Chia seeds have exploded in popularity lately, since they’re a healthy ingredient that can be used in a lot of different recipes. But what are they, and how do you cook with them? 

A spoonful overflowing with chia seeds, with a pile of chia seeds behind it

Over the last few years, chia seeds have become an incredibly 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 chia seeds actually are, or what they should be used for. These small seeds are remarkably healthy 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 give you a lot of strength when you eat them. 

They’re full of fiber, protein, and omega 3s, and are low carb, so they have a lot of health benefits. 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 popular for two main reasons. First, they have numerous nutritional benefits. And second, because the seeds are so tiny and have a mild flavor, they’re easy to consume. In other words, they’re a quick and easy way to eat something healthy. 

They’re popular with vegetarians and vegans, because they can easily add a lot of protein to a diet. And they’re commonly eaten by people who are trying to lose or maintain weight, because their high fiber content makes you get full quickly when you eat them.

Because of all this – and because chia seeds 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 add a healthy element to pudding recipes, and the gelatinous texture works well with a creamy pudding. Here are a few of my favorite chia seed puddings.

A wine glass filled with chocolate chia pudding, with coconut flakes and a strawberry on top, and cut up strawberries in the background

Chocolate Chia Pudding (5 Ingredients, Vegan, Low Carb)

A wine glass with a matcha green tea chia seed pudding in it, with coconut flakes and strawberries on top, with another glass of pudding in the background, and strawberries all around

Matcha Chia Pudding (Green Tea) – Vegan

A wine glass with chia seeds in the bottom, mango pudding on top, and topped with coconut flakes, with a strawberry and kiwi slice on the edge of the glass, a glass of pudding in the background, and strawberries and kiwis on the table

No Bake Mango Coconut Chia Pudding