Remember Chia Pets? Actually, they’re still going quite strong, aren’t they? (That Chia Obama is, uh, really something else.)
I’ve recently learned that not only can you decorate some terra cotta with wet chia seeds and watch it grow, but you can soak them in water or milk, add a few spices and sweeteners, and eat them as a pudding, too! (In Mexico, chia seeds are often mixed with water or juice to make a drink called chia fresca.) Chia are super-tiny little seeds with neutral flavor that are generally considered a “dietary supplement” but have a few food applications as well.
Chia has the ability to hold many times its weight in water, and as it soaks it becomes gelatinous … in the case of some homemade almond milk, I think it’s very much like tapioca pudding. Only unlike tapioca, chia are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids (in fact, the highest-known vegetable source of omega-3s!) and a 1-oz. serving contains about 4g of protein. And you don’t have to cook chia seeds to hydrate them, making them raw-friendly. Hurray!
While I bought my seeds at the co-op in bulk, I’ve seen canisters of them in a few grocery stores around town. You only need 1/4 c for this recipe, so a little goes a long way (should the canister seem rather expensive, that is).
The longer you soak the chia seeds, the softer they become. I found them perfectly edible after about 20 minutes of soaking, but they do have a bit of a “crunch” to them. Leaving them overnight in the refrigerator made them wonderfully soft and the almond milk almost thick enough to stand a spoon up in! Of course, if you’ve never been a big fan of tapioca pudding, you probably won’t like this. But if you are, this makes a really lovely alternative. Experiment with different spices and fruits!
Chia Pudding (serves 1-2):
1/4 whole chia seeds
1 c almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 banana (optional – if your milk is unsweetened)
2-3 dates, pitted (optional – if your milk is unsweetened)
a few dashes cinnamon
a pinch of salt
chopped fresh fruit to top (optional)
Place the chia seeds in a bowl or covered container. If using the banana and/or dates, blend them in a food processor or blender with the milk, cinnamon, and salt. Pour this mixture over the chia seeds and stir well. Let it soak on the counter for at least 10 minutes until thickened, or cover and soak in the fridge overnight. Stir again before serving, and top with fresh fruit and another dash of cinnamon or spices.