Food With Hops


Food With Hops is dedicated to exploring the world of beer through delicious recipes and photography. Hops can add wonderful flavor to food, like they add flavor to beer. Just as craft brewers are increasingly experimenting with unusual ingredients in their brews, cooks are combining hops with more traditional ingredients in culinary creations.

Food With Hops

Holtwood Hops is my family’s farm, located in Southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We grow our hops organically on three-quarters of an acre of fertile soil without the use of any commercial fertilizers or chemical pesticides. Hops are used primarily to flavor and stabilize beer, but we are often asked: “Can hops be used for anything else besides beer-making?” Over the past several seasons of hops growing we have made floral arrangements, boutonnières, dream pillows, tea bags and handmade paper, and experimented with cooking, fermenting, pickling and garnishing with hops. My favorite adventure to date has been a foray into candy making. Simple hops-flavored hard candies and lollipops are a uniquely satisfying treat.

An Acquired Taste

The bitter flavor of hops is an acquired taste, in food as in beer. Hops can add wonderful flavor to food, like they add flavor to beer. Just as craft brewers are increasingly experimenting with unusual ingredients in their brews, cooks are combining hops with more traditional ingredients in culinary creations.

The flavor profiles of hops are as diverse as the many varietals, and can be an exciting addition to an adventurous chef’s pantry. They can be used as a condiment or spice. The unique flavor of hops can be used to jazz up a pizza. Infused hop oils can dress a salad or enliven a dip. They can be incorporated into marinade to invigorate meats and vegetables on the grill.  High in antioxidants, hops can be brewed as a tea and used medicinally as a sleep aid that can be steeped alone or combined with other soporific herbs, like chamomile, that promote relaxation.

Hops add the bitterness that tempers the sweetness in beer, and humulus lupulis can be used as an exciting adult flavoring agent when balanced with sugar, as in a classic childhood confection, the lollipop. LolliHops® are a trademarked sweet by Yakima Candy, now available online and in select retailers,  Their website lists interesting flavor combinations such as Lemon Shandy, Hopped Cider, Blood Orange, Raspberry, Mango, Chili Lime, Irish Stout, Cherry Peach Lambic, Honey Hefe, Hopped Ginger Beer, and Passionfruit.  I came across a recipe for hops-flavored beer Lollihops predating this commercial confection, in a blog by Marie Porter, author of the cookbook Hedonistic Hops (Celebration Generation 2016). Her blog and cookbooks are filled with interesting adult recipes, including Jalapeno-Beer Peanut Brittle (The Spirited Baker: Intoxicating Desserts & Potent Potables, Celebration Generation 2013) and Hoppy IPA BBQ sauce. The lollihops are easy to make and adapt. These are terrific hostess, wedding shower, or spirited holiday gifts.

“Over the past several seasons of hops growing we have made floral arrangements, boutonnières, dream pillows, tea bags and handmade paper, and experimented with cooking, fermenting, pickling and garnishing with hops.”


The growing season in our part of the country starts in late May, and the last harvest is mid to late August. Fresh hops, homegrown or purchased from a grower, are ideal for cooking. A little go a long way. Many home brewers use pelletized hops because they are easy to purchase, measure and store, but these can contain leaves and vines and detritus. We recommend using only pure, organically-grown, hand-picked hops that are carefully dried, nitrogen flushed, and vacuum packed, to add complexity to a recipe. Just as any fresh-picked, organically grown fruit or vegetable is prized by discerning chefs, fresh whole hop cones used within 3 days of picking are a flavor delight.

Hops are generally categorized for brewing by their “alpha acids” and divided by use as “bittering” (higher alpha acid content), or “aroma” (lower levels of alpha acids).

Combining varietals experimentally in food can be fun for the home cook and professional chef alike. The end creations may not be uniformly successful, (my dark chocolate hops truffles were almost palatable and the macaroons went right into the trash) but the challenge is gratifying, and results are much more quickly realized than experiments in the brewing cycle.

In our experience, homebrewers are most familiar with Cascade, used in ales, IPAs, and porters. This popular aroma type hop is floral, citrusy and spicy, and has been described as having grapefruit undertones. It is an easy-to-grow, hardy cultivar that is a good culinary choice.  Another of our high-yield hops is Zeus – as big and impressive as its name. It is a dual purpose aroma and high alpha acid varietal used for US IPAs, US pale ales, stouts, barley wines, and lagers. Specific aroma descriptors include pungent, black pepper, licorice, and curry. We also grow Centennial, Chinook, and Galena, which are good substitutes for Zeus.

Growing Your Own

Hops will grow up to 6 meters (20 feet) high and greater, and require support. Rhizomes should be planted in the early spring, about 10 cm (4 inches) deep, 60-91 cm (2-3 feet) apart, with the shoots facing up. Rhizomes are found underground and send out roots and shoots from their nodes. We dig and ship our sprouted cuttings to gardeners, and these should be kept cool and moist until planted. Twine can be staked in the ground and attached to the side of a building, fence or other support. The young bines (not a typo — that is the term) can be trained to grow up by gently wrapping several shoots around the twine. Well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight is essential. Ripe hops should be harvested when the cones feel light and dry, and spring back when squeezed. The lupalin will be yellow and sticky and extremely fragrant. The plants should be cut back at the end of the season and they will produce more each consecutive year. The first season’s growth will not yield many cones, but a backyard hops garden will provide shade and visual delight, and hardy perennial enjoyment.

Storing Your Hops

Hops storage, like spice storage is important. Oxygen, light and heat are natural enemies of hops, so vacuum sealed bags should be kept in dark and cold; we recommend freezing dried hops to preserve the freshest flavor.


Hops shoots in the spring are delicious pickled or sautéed. Labor intensive to harvest and wash, they are a short-lived delicacy that can be prepared in the same ways as garlic scapes and asparagus shoots.

Crushed leaves from whole cone hops, fresh or dried, can be sprinkled as a garnish for added interest, flavor, and texture to culinary creations. Dried hops can be ground to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to add textural flavor to foods.

Just as hops are strained from the wort in the beer brewing process, the process of infusion in hot liquid can be implemented to invigorate recipes. Sweeteners can balance the bitterness of hops, and hops can be strained from liquid (milk, water, beer) with cheesecloth for smooth sauces and gravies, or left in if the texture is desired. More liquid is absorbed by dried hops than by fresh, so adjustments in recipes should take this into consideration.

Hops—They’re Not Just for Beer Anymore

Hops are the flowers from the female Humulus lupulus plant, which can grow extremely tall and incredibly fast. Somewhat ironically, given the effects of beer, the plant that produces hops is one of only two species in the Cannabaceae family. The other? Marijuana.

Hops are responsible for that potent bitterness that some people find off-putting in beer, though it’s certainly what I find most endearing about the beverage. While hops are best fresh, they are most commonly used dried, because it can be hard to find the fresh ingredient.

How to Buy & Store Hops

Despite the fact that hops are still relatively uncommon, they’re entirely affordable. You may be able to find them at a local grocer, but if not, they’re quite cheap online. Hops are like any other dried spice, though: they won’t last forever. The shelf life is six to twelve months, but will be much shorter if not stored properly. Put in a ziplock bag in the freezer to maximize the lifespan of the ingredient.

Image by Brian Boucheron/Flickr

What Do They Taste Like?

There are dozens of different strains of hops, each with a unique flavor. But above all, they are bitter: more bitter than the tartest lemons. That said, some strains are strictly bitter, while others are notably sweet or incredibly earthy. If you get the chance to purchase hops in person, you can rub them between your hands, and then smell your palms: the aroma left on your skin will be very indicative of the flavor profile.

How Do You Use Them?

You can use hops like any herb, but if there’s one word to keep in mind, it’s this: restraint. Hops are incredibly strong, and their bitterness can take over a dish. That said, they can add amazing flavors; it’s no coincidence that popularity for hops-based dishes is growing. Ice cream has become a trendy dessert item, and it’s very popular in sausages and bread (both of which pair well with beer).

Homemade hops and nuts ice cream.Image via NY Foodgasm

For those just getting accustomed to the taste of hops, I’d recommend adding it like a bay leaf to a soup or stew, or grating and sprinkling on top of an earthy entrée such as pasta or chicken.

Food Network has a recipe for salmon and cauliflower with hops bernaise while Bon Appétit discusses using hops in bruschetta, sautéing the shoots like asparagus, or stuffing hops leaves with hops flowers, cheese, and herbs, similar to the way zucchini blossoms are usually cooked.

Wildcraft Vita has a great list of hops recipes, including frittata, risotto, and fried chicken.

Tomato bruschetta with hops leaves.Image via Wildcraft Vita

The most exciting thing about hops is that their popularity is growing and growing; as more chefs start turning to the unique flower, we’re sure to see more and more incredible uses for the bizarre plant.

Eating Hops And Uses Beyond Beer

We all know hops are somehow used to magically make beer, but did you know you can eat hops as well as use the hop plant beyond making beer? In this article, we’re exploring the topic of eating hops with recipes to try and other uses for hops. So read on, to find out more.

Hops Growing on the Hop Plant
Hops Growing on the Hop Plant

What Are Hops Anyway?

Hops are the flower, often referred to as cone, of the climbing hop plant in the Cannabacea family, botanically known as Humulus lupulus. Hop plants climb like a vine but instead of a vine, it’s called a ‘bine’.

The plant is a perennial, meaning in the right conditions, a hop plant will continue to grow year after year. Generally, hop plants die back in the cold and shoot up again in spring.

For the purpose of eating hops, you want the female flowers. And because hop plants grow male and female plants, it’s best to grow the plant from the rhizome rather than seed to guarantee a female plant. As they grow, hop bines are trained along a support in the form of strong wire or twine.

Today hops are most known for flavoring and stabilizing beer, though they have been used for many years as herbal medicine.

Hops Plants
Hop Plants Growing on a Farm

Can you Eat Hops?

While the hops flower is most commonly known for the purpose of making beer, the entire hops plant is edible. That includes the flower as well as the hops leaves and shoots.

And even if you don’t love the taste of beer, hops still offer many delicious flavor profiles you can use for your culinary adventures.

The Taste of Hops

The taste of hops can definitely be described as bitter but there are many subtle underlying flavors that also describe hops. The bitterness is a result of the acid while the aroma of hops is a result of the essential oils.

The essential oils can depend on the variety of hop but include citrus, grass, earth, pine, spice, floral and fruity.

Both the acid and the essential oils are produced in the hop flower. They look like a yellow sticky secretion called lupulin. It’s a bit like pollen.

Quick Explanation of Hops Acids

Generally, acid hops are broken down into two categories; alpha acids and also beta acids.

The majority of bittering comes from the alpha acids. When making beer, this acid is extracted during the first boil over a longer time. The majority of the beta acids will evaporate during this time, which means there will be little or no aroma or flavor. To retain the hop flavor and aroma, hops are added to beer halfway through the boil or even after the boil has finished.

When purchasing hops, the acid profile is listed as a percentage, so you can choose the result your after. Hops are often categorized as “bittering” hops or “aroma” hops.

For eating hops, it’s preferable to choose an aroma hop and check it’s rated as low alpha acids. A high alpha acid maybe 19% whereas low alpha acid hops may only be 5%.

A good example would be the hop variety, Cascade. Cascade is often used for flavor and it has a low alpha acid level. Whereas a hop variety such as Centennial or Galaxy is often used for its bittering with a higher alpha acid level.

How To Cook With Hops

You will generally come across hops in three different forms: fresh hop flowers, dried hops (also known as leaf), and pellets.

Hop Pellets
Hop Pellets

For the purpose of cooking with hops, while you can use any form of hops, usually fresh hop flowers are best. So growing your own hops, or making friends with someone who does, is a great option for eating hops. Many beer brewers prefer pellets as they tend to be more consistent in bittering and flavor, which is important in beer brewing.

As mentioned earlier, you can eat the hop shoots and leaves as well as the flowers.

Choose the young, tender shoots for eating. You can harvest shoots throughout the season before the flowers appear but to opt for the younger shoots, you would usually harvest in the spring.

Young hop shoots can be cooked and eaten like asparagus. Try adding them to a frittata or pickling them.

Shoots can be sauteed, or steamed. Add some salt and butter and serve as a delicious side dish.

Hop flowers petals can be used to sprinkle on bruschetta or pizza.

You can turn hops into an extract that you can then use to flavor your cooking.

Make a delicious hot milk drink using dried hops flowers. And make your own hops salt with the dried cones.

Hops Storage Tips:

When using fresh hops, it’s a good idea to use them as soon as possible because they can deteriorate quickly. Hops degrade in light, air and heat.

So seal them up in a dark, air-tight container or storage bag and pop them in the refrigerator. They’ll store well for a few days. For longer-term storage, you can freeze hops.

Recipe Ideas Using Hops

Hopped-Up Bruschetta – from Bon Appetit. As well as the use of classic tomatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil, this twist on traditional brushetta uses fresh hop flowers.

Hops Salt Recipe – from Rebooted Mom. This very simple recipe for hops salt can then be used to flavor your dishes. Use either whole cone hops or pellets.

Spicy Pickled Hopshoots – from Limetree Roadside PubCafe. Pickling hop shots is a delicious way to eat them. This recipe calls for 16 cups of hop shoots. Pickled hop shoots are delicious with a cheese board, charcuterie or added to a salad.

Hop Shoot Frittata – from Forager Chef. Fresh hop shoots are combined with eggs and herbs for a yummy brunch dish.

Hoppy Tabbouleh – from Chef’s Table. The traditional use of herbs parsley and mint are given a flavor twist with the use of hops. This delicious salad can also be used as a sandwich or shawarma filling.

Hops Golden Milk – from Life’s Little Sweets. This recipe for hops golden milk uses some delicious spices including turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon and vanilla extract. The hero ingredient is of course hop flowers! These flowers are dried, so you can easily purchase them online.

Hop Flavored Beer Lollipops Recipe – from The Cooks Cook.  Combining hop cones, butter, sugar, beer and sugar to make adult lollipops. These are a yummy sweet edible gift to make.

Other Uses for Hops

Hops Flowers Growing on the Plant
Hops Flowers Growing on the Plant

Hops have been used for their healing properties for many, many years. The hop flowers are said to have anti-inflammatory properties as well as calming and relaxing qualities to assist with sleep.

Medicinally, hops can be brewed into a tea, to aid sleep and provide those calming benefits.

These Hop Comb Flower Leaves are perfect for making tea!

Some other ideas for using hops include using hops in a floral arrangement. They’re very pretty and can easily contribute to a bouquet or be the star of their own show.

Make a herb pillow with dried hops and other flowers and herbs such as Valerian, lavender and dill. With their calming properties, this herb pillow can be kept under or near your sleeping pillow to promote sleep.

Hops can be used to make soap, lip balm, bath salts and hair products.

Some of My Favorite Kitchen Items:

Cooking With Hops: Satisfy Beer Cravings With Hops Vine Flowers Garden TrendsBy Laura Miller | July 31, 2020 Printer Friendly Version When we think of hops, we think of beer… and vines. The aromatic hops vine flowers give our favorite brews their unique and distinctive flavor. But beyond backyard beer crafting, are there additional uses for hops? For instance, can you eat hops? The answer is yes. As it turns out, cooking with hops is quite trendy and an excellent way to satisfy a beer craving without the alcohol! Can You Eat Hops? The buds of the Humulus lupulus plant have long been grown for the bitterness and flavor they impart to brewed beverages. During the brewing process, hops are added to the mash (mixture of grains) prior to boiling. Heat releases the innate bitterness of hops vine flowers. The longer the hop cones are boiled, the more bitter the beer. To impart the distinctive flavor of hop flowers, more cones can be added near the end of the boiling process. Depending upon the variety, these flowers can impart a variety of aromatic flavorings, including citrus, mint, floral and lemon. When cooking with hops, take a cue from the beer-making process. Culinary dishes that require a long, hot cooking time will take on the bitterness of hops. Whenever possible, reserve this ingredient until the end of the heating process. This will reduce bitterness and bring out the aromatic flavor of your hops plant. And as with any strongly fragrant plant, a little goes a long way. Beyond the techniques for incorporating hops into recipes, the safety of consuming hop flowers should also be considered, just as a precaution. Hops contain a form of plant estrogen. High estrogen levels may disrupt the balance of hormones in men and cause concern for pregnant women. As an individual, questions such as “can you eat hops and in what quantity” are best answered by your physician. Culinary Uses for Hops Although some chefs add hops to dishes such as pizza and salads, consuming fresh hops is not for everyone. Hop cones are quite bitter-tasting and the texture is not highly palatable. Due to these undesirable qualities, culinary uses for hops remain a novelty. Thus, many hops plant recipes begin with either an oil or vinegar infusion of fresh or dried cones. (Cold infusions will be less bitter and more aromatic than those prepared with heat.) A water-based syrup can also be made by boiling hops and sugar or hops-infused honey can be used in recipes. These latter two add a bittersweet complexity of flavor to foods.  Once prepared, here are a few foods to which that hoppy, beer-like flavoring can be added: Brownies Bruschetta Candy Chicken marinade Hot chocolate Ice cream Lemonade Mustard Sparkling water So now that you know a little more about other ways to use hops vine flowers, why not save a few cones from your beer crafting harvest and try it out.

6 hopped-up foods and drinks beer lovers need to try

Despite how delicious hops makes our beer, it doesn’t really show up in food too often. Thankfully, that’s changing as chefs and beer nerds alike are increasingly looking to the humble hop to give their dish a unique twist.

The flower of the mighty hop plant, aka Humulus lupulus, is responsible for much of the characteristic flavour and aroma in beer—in fact, it’s pretty hard to imagine beer without it. The range of flavours derived from hops is truly remarkable. They can variously be earthy, herbal, floral, citrus, spicy, bitter, fruity, tropical, or any combination thereof.


But despite how delicious hops makes our beer, it doesn’t really show up in food too often. Thankfully, that’s changing as chefs and beer nerds alike are increasingly looking to the humble hop to give their dish a unique twist.

Here are some of our favourite hop-flavoured foods to look out for.

Hop Tea

So hop tea is a thing, which makes sense, since it’s green and leafy and typically boiled. There’s a lot health claims associated with it, which, quite frankly, are unscientific and super sketchy. Like the fact that it apparently prevents cancer.


Some of the claims make sense, though. Hop tea is supposed to be a stress reducer, which totally explains why I feel so relaxed after crushing six pints of Fat Tug. It’s also a diuretic, so that explains all the piss, too.

Because of hop’s antiseptic qualities, you can use a cloth soaked in hop tea to treat burns and cuts naturally. Or you could just stick to the Polysporin like a non-crazy person.

Questionable health benefits aside, if you like drinking herbal tea and you’re looking for a new cuppa, then give it a spin.

Hop bitters

Even if you’re not drinking beer, you can still have your hops. Bitters are an essential ingredient in a well-balanced cocktail, and hops work perfectly in the classic herbal tincture. Vancouver’s Bittered Sling won a silver medal at the Beverage Tasting Institute International Review of Spirits Awards for its Grapefruit & Hops bitters. The B.C.-grown hops provide a floral, herbaceous character, as well as the requisite bitterness. 

Hop pop

Chicago-based Hop Pop Soda Co. features citrusy hops in its line of alcohol-free, caffeine free beverages, with flavours like Citra Hops and Ginger, and Citra and Galaxy Hop Blend. Closer to home, Callister Sodas in East Van does a Spruce & Hops pop made with local ingredients. And if the thought drinking a hoppy beverage without alcohol in it gives you the shakes, well, Spruce & Hops makes a great mixer, too. Also, get help.

 An array of hops-infused food and drinkAn array of hops-infused food and drink

Hop sausage

At the legendary Hamiltons Tavern in San Diego, hops aren’t only on tap, they’re in the craft beer bar’s world famous, house-made hop sausage, too. The bar’s owner apparently changes up the recipe every couple of weeks to pair with the featured cask ale of the moment—but there’s always hops in the mix, as it adds a bright, herbal kick. 

Hop chocolate

There are plenty of beers with chocolatey character, so this one just makes sense. Hops pair well with the natural bitterness of the cocoa bean, and can add a piney, citrus character to the chocolate. Abbotsford-based chocolatier ChocolaTas combined Lumberjack hops from the Fraser Valley with lime, and chocolate in its delicious hop caramels. If you’ve ever been to B.C. Hop Fest (back again Sept. 29, people!), then you’ve probably tried these, and you definitely love them. 

Hop chicken

Herbs like thyme and rosemary are perfect chicken pairings, and hops can be, too! Try substituting a couple of teaspoons of hop powder in your shake-and-bake recipe and put a new twist on herb-crusted roast chicken. What’s hop powder, you ask? Just take dry hop pellets and grind them up in a coffee grinder or food processor. Remember, a little goes a long way.

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