carrageenan, which is derived from Irish Moss, came under fire in a study that claims carrageenan can cause gastro-intenstinal distress and inflammation. After some research I’ve made the choice to continue to consume sea moss, but it’s up to you to decide for yourself.
Where to buy Sea Moss
You’ll often find dried sea moss in Caribbean or Asian markets, and in some health food stores. It might not look super appealing in it’s natural state and smells a bit (okay, a lot!) like the sea. Never fear, it will all work out and your end product will not taste like ocean water.
When you buy sea moss it will be dried, covered in salt and sometimes have bits of darker seaweed attached to it or some sand. Don’t forget, this is a natural ingredient that comes from the ocean and there will be variations from batch to batch.
How to Make Raw Sea Moss Gel
Time needed: 13 hours
There are 2 ways to prepare the sea moss gel. It can be boiled to quickly soften the moss and make the gel, or it can be soaked overnight. I’m sharing the overnight soak method for a raw end product. Both methods work and it’s your preference how you prepare it.
Take a small amount of sea moss (1 – 2 oz) out of package and give it a good rinse once or twice to get some of the salt and sand off.
Put it into a large bowl filled with cool water. It doesn’t look like a lot but this stuff really expands so make sure to use a bowl large enough for the seaweed to double in size and still be submerged in water.
Cover and leave overnight in the water to rehydrate.
- Rinse Again
Remove the sea moss from the bowl and dump out the water. You may see some sand at the bottom of the bowl that has come off as the sea moss rehydrates. Give it another good rinse, making sure to get rid of any salt and sand that may have settled on the bottom of the bowl.
Put the moss into a blender with a bit of fresh water and blend. It takes a bit of time to break down and the amount of water used depends on how thick you want the end product. Add more water as needed to get to the desired consistency, keeping in mind that the gel will thicken up a bit as it sits.
If you have high-powered blender this step will go faster, but any blender will work. Blend in batches and go slow. The gel gets quite thick and can give your blender quite a workout!
- Store in the refrigerator
Pour it into an airtight jar and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
How to Use Sea Moss Gel
You can use this gel to thicken puddings and desserts, smoothies and other beverages. If you are avoiding animal products, following a vegan diet or a raw diet this is often used as an alternative to gelatin.