We all know the jingle that made the iconic Chia Pet a household name, but what you may not know is that those seeds are not just for growing bushy-haired Homer Simpson planters. Chia is a superfood loaded with an abundance of nutrients, including fiber, protein, antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids and minerals. The seeds can absorb up to 12 times it’s weight in water, so it is also a great hydrator. It can also help balance blood-sugar levels, so it is great for diabetics.
Cooking with Chia seed
There are unlimited ways to incorporate Chia Seeds into your diet. You can substitute Chia Seeds in any recipe that calls for flax seeds. You can sprinkle ground chia seeds or whole chia seeds on cereal, yogurt, or salads; eat a handful of whole seeds as a snack. (Unlike flax seed, chia does not need to be ground to reap it’s nutritional benefits.) Ground chia seed can be mixed with flour when making muffins, cakes or other baked goods.
Making Chia Gel (9 to 1 ratio)
The optimum ratio of water to seed, for most recipes, is 9 parts water to 1 part seed. One ounce of seed will make 10 ounces of Chia gel. The seed’s water absorbing cells hold the water, so when it is mixed with foods, it displaces calories and fat without diluting flavor.
Put water in a covered plastic container and slowly pour seed into water while briskly mixing with a wire whisk. This process will avoid any clumping of the seed. Wait a couple of minutes, whisk again and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk again before using or storing in refrigerator (Gel will keep up to 2 weeks). You can add this mix to cold cereals, yogurts, sauces, mustard, mayo, nut butters, smoothies, puddings, etc.
Add the gel, between 50% to 75% by volume, to any of the non-bake mentioned foods, mix well and taste. You will notice a very smooth texture without any change to the flavor. In addition to adding up to 50% to 75% more volume to the foods used, you have displaced calories and fat by incorporating an ingredient that is 90% water. Use as a fat replacer, for energy and endurance, or for added great taste, by substituting the oil in your baked goods with Chia gel.
Use chia seeds to replace eggs in recipes
When mixed with water, chia seeds, high in soluble fiber, form a thick gel. Place 1 tablespoon of chia seeds in a cup and add 3 tablespoons of water. Allow the mixture to sit for about 15 minutes. 1/4 cup of hydrated chia seeds equals approximately 1 egg.
Baking tips for using chia flour in gluten free baking.
Use chia seed flour in a wide variety of gluten free recipes as a 1-to-1 replacement for wheat flours. Sift chia seed flour before using, use smaller pans when baking with chia seed flour and increase baking time by about %5. For example, if a recipe calls for a 60 minute baking time, increase time by about 3 minutes for better results.
Pumpkin Spice Bread (Grain, dairy and sugar free)
Adapted from Spoonful of Sugarfree
- 1 cup of pure pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 3 eggs
- 3 Tablespoons Ground flax
- 3 Tablespoons Chia Gel (For each tablespoon of chia, mix 2-3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15-20 minutes. The chia seeds will puff into a gel)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup of NuNaturals Stevia Baking Blend (can omit this for a more savory bread)
Mix together the ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased bread pan. Bake for 1 hour and 30 min at 350*. The bread will rise while in the oven, but it will sink a little bit when it is taken out. Let the bread cool for fifteen minutes in the pan (this is necessary for the bread to set since it has no flour in it), and then place it on a cutting board and slice. The pieces will be dense, almost biscotti-like in size. I then individually wrap my slices and then freeze them until needed. They microwave well and are even better toasted and spread with butter, almond butter, pumpkin or apple butter.