Chia seeds are not undeserving of their status as a “superfood,” because they are a great source of many essential nutrients. They’re rich in fiber and protein, but perhaps most importantly for vegans and vegetarians, chia seeds are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain small amounts of calcium, iron and zinc.
Aside from eating them like any other seed (or growing a grassy “pet”), chia seeds have a handy liquid-absorbing property that makes them a great thickener in all kinds of recipes. Below, you’ll find some easy ways to incorporate them into your diet.
© Margaret Badore
My personal introduction to the cool properties of chia seeds was in this super-easy dish. This no-cook oatmeal, also sometimes called refrigerator oatmeal, combines the nutritional benefits of whole oats and chia seeds.
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 cup oats
3/4 cup milk of your choice (I used organic soy)
1 teaspoon maple syrup.
1 dash cinnamon
Combine all the ingredients in a container with a lid, and refrigerate overnight. The oats and chia seeds will both absorb the liquid and soften, making them tender and ready for breakfast in the morning. Makes one serving.
© Margaret Badore
Chia seeds are a great thickening agent in any smoothie. Research suggests that the best post-workout drink has a combination of protein and carbs. I’m a big fan of a light peanut butter smoothie after a run, with some chia seeds stirred in.
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1/2 cup milk of your choice (I like almond or soy)
1/2 cup ice
1 teaspoon agave or honey
2 tablespoons peanut butter
Combine the milk and chia seeds before your workout, so the seeds have time to do their magic. When you’re ready for your snack after a good long sweat, put the milk/chia mix in the blender with the rest of the ingredients. Makes one serving.
Add a little extra crunch to salad dressing by mixing in some chia seeds.
Poppy seed substitute
Chia seeds are an easy one-for-one substitution in any recipe calling for poppy seeds. Lemon poppy seed muffins are a favorite treat for spring, and lemon chia seed muffins are just the next logical step.
Speaking of muffins, chia seeds can be added to any baked good that would get a boost from seeds, from bars to breads. The recipe for high-protein trail mix chocolate chip cookies on the vegan blog Namely Marly looks particularly delicious, with hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and of course chia.
© Margaret Badore
Chia pudding hits a lot of foodie buzzwords: raw, vegan, gluten-free. But not everyone loves the texture. Personally I find the packaged chia puddings out there unpalatable, but there are many homemade versions to play with–just have a look around Pinterest. I love this coconut concoction, which makes for a dessert that’s rich in fiber.
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
1 cup coconut milk (you could also use almond milk, for a more mild flavor)
2 teaspoons agave or honey
Stir all the ingredients together and refrigerate for about two hours. Makes two servings.
If you’re interested in brewing up bubble tea at home, but are intimidated by the process of cooking up your own bubbles, consider making your chilled tea and adding in chia seeds. The “bubbles” will definitely be smaller than those typically found in bubble tea, but they have a similarly chewy texture. There are so many fruit and tea flavors to try!
The dark “pearls” used in bubble tea are usually made with vegan-friendly tapioca, although there seems to be some concern on vegan forums that some might contain gelatin, and that the tea itself could use diary or honey. But that’s a conversation you can have with your local bubble tea shop.
Jam is mostly fruit and sugar, but you can give it a nutritional boost by adding chia seeds. Once again, the chia’s absorbing properties also help as a thickening agent. Check out how it’s done over at The Kitchn.
Use these little seeds to top off all kinds of dishes, from hummus to yogurt. I often eat them on toast with peanut butter and banana, or sprinkle them over soups.
Do you have a favorite use for chia seeds? Let us know in the comments.