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Hemp seeds: how to use them in cooking

In addition to its extraordinary active ingredients, the hemp sativa plant offers us the possibility of discovering superfoods of natural origin: hemp seeds. Known above all for being used in the production of hemp oil, these seeds, which are also exquisitely tasty, can be consumed raw but also cooked, are good for the immune system and can be a real panacea in times of stress and to recharge mind and body.

In this article we will discover them better, here is what we will see:

  • Botanical origin of hemp seeds
  • Cultivation hemp seeds and edible seeds
  • How edible hemp seeds are obtained
  • The nutritional properties of hemp seeds
  • How to use hemp seeds in cooking
  • Hemp seed flour
  • Where you can buy hemp seeds
  • A prescription

Hemp seeds

Botanical origin of hemp seeds

Hemp seeds or cannabis seeds come from cannabis sativa plants or rather they are those that allow the birth of cannabis or hemp sativa plants, a plant of the origin of the Cannabinaceae which has spread naturally throughout the world since ancient times and subsequently " domesticated” by man in order to create numerous and different varieties with different characteristics.

Hemp sativa and cannabis sativa are different varieties of the same species . The macro-difference with which we are used to distinguishing the two terms lies in the percentage of active ingredient and the intended use.

With cannabis sativa we are referring above all to varieties with modest or high percentages of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), an active ingredient capable of causing a psychoactive effect, or to light cannabis varieties, which despite having a THC content of less than 0.2%, have high percentages of other non-psychotropic active ingredients such as CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (cannabigerol).

Despite being an integral part of cannabis sativa plants, known by most especially for the altering effects of THC, hemp seeds, just like light cannabis, do not have any psychotropic effect , therefore do not cause any "high" and can be consumed safely from everyone. Indeed, let's even say that they should be consumed by everyone due to their surprising nutritional value.

In fact, compared to other foods of plant origin, hemp seeds have a decidedly higher nutritional value and contain substances that are very useful for the well-being of our body and our immune system.

One of the stories of Buddhist tradition tells that during his journey to enlightenment, Buddha survived by simply eating one hemp seed a day.

Whether this anecdote is true or not, it tells us about a long tradition , which has not been denied. It is a product that has always been used as a natural remedy and rediscovered in more recent years by all those who pay attention to their diet and prefer a diet that is as conscious and sustainable as possible, perhaps vegan or vegetarian.

These are seeds approximately 2 mm in size, light brown in color if shelled and white if hulled. The flavor is almost neutral, but you can notice a pleasant hint of hazelnut and pine nut.

hemp seeds

Cultivation hemp seeds and edible seeds

By law 242 of 2016 , the cultivation of cannabis sativa for industrial purposes has finally been regulated and therefore allowed as long as the THC content of the plants remains below 0.2% and that the cannabis seeds are certified and registered in the Register. European seed. In addition to these precautions, growers must comply with a series of standards that guarantee the possible food and cosmetic use of the active ingredients of the plant and also of hemp seeds.

Here, when the starting cannabis seeds are certified , the hemp seeds can be edible.

The seeds are therefore the same, within the companies they are then selected and divided according to the final destination and in the case of those intended for food consumption, they are put on the market only after having been further processed and having passed certain controls which ensure quality and integrity.

Cannabis seeds with a high THC content make a difference, as they are currently sold exclusively for cultivation (not yet permitted in Italy). Although they contain the psychoactive active ingredient, if ingested they do not cause any psychotropic effect, however their intended use is not food, which is why it is better to choose organic hemp seeds, intended for this specific use.

How edible hemp seeds are obtained

Edible hemp seeds are obtained from hemp plants with a THC content of less than 0.2% , therefore from legal sativa hemp plants.

Female cannabis sativa plants only produce seeds when they are pollinated by a male plant . In nature this happens normally and those who grow some strains of cannabis sativa intended for recreational use tend to avoid it.

Companies specializing in hemp seeds, however, create hybrid varieties specifically for this purpose, in order to have a supply of hemp seeds capable of satisfying the great demand of consumers.

Hemp seeds can be visible on sativa hemp plants after about 4-6 weeks after pollination , we find them hidden among the inflorescences and they can be harvested after about 8-10 weeks from their appearance . We understand that they are ripe because from the green they take on their characteristic color, a light brown .

They are harvested manually or with the help of a hemp combine harvester. Before being packaged and passing through agro-food safety checks , the hemp seeds are divided between those to be hulled and those to be left intact, so as to guarantee both qualities to the consumer.

hemp cultivation with certified seeds

The nutritional properties of hemp seeds

That the properties of seeds are numerous and that they guarantee great nutritional value is nothing new . We have known for decades the beneficial properties of sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and so on and so forth.

Hemp seeds, like all species of oilseeds, are also very useful to integrate into your diet to strengthen the immune system. Hemp seeds in particular contain all the essential amino acids that man does not produce independently but which he needs to integrate with his diet.

The essential amino acids also constitute a large supply of proteins, consider that approximately 30 grams of seeds correspond to more or less 9 grams of good proteins . It is for this reason that hemp seeds can be an excellent supplement in a vegetarian or vegan diet.

It is no coincidence that hemp tofu exists, a variant of the classic tofu, much appreciated by all those people who are intolerant to soy or don't like its flavour.

Furthermore, among the essential amino acids present in hemp seeds, arginine is present in large quantities, a substance that can be very useful for protecting cardiovascular activity and heart functions.

Hemp seeds also contain polyunsaturated fats , essential for the well-being of our body. In particular, they are rich in omega 3 and omega 6 , which promote concentration, enhance memory and slow down oxidative stress.

Since they appeared on the market, hemp seeds have been included in the list of "superfoods" because in addition to polyunsaturated fats and essential amino acids, they also contain an extraordinary variety of vitamins and mineral salts. In particular: vitamin E , which makes hemp seeds very useful also in the preparation of anti-wrinkle and anti-redness cosmetic treatments.

And also magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc and phosphorus, essential for the well-being of muscle tone and to prevent anemia or discomfort due to seasonal changes.

Finally, hemp seeds can be very useful in stimulating the intestinal system, promoting its functionality, stabilizing blood sugar and improving metabolism. This is because they contain a large amount of fiber , present especially in the shells. If you need a large supply of fibre, it will be better to purchase unhulled seeds. Two tablespoons of seeds contain approximately 1 gram of completely natural fibre, which will be enough for our daily needs.

In short, a real all-natural wellness cocktail.

To summarize briefly, hemp seeds help to:

  • strengthen the immune system
  • reduce oxidative stress
  • promote memory and concentration
  • provide a supply of vitamins and mineral salts
  • provide an adequate supply of fibre
  • stimulate and regulate the intestinal system
  • improve skin health, preventing cellular aging and skin inflammation
  • integrate good proteins into diets poor or devoid of animal proteins

To demonstrate the incredible nutritional value of hemp seeds, this green experiment is very interesting. 980 hens , which are called Sibille because they were born in the Sibillini mountains, will grow up in large open spaces, free to roam and will be fed only and exclusively with hemp seeds. The nice thing is that each sibyl will have an identity card and can be adopted remotely.

The project was born after the Teramo Zooprophylactic Institute approved the effectiveness of this diet after analyzing the eggs of 3 groups of hens for six months. The first group was fed only hemp seeds with THC lower than 0.2%, the second with flaxseeds and the third with mixed cereals.

Eggs from hens fed hemp seeds were not only larger and lower in calories, but also had exponentially higher nutritional value . They were richer in polyunsaturated fats and omega 3 and had a lower percentage of total fat. In short, a real magical touch, which clearly demonstrates the nutritional value of hemp seeds.

hemp seed sprouts

How to use hemp seeds in cooking

Like most seeds, hemp seeds can also be consumed raw , so they can be added to practically all dishes depending on our tastes.

It is possible to add them to salads , they can be used instead of breadcrumbs in the breading of our meat, fish or vegetables. They can also be added to ice creams, fruit salads and soups as a garnish.

In addition to being consumed raw, hemp seeds can be used in the preparation of other products such as sauces, pestos, smoothies and ice creams. Simply insert them together with the other ingredients at the end and proceed with the preparation as normal.

They can be inserted into shortcrust pastry to make biscuits and into bread dough together with other seeds for a light recipe rich in vitamins and mineral salts.

Using a fruit extractor, excellent vegetable milk with a sweet and fresh flavor can also be obtained from hemp seeds, which can be a good milk substitute for vegans and those intolerant to lactose.

The very famous and appreciated hemp oil is also obtained from hemp seeds, which is obtained by pressing the seeds and even after processing contains up to 90% of polyunsaturated fats and all 9 essential amino acids.

It is usually used in cooking especially to season vegetables, salad and bread . It is not recommended to use it for frying . After opening it can be stored for several days in the refrigerator. Although produced in the kitchen, hemp oil can also be very useful when used for cosmetic purposes .

Hemp seeds can also be used in the production of a recently invented food, which is already becoming popular in vegan and non-vegan kitchens. We are talking about hemp tofu , which can be purchased ready-made in the main organic shops but which can be prepared with a bit of manual skills even at home.

In fact it involves "curdling" the hemp milk (we can also buy this or obtain it by pressing the seeds) as we would do with a cheese, and then inserting it into the appropriate cheese or tofu mold to give it a shape.

It's a great alternative to both cheese and classic soy tofu.

Finally, if processed very finely, hemp seed flour can be obtained from hemp seeds , a flour used since ancient times but rediscovered only in more recent times.

Hemp seed flour

By grinding sativa hemp seeds it is possible to obtain hemp seed flour , a flour that keeps the properties of the seeds intact during grinding and has a much higher nutritional value than traditional flours .

It is a gluten-free flour, so it can be the right solution for those who suffer from celiac disease or have a gluten intolerance, however it is always important to check that the packaging states "gluten-free" as it could be mixed with other types of Flour.

It also contains 20% less calories than other flours, so it can be useful for those following a low-calorie diet. It has a low glycemic index, so it is also good for those suffering from diabetes.

Keeping the properties of the seeds intact, hemp flour contains vitamins, mineral salts, all the essential amino acids, calcium and magnesium. Being rich in polyunsaturated fats, therefore good fats, it can be a valid alternative to other types of flours, which are heavier and richer in carbohydrates.

Hemp flour has a very light hazelnut aftertaste, which makes it a real must have in the preparation of cakes, biscuits and pancakes. However, by adding a pinch of salt, it quickly becomes perfect for preparing bread and pizzas and also excellent homemade pasta.

cannabis seeds

The manufacturing process of hemp flour is a little different from that of other flours and is more similar to the method of obtaining hemp oil. The hemp seeds are pressed in a press and then finely ground into a powder, which is further ground and filtered to remove any residue from the seed shell. The entire manufacturing process is very delicate and always takes place at low temperatures to preserve the nutritional value of the seeds.

It is possible to find hemp flour in all organic shops and of course also order it online, making sure that it is truly organic and certified.

Where you can buy hemp seeds

In recent years, hemp seeds have become a real must have . They can be easily found in all shops that sell organic products such as Natura Sì , but they are also easily found in large supermarkets such as Iper-Coop or Conad , in the seeds, cereals and legumes department.

Of course, it is also very easy to find them on the internet, from Amazon to small companies specializing in organic and natural food, there are many resellers of hemp seeds.

It is possible to buy them hulled , therefore without peel , or not hulled , therefore still intact. If they are to be used for the production of vegetable milk, hemp oil or flour, the advice is to purchase them hulled. Alternatively, it may be a good choice to buy them intact, so as to also benefit from the fibers and mineral salts present in significant quantities right on the shell.

The average price is around 10 euros for 250 grams, but they last long enough because just one spoonful of seeds provides the right daily nutritional value. Before purchasing hemp seeds, make sure the product is organic and certified.

On the same sites and in the same shops where you will find hemp seeds, it is usually also possible to purchase its main derivatives, hemp milk and oil and hemp tofu, excellent products that are also advisable to try in synergy with the seeds.

cannabis plant

A prescription

Many sweet or savory recipes can be made with hemp seeds, from risotto to breading, from pesto to veggie burgers up to, as we have seen, hemp tofu.

To conclude this article, however, we have chosen a quick, tasty and undemanding one.

Here is the recipe for preparing a light, energetic snack rich in calcium, magnesium and mineral salts. An excellent alternative to supermarket sweets, a real instant energy boost to be consumed at any time of the day.

White chocolate and hemp seed bars

The recipe is versatile, we can enrich it with the dried fruit we prefer and replace what we don't like with the ingredients we prefer. We can replace white chocolate with dark or milk chocolate or even with just honey.

In addition to the ingredients listed below, you will need two bowls, a saucepan, a pan, a baking tray, some baking paper and a hand blender or pestle.


  • 100 grams of hemp seeds
  • 50 g of hazelnuts
  • 50 g of almonds
  • 50 g of dried blueberries
  • 50 g of puffed spelled
  • 50 grams of puffed rice
  • 200 grams of white chocolate


  1. Chop the hazelnuts and almonds coarsely or finely, depending on your taste. Place them in a bowl together with the dried blueberries and spelled and puffed rice. Toast for two minutes in the pan and return to the bowl.
  2. In the meantime, using a saucepan and the other bowl, place the chocolate on a low heat so that it can melt in a bain-marie.
  3. At this point the hemp seeds can be added to the bowl with the cereal and blueberries. Mix well and as soon as it is ready, add the chocolate while continuing to mix.
  4. Spread the baking paper on the baking tray, tip the mixture onto it and shape it with a spatula until you obtain a fairly thick rectangle.
  5. Place in the freezer for two or three hours, then take out and cut into bars.

The fact that the bars take shape in the freezer ensures that the nutritional value and properties of the seeds remain unaltered.

These energy bars can be stored for 5 or 6 days in glass jars or tin boxes.

They are very useful as a snack while we are at work , excellent for replenishing mineral salts after a sports session but are also excellent as a rich breakfast for a right and balanced dose of energy and vitamins.

You might also be interested in:

  1. Hemp: what are seeds used for in the kitchen?
  2. Edible hemp: what does the regulation say?
  3. CBD: what it is and what it is used for

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