When someone mentions chia, images of those popular potted plants from the 80’s may spring to mind—you know, the ones shaped like heads, pets and wily cartoon characters. But in truth, chia seeds have been around for centuries, dating back to ancient Aztec, Incan and Mayan civilizations that regarded chia (Mayan for “strength”) as an energy source and touted its health-giving properties.
Those tribes definitely had the right idea. Chia seeds may be tiny (smaller than even flax seeds), but they pack a powerful punch! They contain essential nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, potassium and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Plus, they’re sources of protein and fiber (5 whopping grams per tablespoon!) to help stave off hunger.
Sure, chia seeds can be eaten straight from the package in their natural state. But many folks find that they’re best enjoyed when combined with other foods. Following are 10 tasty things you can do with chia seeds.
1. Prepare pudding. When you soak chia seeds overnight in water or milk, they absorb the liquid, resulting in a dish that’s similar in texture to tapioca pudding. Add some natural sweetener (e.g., honey, maple syrup) and spices for a healthy breakfast that tastes like a dessert! Hint: If you prefer a smoother texture, pulse the chia pudding in a blender.
2. Make pudding pops. Take that chia pudding to the next level by spooning it into popsicle molds and freezing them overnight. Trust us—the result will definitely be worth the wait! Enhance the flavor of your frozen treat by mixing in chopped fruit, like strawberries, raspberries or bananas, prior to freezing.
3. Add them to oatmeal. Toss a few tablespoons of chia seeds to cooked oatmeal or for a subtle crunch. Want the satiating benefits of chia but prefer oatmeal with a creamier consistency? The seeds are equally delicious (and nutritious) when added to overnight oats.
4. Top your yogurt. Chia seeds’ small size and crunchy texture makes them a perfect topping for yogurt. Simply sprinkle them over your favorite flavor of traditional or Greek yogurt, or—if you want to get a bit fancy—create a parfait by alternating layers of yogurt, chia seeds and fresh fruit. You can even throw them over fro yo and ice cream!
5. Jazz up your baked goods. Use chia seeds recipes to make muffins, cookies, cakes, pancakes, waffles and even bread. These small but mighty seeds make practically any batter better (and better for you)!
6. Dress up your dressing. Yup. You read that right. You can even add chia seeds to salad dressing! The neutral-tasting seeds serve as a thickener when blended. What better way to add a little extra body to your favorite honey mustard or vinaigrette?
7. Toss them into smoothies. Have we mentioned that chia seeds make an excellent thickener?! Therefore, it makes perfect sense that we recommend adding them to your favorite smoothie and shake recipes. Everyone will want to know the secret behind your extra rich and creamy beverages. Don’t worry—it’s OK to share!
8. Jam with them. Chia seeds have the unique ability to transform any liquid into a thick gel. To make chia jam, simply mash up some fruit (e.g., strawberries, raspberries) and stir in some chia seeds. The seeds will absorb the juices from the fruit in mere minutes and voilà: chia seed jam. Hint: Use one tablespoon of seeds for every cup of fruit.
9. Boost your breading. Planning to bread chicken or fish for dinner? Add some chia seeds to the mix for a crispier, crunchier coating. Making eggplant parmesan tonight? Can you guess what we’re going to say? Use these nutrient-rich seeds in all recipes that call for breading!
10. Drink them. Beverages containing chia seeds, like Imagine Foods Dream Blends Unsweetened Coconut Almond & Chia Drink, and drink mixes, such as Drink Chia Seed Booster Cherry Berry Drink Mix are steading gaining popularity. You can also drink chia seeds in water or juice (this works best by first soaking seeds overnight to form a gel and then mixing into fresh liquid).