Tips & Techniques

What the Heck Are Hemp Hearts, Anyway?

There’s a new power seed in town.

January 24, 2022
Photo by Ty Mecham. Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi. Food Stylist: Adrienne Anderson.

We’ve teamed up with Manitoba Harvest—known for its commitment to high-quality hemp foods—to showcase a protein powerhouse: their hemp hearts. Manitoba Harvest’s hemp hearts are loaded with protein and omegas, and are free from preservatives, fillers, and artificial ingredients. Bonus: They’re grown without herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, and have almost unlimited recipe applications.

Meet the small-but-mighty shelled seeds we’re putting in and on everything, from smoothies to salads: hemp hearts. These soft, chewy seeds are a good source of protein, rich in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) omega-3 fatty acids, and they’re a great way to add nuttiness and texture to any dish (especially when it comes to breakfast). Beyond morning meals, you can use them in just about anything—even to top something like this garlicky vegan flatbread—which we think makes them a must-have pantry staple.

So, What Exactly Are Hemp Hearts?

Technically in the nut family, hemp hearts are the shelled or hulled interiors of seeds cultivated from the hemp plant. A common misconception about hemp hearts, and hemp products in general, is that they can get you high. But while both hemp and cannabis come from the same plant species (Cannabis sativa), hemp seed foods don’t have any psychoactive effect on the body. As Manitoba Harvest explains on their site, "It’s like comparing mint and basil—they’re both herbs, but they’re used in very different ways for very different results."

To separate the crunchy edible shells from the delicate interiors, hemp hearts undergo a dehulling process to expose the tiny centers. Mild and slightly nutty in flavor, hemp hearts pair well with just about everything, from baked goods to plant-based burgers.

Photo by Ty Mecham. Prop Stylist: Alya Hameedi. Food Stylist: Adrienne Anderson.

They’re Packed with Plant-Based Protein

Hemp hearts are comparable to seeds like chia or flax, and they’re packed with vegan-and vegetarian-friendly protein, too. One serving (3 tablespoons) of hemp hearts has 10 grams of protein—by comparison, chia and flax seeds each offer only 5 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons. In addition to all that protein, hemp hearts boast an impressive lineup of all nine essential amino acids, including lysine, methionine, cysteine, arginine, and glutamic acid.

How to Cook With Hemp Hearts

Hemp hearts taste like a blend of pine nuts and sunflower seeds, so they won’t overpower a dish. Instead, they’ll add a subtle, earthy richness to enhance the flavor of just about any recipe. Using hemp hearts can be as simple as sprinkling them on top of a smoothie bowl, tossing them in a fresh tabbouleh salad, or blending them into a rich green goddess dressing for a boost of protein and omegas.

They’re also great for adding to muffin batter, whipping up a batch of hemp pancakes, or making caprese pesto pasta. You can even sneak them into your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (they’ll go undetected by even the pickiest of eaters).

When shopping at your local grocery store, you'll find hemp hearts in the section with chia and flax seeds. For maximum freshness, store them in the refrigerator after opening (they'll last for about a year once opened).

What’s your favorite way to cook with hemp hearts? Tell us in the comments!

Our friends at Manitoba Harvest have been growing their portfolio of hemp products since 1998. As a B-Corp and certified Carbon Neutral Company, their commitment to sustainability is evident across all of their offerings, from hemp hearts to hemp seed oil. We love using Manitoba Harvest’s hemp hearts to add a protein boost to all sorts of dishes, including weeknight dinners and satisfying sweets.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Maki Yazawa

Written by: Maki Yazawa

Food Writer & Recipe Developer