For those days when you have little time to prepare breakfast, a pre-made meal waiting in the refrigerator is an ideal time-saver. When that quick breakfast is also good for you and contains enough protein to satisfy your hunger for a few hours, even better.
A simple pudding made of chia seeds can be assembled in minutes, very much like overnight oats, and left in the refrigerator to be enjoyed the next morning. Make your pudding in a glass jar with tight-fitting lid, and you have the perfect on-the-go breakfast.
Chia seeds can be found in most grocery stores and health-food stores. Soaked in liquid, they expand and take on a gel-like quality. Their texture is reminiscent of tapioca when used in puddings.
Because chia seeds have no distinctive flavor of their own, they are a neutral element which allows the qualities of the liquid base and other components of a pudding to shine. Though the seeds don’t add a lot to your breakfast in terms of flavor, they offer much in the way of good nutrition.
A Nutritional Powerhouse
Given their tiny size and weight, chia seeds pack a big nutritional punch for their low-calorie content. According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 35% of a chia seed’s weight is composed of dietary fiber, and the seeds are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The high fiber content makes chia seeds a low-glycemic food, too.
“Chia seeds are a complete protein – meaning they have all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make,” says Anya Guy, Mayo Clinic dietitian and nutrition expert, on Mayo Clinic Minute.
Chia Pudding How-To
Nat Stratton-Clarke, owner of Seattle vegetarian restaurant Café Flora, suggests putting together a few different chia puddings on a Sunday, so you have some variety to anticipate during the week. “They keep really well for several days in the refrigerator,” he says.
Stratton-Clarke thinks chia seeds hold up to any kind of milk, both dairy and non-dairy varieties. “Cashew milk and hazelnut milk have great flavor, and I like them as bases for chia pudding,” he says.
If you’ve never made chia pudding before, start with a master recipe and then create variations to suit your taste. Seattle-based author of Plant Power Bowls, Sapana Chandra, features a recipe for Chia Seed Pudding with Fresh Fruit on her blog, Real + Vibrant. In her recipe, Chandra provides complete instructions and nutrition information. From this master recipe, you can play around with new flavors by experimenting with spices, milks, and toppings. The options are nearly endless.
Top your pudding with fruit or nuts for more fiber and to boost the flavor profile. Create puddings that change with the seasons – mix in pumpkin purée or applesauce for fall, cranberry sauce in winter, rhubarb purée in spring, berries in summer. Matcha green tea and spices like cinnamon and turmeric can enhance the flavor of your chia pudding as well.
Chia Pudding Parfaits
“I love layering flavors by making parfaits, and using a variety of textures,” says Nat Stratton-Clarke. He layers chia pudding with fruit curds: lemon, kumquat, passion fruit, and coconut are particular favorites, and he says they add a tart contrast to the chia pudding. Citrus curds also add vibrant color to a chia pudding parfait. Stratton-Clarke is a big fan of chai spices in chia pudding, too. He also suggests adding crunchy toppings for additional texture.
If you like to get your day started with hot chocolate or chocolate yogurt, you might enjoy the flavorful chocolate chia pudding on Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel. It can be enjoyed for breakfast or as a healthy dessert. Layer with maple yogurt to make an optional parfait.
Beyond Chia Puddings
Once you’ve tried your hand at chia puddings, you might also enjoy chia seeds in other dishes. Put them on your hot cereal, or mix them with fruit and yogurt. Mix them into a fruit smoothie. Add them to salad dressings, or sprinkle a spoonful over a green salad. They make a good addition when you want to get a little extra fiber into your diet.
Image by Eva-Katalin