We are very excited to bring you What is it? Wednesdays! Every other Wednesday, we’ll explore a different ingredient or product in depth. We’ll be covering the benefits, uses and common misconceptions about each. If you have any requests, leave them in the comments and we’ll work them into the schedule.
Our first WIW for the New Year is Chia! Chia is definitely one of the trendiest ingredients out there right now and can be found in everything from baked goods to smoothies. First off, if you know what chia is, congratulations- you’re ahead of the curve. For the rest of us, let’s dive in deeper and see what the fuss is all about.
What is it? Chia is a small seed that originated in Mexico and Central America. The seeds range from white to black and are about the size of a poppy seed. Chia seeds were used by Aztec warriors to increase their endurance during travel.
Why would you eat it? Chia seed contains a wealth of fiber—5 grams in just one tablespoon. It is the fiber in chia that causes chia seed to swell when combined with water, creating chia gel. Whether you eat chia gel or just the raw seeds, the hydrophilic action of chia seed will keep you full longer than many other seeds. Chia also delivers a healthy amount of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids- approximately 2282 mg of Omega-3 per tablespoon. If those aren’t good enough reasons to eat chia, then we don’t know what are.
How do you use it? Chia seed is incredibly versatile. You can add it to baked goods, sprinkle it on salads, mix it in smoothies and enjoy it with hot cereal. Because of chia’s ability to make a thick gel when combined with water, chia works well in place of eggs in many recipes and can act as a binder when a little more adhesion is needed- think burgers and meatloaf. Chia’s incredible ability to thicken can be used to create vegan puddings and quick-jams with fantastic results.
How do you make chia gel? To make chia gel, combine 1 tablespoon of chia with 1/2 cup water and let sit for about 15-20 minutes. You will be amazed at how thick the gel will become. Drinking/eating this combo is a great way to enjoy chia and get the benefits of this powerhouse seed.
How do you replace an egg with chia? Chia is a wonderful substitute for eggs in quick breads, cookies and pancakes. To replace one egg, combine 1 tablespoon of chia with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Add to the recipe as you would an egg.
Can you eat it raw? Yes, chia is best eaten raw.
Can you eat it whole? Yes, unlike flax, whole chia seed can be broken down by the body and digested. It does not need to be ground.
Is it vegan? Yes, chia seed is vegan.
Is Bob’s Red Mill Chia Seed gluten free? No, while chia is naturally free from gluten, we do not produce chia in our gluten free facility or batch test it for gluten.
Finally, is this the same seed they sell with Chia Pets? Yes, it is the same seed, but ours is food-grade quality. We don’t recommend eating anything that came with a chia pet, but you could use our seeds to grown your own chia pet. True story: a customer washed some chia down the drain. A few weeks later the sink was backed up. When the plumber opened the catch, our customer had chia seed growing in her pipes. No joke. Safe to say, you should probably not put extra chia down the drain. The compost? That’s an ideal place for leftover chia gel.
Recipes we love using Chia:
- Mocha Chocolate Chunk Chia Seed Brownies
- Caramelized Banana and Chia Pancakes
- Cherry Almond Chia Granola from Bran Appetit
- Banana Blueberry Chia Seed Bundt Cake from Savor the Thyme
- Fresh Mango Chia Seed Parfait from Vegetarian Gastronomy
- Banana Raspberry Chia Smoothie from The Lemon Bowl
- Peanut Butter Banana Chia Smoothie from All Day I Dream About Food
- Vegan Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding from The Roasted Root
- Raspberry Chia Seed Jam from All Day I Dream About Food
- Banana Nut Chia Power Bars from The Lemon Bowl
- Baked Blueberry Banana Chia Oatmeal
- Lemon Chia Bread
- Lemon Chia Fresca (pictured above)