Chia Gel: How to Make It, Store It and Use It

Chia Gel Photo: Larry Jacobsen
Chia Gel
Photo: Larry Jacobsen

You’ve probably heard of chia gel, but what exactly is it? Chia gel is simply a mix of chia seeds and water (or other liquid). The chia seeds absorb the liquid and become gelatinous, making the liquid very thick, almost like a natural Jell-O.

Store your chia seed gel in a jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for at least a week.

Basic Chia Seed Gel Recipe

It’s very easy to make chia gel, and it takes only a few minutes. You need:

  • Chia seeds
  • Water or other liquid
  • A bowl and a whisk OR
  • A Ball jar with a lid or a beverage shaker

To make the gel:

Mix 3 tablespoons* of chia seeds with three cups* of water in a bowl. Whisk the mixture, let it sit for a few minutes, then whisk again. Keep whisking every few minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.

Or, if you prefer, put the seeds and the water in  a Ball jar or other beverage shaker and shake vigorously, then come back and shake again every few minutes to keep the seeds from clumping together.

Once you’ve made your gel, it’s a good idea to put it in the fridge and let it sit a few hours, or preferably overnight, so the chia seeds can absorb the full amount of water. (They soak up 10 times their weight in water.) Before using the gel, give it another good shake.

*You can change the amounts of chia seed and water to make a thicker or thinner gel, if you like.

Chia gel variations

You don’t need to stick with the basic gel. You can mix it up and make flavored gel just by using a liquid other than water. Easy peasy. For example, you can use store bought or homemade fruit or vegetable juice. Or you can use coconut water. Or, you can use broth to make a savory gel that you can add to soups.

Flavored chia gel

Here are some ideas for liquids you can use to add pizzazz to your gel:

  • Apple juice
  • Blueberry juice
  • Coconut pineapple juice
  • Mango juice
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Concord or white grape juice
  • Homemade cantaloupe juice
  • Homemade watermelon juice
  • Guava flavored coconut water
  • Homemade carrot juice
  • Vegetable broth

Chia Gel Uses

Once you have your gel in the fridge, it’s ready to use any time you need it. Here are 5 ideas for how to use it:

1. Stir it into yogurt and top with chopped walnuts and fresh fruit for a breakfast or snack packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids (try blueberry flavored chia gel and fresh blueberries.)

2. Mix it into a beverage for a boost of energy and hydration. You can mix chia gel into water, coconut water, almond milk or juice. It makes a great pre-workout drink. (Try mango flavored chia gel mixed into guava coconut water.)

3. Mix it into oatmeal or another hot cereal during the last minute of cooking and top with fresh fruit and pumpkin seeds. (Try apple gel with apple chunks, cinnamon and raisins.)

4. Use it to thicken gravy or other sauce. Just stir a quarter to a half cup of chia gel into your sauce.

5.  Add to stews to thicken the broth a little bit. Try chia seed gel made with broth for added flavor.

Chia Gel Benefits

Chia gel has a variety of benefits. Here are a few:

Convenience. Having the gel onhand makes it super easy to add more chia seeds to your diet. The gel is always ready to be stirred into your food or drink.

Digestibility. By using chia that has been soaked already and has formed a gel, you make eating chia seeds easier on your tummy because the seeds won’t be absorbing water from your body and possibly causing stomach pain.

Hydration. Chia seeds are hydrophilic, meaning they absorb lots of water. When you eat (or drink) chia gel, the seeds have already absorbed the water or other liquid. According to nutritionist and author Sara Vance, chia gel can help prevent dehydration. The gel makes hydration last longer and helps the body retain electrolytes, according to Vance. So, have some as a pre-workout boost.

Chia seed gel is so easy to make and so beneficial that it’s good to always have a jar in your fridge.

Shiitake Chia Seed Gravy Recipe

Chia seeds thicken gravy Photo -- Roban Kramer
Chia seeds thicken gravy
Photo — Roban Kramer

I love to make healthy shiitake mushroom gravy because it’s so versatile. You can serve it over mashed potatoes, of course. But I also like to make a big plate of steamed veggies (brussels sprouts are the best, but you can use broccoli or any veggie you want.) I put the veggie on top of a grain (like red quinoa or brown rice) and ladle a generous serving of gravy on top. It’s not at all fattening, so you can use a lot of this gravy.

I could cook anything, pour this healthy gravy on top, and my husband would say, “Mmmmm. This is delicious.”

Usually I thicken my gravy with cornstarch. But given that cornstarch isn’t the healthiest thing out there, and that chia seeds (kind of like flax seeds) make a good thickener, I decided to try using chia seeds as a thickener in my gravy. It turned out delicious, and very healthy! Here’s the recipe:

Healthy Shiitake Chia Seed Gravy

  • I.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 package shiitake mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • A few dashes soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 to 2 T ground chia seeds, depending on how thick you like your gravy*

Instructions: Heat the olive oil in a  small saucepan on the stovetop and add the minced garlic. Stir for 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the vegetable broth and turn the heat up to medium high. Add the soy sauce or Bragg’s. As the broth begins to simmer, use a metal or heat-proof silicone whisk to whisk in the ground chia seed, a little at a time, until your gravy is as thick as you’d like. Serve on anything!

*You can grind your own chia seeds in a spice grinder. Any spice grinder works fine, and you can pick one up for about $10 at a discount store. Or, you can buy chia seeds already ground for convenience. I prefer grinding my own seeds.

Variations: You also can play around with this recipe. It’s fun to try different types of mushrooms. Plain white mushrooms work fine, and portobello mushrooms add a more substantial texture to the gravy. I also like to use an exotic mix that includes oyster mushrooms.

Serving suggestions: You can serve this gravy on shepherd’s pie, over biscuits for biscuits & gravy, on any whole grain, on any vegetable, and over tofu cutlets.  It’s yummy.

My Bad Night: Chia Seeds and Stomach Pain

Yesterday, I overdid it on chia seeds. Ouch.

I’ve been eating chia seeds for years with no problems at all. But yesterday, a few hours after drinking a chia seed drink, I started to get horrible stomach cramps.

Photo: Dominika Komender
Photo: Dominika Komender

I had no other symptoms — no chills, no fever, just pain. I ate dinner, which made it worse. And, by evening I was in severe pain. Nothing seemed to help — not peppermint tea, not lying down, not even my trusty hot water bottle.

I did a little bit of research and found out that I had made a mistake, which led to my suffering.

At lunch, I had sprinkled some dry chia seeds  all over my salad. Then I also made chia seed iced tea. When I made the tea, I messed up: I didn’t let the chia seeds soak long enough to absorb all the liquid. Doing a little research, I found that chia seeds suck up water and expand to almost 10 times their original size.

So, if you eat them dry and you don’t drink a lot of water, or if you don’t let them soak enough, then they expand in your stomach. That means they’re absorbing water from your body, which causes a tummy ache, bloating and gas.

I was up all night, unable to sleep but almost doubled over from pain if I got up. I did drink a big glass of water. I wasn’t sure if it was too late, but it seemed to help a little bit.

So, here’s what I did wrong:

I ate dry chia seeds on my salad without drinking a glass of water. Then, I drank my chia seed tea even though I knew the seeds hadn’t absorbed their full amount of liquid. This caused my gastrointestinal distress.

Here’s how to avoid stomach pain after eating chia seeds:

  1. Start slow. If you’re new to chia seeds, start out by introducing small amounts into your diet. I’d recommend starting with a half teaspoon in a smoothie or soup. If you don’t experience any side effects, slowly increase the amount over time.
  2. Drink water. If you’re eating dry seeds, drink plenty of water with your meal. Just based on my experience, I’d suggest you use no more than a teaspoon (maybe even half a teaspoon) sprinkled onto your food at one time.
  3. Make a chia gel. One way to make sure your chia has fully absorbed all the water it’s going to is to make a gel that you keep in your fridge. Then, you can add a scoop of gel to your food instead of adding dry seeds.
  4. Grind your chia seeds. Some people who have had digestive problems after eating chia have had success in avoiding further issues by grinding their seed. I haven’t done this, but it’s something to try.

Have you had any stomach issues after trying chia seeds? If so, were you able to resolve the issue? How? Leave a comment & let us know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Buy Chia Seeds: a Guide

Photo: j bizzie
Photo: j bizzie

You just read about the benefits of chia seeds or you saw an amazing recipe for a chia fresca, smoothie or pudding, and now you want to know: where do I get chia seeds?

There are several different buying options for chia seeds. You can buy chia seeds:

  • Online. (Buy chia seeds here at Amazon.com.*) I’ve found this is the cheapest way to get chia seeds, and offers the most choices.
  • At your local health food store.
  • At many grocery stores (especially those with large health foods sections.)
  • At some warehouse stores and discount retailers. (For example, some Costco and Walmart stores.)

But, a word of caution: chia quality and price can vary. In reviews, some consumers have complained about finding plant matter or grit in certain brands, so it’s a good idea to read reviews before you buy.

I live in a small city in the South, and I’ve been buying my chia seeds at my local health food store. Usually, they carry two types of chia seeds: white chia seeds in bulk and packaged black ones from NOW Foods. They typically cost about $14 for a 12-ounce bag that lasts me about a month. I started out just buying these seeds because they’re what’s available to me locally. But now that I’ve started using chia seeds daily, I decided to do some research to find out what the differences are amongst brands, and whether I can get a better deal. I’ve done a lot of research, so I put together this chia seed buying guide to share with you.

Where you go to buy chia seeds will depend on what kind of chia seeds you want. Here are a few questions to ask. Do you want:

  • Black or white chia seeds?
  • Certified organic chia seeds?
  • Non-GMO chia seeds?
  • A specific brand?

It also depends on how you want to shop for your chia seeds, and how quickly you want them. A few other questions:

How important is cost? How much chia seed do you plan to buy? Do you prefer to buy online or in a store? Do you live in a big city or a small town?

In brief, here’s the lowdown on buying chia seeds:

  1. If you live in a very rural area, your only option might be to buy chia seeds online.
  2. If you live in a small town or city, want chia seeds today, and aren’t picky about brand, you can find them at your local health food store, possibly your local grocery store or supplement stores like GNC. You might also find them at retailers like Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco. I recommend calling first so you don’t run all over town on the hunt for seeds.
  3. If you live in a suburb or big city and you want to buy chia seeds in a store, you probably have more options. Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carry chia seeds. Trader Joe’s carries the Trader Joe’s brand of seeds, and they’re not certified organic, but they are pretty affordable. If you go to Whole Foods or another large health food store,  it’s a fairly safe bet you’ll have multiple brands to choose from and that chia seeds will be in stock when you go. You’ll probably also have the option to choose a certified organic, non-GMO brand.

After doing some research on chia seed quality, I’ve decided to begin purchasing my chia seeds online. I am purchasing AZChia, which is the chia seed company of Dr. Wayne Coates, a long-time chia seed researcher and professor emeritus at the University of Arizona.  (They’re pesticide free and non-GMO, but not certified organic. If organic certification is important to you, you might want to purchase another brand.)

Where to buy organic chia seeds

Chia plants, which are a member of the mint family, are naturally resistant to pests, according to chia researcher Coates (aka “Mr. Chia”) so no pesticides are needed to grow chia. However, some companies that sell chia seeds have taken the extra step to get their product certified organic.

Brands of chia seeds that are USDA certified organic (or in the process of becoming certified) are:

  • Nutiva — (USDA certified organic & non-GMO)
  • Chosen Foods —  (organic grown & in process of certification, non-GMO, grown in Bolivia)
  • Viva Labs — (USDA certified organic, non-GMO)

And, remember, chia seeds keep for years and don’t even need to be refrigerated or frozen, so you can stock up if you want to. You can buy chia seeds in bulk online* at a considerable savings. For example, you can get 10 pounds of Nutiva certified organic seeds for about $127 (with free shipping), which works out to under $13 a pound. (Whereas, if you buy them in smaller packages, they can cost that much for 12 ounces.)

So, where do you like to buy chia seeds? Have you found high quality at a good price? What’s your favorite brand? Leave a comment and let us know. Thanks!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click the link and choose to make a purchase, we receive, at no extra cost to you, a small commission to help support our site.

Chia Tea Two Ways: Iced or Hot

Iced Chia Tea with LemonI love bubble tea — it’s so much fun to suck the bubbles up through a fat straw, and it comes in so many yummy flavors (jasmine and watermelon are my favorites). But it’s an occasional treat for me because of all the sugar, artificial color and flavors — not to mention the calories.

One reason I enjoy bubble tea is the texture of the tapioca pearls (aka bubbles or boba). Chia seeds are kind of similar, except they’re smaller, they’re a whole food and they’re 100 percent good for you. So, using chia seeds in tea seems pretty genius to me. Bonus: chia tea is easy to make, and you can drink it every day.

So, here are two ways to drink chia seeds in your tea:

Iced Tea With Chia Seeds

It’s super easy to make iced chia tea. Here are the steps:

  • Brew up a pitcher of your favorite iced tea, sweetened or unsweetened (whichever you prefer). You can use iced black tea, green tea, white tea or herbal tea (tisane).
  • Pour 16 ounces of the cold (or room temperature) tea into a Ball jar or beverage shaker. Add one cup of flavored chia gel. Shake well for 30 seconds.
  • Pour it into a glass and add a garnish that complements the flavors in the tea. Garnish ideas: a sprig of mint, a lemon or orange slice, a cinnamon stick, fresh raspberries, fresh blueberries.

Here are some possible combinations:

  • Iced spearmint lemongrass green tea , garnished with mint leaves and a lemon slice
  • Orange herbal tisane, sweetened with agave nectar and garnished with a cinnamon stick and an orange slice
  • Jasmine tea with a drop of vanilla and fresh blueberries

Enjoy!

Hot Tea With Chia Seeds

It’s even easier to make hot chia seed tea. Here’s how you do it:

  • Brew up a cup of your favorite hot tea. You can use black tea, green tea, white tea or herbal. Sweeten it (or don’t) to taste.
  • Pour eight ounces of tea into a four-cup glass measuring cup with a spout. Add a quarter cup of chia gel, and whisk with a metal or silicone whisk so the seeds don’t clump together.
  • If you like, add milk (or almond milk or soy creamer) and a garnish (optional). Garnish ideas: a cinnamon stick, an orange slice, a lemon slice, orange or lemon zest or a sprig of rosemary.
  • Pour it into your favorite mug. (I always use a ceramic mug my mom made. I swear that using a favorite mug makes tea taste better. Really.)

Combination ideas:

  • Orange flavored black tea garnished with a cinnamon stick and orange zest
  • Chamomile tea garnished with a vanilla bean
  • Soothing or night time herbal blend garnished with a lavender sprig

Enjoy! (I like to sit back with a good book and take a break while sipping my hot tea.)

Watermelon Chia Lime Cooler

A refreshing watermelon chia beverage
A refreshing watermelon chia beverage

I’ve been dreaming up the perfect refreshing summer beverage. It contains cold watermelon, because you can’t get any more thirst-quenching than that. And it’s also got chia seeds, which absorb moisture, so they’re very hydrating.

I had half of a “personal watermelon” — a small watermelon big enough to feed about four people — left over after making a watermelon smoothie this morning. I decided to pop it in the freezer for a little while to get it extra cold before making this drink.

It turned out every bit as good as I’d imagined. The lime juice adds a nice tartness that makes the drink taste really crisp. I added a little maple syrup to offset the lime juice. And the chia seeds taste kind of like bubble tea boba — fun and delightful.

Since temps today were in the high 90s here in Georgia, it was the perfect day to make this cooler. I plan to make it a regular summer fixture at my house. It keeps very well in the fridge, so you can sip it throughout the day. The chia seeds make it filling, so it’s kind of like a snack.

Watermelon Chia Lime Cooler Recipe

(Serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

  • Half of a personal watermelon (scooped)
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 T pure maple syrup
  • 3 T chia seeds

Scoop the watermelon out of the rind and place it in a plastic container. Chill it in the freezer for two hours.

Then, put the watermelon, lime juice and maple syrup (but not the chia seeds) into a high-powered blender. (I use a Vitamix.) Blend on medium-high (I use speed 8 on the Vitamix) until the watermelon is liquified.

Then pour the watermelon juice into a Ball jar with a lid or another container that can be tightly closed. Add the chia seeds to the jar, close the lid and shake. Put the jar in the fridge and give it a good shake every five minutes until the chia seeds have turned gelatinous. (They should look like little blobs in the drink.)

Pour into glasses or store in the fridge until you’re ready to drink. Before drinking, give it another good shake.

This is the perfect summer beverage to rehydrate you after a workout, mowing the lawn or a day at the beach!

Watermelon Chia Seed Smoothie with Black Cherries

I love those little seedless “personal watermelons” — they’re always crisp and sweet, and you don’t end up with enough watermelon to feed a family of eight. They’re the perfect size for my husband and me. So, I just happened to have one sitting on the counter when I went to make a smoothie this morning. I love watermelon smoothies, but they often come out too thin, even when I don’t add any additional liquid aside from what’s in the watermelon. Hence the name.

Watermelon Black Cherry Chia Seed SmoothieWatermelon.

Enter: chia seeds. One of the great things about chia seeds is that they make an excellent thickener, kind of like flax seeds. So, I thought I’d experiment with adding double the usual amount of chia seeds I normally add to a smoothie. I tried it first with the amount I usually use, and the smoothie turned out very watery, almost like a licuado. I then added an extra two tablespoons of chia seeds and blended the smoothie again. Perfect.

I sipped this smoothie while sitting out on my sun porch, listening to the chirping birds and enjoying a late summer morning in Georgia. I love how the mornings are getting just a little cooler, making it pleasant to sit out outside. But they’re still warm, sunny and summery.

 My husband loved the smoothie, and said it was one of his favorites I’d ever made. I thought the black cherries went well with the watermelon, and they gave the smoothie a nice deep pink color too. Here’s the recipe, which serves 2:

  • Half of a personal watermelon (just scoop the watermelon into the blender)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup frozen black sweet cherries
  • 4 T chia seeds (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 T pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup ice

Add the watermelon to a high-powered blender and blend on medium-high (I use speed 8 on my Vitamix) until it’s liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend on medium high for about a minute.

Pour into icy glasses. Enjoy!

Peach Black Grape Chia Seed Smoothie

Peach Black Grape Chia Seed Smoothie Picture
A delicious peach smoothie with black grapes and chia seeds

My husband and I are total coffee addicts, so we hate when this happens. I went to make coffee and couldn’t find the beans to grind. He was washing the dishes. “Hey, we’re not out of coffee beans, are we?” I asked. He looked at me. “Oh, yeah, sorry, we ran out yesterday. I forgot.”

Crisis! I decided to run to the coffee shop a few blocks from our house, where they roast their own beans. It’s a little pricy, but worth it. But. They were closed for renovations and had no coffee beans. They were, however, giving away free coffee in front of the shop so they would keep their morning regulars happy during the two-week renovation.

When I got back from hunting down the coffee, I asked my husband if he wanted a smoothie. He said yes (he always does) but he had just cut two juicy Georgia peaches into a bowl. They were so perfectly ripe they were almost syrupy. And, continuing with my quest to eat as much fresh summer fruit as I can while summer lasts, I decided to use them in this morning’s smoothie.

I wanted something a little different to pair them with and, when I looked in the freezer, I saw some black grapes I had frozen to eat as a healthy dessert. I knew the grapes would add a nice extra boost of sweetness to the smoothie, so I decided to use those.

In this smoothie, I also used homemade chia gel I had in the fridge instead of adding raw chia seeds right into my blender like I usually do. The peaches were so juicy that, with the chia gel, I didn’t even need to add a liquid.

One nice bonus: the chia seeds in the gel weren’t nearly as sticky as the dry chia seeds, so I spent less time cleaning the blender afterward. (I do love the self-cleaning feature on my Vitamix, but chia seeds can be stubborn, so I sometimes have to run the blender at top speed for a while to get them to come off.) So, I think I’ll be experimenting with using chia gel in my smoothies more often.

The smoothie tastes delicious — and it’s vegan!

Here’s the recipe:

Peach Black Grape Chia Seed Smoothie

  •  2 large ripe peaches
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 10 large frozen black grapes (you can sub another type of grape if you like)
  • 1 cup chia gel
  • 2 tsp. pure maple syrup

Add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender (I use a Vitamix) and blend on medium-high speed (I go up to number 8 on the Vitamix) for about one minute. Pour into a glass and garnish with chia seeds and/or finely diced peach. Enjoy!

 

Sugar Kiss Blueberry Chia Seed Smoothie

Sugar Kiss Blueberry Chia Seed SmoothieOn Saturday, I stopped by the farmers market a few blocks from my house to get some tomatoes. It was a warm, sunny morning with blue skies, and I was a little surprised to see that our favorite tomato guy had no more tomatoes — just eggplants and butternut squash. A sure sign that fall is just around the corner. But it sure didn’t feel that way when I went for an 18-mile bike ride on Sunday in the 90-degree heat. After that, all I wanted was an icy glass of water and some cold melon.

This is the time of year I love to squeeze all the final goodness out of summer, which means eating lots of tomatoes and, of course, melons. So, I bought a Sugar Kiss melon over the weekend, along with some fresh blueberries. I’ve always loved to eat cantaloupe and blueberries together, and the Sugar Kiss reminds me a lot of a cantaloupe, though it’s quite a bit sweeter.

So, this morning I decided to create the ultimate end-of-summer smoothie, a sugar kiss blueberry chia concoction that was really quite delicious. Here’s the recipe:

Sugar Kiss Blueberry Chia Seed Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • Half of a ripe Sugar Kiss melon (or cantaloupe)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh, sweet blueberries
  • Half of a frozen banana
  • 1 tsp. real maple syrup
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 T. black or white chia seeds

Make the smoothie:

Combine all of the ingredients except the ice in a high-powered blender (I use a Vitamix) and blend at medium-high for a minute. Add the ice and blend at the same speed for about 30 seconds more.

*Tip: You can use frozen blueberries for an icier smoothie.

Pour into a tall, icy glass and enjoy! And if you’d like to get more chia seed recipes, tips and tricks, don’t forget to subscribe to ChiaQueen.com!

 

 

 

Welcome to Chia Queen

Hello and welcome to Chia Queen, my blog about chia seeds. Here, I’ll be exploring the health benefits of chia seeds, chia seed nutrition, scientific studies and pretty much everything related to chia seeds.

You can look forward to lots of tips and tricks for working these superfood seeds into your diet. I’ll also be sharing original recipes for chia seed breakfasts, dinners, salads, snacks and smoothies, as well as links to my favorite recipes from around the web.

And I’ll answer your questions about chia seeds — from where to buy them to how to store them to how long they keep. Thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to getting to know you!