Always keep a container on hand, you never know when you’ll need them
You likely wrote off chia seeds years ago, perhaps after one bite of hastily-made chia pudding or a swig from a bottled chia juice. You’ll tolerate them when baked into vegan desserts as an egg, but otherwise you’re out. I get it. If you don’t know what to expect, hydrated chia seeds can be just plain weird. They’re sort of like boba, the thick tapioca balls floating in bubble tea, but chia seeds lack boba’s delightful chewy texture and tend toward slimy. Plus, they’re a pretty unattractive gray. But guys, I’ve got to tell you that chia seeds aren’t one of those trendy-but-not-tasty foods. They can be really great, if you do them up right. Here’s how.
When served by the cupful, plain chia pudding can be gloopy and monotonous. However, if it's layered with fruit, yogurt, nuts, and granola, it’s actually pretty appealing. In my opinion, the best chia pudding is a mixture of ¾ cup nondairy milk and cocoa powder (or nondairy chocolate milk), three tablespoons chia seeds, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, and a splash of maple syrup. If you really can’t handle the texture, here’s a secret: After the chia pudding gels overnight, you can toss it in the blender and hit puree for a minute or so to turn it into a light and fluffy mousse.
Thicken a Smoothie
Chia seeds don’t just add fiber, fatty acids, and protein to your morning smoothie. I like to add a hefty spoonful to my fruit and milk as a thickener. Like frozen banana, ice, or avocado, chia seeds give a smoothie some body, without wildly altering the flavor of the drink. You can also do this with flaxseeds—or use both.
This one is a bit of an acquired taste, but chia fresca—chia seeds suspended in liquids like juice, coconut water, or water—is hydrating and nourishing. Toss a tablespoon of seeds into a mason jar filled with water. Add a spoonful of honey and a squeeze of lemon. Screw on the lid and give the jar a good shake. Let the seeds gel for an hour, and shake it up once more before sipping.
As we’ve established, chia seeds gel when soaked in liquid. This makes them perfect candidates for helping DIY granola clump together. Two tablespoons of chia seeds should do the trick.
You’ll probably appreciate the gelling properties of chia seeds the most when you use them to make “jam.” Smash up a bunch of fresh or frozen and thawed berries until they’re crushed and juicy. Stir in a few spoonfuls of chia seeds and a glug of maple syrup. Stir it all up and let it sit for a couple hours in a closed jar in the fridge, then spread away.