I’d first heard of AKUA when I tried their plant-based jerky line, also made from kelp, back in 2019. The company is on a mission to introduce the protein source, which has long been popular in some Asian countries, to Western audiences.
The company’s newest menu item, burgers, combine Saccharina Latissima kelp farmed off the coast of the northeastern U.S. with cremini mushrooms, black beans, quinoa, nutritional yeast, and a handful of other ingredients you’d expect to find in a vegan patty.
I was struck by how, well, normal they looked—like any other burger I’d buy in the store—when they arrived at my apartment a few weeks ago. I placed them in my freezer until lunchtime, when I let them thaw for a minute as I heated up some olive oil in a skillet. After a few minutes sizzling each side, I was pleased to see that they had developed that promising dark, crispy edge.
I popped my patty on top of my lunch salad and was surprised by the first bite. For starters, it didn’t taste fishy at all—though it did have a saltiness that was vaguely reminiscent of the ocean. The mushrooms provide a quick hit of umami, while the beans rounded things out. Overall, I found the flavor to be mild but pleasant. It was the texture that really got me: They totally delivered that satisfying outer crust of a burger without drying out on the inside.
Since that first taste, I’ve been enjoying them on salads but can also see them being great on a bun paired with pickles and the condiment of your choice. Since the flavor is so neutral, they’re versatile enough to compliment—not overpower—any number of dishes. And at 12 grams of protein per patty, they’re filling to boot.