Chia – it’s weird stuff. As seriously one of the best superfoods on the planet, you just wouldn’t expect it to look so small and innocuous. But not only are its benefits far greater than what your first impressions may suggest (Omega 3’s! Calcium! Fiber! Iron! Protein!), but its culinary function is equally as useful as it is diverse. To me, chia is a gateway superfood – its lack of flavor and teeny size make it so easy to put onto literally anything at all. What’s your favorite dish? How about sprinkling a teaspoon of chia on top? Congrats – you’ve officially cooked with superfoods!
But the wonder of chia goes beyond just a last-minute add-in. Chia is ridiculously high in a substance called mucilage, a compound all plants contain that allows them to retain water. The interesting thing about chia is that it contains A LOT of mucilage – so much so that a single seed can hold up to 8-9 times its weight in fluid! Try it for yourself: swirl a few chia seeds in a cup of water and let them sit for 20 minutes: look closely, and you’ll come back to find each seed surrounded by a slippery membrane, which is mucilage in action. Mucilage is great for your digestive tract, and helps keep you feeling fuller longer, too.
It's this unique mucilage trait that also makes chia perfect for creating superfood pudding. Combined with a plant-based milk, hydrated chia seeds and little else, it’s profoundly easy to make, and a supercharged substitute for regular pudding or yogurt. Here’s one of my most favorite recipes for making it, which features a little bit of shredded coconut, maple, and vanilla which make a shockingly huge difference in yum-factor. So simple. So healthy. So irresistible. Get ready to put this one on repeat.
Double, even triple this recipe for a make-ahead snack you can enjoy all week! If you like, you can also add chopped fresh fruit or dried fruit to make a parfait: sliced bananas, berries, and mangoes are just a few great options.
Makes 1-2 servings
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
3 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon maple syrup*
¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Combine all the ingredients in a mason jar. Seal, then shake thoroughly to combine. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, then shake once more. Return to the refrigerator and let sit for 15-30 minutes longer to allow the chia to thicken into a spoonable pudding. To serve, top with additional coconut.
Chia pudding will last for up to one week, refrigerated.
*Looking to cut the sugar even further? Here’s my trick: Use half the maple syrup the recipe calls for, and add a few drops of liquid stevia, to taste. (remember, liquid stevia has the sweetness of cane sugar on steroids, so just add a little bit, stir well, and taste as you go.)