What Is Heart of Palm?

You’ve seen them at a salad bar and wondered what those things were. We’re here to tell you they are hearts of palm. You’ll be surprised to learn about the nutrition benefits they pack, and what they can be turned into.

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September 03, 2021
Three Pieces of Hearts (Palmetto) with Slices

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Three Pieces of Hearts (Palmetto) with Slices

Photo by: DonMcGillis/Getty Images

DonMcGillis/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

Hearts of palm bring a lot to the table when added to a salad, pureed into a creamy dip or turned into a gluten-free pasta. They also pack a nutritional punch. But what are hearts of palm? We get into the details below.

Hearts of palm portion on a yellow dish.

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Hearts of palm portion on a yellow dish.

Photo by: TinaFields/Getty Images

TinaFields/Getty Images

What Are Hearts of Palm?

Hearts of palm are exactly what they say they are: the very core, or hearts, of palm plants. Hearts of palm are also called palm cabbage, palmito or chonta. The plants also grow in Florida, where they are the official state tree, as well as Central and South America. The palms have been bred to grow with multiple stems. Only one stem is harvested from each plant over the course of six to nine months, and by the time the farmers get to the last stem, new shoots are coming up to start the cycle all over again. This is important because it means the plant is sustainable, and not a crop that is clear-cut. The heart is inside the stem, encased in a sheath of leaves that must be removed before eating or processing.

What Do Hearts of Palm Taste Like?

Hearts of palm have a very mild flavor, similar to white asparagus or artichoke hearts. Their texture is solid and cruncy, but still delicate and easy to bite through. The hearts themselves have several columns running up the plant, with a large ring around them holding them together. The rings are clearly visible when they’re cut crosswise.

White plate with sauteed vegetables on wooden background

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White plate with sauteed vegetables on wooden background

Photo by: TaniaBertoni/Getty Images

TaniaBertoni/Getty Images

What Are Hearts of Palm Used For?

Hearts of palm have most often been used as a salad ingredient, but they are now being processed and made into gluten free pasta. They can stand in for any firm vegetable in a soup or stew. Their mild flavor also lends itself to sweeter dishes such as salads with fresh fruit. In addition, they can be pureed and added to vegetable spread or sauces. Fresh hearts of palm can be sautéed or grilled and served on their own or with other vegetables, meats or sauces.

What Is Heart of Palm Pasta?

Heart of palm pasta is made with just heart of palm. It is cooked during processing and resembles the shape of linguini, making it a great gluten-free stand-in for wheat pasta. It can be eaten after rinsing and will taste like hearts of palm, but after rinsing and adding to sauce, it fools a lot of people. In addition to linguini, you can get sheets of the “pasta” for lasagna. Want to learn more? Head over to our review, What Is Palmini Pasta and How Does It Compare to Other Gluten-Free Pastas?.

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Are Hearts of Palm Good For You?

Hearts of palm are good for you, and they have place in a healthy lifestyle. We pulled some nutrition information from the USDA to bring you the facts. Per every 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of hearts of palm, there are 28 calories, 4.6 grams carbs, 2.4 grams fiber and 0.6 grams fat. They’re high in zinc, potassium, magnesium and a host of aminos that your body uses to repair tissue damage. Just remember to rinse them well before using, as they are packed in a sodium-rich brine.

Palm Pupunha in Natura in the foreground

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Palm Pupunha in Natura in the foreground

Photo by: Dio5050/Getty Images

Dio5050/Getty Images

Can You Eat Raw Heart of Palm?

The inner-most part of heart of palm can be eaten raw. It’s crunchy and sweet, similar to jicama. If you are lucky enough to have access to fresh palm hearts, you should try them. They have an inedible outer layer that keeps them fresh, and it must be removed before eating. Slice through one side and peel it off to get to the good stuff on the inside. Or cut them straight down the middle and cook on a grill.

Hearts of Palm Recipes


food stylist: Jamie Kimm
prop stylist: Marina Malchin

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food stylist: Jamie Kimm prop stylist: Marina Malchin

Soaking the red onion in water to get rid of some of its bite is the right step to take so it doesn’t overwhelm mild hearts of palm.

Hearts of palm can be processed into a gluten-free pasta, but we used the hearts of palm straight from the container to make this yummy parm.

Food stylist: Jamie Kimm 
Prop Stylist: Marina Malchin

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Food stylist: Jamie Kimm Prop Stylist: Marina Malchin

Photo by: Con Poulos

Con Poulos

This chopped salad is so colorful it looks like a party in a bowl.

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