Most people have heard of chia seeds, but when it comes to actually using them, most people aren’t sure how to use the superfood when cooking at home. You may have had chia seed pudding at your favorite healthy restaurant or seen fancy chia drinks at places like Whole Foods, but you’re likely not making these foods on your own on a regular basis. If you want to utilize chia seeds more often in the meals you already eat, you’ll want some ideas that are accessible, easy, and don’t require too many steps in the kitchen—and luckily, there are plenty of ways to use chia seeds that don’t require a huge effort.
Before jumping into what ways you can use chia seeds at home, you might be wondering why exactly you should be eating chia seeds in the first place. Chia seeds are called a superfood for a reason: They might be small, but they sure pack a punch when it comes to their nutritional content. To start, chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants, which help prevent free radical damage. This can help fight issues such as aging or even cancer. Chia seeds are also high in fiber. Just one serving of chia seeds (one ounce, or two tablespoons) contains 11 grams of fiber. This can help keep you full, improve your gut bacteria, and slow your absorption of food.
But the benefits don’t stop there. In addition to its fiber content, chia seeds are also rich in protein. They contain a good balance of essential amino acids, which makes them a great option for people who eat little-to-no animal protein. Finally, chia seeds are also high in the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Because they are high in all these nutrients, chia seeds can help improve your energy levels, improve your metabolic health, and may even contribute to weight loss.
With all these health benefits, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be using chia seeds in your everyday meals. If you’re unsure how to use these little seeds in your cooking, scratch your head no longer. Here are some of the best ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet, whether you’re a breakfast person, a savory food lover, or someone with an insatiable sweet tooth.
Add Them to Smoothies
You’re missing out if you only add fruits and vegetables to your smoothies. You can toss in chia seeds more extra nutrients, and since they’re neutral in flavor, you won’t even be able to tell a difference in taste. Whether you’re a fan of fruit smoothies, chocolate drinks, or green smoothies, add a tablespoon or two to your smoothies for an extra boost of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, which can be especially helpful in the morning if you want to start your day off with energy. This can help keep you satiated, and it won’t add any extra time to your morning breakfast prep.
Make Chia Seed Pudding
Chia seed pudding is one of the more popular ways to enjoy this superfood, and that’s because it has a unique flavor and texture, not to mention it’s super easy to prepare. Most chia seed puddings begin with a milk base and chia seeds, and you can use anything from regular milk to almond milk to any other nut or seed milk, depending on your dietary preferences. Just mix your chia seeds and milk of choice in a jar or bowl, refrigerate, and let sit overnight. In the morning, a thick and creamy pudding will be waiting for. When submerged in liquid, chia seeds expand and form a gummy-like texture, which is what makes this dish. Mix in your favorite additions like chocolate, berries, and nuts for added flavors.
Toss Them in Salads
Chia seeds can be used in more than just sweet dishes, they make an excellent addition to meals such as salads, rice bowls, or even stir-fries. You can sprinkle them on top of your salad, or you can mix them directly into your dressing. This can add a thickness to your dressing that enhances the texture of your salad. The longer you let the dressing sit, the more liquid the chia seeds absorb, and the thicker your dressing will be. Adding chia seeds is also a great way to include some protein if you tend to make salads that are mostly filled with vegetables or plant protein.
Add Them to Oatmeal
Another great way to utilize chia seeds in your breakfast is by adding them to your oatmeal. You can mix the chia seeds directly into your oatmeal when you cook it, or you can sprinkle some seeds on top at the end. You can also make some overnight oats mixed with chia seeds as well. This can help add thickness to your oats as well as some added protein. Plus, the crunch of the chia seeds can provide a nice contrast to the creamy and soft oats. Again, this is a meal that can be made the night before and even enjoyed throughout the week, which makes it a quick and easy option to utilize chia seeds.
Cook Them in Jam
If you like your jams or fruit sauces thick and gelatinous, you’ll want to add some chia seeds. They make a great substitute for pectin, as chia seeds can absorb 10 times their dry weight in water. This means they help to thicken up your jams and sauces without affecting the flavor. In fact, you may find that you don’t even need to add any additional sugar.
Use Them Instead of Eggs
For those looking to cut down on animal products or find vegan substitutions in their baking, chia seeds are a great replacement for eggs in certain recipes. Combining chia seeds with water and letting the mixture sit creates a gummy-like mixture that can be used as a binder instead of eggs. This can be used for recipes such as cookies, waffles, bread, cakes, muffins, and more.
Add Them to Baked Goods
Chia seeds can be mixed into baked goods like bread, muffins, breakfast bars, and more. You can use chia eggs as a substitute for regular eggs if you want to make a recipe vegan or plant based. You can also use regular chia to add some crunch or extra thickness to your baked goods, but you can also use ground chia seed to mix in with your flour to maintain a fluffy texture. Using chia seeds is a great way to add extra nutrients to your baked goods, especially when it comes to fiber and protein. You can also sprinkle them on top of baked goods such as bread and bagels.
Use Them as a Breading
Chia seeds can also be utilized as a breading for foods like fish, chicken, and meat. You can mix chia seeds with breadcrumbs for a texture coating, or you can grind the chia seeds into powder to use alone. You can also mix chia seeds into homemade burgers or meatballs to help add thickness, whether they’re made with regular meat or are vegetarian. Again, this not only aids in texture, but it can add some extra nutrients to your dish, especially if you are cooking with plant-based foods and need a little extra protein or healthy fats.
Add Them to Soup
Just like you can toss chia seeds into any salad, you can also throw them into any soup, whether it’s hot or cold. They can be sprinkled on top as a garnish, or they can be mixed into the broth to help add some texture and thicken up the soup. You can soak the chia seeds in broth beforehand for extra thickness, or you can even ground up the chia seeds and add them to the broth for a protein boost without messing with your soup’s consistency.
Add to Tea or Juice
In addition to smoothies, you can also add chia seeds to other drinks such as tea, juice, or even water. Because the seeds expand when added to liquid, they can spruce up a drink and help you stay hydrated longer. If you’re a fan of bubble tea, you can use soaked chia seeds in place of boba for a double energy boost. You can also mix chia seeds with juice for a fruity drink that almost feels like a dessert. Or, you can even just add chia seeds to water for extra nutrients and a pick-me-up when you’re working out hard or need more energy at your desk.
There are plenty of ways to use chia seeds, and the options don’t end here. Anytime you feel like you need a little garnish or an extra nutrient boost, try using chia seeds in whatever dish you’re creating, and you might be surprised to find how often you can include chia seeds in many of your recipes. Incorporating chia seeds into your diet can help improve many areas of your health, so the more ways you can discover to utilize this handy seed, the better off your body will be. Bob's Red Mill offers our very own Organic Chia Seeds you can purchase, as well as an Ultimate Guidebook to Chia Seeds.