Wellness Encyclopedia: Why We Heart Hemp + A Grain-Free Tabbouleh Recipe

Ever wondered how to use hemp hearts? Or what makes them so good for you? We’ve got the answers…

My love affair with hemp started several years ago. Always a fan of smoothies and the toppings that go with them, I’d heard a bit about the little nutty seeds and wanted to give them a try myself. One scoop from the bulk bin at my health food store was enough to convince me: these little seeds are where it’s at. Soon, I was sprinkling them on everything: salads, soups, smoothies, even whirring them into my morning coffee when time was tight and my morning cup had to double as breakfast, because not only are raw shelled hemp hearts delicious, they’re also a dense source of nutrition and packed with plant protein. But I’m certainly not the first to appreciate them. Hemp has been around for thousands of years and is one of the earliest known domesticated plants. Intrigued? Today I’m diving into just what sets these petite seeds apart from the rest, and sharing one of my favorite ways to use them (besides sprinkling them on everything).


What is it? Just a little larger than a sesame seed when shelled, hemp hearts are the inner kernel of the hemp seed, or what’s left when the hard shell is removed. Hemp hearts can be eaten plain or pressed to make hemp seed oil, which can be used as a finishing oil (due to its delicacy, hemp seed oil should not be heated). Dating back at least 12,000 years, the first known evidence of hemp cultivation was found in China dating from the neolithic period, when the plant was used to make everything from rope to clothing.


What are the benefits? Hemp hearts aren’t just versatile, they’re also an incredible source of nutrition. Hemp hearts boast about 33% protein, making them one of the densest sources of plant protein out there (perfect for vegetarians and vegans, or anyone looking to add more clean plant protein to their diet). Along with the high protein content, hemp hearts are packed with Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA), which benefit skin, hair and brain health, and Omega-6 EFA, which regulates the reproductive system and metabolism and strengthens bones.


How do I use it? Three tablespoons of hemp hearts will provide about 10g of protein. Because of their protein profile, hemp hearts are a great alternative to highly processed protein powders. Toss them into smoothies, oatmeal, soups, yogurts, or mix a few tablespoons into baked goods. Hemp hearts are also a great alternative to grains in cold salads. Read on for the perfect recipe to take to spring and summer picnics…


Tabbouleh salad never fails to remind me of summer afternoons spent on my mother’s patio. In the hot months of summer, there was almost always a cold grain or bean salad to be found hiding out in our fridge, waiting for someone to come along with a spoon for a little relief. Packed with cooling mint and parsley, I used to sneak spoonfuls from the bowl as I stood with the door of the refrigerator open, allowing the cool air to wash over me (family motto: air conditioning is for suckers). Years later as a college student, I adapted the tabbouleh recipe for my own tastes and added lots of avocado (for obvious reasons) and lots of garlic, but I also started to notice how the bulgur made my stomach ache after eating it. I put tabbouleh on the shelf of forbidden foods for a long time, until I realized a swap could be made. Subbing hemp for the bulgur makes this recipe come together even faster and even better. No wheat belly to be had. And while I love using hemp hearts in this dish, other grains and seeds can also be used. Try it with quinoa or another favorite for a change of texture and taste! As we come into spring, this is the perfect salad to bring to picnics and potlucks and will please just about everyone in attendance, even if the party is just you, sitting alone in the sunshine.


Raw Grain-Free Hemp Tabbouleh Salad

Makes 4-6 servings


1 cup raw shelled hemp hearts

1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 large tomato, diced

1 handful curly parsley, roughly chopped

1 handful fresh mint, roughly chopped

2 tbsp avocado oil, hemp oil, or olive oil

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

1 avocado, diced

4-6 radicchio leaves, to serve

Optional: Seed crackers or sliced cucumbers for the side, tahini for the top

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except salt & pepper and avocado. Stir to combine, taste, and add salt & pepper and more lemon juice as needed. Just before serving, mix in the diced avocado.

To serve: Spoon tabbouleh into radicchio leaves and add crackers and cucumbers for the side. Drizzle tahini over top, if using.

Store extra in a well-sealed container for up to two days.



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