Inside the Spice Cabinet: Chia Seeds

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

At some point in time the word chia stopped prompting images of a small, sprouted plant in a terra cotta pot (usually in the shape of a head, or something kitschy). Instead, chia immediately makes us think of the small, nutrient-filled seeds that top our oats, garnish our smoothies, and make textured puddings.

What Are Chia Seeds?

Taste: Nutty
Most Popular Use: Beverages, dessert, egg substitute

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.

Chia seeds are sold in bulk bins in many stores, and can be purchased in prepackaged bags.

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.

Recipes for Cooking with Chia Seeds