Heart recipes are an easy way to incorporate more organ meats into your diet. While offal may be intimidating at first, it is some of the most nutrient-dense food available. The heart is a muscle, nothing more, and it’s one of the tastiest organ meats available.
It’s no secret that the diets of our ancestors looked a lot different than our diets today. The demand for organ meats and traditional foods is increasing as more people realize the health consequences of our heavily processed, sugar-laden Standard American Diet (or SAD as experts call it, with no small hint of irony).
People are seeking out traditionally fermented foods, and experimenting with sourdough recipes. They’re incorporating healthy, grass-fed fats and omega-rich fish into their diets.
And once again, people are coming back to eating organ meats.
In truth, the only place where people actually stopped eating organ meats is in the US. When we transitioned away from corner butcher shops to large-scale supermarkets, it became nearly impossible to keep highly perishable organ meats on the shelves.
When you’re working with nutrient-dense food, you have to deal with the practicalities of spoilage, and that doesn’t fit in with how big chain grocery stores operate.
You may have noticed that 90% of the volume of any grocery store is shelf-stable, nonperishable goods throughout the center aisles…with the real food, the perishable fresh food, just lining the outside edges.
It’s been like this for more than a generation, and most of us have forgotten how to prepare what were once the most prized and nutritious parts of the animal.
The knowledge is still out there, if you know where to look. I’ve compiled literally dozens of heart recipes to help you get started incorporating more nutrient-rich organ meats back into your diet, and take the “SAD” out of our American ways of eating.
Heart recipes are perfect for beginners, as the meat is generally mild and cooks very similar to fine steak. While the liver takes a bit of finesse to properly prepare and has an abrasive taste in the best of cases, the heart is mild and tender if prepared properly.
Finding your way back to a healthy way of eating is all about baby steps, and these heart recipes are sure to please even the pickiest carnivore.
If properly prepared, heart meat will taste like the most tender steak you’ve ever eaten. Don’t believe me? Take a look…
Where To Buy Heart Meat
In truth, it can be hard to find hearts available at the supermarket. Usually, all the organ meats are removed at the slaughterhouse, and they’re disposed of unless specifically requested.
There are custom butchers online that cater to the paleo/primal market that have begun to sell high-quality organ meats, and they can be ordered for a fraction of the cost of regular meat.
The Honest Bison sells all the following types:
The packages come pre-cleaned, sliced, and ready to cook. They’re the best online source for organ meats that I’ve found to date, and they also carry tripe, kidney, and liver.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy organ meats is ground in with hamburger, just as a small percentage of the meat. Since you’ll hardly taste it, it’s a good way to dip your toe into ancestral nutrition.
This package is about a 3/4 pound of ground bison with a few ounces of heart and liver ground for added nutrition, and you can eat it (or serve it) like a hamburger without even noticing.
How to Cook Heart
The heart is a muscle, in much the same way that every other cut of meat on an animal. In general, the most used muscles on an animal are the most flavorful, and they’re often what we refer to as “dark meat.”
Think of rich chicken thighs (high use) as opposed to the chicken breast (low use). Or pork shoulder (high use) as opposed to the low use white meat of pork loin.
In general, those more flavorful cuts are cooked low and slow, to help what would otherwise be a tough but flavorful cut become melt in your mouth tender.
When cooking heart meat, things are a bit different. It is a high-use muscle with incredible flavor, but it’s also a different type of muscle known as smooth muscle. It’s structurally different than movement muscles, and though it’s used continuously for an animal’s entire life…it remains tender and succulent to the end.
The Best Way to Cook Heart
The best way to cook heart is hot and fast, with plenty of fat (butter or oil), as you would a really fine steak. The properly prepared heart should be cooked like a filet minion, porterhouse, or ribeye steak. A hot and fast sear, and ideally left a bit rare for best flavor.
Tastes vary of course, and you can cook the meat however you choose. Plenty of people enjoy their steak well done, and others don’t like steak at all and will slow cook their meat into stew regardless of the cut.
While I think hot and fast is the best way to cook heart, I’m giving you all the options in this list of heart recipes.
How to Prepare a Heart for Cooking
If you’re sourcing heat meat from a butcher, it’s already been cleaned and the chambers should be empty and rinsed. It’s likely already been trimmed of excess fat and vessels from the outside.
If not, give it a quick rinse and trim off the outer lining of the heart. It should be a thin, nearly transparent film around the outside. This should only be necessary if you’ve harvested the animal yourself, and the butcher will most likely have prepared the heart for cooking ahead of time.
Smaller hearts, like duck and chicken hearts, can be prepared whole without any further preparation. Larger hearts, like beef hearts and venison hearts, will need to be trimmed into steaks or chunks.
I have a detailed tutorial on how to take a full-sized venison heart and trim it out into steaks. Believe it or not, the heart more or less opens like a book and will fold out into a single sheet steak if cut properly.
Once trimmed, the heart can be marinated (or not) and then cooked to your liking.
In general, the best way to cook heart is a hot and fast sear after it’s spent time in a flavorful marinade. That’s true regarding the hearts of most animals, but there are subtle differences in the way a heart can be prepared based on size.
Smaller hearts, like duck or chicken hearts, are absolutely delicious battered and fried whole, for example. Beef heart is often cooked in traditional recipes as chunks, marinated, and then grilled hot on kebab skewers.
Most traditional heart recipes are specific to the type of animal, not because heart meat tastes all that different on different animals (though there are subtle differences). Mostly it’s about size and portions, and the traditions of the culture that generally raised that type of animal historically.
Beef Heart Recipes
By far the largest heart you’ll find at the butcher’s counter, a whole beef heart is often around 3 to 4 pounds. Generally, beef heart is cut in half, both to make it a more manageable size for cooking, and for cleaning.
Slicing a heart in half means that it’s completely cleaned and trimmed, inside and out. It’s also trimmed flat, so it’s ready for cooking as a heart steak if that’s your preference.
You can also trim it into kebab meat, grind it into a burger or toss it into stew. Beef heart is surprisingly versatile.
Grinding beef heart into a burger is one of the best ways to “hide it” if that’s your goal, and if you use 1 part beef heart to 3 parts ground beef, no one will ever know (even your picky kids).
You can actually buy it already ground and mixed here (made with bison).
While I think the heart is a truly marvelous cut worth taking center stage, sometimes you have to take baby steps when trying new things. Enjoying it as part of a ground mix is an easy way to dip your toe into organ meats without going crazy.
These recipes, however, really make the heart the center of the meal:
- Grilled Beef Heart Steaks
- Anticuchos (Peruvian Grilled Beef Heart Kabobs)
- Beef Heart Stew
- Thai Lime Beef Heart Satay (keto recipe)
- Stuffed Ox Heart with Mushroom Duxelles
- Grilled Beef Heart with Chimichurri Sauce
- Beef Heart Meatballs
- Beef Heart Ragu
- Beef Heart Burger Patties
Chicken Heart Recipes (& Duck, Goose, etc)
Poultry hearts are on the opposite end of the spectrum from beef hearts, and they’re quite small. With chicken hearts, in particular, you can cook them whole and they make all manner of dishes.
Think chicken heart tacos, with small whole (or halved) chicken hearts marinated in spicy taco seasoning. You can also batter and fry them, which is one of my favorite poultry heart recipes.
Most types of hearts taste quite similar, but if I had to pick one that is the “mildest” it’d have to be chicken. Beef heart tastes like steak, and the chicken heart does as well…but to a lesser extent. Animals that are harvested younger tend to have milder meat, and chickens are usually only a few months old when fully grown.
Given their small size, they’re also a smaller investment in both time, money, and ingredients. If you decide you don’t like beef heart, you have pounds of it on hand. Chicken hearts can be purchased and cooked in small batches, meaning they’re perfect if you’re looking for beginner heart recipes.
- Fried Breaded Chicken Hearts
- Pan-Fried Chicken Hearts (not breaded)
- Air Fryer Chicken Hearts
- Chicken Hearts with Mushrooms and Onions
- Rosemary Chicken Hearts
- Chicken Heart Confit
- Chicken Heart Yakitori
Duck Heart Recipes
Lamb Heart Recipes (& Goat Heart)
As smaller animals, lamb hearts and goat hearts are much more manageable for a single meal. They don’t tend to have the gamey-ness of actual lamb or goat meat, and flavor-wise they’re only ever so slightly different than beef heart.
Given their size, they’re harder to trim out into a good sizes steak, but they’re a bit too large to cook whole (as you do with chicken hearts).
Generally, lamb hearts are chopped or diced into manageable pieces for cooking instead. They’re also good as a single serving, so you’ll often see stuffed lamb hearts, designed as one per person meal that makes a dramatic impression on the plate.
- Grilled Lamb Heart
- Lamb Heart Kababs
- Lamb Heart Stew
- Lamb Heart Sandwich with Mint Dressing
- Lamb Heart and Couscous Salad
- Braised Stuffed Lamb Hearts
Game Meat Heart Recipes
For hunters, there are all manner of ways to prepare the heart from a successful hunt. While heart meat is generally milder than the rest of the animal, there is some natural gamey-ness to the hearts of wild animals.
That’s not because of the meat itself, but more due to the fat on the outside of the heart. Even lean animals have a good bit of fat on their hearts, and that fat often has gamey flavor notes when it’s from wild hunted game. If you’d like to reduce that, you can trim the heart of as much extra fat as possible and then fry it in a neutral oil like olive oil or butter.
That said, I think it’s lovely to appreciate the natural flavors of the animal whenever possible, and if you’ve gone through the trouble to hunt deer, bear or wild pig…why would you want it to taste like grocery store meat?
Here are a few game meat heart recipes to make the most of your hard work hunting.
- How to Cook Deer Heart
- Peruvian Grilled Deer Heart
- Breaded and Fried Deer Heart with Buttermilk Gravy
- Corned Venison Heart
- Pickled Deer Heart
- Fried Bear Heart
- Canadian Stuffed Moose Heart
Traditional Cooking Guides
Looking for more resources to cook and eat in a traditional way?
- 10+ Venison Liver Recipes
- 70+ Venison Recipes
- 40+ Squirrel Recipes for Small Game Hunters
- How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar
- Beginner’s Guide to Cheesemaking