Closeup of hands holding a spoon and a glass of chia seed pudding with cut fruit

NOURISHMENT – Stoke the Fire

Chia Seed Pudding, Four Ways

By Dina Cheney

Along with avocado toast and poke, chia seed pudding is a social media darling—for good reason. In addition to being vegan, the treat can serve as a breakfast, snack or dessert. Since its star ingredient is nutrient-packed, the versatile dish is also wholesome. Read on to get the lowdown on chia seeds, plus recipes for four exciting new versions of the Instagram favorite.

Health benefits

Closeup of vibrant green chia seed sprouts

Sourced from a Mexican plant, chia seeds boast fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and antioxidants. According to The Nutrition Source from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, they are the “richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids” and a “complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body.” Two tablespoons contain about 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, 7 grams of unsaturated fat and 18 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance for calcium.

Making chia seed pudding

Overhead view of hands whisking a metal bowl full of chia seed pudding

Chia seed pudding differs from traditional pudding, in that chia seeds take the place of egg yolks or cornstarch in thickening the base liquid. As a result, the preparation process is incredibly quick and simple, and no cooking is required. Just remember the ratio of four parts liquid (such as milk or juice) to one part chia seeds.

The only catch: You need to prep the treat in advance because the chia seeds require time to gelatinize the surrounding liquid, thickening the pudding. In general, the more chia seeds you use and the longer you let the mixture sit, the thicker the resulting pudding. If you have children, show them the “before” and “after” and—in science class fashion—they’ll marvel at the difference.

Pudding variations

a spread of chia seed pudding glasses topped with berries with cut fruit scattered around the counter

Since chia seeds are mild in flavor, they’re a blank slate on which to layer interesting flavors. Read on for a basic chia seed pudding recipe, plus four globally inspired variations to gussy it up. Matcha-vanilla is Japanese in style, turmeric-cardamom nods to India, orange blossom–cinnamon harkens to the Middle East and cinnamon-cayenne salutes Mexico.

Beyond the suggested flavorings and toppings, feel free to jazz each pudding up further by blanketing it with homemade fruit puree. Just blend naturally sweet frozen fruit (such as mango or cherries) with a small amount of water. If you’re not a fan of chia pudding’s admittedly gloppy texture and would prefer an airier result, try folding in plain or vanilla Greek-style yogurt or—for a special treat—whipped cream or coconut cream.

Beyond pudding

A mason jar is filled with transparent orange chia seed pudding drink, topped off with an orange and mint garnish

But don’t stop at chia seed pudding. Use the seeds in several ways. Below are a few suggestions. Just be sure to avoid eating chia seeds dry because this may pose a choking risk. So, for instance, avoid sprinkling on avocado toast.

  • Chia preserves: Mash fruit (chopped and peeled, fresh or frozen). Cook until the fruit breaks down, if desired. Then stir in chia seeds, lemon or orange juice and liquid sweetener (if using the latter). Let sit for at least five minutes to thicken. In general, use 1 tablespoon of chia seeds per cup of chopped fruit or berries.
  • Vegan egg replacement: Whisk together 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water. Let sit for five minutes, and use as you would one large egg.
  • Nutrient-rich mix-in: Add chia seeds to quick bread batter, juice, water and oatmeal.

Basic Chia Seed Pudding Recipe

Makes 1 cup (serves 1) 

Try to match the milk to the global theme, for instance soy milk for matcha-vanilla pudding and coconut for turmeric-cardamom pudding. That said, know that milks with more fat (such as coconut, macadamia, cashew, or whole or 2 percent cow’s) will yield a richer, creamier result. White chia seeds deliver a more attractive pudding. However, don’t worry if you can only find the black variety. If you’re in a rush, skip the toppings; the puddings are delicious and flavorful without them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk, cow or unsweetened plant (such as cashew, coconut or almond)
  • 2 tablespoons sweetener, such as agave nectar or maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • flavorings of choice (see below)
  • ¼ cup chia seeds, preferably white
  • toppings of choice (see below)

Directions

In a pint-size glass jar or pint-size container, whisk together milk, sweetener, salt and flavorings of choice (see below). Stir in chia seeds. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight to thicken. Sprinkle with toppings of choice (see below) and serve cold.

Matcha-vanilla: Flavorings of choice: Add 1 tablespoon hot water to a small bowl. Place a small hand-held strainer on top. Add 1 teaspoon matcha powder to the strainer, and use a spoon to push the ground green tea through the strainer into the hot water. (This prevents clumps.). Whisk together. Add matcha water plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Topping of choice: 2 tablespoons fresh raspberries and 1/16 teaspoon matcha powder.

Turmeric-cardamom: Flavorings of choice: Add 1 teaspoon rose water, ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric and ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom. Toppings of choice: 2 tablespoons diced mango and 1 tablespoon finely chopped toasted pistachios.

Orange blossom-cinnamon: Flavorings of choice: Add 1 teaspoon orange flower water and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Toppings of choice: 2 tablespoons diced navel orange and 1 tablespoon finely chopped toasted almonds.

Cinnamon-cayenne: Flavorings of choice: Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/16 tsp ground cayenne. Toppings of choice: 2 tablespoons fresh raspberries and 1 tablespoon shaved dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips.

Video credit: Edalin, Getty Images; photo: undefined undefined, Getty Images
Photo credit: paulbein, Getty Images; belchonock, Getty Images; saschanti, Getty Images; Natalia Kuzina, Getty Images

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Author

Dina Cheney

Dina Cheney is a writer and recipe developer whose cookbooks include “The New Milks,” “Mug Meals,” “Meatless All Day,” “Year-Round Slow Cooker,” “Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Salads,” and “Tasting Club.” She has contributed articles and recipes to Every Day with Rachel Ray, Parents, Fine Cooking, Clean Eating, Specialty Food, Coastal Living, The Huffington Post, and more. Cheney is a graduate of The Institute of Culinary Education and Columbia University. Find her online at www.dinacheney.com, and her complete collection of non-dairy resources at www.thenewmilks.com.

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