How to Eat Chia Seeds

In the glow up of the century, chia seeds have gone from living a life of growing wacky plant shapes to being promoted all the way to the role of “superfood”! These teeny tiny seeds, aside from contributing a fun speckled appearance and crunchy texture to any dish also significantly increase the nutritional value of your meal.

Although you may have been hearing a lot about them lately, we don’t blame you if you still aren’t exactly sure how to eat chia seeds. You may have tasted chia pudding before but honestly, what else is there to do with the little guys? As it turns out, lots of things! We’ve assembled our top 8 favorite ways to use chia seeds and can assure you, you’ll have cooked your way through that bag of chia seeds lingering in your pantry before you know it.

Chia Seed Basics

What Are Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds are the seeds produced by Salvia hispanica, a specific type of flowering plant in the mint family. The seeds are quite small, about the same size as sesame seeds, weighing only about 1.3 milligrams each! Each chia seed may differ slightly from another in coloring as it is quite common to have a mix of white, black, marbled, or brown chia seeds produced by the same plant.

What do Chia Seeds Taste Like?

Though these seeds are members of the mint family, you sure wouldn’t know it by their taste! On their own, chia seeds have an extremely mild flavor, slightly nutty, but overall very plain. When consumed raw, they have a small-but-mighty crunchy texture, much like poppy seeds. When soaked however, they turn into gelatinous bulbs–think tapioca pearls!

Whether eaten raw or soaked in liquid, chia seeds provide a blank canvas for other flavors to be highlighted and incorporate a unique texture into any dish they are added to.

How Are Chia Seeds Used?

Chia was a key food crop of the ancient Mesoamerican peoples, so it’s no surprise that once again, humankind is turning to these tiny powerhouses as an important food source!

Most folks these days choose to soak chia seeds, as this causes them to experience a dramatic textual change, swelling up to nearly 10 times their size, but as you’re about to see, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy chia seeds as well.

8 Delicious Ideas for How to Eat Chia Seeds

Chia Seed Pudding

Chia pudding is one of the most popular and well known ways to eat chia seeds, so of course, it’s first up on our list! As mentioned above, when soaked in liquid, chia seeds take on a jelly-like, globular texture like tapioca, therefore it’s no surprise that they make for an excellent pudding as well!

Tips for Making Chia Seed Pudding:

  • To make chia pudding, simply mix 3 tablespoons of whole chia seeds with one cup of liquid. After about 2 hours, the pudding will be nice and thick!
  • Since the flavor or chia is so plain, you can easily adapt this dish to take on any flavor you like best by playing with the type of liquid. You can use your favorite type of milk, whether dairy-based or plant based milks such as coconut milk, almond milk, or oat milk.
  • Try a few drops of vanilla extract to make the pudding more aromatic, and feel free to experiment with mix-ins such as flax seeds, chopped fresh fruit, toasted nuts, or shredded coconut flakes.

Chia Seed Baked Goods

Everyone loves the way that poppy seeds speckle a batch of lemon-poppy muffins oh so perfectly, but little do they know that chia seeds can play this role equally as well! When baking with chia, you may opt for either ground chia seeds or whole chia seeds, depending on your recipe.

Tips for Making Chia Seed Baked Goods:

  • You can add chia seeds to just about any of your favorite baked food recipes: muffins, banana bread, pancakes, waffles, protein bars, and cookies to name a few.
  • Simply toss a spoonful of dry chia seeds in with your dry ingredients, being careful not to allow them to have any prolonged contact with wet ingredients prior to baking.
  • Chia seeds also add a wonderful appearance when sprinkled on top of homemade crackers or biscuits, just use a little butter or oil to help them stick!

Chia Seed Sprouts

For far too long, chia seeds have been relegated to the garden department in the form of Chia Pets–it seems almost blasphemous to be considering sending them back there. This time though, the intention behind sprouting your chia seeds is not just to enjoy looking at them, rather it is to eat them!

Sprouting chia seeds is a great way to bring the power of chia into your diet in a different way, especially if you find yourself growing weary of having tiny seeds in all of your dishes, or if you suffer from particular digestive conditions that make eating whole seeds out of the question.

Chia Seed Sprout Tips:

  • Chia plants are extremely resilient, and thankfully, don’t require any complex planting procedure! You can sprinkle a light layer of seeds (yes, you can absolutely use those seeds you bought at the grocery store) over a clay pot of loose, well-draining soil.
  • Keep things watered, sunny, and soon enough you’ll see some cute chia sprouts start to emerge!
  • The sprouts are edible at any point in their growing process so once they’re at a size you like, clip them with scissors and toss them into salads, use as a garnish, or use as a fresh component on a sandwich or wrap.

Toasted Chia Seeds

If you’re not a fan of the gelatinous texture that results when you soak chia seeds, this option is for you! By quickly toasting chia seeds, you can elicit a delightful nutty flavor which is world’s away from the comparatively plain taste of the raw seeds.

Tips for Using Toasted Chia Seeds:

  • Simply toss dry chia seeds in a nonstick frying pan or skillet. Place them over medium high heat and shake the seeds around frequently as they toast for about 2 minutes–that’s it!
  • Be extremely careful not to burn the chia seeds as their small size means this can happen quickly! Remove the chia seeds from the heat just before they are fully toasted.
  • Try using toasted chia seeds as a salad topping, sprinkled over yogurt with chopped fruit, to add interest to your oatmeal, or to garnish dips like guacamole or hummus.

Chia Seed Beverages

Making beverages is one of the easiest ways to use chia seeds–no cooking required. It may seem odd to think about drinking seeds, but when exposed to water, each chia seed develops that smooth, jelly-like coating which makes them blend right into any drinkable liquid.

One of the ways that the ancient Aztec and Mayan peoples would consume chia was to simply mix the whole chia seeds with water and drink it down as a type of “energy drink”. In fact, the term “chia” actually has roots in the ancient Mayan word for “strength”!

Tips for Making Chia Seed Beverages:

  • There are many beverage options when it comes to making use of your chia seeds. You can simply toss the whole seeds into the blender while you make fresh smoothies, or stir them into any juice drink.
  • “Chia Fresca” is a popular drink in Mexico which simply consists of chia seeds stirred into cold water with fresh lemon and sugar.
  • You can also sprinkle chia seeds into any number of refreshing cocktails including mojitos, mules, or spritzers!

Chia Seeds as an Egg Substitute

Now, we’re not saying that you can use chia seeds to replicate the experience of eating a plate of scrambled eggs for brunch, but the way that chia seeds gel up when exposed to water makes them an amazing substitute for eggs when called for in a baking or cooking recipe!

Tips for Using Chia Seeds as an Egg Substitute:

  • Mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and allow the mixture to gel for about 5 minutes. Use the mixture to replace 1 egg in baking recipes, or stir it into liquid recipes such as soups and stews to act as a thickening agent.
  • When using chia seeds to replace eggs in baked goods that require some leavening, you’ll need to use it in conjunction with other ingredients that provide lift and rise to the recipe, as chia seeds do not.
  • If you find yourself using chia seeds to replace eggs in recipes often, you can keep a larger amount of soaked chia seeds in the refrigerator for up to 5 days so they are ready to go when you are!

Chia Seed Granola

Seeing as granola always features some combination of oats, nuts, and seeds, adding chia seeds into the mix is a natural fit! You can easily adapt your favorite granola to be a chia seed granola, just add chia seeds into the oat mixture and proceed.

Chia Seed Granola Tips:

  • Start with just 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in your granola recipe, then increase the quantity if you feel you’d like more. It might not sound like much, but those tiny seeds come in big numbers and adding too many chia seeds may cause your granola to be more crumbly.
  • Any type of sweetener is fair game–we love using honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup when making granola.
  • If you’re looking for larger granola clusters, be sure to allow your freshly baked chia seed granola to cool completely before stirring or breaking up.

Chia Seed Jams and Fruit Compotes

Chia seeds + fruit is a match made in heaven! The seeds add a pleasant crunch (not to mention protein boost!) to the juicy, refreshing texture of any fruit. While there are some store bought versions of chia jam or compote that feature chia seeds already mixed in, you can also whip up your own combinations at home.

Chia Seed Jam and Fruit Compote Tips:

  • Sprinkle chia seeds over any fruit jelly to give it a more “jam like” consistency. The tiny chia seeds mimic the texture of strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry seeds amazingly well!
  • To make a quick pseudo-jam, simply soak chia seeds in pure fruit juice. As the seeds swell, they will thicken the juice and produce a refreshing jelly-like spread.
  • Next time you have fresh fruit nearing the end of its days, just chop it and toss it in a pan with a splash of water, sweetener of your choice, and a sprinkling of chia seeds. Cook until the fruit is tender for a quick compote that is perfect on yogurt and desserts.

Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Along with the “superfood” designation comes plenty of nutrient density. In fact, one serving of chia seeds is just two tablespoons! This may not sound like much, but you can be sure that there is plenty of nutrition packed into a serving of this size.

  • Antioxidants: Chia seeds include caffeic acid, kaempferol, and quercetin–three extremely powerful antioxidants. Due to the presence of these three compounds, eating chia seeds helps your body to fight free radicals, maintain healthy mental faculties, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Fiber: 1 serving of chia contains about 10 whole grams of fiber, roughly ⅓ of your necessary daily intake! Consuming adequate amounts of fiber is key for healthy digestion, blood sugar balance, and can even help with weight loss as it keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Just be sure to drink plenty of water when consuming fiber rich foods such as chia seeds. 
  • Protein: Chia seeds provide nearly 5 grams of protein per serving, and it’s a complete protein at that! This means that the protein found in chia contains all nine essential amino acids, which is not always the case when it comes to plant based sources of protein.
  • Healthy Fats: As with many other types of seeds, chia seeds have a natural fat content. This is a healthy fat in the form of an omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linoleic acid which has antioxidant properties of its own and is important for many functions throughout the body.
  • Minerals: Phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and potassium are a few of the minerals supplied by chia seeds. These minerals work to promote nerve and bone health, as well as may ward off health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

How to Eat Chia Seeds: Find Your Favorite Way!

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to enjoy chia seeds that go far beyond the chia pudding or simply tossing them on top of any ol’ dish!

Due to their small size, they are actually quite easy to work into any number of existing recipes for baked goods or granola. In many cases, you may not even know they’re there, while in others, their crunchy texture is at the forefront. If you feel like trying something a bit different, whip up a refreshing chia seed beverage or try your hand at sprouting the little seeds to get your greens in a whole new way!

However you choose to incorporate chia seeds into your diet is fine by us, just be sure that you do so that you can start reaping the big nutritional rewards provided by these tiny little seeds.