Cooking School

4 great ways to use chia seeds

By: Kat Tancock

©iStockphoto.com/Jessica Rensch Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/Jessica Rensch

Cooking School

4 great ways to use chia seeds

By: Kat Tancock
"Chia is one of my favourite superfoods to recommend," says natural food chef Julie Morris, author of Superfood Cuisine: Cooking with Nature's Most Amazing Foods. "It's tiny, smaller than a sesame seed and has virtually no flavour."

If you've ever tried and failed to love the strong flavour of flaxseeds -- and you wouldn't be the only one -- chia seeds, with their similar nutritional profile, might be an option to try instead. But what should you do with chia seeds once you've bought them, other than planting them to sprout on a clay pet? We asked Morris to share some tips.

1. Use chia seeds as a topping

"What's your favorite food?" asks Morris. "Great, put chia on it!" Her point? Chia seeds have a very mild flavour that easily combines with sweet or savoury dishes. You can toss the seeds in smoothies, sprinkle them on yogurt or oatmeal or use them as a salad topper.

"Chia seeds can be used raw, ground into a powder or soaked," Morris says. Though be careful of buying preground chia seeds as they can become rancid due to the presence of healthy fats. “Best of all: Unlike flaxseeds, chia does not need to be ground to access its benefits," she says.

2. Make smoothies and beverages with chia gel
Chia has cool uses in the kitchen beyond just being used as a nutritious topping. Like ground flaxseeds, chia seeds will turn gel-like when soaked in liquid, says Morris. They can retain about eight to nine times their weight and this gel is one of her favourite ways to use chia.

"The gel provides a strangely addicting texture that is delectable in smoothies and juices," she says. "Chia can also be soaked directly in a flavourful milk like almond milk with a bit of spices like cinnamon and a bit of sweeter like coconut sugar or raisins to make a fabulous porridge that is a true oatmeal upgrade."
3. Try pudding recipes with chia seeds
Search online for chia puddings and you'll find plenty of recipes to try, whether it's a pumpkin chia pudding appropriate for fall or a spring chia pudding that uses fresh strawberries and coconut milk.

While some people are wary of the almost tapioca-like texture of the soaked chia seeds, others love them. And if you're part of the former group, the solution is easy: Just pop your pudding in the blender or food processor to grind the seeds down and make the texture smooth and uniform.

4. Make your own recipes with chia gel
If you're coming up with your own recipes, Morris recommends trying a one-to-eight ratio of chia seeds to liquid.

"Make sure to mix or shake up the chia very well to avoid clumping, and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then stir or shake once more," she says. "I like to make a big mason jar full of chia gel, and leave it in the fridge for up to a week."

The gel can also be used as an egg substitute in vegan baking, Morris says. In her book, she recommends replacing one egg with a mixture of two tablespoons of ground chia seed powder with 1/3 cup water or nut milk that has been left to sit for five to 10 minutes. (She notes that this mixture is an excellent binder, but unlike eggs, it will not help a recipe rise.)

"Whether used as a thickener, a binder or just as a decorative sprinkle, chia can be incorporated into almost any recipe imaginable," says Morris.

No single food, no matter how super, will solve all our culinary or nutritional challenges. But chia seeds might be the ingredient you're looking for to add variety and new recipes to your diet.
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Cooking School

4 great ways to use chia seeds

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