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Posted on Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:13 a.m.

Chia seeds - turn them into a pet or a pudding

By Staff


Chia seeds take on a tapioca-like consistency when soaked in a liquid such as almond milk and result in a thick pudding deliciously spiked with a bit of cinnamon.

AP Photo | Matthew Mead

J.M. HIRSCH, AP Food Editor

The trouble with this underappreciated ingredient is that for the next few days you're going to have its only-available-on-TV jingle stuck in your head.

Ch-ch-ch-chia! That's right, we've wandered into the Chia Pet aisle. Because the same seeds used to grow fluffy green pets also happen to be delicious and nutritious.

First, the basics.

Chia seeds — which are a relative of sage — resemble poppy seeds, but with a nuttier, less assertive flavor. They have gobs of fiber and a fair amount of protein. The seeds were a staple of the Aztecs, who roasted and ground them, then mixed them with water to form a porridge or meal for making cakes.

Chia seeds' reputation for providing sustained energy — as well as plenty of nutrients — more recently have turned them into the darling of the fitness world. They also have shown up in a growing number of products in natural foods shops, from protein bars and baked goods to drinks such as kombucha.

That last one deserves special attention. When mixed with water (as well as some other liquids), chia seeds plump up and develop a pleasantly tender, gelatinous quality, similar to cooked tapioca pearls. Drinks to which chia seeds have been added resemble Japanese bubble tea (teas and juices to which tapioca pearls have been added) — thick and studded with slightly chewy rounds.

To make your own, soak a tablespoon or two of the seeds in 1/4 cup of water until thick and tender. Then mix in the fruit juice (even some hard stuff) and drink.

That thickening power also can be harnessed in smoothies. Blending in a tablespoon or two is a great way to add fiber and body to your fruity-yogurt drink. And because the seeds don't need to be ground before eating, they also can be tossed into baked goods, such as cookies, bars and multi-grain breads.

Why would you? In addition to adding protein, fiber and calcium, the seeds add a deliciously crunchy-nutty flavor without overwhelming.

If you're the type who likes making yogurt at home (admittedly, we are few in number), chia seeds are a great addition there, too. You'll need a yogurt maker (basically, a device that holds the milk at a set temperature so the live cultures can do their job), but it's stupidly simple.

I combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of chia seed with 2 cups of milk and 1 tablespoon of yogurt (make sure it is labeled as having live culture). Then let it sit a few hours in the yogurt maker and you're done. And it's delicious.

Even easier? Make a tapioca-like pudding. All you need to do is mix and refrigerate overnight. My 8-year-old son loves this stuff.



Top this pudding with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chia seeds. Or drizzle it with a bit of honey or agave syrup.

Start to finish: Overnight (5 minutes active)

Servings: 4

2 cups vanilla almond milk

1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir well. Leave the bowl on the counter and stir once a minute for about 10 minutes. This prevents the seeds from clumping as they absorb liquid. Cover and refrigerate the bowl for at least 6 hours, or ideally overnight. When you think of it, give the pudding a stir.


J.M. Hirsch is the national food editor for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at



Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

You don't actually need a yogurt-maker to make yogurt at home. I use a cooler filled with hot water to keep my yogurt at the proper temperature for the 8-12 hours it takes to complete the culturing process. It's never failed me so far!


Sun, Dec 2, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

Very useful recipe, thanks!


Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

Can I grow a chia pet in me tummy?

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 1:29 a.m.

can't wait to see the sprouts....


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

I am tweaking a recipe I adapted for cornbread muffins. Instead of just cornmeal and whole wheat flour, I am using 8 different whole grains, five seeds, and a mixture of ground nuts, along with egg whites, soymilk and maple syrup. Chia seeds is one of the seeds I use. In addition to the flavor it adds, the gelatinous transformation of the chia seeds lends a nice lasting moistness to the end product.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

To write an article on Chia Seeds and not mention the high amount of Omega-3 fatty acids (yes the same ones in fish oil) is a huge omission. Chia seeds can be used in a multitude of ways including in drinks, on salads, in rice or quinua or couscous, or a dessert like here. They provide everything that fish oil pills do without the "fish burps" that are all too familiar to those who take them.

Jessica Webster

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Thanks for the info, johnnya2!


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

Not all omega-3 fatty acids are the same. The one contained within chia seeds is almost exclusively the omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA), whereas fish and fish oil contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA can be converted by the body into EPA and DHA, but the conversion is very inefficient, on the order of 10% as I recall. The health benefits of EPA and DHA are better established than those for ALA. So, to state that chia seeds, due to their ALA content, provide everything that fish oil pills do is not accurate. And, by the way, clinical studies of fish oil in cardiovascular disease have been disappointing. None of the recent studies show any benefit.