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Get to Know: Chia Seeds

Let’s explore the world of special ingredients together! We’ll do the research and make some mistakes in the kitchen so you don’t have to. Today, experiment with chia, the tiny but mighty seed from Central and South America.

Chia Pudding Whole Grain Pancakes with Chia and Flaxseeds

Whether you’ve been using chia for years in everything from salads to smoothies or have only heard of the infamous “pet” from the 1980s, here are some great tips and ways to incorporate these nutrient- packed seeds into your daily diet. I started experimenting with chia seeds a few years ago by stirring a tablespoon or two into fruit juices and smoothies. These tiny but mighty seeds are so nutritious and easy to use that everyone can find a way to enjoy their benefits.  

Chia Explained

Chia Seeds - Image by Natalie BarbareseChia seeds date back to the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures, and are still grown in Mexico and several South American countries today.

These tiny seeds have a mild and neutral flavor, so they can be added to both sweet and savory foods. You can find black or white chia seeds, or a mixture of both sold by some companies, but they taste the same.

Sometimes called a “superfood,” chia contains high amounts of protein, antioxidants, fiber (just 2 tablespoons has almost 25% of the recommended daily amount), and is an excellent plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

When compared to its popular rival, the flax seed, chia is unique since it does not need to be ground up like flax in order for the body to absorb its nutrients.

Store chia seeds for several months in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, or in the freezer for extended shelf life. 

Enjoy Chia

Chia Breakfast Pudding -- Image by Natalie BarbareseA fun way to enjoy chia is by mixing it with water, juice, nondairy milks or other liquids to create a chia gel. Chia seeds expand when immersed in liquids, which creates a fun jelly-like consistency that appeals to both adults and kids! Once eaten, the chia seeds will expand in your stomach, which can keep you feeling full longer.

Try this easy, overnight chia seed breakfast pudding by blending 3/4 cup unsweetened almondmilk with 1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed berries (like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries) and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small blender. Stir in 1/4 cup chia seeds and let sit overnight in the fridge. Top with more fresh fruit and sliced almonds for a satisfying breakfast.

Explore More

Great uses for chia seeds:

  • Almond Butter Chia Bites - Image by Natalie BarbareseSprinkle chia seeds onto yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, green salads and cooked grain salads.
  • Stir into nut butters and salad dressings. The seeds will not form a gel in oil-based foods like these, but will add a great pop of texture.
  • Whisk 1 tablespoon chia seeds into a breadcrumb coating for chicken or fish.
  • Add to your favorite homemade granola recipe for extra crunch and fiber.
  • Create a chia gel with a sprinkling of seeds and a few tablespoons of water to use as an egg replacer in vegan baking.
  • Mix in to the batters of your favorite quick breads, muffins or pancakes.
  • Blend 1 to 2 tablespoons into a morning smoothie.
  • Make your own almond butter chia bites with a few simple ingredients. Process 1 1/4 cups rolled oats until finely ground in a food processor. Add 1 cup dried apricots, 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 2 to 3 tablespoons water so the mixture sticks together. Pulse until the mixture is smooth, and then transfer to a medium bowl. Mix in 1/4 cup chia seeds. Roll heaping teaspoon-sized amounts into balls. Roll in more chia seeds and refrigerate until firm.

What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy chia seeds? Tell us about any creative or unusual ways you cook, bake or experiment with chia.

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Erin Kircher says …

These are such great tips on how to incorporate more Chia into my diet. Thank you! I am always trying to add foods rich in Omega-3s, and I've found that Chia seeds also help keep my blood sugar stable. I will definitely be trying the Almond Butter Chia Bites! -Erin, Writer at www.givingassistant.org/blog

Márcia Ruschel says …

hello! I love Whole Foods! Loved to know a little more about chia! You guys are great! Thank you! Today I made a bread with chia, quinoa, flaxseed, banana, rice flour, corn flour, eggs, raisins, cinnamon. No gluten, no lactose, no sugar!

Louise says …

I really like these recipes, will have to try them. Thank you

marcela olega says …

here is just a great webpage that compares chia seeds with the better known flaxseeds. Very informative: http://www.chia-direct.com/compared_other_seeds.htm

Emily says …

I recently tried chia seeds for the first time this week and I love them! I put them in an overnight oats recipe and it made it very filling. The texture was similar to tapioca.

Carla says …

This recipe is similar to the Almond Butter Chia Bites; I used the Whole Foods fresh ground Almond Butter. This recipe comes from the MindBodyGreen website (gotta give credit where credit is due). Raw Almond-Coconut Energy Bites Ingredients (for 20-25 energy bites, depending on how small you make them): • 2 cups oats • ¾ cups shredded unsweetened coconut • ¼ cup slivered almonds • ¼ cup shaved coconuts (if you don’t have this, you can use ¼ more slivered almonds) • ¼ cup chia seeds • 2 tbsps unsweetened almond Milk • 1/3 cup almond butter • 1/3 cup agave Directions: Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, mix well. Add almond milk and mix. Add agave syrup and warmed almond butter. Mix ingredients together with your hands. Create balls out of mixture by packing handfuls back and forth between your hands, until molded into tight balls (about 1 ½ inches in diameter). Place ball onto pan covered with wax paper. Repeat until all mixture is all used up. Move pan into fridge for 3-4 hours.

cl says …

I read on one website that unless chia seeds were ground up our bodies could not process them. Which means we do not get any nutritional value this way. Is this true or false?

Margaret says …

Love to make fresh fruit "jams" with chia seeds. In blender, pulse strawberries or raspberries with agave or honey until chunky, add chia seeds, pulse again to combine. Pour into a jaw and refrigerate until set. Last two weeks or so. For 1 c fruit: 2 tbs sweetner, and 1 tbs chia seeds mixed with 2 tbs water

JoiLin Johnson says …

The breakfast chia pudding sounds great!

Kirby says …

I am starting to eat right, been eating ground flax seeds for a few months. Heard about the Chia seeds and am going to Whole Foods Market tomorrow to stock up and learn more.! Thanks!

Karen Teeling says …

OMG! Why can't you all put your prices on line?!?!?! Seriously, the last thing I want to do is run all over creation to see who has the best prices. But what all of you (grocery stores in general) seem to want is to get us in so we spend - spend - spend. Some day, before I die, there might be a vendor that actually thinks about the consumer/customer instead of their bloody bottom line!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KIRBY - Since we are decentralized as a company, our pricing will vary between stores. At this time we only feature holiday meal pricing on our website based on each individual store location's prices.

John Schetrumpf says …

I add chia seeds to my warm raw vegetable salads before the last stage of adding olive oil. Thus the wetness of the salad enables the seeds to become cohesive and give a nice texture to the mix. This wouln't be so apparent if done after the addition of the olive oil.

m. rast says …

how much do these chia seeds cost?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@M.RAST - Our prices will differ between stores. Check with your local store to find out what their price point is.

Nelson praise says …

Thank you for supporting i live in uganda and i have known the impotence of chia seed and i have stated growing it but i am looking for the market and making strong partner ship in uganda in E.Africa in order to fight poverty in families