We’re all familiar with the sprouting terra cotta pots, but chia seeds are much more valuable as a food. Rich in fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids, they add a terrific taste twist to baked goods and smoothies.
Chia seeds are a little-known, yet completely awesome, additive to almost any type of muffin, bread or cake. Chia seeds are native to Mexico and Guatemala and were cultivated as a food crop by the Aztecs. A tablespoon of chia seeds contains more protein, fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids than a tablespoon of flax seeds.
I’ve never liked baking with flax seeds because they have a distinctive taste that can be distracting and off-putting. Chia seeds eaten on their own have a slight grassy flavor. But when mixed with other ingredients, they take on the flavor of those ingredients. Chocolate Chia Banana Nut Muffins, for instance, simply taste like banana nut muffins with a little extra texture, similar to eating poppy seeds.
Chia seeds have another unique property. When mixed with water, a small sac of water forms around the outside of each seed, forming a gel.
This property makes chia seeds an ideal item to add to smoothies.
When ground chia seeds and water are combined, the texture is quite similar to egg whites. Although ground flax seeds are often used as an egg substitute, they don’t have nearly the same constitution because the seeds and water stay separate.
I wanted to see how chia seeds affected baked goods, so I used Betty Crocker® FiberOne® banana nut premium muffin mix as my experimental base.
I baked a batch of muffins with no changes (left) as my control. Then I used ground chia seeds mixed with water as an egg replacement (center). Finally, I simply mixed whole chia seeds into the muffin batter (right).
The muffins made with the chia egg replacement didn’t rise as high as the control batch. The flavor didn’t change, but the moist, dense texture left something to be desired. On the other hand, the muffins made with whole chia seeds were delicious. I loved how the seeds provided just a slight crunch.
The chia seeds were such a success that I decided to make a few more tweaks to these muffins.
I always add a few chocolate chips when I make banana bread or muffins. I also wanted to try increasing the banana flavor a bit, so I eliminated 1/4 cup water from the base recipe and substituted a mashed ripe banana.
The small changes were just enough to make these muffins really delicious. First of all, the added volume from the chocolate chips and chia seeds filled each muffin out a little bit more. The extra sugar from the banana gave the muffin tops the perfect bit of crunch. The small chocolate morsels weren’t overwhelming but did work nicely with the sweetness of the banana.
One muffin baked from the FiberOne® banana nut premium muffin mix already provides more than 20 percent of the recommended daily value of fiber. Adding 1/2 cup of chia seeds to the batter increased the amount of fiber per muffin by more than 50 percent. A breakfast treat has never tasted so good…or has been so good for you!