Chia seeds have exploded in popularity lately since they’re incredibly useful in a lot of different recipes. But what are they, and how do you cook with them? 

A spoon overflowing with chia seeds, with a pile of chia seeds behind it.

Over the last few years, chia seeds have become a super popular ingredient. You see them front and center at a lot of grocery stores, on the descriptions for smoothies and other drinks, and in many recipes. 

Yet despite being all the rage, a lot of people aren’t sure what they actually are, or what they should be used for. These small seeds are quite versatile and an affordable ingredient, so it’s a good idea to get familiar with them. Here’s everything you need to know.

What Are Chia Seeds? 

Chia seeds are the seeds of a flowering plant that is native to Mexico. It’s actually a member of the mint family, even though the seeds don’t have any minty flavor. 

The word “chia” means “strength” in Mayan, and that’s a fitting term. They may be tiny, but these seeds certainly have a lot to offer you when you eat them. 

They’re mildly nutty, but don’t have too much flavor. And when they’re placed in liquid, they become gelatinous and expand, similar to flax seeds. 

Why Are They So Popular?

Chia seeds are a big hit for a few reasons. One of the main ones is, because the seeds are so tiny and have a mild flavor, they’re easy to consume. Also, they’re popular with vegetarians and vegans in particular because they’re full of protein.

Because of all this – and because they are affordable and easy to find – they’ve become a popular ingredient in many people’s pantries.

How to Use Chia Seeds

There are a lot of different ways to use this superfood, but you shouldn’t eat them dry, as you would pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Chia seeds are a very common addition to things like puddings (more on that in a minute), and overnight oats. You can also cook with them, by adding them to muffins or other baked goods.

Many people choose to simply add chia seeds to what they’re drinking. They’re commonly added to smoothies, green juices, and protein powders, and some people even drink chia seeds in water after a workout. 

How to Store Them 

Chia seeds have a very long shelf life, as long as you store them in an airtight container. They don’t need to be refrigerated and will last at least 2 years at room temperature. However, if you keep them in the fridge, they’ll last at least 4 years, and they’ll live even longer in the freezer.

My Favorite Chia Recipes

I’m a huge fan of chia seeds in puddings – they become gelatinous in liquid, which works well with a creamy pudding. Here are a few of my favorite chia seed puddings.

A wine glass filled with chocolate chia pudding.

Chocolate Chia Pudding (5 Ingredients, Vegan)

A wine glass with a matcha green tea chia seed pudding in it.

Matcha Chia Pudding (Green Tea) – Vegan

A wine glass with chia seeds in the bottom and mango pudding on top.

No Bake Mango Coconut Chia Pudding