One day, upon filling my face with chicken hearts at a home barbecue, and liberally going through them as one would popcorn 🤯 I just realized chicken hearts are the carnivore version of popcorn! Ahem, back to topic… I thought to myself: In medieval times, chicken hearts must have been something only great monarchs might have tried, at a similar rate of consumption.
Peasants would probably have had to share a single mingle heart among the whole family who was lucky enough to be eating a chicken dinner. They might not even have given the heart much attention. After all, it was so small, and there was just one. They probably just cooked it whatever way they cooked, with the rest of the chicken, or together with the other chicken innards. Or… they tried it separately, and found it fantastic, and reserved it for the family elders. A great honor, to be given the chicken heart!
The rich, though, always get the best stuff. Monarchs had great many a chicken in their banquets, and surely the cooks realized how delicious chicken hearts could be when eaten by themselves. Looking for their royals’ approval, the next time they killed one hundred chickens for a great banquet, they separated the hearts and barbecued them to serve their masters, who were enchanted by the tender, flavorful little morsels.
Chicken hearts are a delicacy that’s rare and should be savored and appreciated. When you get a tray full of chicken hearts in the supermarket… take a moment to remember that each chicken had only one. Feel privileged for the opportunity. You’ll be eating like royalty tonight.
What do chicken hearts taste like?
After you eat a chicken’s heart, nothing else is going to taste like chicken.
Although the heart is an organ, its meat composition is basically that of a muscle. The heart is our strongest muscle, after all. So the chicken heart taste is not as distant to that of muscle meat, it’s more like a super strong version of it.
But don’t be fooled by their strange appearance. Chicken hearts are delicious! They are tender, succulent, and slightly bouncy. They’re flavorful, but taste quite mild and non-gamey, at least in comparison to other offal. If you want to start trying organ meats, chicken hearts are the best “gateway offal” I can think of.
The benefits of eating organ meat: are chicken hearts good for you?
Overall, the nutrition content of any organ meat blows muscle meat out of the water. Add this to the fact they they are not only absolutely delicious, but super easy to cook and incredibly cheap, and I hope I have convinced you to try. But it’s not all:
The protein quality of chicken hearts is phenomenal. They have the highest total amount of essential amino acids ratio from all of the chicken, including the other offal. Essential amino acids have to be consumed, as they cannot be produced by the human body. And they’re good for the gainz.
They are also extremely rich in vitamin B12, and are an excellent source of minerals, specially iron and zinc. Although chicken hearts do not have as near as much vitamin A as chicken liver (or any animal’s, actually), it’s still a decent source of vitamin A, when compared to muscle meats in general.
“Coraçãozinho de galinha”, the Brazilian style chicken hearts, are traditionally grilled
In Brazilian homes, as well as rodízio churrascarias (Brazilian style barbecue restaurants, or dare I say, carnivore temples), chicken hearts are seasoned with coarse crystal sea salt, skewered in ultra long, sword style metal sticks (childhood around these is fun, and it enforces Darwin’s principals) and grilled over red-hot coals. Weekend home barbecues in Brazil are a serious matter, and not serving chicken hearts is a grave sin. It’s like New Year’s Eve without fireworks.
Allow me a small rant: I’m living in a really small apartment now, but at least I have a nice balcony where it’s possible to install a traditional Brazilian BBQ grill. Can you believe I was told off by the security guard when I tried to make a barbecue? He actually came up to my door and said if I didn’t stop he would call the police, as it’s not allowed. Absurd! I own the apartment, I own the balcony and I’m on the last floor so it’s not like I was smoking someone else’s house. That ended it for me. I’m not ever gonna live in an apartment again. Alas…
I have always eaten chicken hearts grilled, Brazilian style, as that’s what I grew up loving and never it occurred to me that I could do it any other way. Oh boy, how wrong I was!
When all the chances to eat again one of my favorite BBBQ – the extra B is for Brazilian 😁 – foods were taken away from me, I had to look into options. That’s when I thought, maybe this can be eaten without being barbecued? I started testing. I made chicken hearts in the oven. I made chicken hearts in the electric grill. I made chicken hearts in the air fryer. And then… only then, I made them the easiest way, but because it was the one method that seemed would render the least tasty result. Pan fried.
The best way to cook chicken hearts without a grill
Honest: pan fried chicken hearts are so good. I actually don’t miss the traditional grilled ones anymore… as much. You see, grilling them is a lot more work, with the skewering and fire making and smoke and cleaning it all after… Pan fried chicken hearts? A 20 minute affair, barely any work, and you can eat so many more of them.
In a Brazilian churrasco – that’s how we say barbecue – the chicken hearts are generally served as appetizers, which I’ve always found preposterous. They should obviously be the main, as they’re everyone’s favorite. Fights over how many chicken hearts one eats are a thing. But because we’re simply pan frying them now, and there’s not a big event with all family/friends involved, I can have them all by myself! (or at least half… I share them with my husband, I’m not a monster)
It’s incredibly easy to cook them, but as with any small morsel of meat, timing is everything. If overcooked, chicken hearts can get rubbery and chewy. If under cooked, they can be sinewy. But if cooked to the right doneness, they’re my favorite part of the chicken! As if you haven’t noticed 😁
How to clean chicken hearts
Chicken hearts are cheap, easy to cook, and don’t really require cleaning, although some choose to do it. So, if you are a beginner still irked by offal, just grab some and give it a go.
They most likely will be cleaned already, depending on where you buy them, but it’s a matter of taste, really. There’s nothing “dirty” to remove from hearts. You don’t need to wash or soak them. They might have some extra little chunks of fat, and the arteries flopping out might freak out some people. To clean these out, just cut them away with a sharp knife and that’s it. I like to leave them on: When the hearts are cooked, the veiny bits sticking out get nice and crunchy, making everything more interesting.
The arteries continue inside the heart, so even if you just cut out the outside portion, you’re eating them bits anyway. You’d have to butterfly the hearts and remove everything inside to be left with only the muscle. I’ve seen this type of recipe, but I can’t get my head around why anyone would go through all this work if they already taste heavenly the easy way. I’d even argue that this technique would remove the personality of the heart, as it would completely take away its fun bouncy texture.
How to cook chicken hearts
Season your hearts: you can keep it simple or go fancy here. They taste amazing with salt only when grilled. Chicken hearts are not like liver, for example, that have to go through soaking in lemon and milk and spiced and buttered to hell to make it edible.
Cooking them on a pan, it makes easier to spice them up than when you make them grilled: there’s no rubbing involved.
Melt lard (or your fat of choice – butter not recommended, too much smoke) on a shallow saucepan. Add the chicken hearts, salt, and your chosen spices. I went with rosemary, paprika, chili flakes, and crushed garlic. If adding the garlic, do it later on so it doesn’t burn.
Fry them up turning them around, starting on high heat. They release a lot of water. When the water is almost dried up, some 10 minutes later, add in the crushed garlic. Now the chicken hearts and the garlic will start sizzling together and get a nice tan. Brown them up until medium-well. Then comes the best part: eating.
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- 1 kilo chicken hearts
- 2 tablespoons fat for frying (lard or tallow is best, but olive oil can be used)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary (half the amount if fresh)
- 10 crushed garlic cloves (optional)
- In a shallow saucepan, melt the fat on high heat and add the chicken hearts.
- Sprinkle the salt, cumin and chili flakes.
- Fry them up, turning around in the pan. They will start releasing water. Turn heat down to medium.
- When the hearts have lost their pink/red color and the water is almost completely evaporates, add the rosemary and crushed garlic (if using).
- Continue frying and turning them often until they are evenly browned. Be careful not to over cook. Chicken hearts ideal doneness is medium-well.
The nutrition information displayed is for chicken hearts with crushed garlic, which adds 3 net carbs per portion. If you leave out the garlic, this will be a zero carb recipe.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 479Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 605mgSodium: 915mgCarbohydrates: 4gNet Carbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 67g
Nutrition information is provided as a guideline only. Different brands of ingredients may have different nutrition facts. If tracking macros, remake the calculations using the nutrition facts from the labels of the ingredients you selected. Net carbs calculated exclude carbs from insoluble fiber and the sugar alcohol erythritol.