Hemp seeds are nutritious, a good source of plant-based protein and perfect for use in salads, smoothies, cereals or to make hemp milk. But what if you need some healthy hemp seed substitutes if there are none left in your pantry?
Here we talk about tasty alternatives to hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts if hulled or shelled) that are all easy to find in the store!
This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or dietetic advice in any way.
What are Hemp Seeds?
Hemp seeds are technically a nut and come from the Cannabis sativa plant. However, hemp seeds have little to none of the psychoactive compound THC (Wed MD).
Hemp seeds can be bought both as they are, or shelled (hulled). If shelled, they are also known as hemp hearts.
Are Hemp Seeds Healthy?
Hemp seeds are known for being a good source of vegan protein, as well as being a complete protein as they contain all nine essential amino acids (Healthline).
As Healthline describes in their overview of hemp seeds, they are also a good source of fiber, vitamin E, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc. Notably, they are also rich in healthy fats, with a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3.
How Can Hemp Seeds be Used?
Hemp seeds are quite a versatile product, and as well as being able to purchase the seeds themselves, you can also find hemp milk and hemp cheese in stores.
Hemp seeds (typically shelled hemp) can be used in many ways, including:
- Blended into smoothies, such as my in my blueberry hemp smoothie.
- Sprinkled onto salads to add protein.
- Used as a topping for oatmeal or a chia pudding.
- Eaten as they are for a snack.
Best Hemp Seed Substitutes
There are many nuts and seeds that can be used as a substitute for hemp seeds in your meals and snacks.
Flaxseeds (also known as linseeds) are a good alternative to hemp seeds as they both have a nutty flavor and can be used to top cereals, oatmeal or salads.
As well as whole seeds, you can also purchase ground / milled flaxseed, which can be sprinkled on your foods or used to make a tasty flaxseed pudding for breakfast!
Ground flaxseed can also be used to make a 'flax egg' by combining with water. Flax eggs are often used as a substitute for eggs in vegan baking.
In terms of nutrition, flaxseeds are also a good source of protein, fiber and omega 3 fatty acids (Healthline).
One downside of flaxseeds as an alternative to hemp seeds is that they are not a complete protein. While flax contains essential amino acids, it lacks the amino acid lysine and so is considered an incomplete protein (Healthline).
See my post on flaxseed substitutes for even more ideas for healthy alternatives for baking!
Pumpkin seeds are similar to hemp seeds with their nutty flavor and crunchy texture. Whole pumpkin seeds can be used as a replacement for hemp seeds as a topping for oatmeal, salads or just as a snack as they are.
It's possible to roast your own pumpkin seeds at home, or you can of course purchase at the store or in heath food shops.
In terms of nutrition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of unsaturated fats, antioxidants, magnesium and iron (BBC Good Food).
Chia seeds have a very different appearance to hemp seeds, as they are all black and much smaller in size.
As a replacement for hemp seeds, we can use chia seeds to top cereals, oatmeal and salads.
You can also make chia pudding out of chia seeds, or make a 'chia egg' for use as a substitute for eggs in baking.
One similarity between chia seeds and hemp seeds is that they are both a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids (Healthline). Chia seeds though, have a smaller quantity of protein.
Sesame seeds can be thought to have a similar appearance to hemp seeds in terms of their color and size. They are also nutty in taste, and have a crunch.
As a replacement for hemp seeds, sesame seeds are particularly good for salads, and you can also sprinkle them over a stir-fry or of course make your own homemade tahini.
While sesame seeds contain beneficial nutrients such as lignans, they do not have the same amount of protein as hemp seeds and are an incomplete protein (Healthline).
With their nutty, earthy taste sunflower seeds can be used as a hemp seed substitute for topping cereals, salads or in baking.
Sunflower seeds are a source of protein, although less than hemp seeds. They are, however, a good source of certain amino acids, vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium and antioxidants (Medical News Today).
As a note, sunflower seeds rate as higher histamine on the SIGHI list, with a score of 2 on their scale of 0-3 and marked as a libertor, so my low histamine readers may wish to avoid them.
Quinoa is a good hemp seed substitute for savory dishes, particularly for salads. It has a light nutty flavor and can be bought to cook at home yourself, or in pre-prepared packets.
Similarly to hemp seeds, quinoa is a good source of vegan protein and is considered to be a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids (BBC Good Food).
While you likely wouldn't use quinoa as a topping for smoothie bowls or chia pudding as you would for hemp seeds, it can still be used as an alternative for savory dishes. It can be used for some breakfast recipes such as my berry quinoa breakfast bake though!
For more savory dishes, pine nuts can be a good alternative to hemp seeds. You can easily sprinkle them in a salad or use to make pesto (as you can with hemp seeds too!).
Pine nuts are similar in colour to hemp seeds and have a similar creamy, nutty taste. As Healthline describes in their overview of the benefits of pine nuts, they are also a source of plant-based protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. It should be noted that pine nuts provide less protein than hemp seeds and are not a complete protein.
Pine nuts are not suitable for those with a tree nut allergy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Hulled hemp seeds, also known as shelled hemp seeds or hemp hearts, have had the tough outer shell removed. They have a softer texture and more creamy taste than unhulled hemp seeds.
Hemp seeds contain all nine essential amino acids and so are a complete protein, as well as being a good source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (Healthline).
Flaxseeds are a good substitute for hemp seeds as they have a similar taste, as well as being a good source of plant-based protein.
Flaxseed and hemp seed have a similar taste, but are different products. Hemp seeds provide more protein and are a complete protein, unlike flaxseed which does not have lysine and so is considered an incomplete protein (Healthline).
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