If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you may have seen commercials for the chia pet (or grown one yourself). Those massively popular terra cotta planters were actually sprouting chia seeds – and now that popularity has transitioned into the food and nutrition world, where chia seeds are a beloved power food. Chia seeds are small, but don’t let their size fool you – they are absolutely packed with nutrition and can be incorporated into a multitude of chia seed recipes. If you’re looking for inspiration for how to use chia seeds, we’ve got the goods for you.
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are nutrient-rich. They contain:
- Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids
- Plant-based protein (in fact, they are a complete source of protein)
- Calcium for bone support
- Iron for energy levels
- Magnesium, nature’s relaxant mineral
- Fibre, a key macronutrient for digestion, cardiovascular health and blood sugar balance
Chia seeds have mucilaginous properties, which are very soothing to the digestive tract. They’re also hydrophilic, meaning they absorb large amounts of water – over 10 times their weight in water. They’re a great enhancer in hydrating our bodies.
How to Select and Store Chia Seeds
At the grocery store, you may see black or white chia seeds (or both). They virtually have the same nutritional value. White chia seeds have a teensy bit more omega-3s and black seeds are slightly higher in protein, but really, the differences are negligible.
We recommend purchasing whole seeds instead of ground. Omega-3-rich foods and oils are sensitive to heat, light and air. Grinding the seeds exposes them to all three of those elements, so they’ll go rancid faster (especially since you may not know how long a bag of ground chia seeds has been perched on the shelf).
Whether whole or ground, chia remains simple to digest (unlike flax seeds, which don’t break down when consumed in their whole form – they’ll come out looking the same way they did going in!).
Store your seeds in a sealed container in the fridge or in the freezer, where they should last a couple of years. Learn more about how to best store produce and optimal freezing tips to make the most of your ingredients.
how to use chia seeds
Chia seeds have an incredibly mild and neutral flavour (we’d say they barely have any taste at all). In The Culinary Nutrition Expert Program, we frequently use them for their nutritional benefit and their texture in chia seed recipes.
These are our top 10 ways to use chia seeds.
Chia’s mucilaginous traits make it ideal for recipes where you desire a thick, creamy texture like pudding.
Chia Eggs (Egg Replacer)
Recipe To Try: Basic Recipe for Chia Egg
Add an extra dose of nutrition to any dairy-free smoothie recipe, or smoothie bowls with a tablespoon of chia. They’ll also help to thicken it up.
No need to add any pectin for thickening – chia will do the job! (Are you seeing a theme here for how to use chia seeds?)
Fold chia into your cracker recipes, or sprinkle them on top, for the crunch factor.
Recipe To Try: 22 Best Gluten-Free Cracker Recipes
In Mexico and Central America, street vendors and restaurants add a sprinkle of chia seeds to drinks. This enhances the nutrition and thickens up the liquid a little.
Don’t forget to include a dash of chia seeds when topping your dairy-free yogurt.
Nut and Seed Butters
The next time you blend up a batch of homemade nut or seed butter, mix in a tablespoon or two of chia seeds by hand at the end. Note: do not try and make seed butter out of chia seeds only; they won’t blend properly.
Recipe To Try: How to Make Nut and Seed Butter
Granola and Granola Bars
Scoop chia into gluten-free granola and granola bar recipes. If making granola, add them after baking with your other mix-ins.
The protein-fat-fibre combo of chia seeds means they’re the perfect ingredient to include in energy bites and balls and is one of our favourite ways to use chia seeds.
Boost a hot or iced elixir with whole or ground chia. Just ensure you drink it right away – as leaving it for a while will make your elixir far too gloopy. (If you’re curious to learn about elixir-making, we have an entire module in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program on elixirs and herbal medicine!)
Recipe To Try: 20 Best Dairy-Free Elixir Recipes
If you’ve been wondering how to use chia seeds or looking for inspiration, you’re all set to go now! Try out these ways to use chia seeds – we’re confident you’ll discover new faves to add to your cooking and meal prep rotation.