What Are Chia Seeds?

Ingredient Intelligence

At some point in time — I'm not quite sure when — the word chia stopped prompting images of a small, sprouted plant in a terracotta pot (usually in the shape of a head, or something kitschy). Instead, chia immediately makes me think of the small, nutrient-filled seeds that top my oats, garnish my smoothies, and make a fun textured pudding.

What Are Chia Seeds?

A member of the mint family, chia is native to Mexico and Guatemala and has been cultivated since pre-Columbian times. Legend has it that Aztec warriors could sustain themselves for an entire day with one tablespoon of chia seeds.

Recently hailed as a "superfood," these tiny seeds (about one millimeter in diameter) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, dietary fiber, and other nutrients.

Where to Find Chia Seeds

Over the past few years, chia seeds have become more mainstream. You can find chia seeds in prepackaged bags, and some stores (like Whole Foods) also carry them in bulk bins.

How to Use Chia Seeds

Chia are small, yet mighty and versatile seeds. They have a very mild flavor, and are easily added to a variety of foods and beverages. Sprinkle them on cereal, oats, yogurt, and salads. Mix them into sauces, jams, smoothies, and baked goods. Combine them with liquid to make chia pudding, or a drink like agua fresca.

Have you tried chia seeds? What's your favorite way to eat them?

(Image credits: Kelli Foster; Leela Cyd; Karen Biton-Cohen)