~ Chia Pudding is a make-ahead, meal-prep dream! It’s a seriously nutritious, deliciously satisfying breakfast you can make the night before, or even several days ahead! And without a doubt, our basic, super-versatile Chia Seed Pudding recipe is the only one you need (especially with all our hints and tips)! Make it exactly as written, or use our fun suggestions to create all sorts of delicious variations the whole family will love! ~
This Recipe Is: • Make Ahead • Vegetarian (with Vegan options) • Gluten Free •
Why We’re in Love with Chia Seed Pudding!
How the obsession began …
About a year ago, last summer, I heard about a great new restaurant called First Watch. (Side note: for those of you who’ve never heard of First Watch, it’s a national chain with over 200 restaurants. If you ever get the chance to try one, I highly recommend it. Loads of delicious … and HEALTHY menu options!)
I like to think of myself as a pretty adventurous eater, so when I read First Watch’s menu description of their A.M. Superfoods Bowl, I figured I’d be missing out if I didn’t try it. Their menu described it as, “Coconut milk chia seed pudding with fresh bananas, berries, blackberry preserves and housemade granola.” I had no idea what a “chia seed pudding” was, but I figured I’d take this opportunity to have pudding for breakfast (yesssss)!
Little did I know how that one Chia Bowl would set off a household craze. It was:
- lusciously creamy
- perfectly sweet
- and absolutely deeee-licious!
Plus, it was full of great:
- omega-3 fatty acids
- and protein!
I needed this in my life. Like, all.the.time.
So, you know what my family did next, right? Yep – we grabbed ingredients at the store and made our own Chia Pudding recipe. (#obsessed)
P.S. In typical THK fashion, we made our version even healthier by cutting out fat and sugar. You’re not surprised, are you?
But What Is Chia Pudding?
For those of you who are like me (well, like I used to be) – and have never ventured into the wonderland of Chia Pudding (aka Chia Seed Pudding) – allow me to explain this magical food.
If you’ve ever laid eyes on an unsoaked chia seed, you know that it’s tiny, super crunchy … and doesn’t taste like much all on its own. I’ve tried eating many chia seeds straight-up, and can confirm that they taste exactly how they look.
… put those unassuming seeds in milk, and they surprisingly morph into a perfect base for pudding, swelling into fun little tapioca-like pearls as they gel the surrounding liquid into a creamy-dreamy, silky custard. (Are you starting to understand why we fell in love with this whole concept?!?)
But, how and why?
Basically, the chia seed has loads of soluble fiber and mucilage (a gluey substance that nearly all plants produce). All that soluble fiber and mucilage allow chia seeds to expand a lot (approximately 10 times their own weight), becoming very gelatinous when they’re mixed with a liquid. This is why – by simply adding some liquid and flavoring to chia seeds – you can end up with a delicious pudding. The chia does all the work for you!
This means that, if you find the right ratio of chia and milk, you’ll end up with something that closely resembles the texture of rice or tapioca pudding … except it’s healthy!
Yep! You, too, can have healthy pudding for breakfast, snacks, and especially DESSERT!
The PERFECT, Very Best Chia Pudding Recipe
In our chia-obsessed excitement, we’ve created all sorts of Chia Puddings – and tested a long list of different flavors, milks, toppings, and add-ins.
But before we started posting all our wild and crazy flavor combos for you, we wanted to figure out our favorite “basic” recipe (see the recipe card below). The Holy Grail combination that we could present to you as the gold standard, and the absolute best “starting point.” Perfect on its own … but also a terrific base for creating any other variations we could dream up (since we knew we’d be eating a lot of Chia Pudding from now on!).
This simple, basic Chia Seed Pudding recipe really has become our favorite. Just the right sweet-but-light flavor, and just the right creamy texture!
After all our researching, testing, and eating (… and more eating …), we realized something interesting and wonderful about Chia Pudding recipes, though. Turns out that Chia Pudding has one more huge bonus in its favor: it’s super flexible!
You can play with ingredients, proportions, and textures in lots of ways to create a Chia Pudding that’s exactly the way you want it! Need a dairy-free Chia Seed Pudding? Easy! Want it thicker … or thinner? Also, super-easy! Loaded with fruits? Rich and chocolatey for dessert? Easy, easy, easy!
So let’s get started! We’ll tell you how we created our favorite, very Best Chia Pudding recipe … and how you can riff on our version to create your own magical combos!
How Do You Make Chia Seed Pudding?
- Mix chia seeds with some sort of milk.
- Stir to distribute the chia seeds.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, but usually overnight.
Sounds easy, right? (And it is!)
But for truly outstanding Chia Pudding that actually tastes good, you’re probably gonna want to add a little sweetener and maybe some flavoring (like vanilla). From there, you open up a whole, big, wide world of possible toppings and mix-ins. That’s where the fun really begins!
So, let’s delve a little deeper and turn you into a true Chia Pudding Pro!
How to Make Chia Pudding (ahem) Taste GOOD
I googled around trying to figure out what people think chia tastes like. Google told me about things like: a mild, neutral, and subtle flavor. Hmmmm … maybe.
Honestly, we’ve tried Chia Seed Pudding with just milk and chia. No sweeteners, no other flavorings. It really doesn’t taste very good. I think my dad said it tasted like someone’s foot. So, I’d argue that chia (at least totally plain Chia Pudding) definitely does have a flavor. But it’s not a particularly good one.
With that in mind, our goal with our “basic” Chia Pudding recipe was to come up with a concoction that still had a neutral flavor, but that you’d actually want to eat. Truly yummy on its own (no foot flavors here!), and also a great base for other toppings and mix-ins.
We were victorious!
Turns out, all you need is a little bit of flavoring and some sweetness. After extensive testing, we came up with a balance of vanilla extract, maple syrup, and sugar as a delicious but not-too-flavorful base.
Suddenly, Chia Pudding doesn’t taste like foot anymore … it tastes like something we literally crave every day! SOOOOOO GOOD!
Good enough to spark an obsession at our house, absolutely revolutionizing our breakfast routine (and snack time … and dessert, too)!
We’ll be posting more of our favorite new Chia Pudding recipes soon (with flavor combinations like apple pie and peach pecan), so stay tuned.
The Right Milk for Chia Pudding
(Hint: There’s no wrong milk!)
One of the great things about chia seeds is that they’ll absorb any liquid you add to them, in just a few hours.
Although our base recipe suggests that you use coconut milk, we tested Chia Puddings with many of the common types of milk. And we found that all of them taste pretty similar — like, ummmmm, milk. And any of them can be used for this recipe.
Here are some of our tasting notes:
• Coconut Milk: We liked this one best for our base recipe. (Note that we used refrigerated, low-fat coconut milk – not the full-fat, canned kind.) Coconut milk has a very subtle flavor that seamlessly combines with our other ingredients. We agreed that the pudding made with coconut milk had the smoothest (and best) taste.
• Dairy (Cow) Milk: This milk makes the pudding creamier, but its taste doesn’t meld quite as well with the chia and maple syrup.
• Cashew Milk: As you might expect, cashew milk adds a vaguely nutty flavor. The after-taste of cashew milk is the darkest and richest when compared to the other milks.
• Almond Milk: Very similar to cashew milk, but a bit lighter in flavor.
Although we have a slight preference for coconut milk for our “basic” recipe, all of the milks had reasonably similar flavors, so whatever you have in your fridge will work great. Especially if you plan to add other toppings or expand the recipe with other flavors (stirring in chocolate or jelly, for example) – well, you probably won’t notice any flavor difference from the milk at all.
We recommend using a ratio of 1 part chia to 4 parts milk for the best Chia Pudding texture, but the consistency can easily be adjusted, depending on how you prefer your pudding.
The Perfect Chia Pudding Ratio
Different recipes use slightly different ratios of chia to liquid, but most fall somewhere around a ratio of 1:2 – 1:4. It really depends on the texture and thickness you’re shooting for.
Luckily, it’s super simple to change the texture of your Chia Pudding. You can either adjust the amount of chia, or adjust the amount of liquid you use.
If you’d rather have thicker pudding, drop the amount of milk, increase the amount of chia, or a combination of both. Basically, you want your ratio to have proportionally more chia to liquid.
Not surprisingly, then … if you’d prefer a slightly thinner pudding, go with more milk or less chia.
When testing this “basic” recipe, we started at a 1:2 chia to milk ratio. But we eventually settled on a 1:4 ratio as what we liked best. The thicker you make it, the more pronounced the chia will be in your final pudding.
The Best Sweeteners for Chia Pudding
At THK, the sweeteners we use most often are maple syrup, honey, and sugar (white or brown). If you hang around here much, you know we like to limit sugar when we can, but we don’t usually do that through alternative and “fake” sweeteners.
So, we stuck with our go-to basics of maple, honey and sugar for this testing, too. All three have slightly different levels of sweetness and actually do taste noticeably different in the pudding.
Here’s what we learned through our testing:
• Honey: Comes across as very sweet and has a reasonably strong flavor. When we made Chia Pudding with honey, its flavor was a tad overpowering, and not as neutral as we wanted in a “base” recipe. Honey is definitely a great sweetener for many recipes, but its strong flavor made it our least favorite for this particular test.
• Maple Syrup: Gave our Chia Pudding just a hint of maple flavor, but wasn’t overpowering the way honey was. For this recipe, it combines perfectly with the vanilla extract to keep our Chia Pudding from being bland. (Note that we use real maple syrup, not “maple” pancake topping.)
• White Sugar: Creates a very neutral taste and clean sweetness.
Any sweeteners you choose will work, but ultimately, we found that a combination of maple syrup and white sugar provided our favorite flavor profile – delicious but still the neutral, blank canvas we wanted in our “basic” recipe.
But how much sweetener to use?
Well, we recommend trying 1 tablespoon of sugar combined with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. Of course, though, that’s just a baseline starting point!
If you like your Chia Pudding less sweet (especially for breakfast), or if you’re planning to add lots of sweet mix-ins like jelly or fruits, you can certainly decrease the amount of sweeteners so it’s exactly the way you like it!
How Do You Keep Chia Seed Pudding from Clumping?
It can be tempting to simply stir your pudding ingredients together, shove the mixture in the fridge, and walk away. But, sometimes you come back later to find that you’ve got tight little clumps of chia seeds throughout your pudding (even after you thought you stirred it all up really well). Harumph!
No problem! That’s easy to avoid!
You just need to stir the Chia Pudding mixture again once or twice more in the first 10-15 minutes (after you’ve initially mixed it together), before you forget about it in the fridge and leave those little chia seeds to work their pudding-making magic.
We generally find that just one really good stir (or whisking) – after the mixture initially sits for about 10 minutes – is all you need to avoid those annoying clumps.
How Long Does Chia Pudding Keep? (Hint: It’s Awesome for Meal Prep!)
As if there weren’t enough amazing things about Chia Pudding already – it’s also a fabulous make-ahead for busy weeks!
In fact, “make-ahead” is kind of the whole point of Chia Seed Pudding recipes. Stir them up the night before … and a super-fast, nourishing breakfast is waiting for you in the morning!
We find that a large batch of Chia Pudding easily keeps in the fridge for 3-5 days (sometimes longer). Just be sure to cover it. And of course, it’ll keep longer if your fridge is set colder, and if you don’t double-dip into it with an already-used spoon (ummmmm … yuck, anyway!).
So you know what all this means, right?
Yep! You’re probably gonna need to make a double batch. We usually do!
Customizing Your Chia Pudding
Now it’s time for the fun part!
You get to play with our basic Chia Seed Pudding recipe (which is terrific on its own, of course), and add whatever toppings or mix-in ingredients you like. I’m sure you’re already gleefully imagining lots of ideas and combinations to try, but here are a few recommendations:
- Sprinkle granola, toasted coconut, or nuts on top (or stir some in) for a fun crunch
- Swirl in jelly for a pop of fruit flavor (we recommend 100% pure fruit jelly or jam)
- Mix in fresh berries, bananas, shredded apple – whatever fruit you have on hand
- Try stirring in Nutella or our 3-Ingredient Chocolate Lava Dip for an awesome, chocolate-y dessert
SOOOO many possibilities!
One general tip here: you usually don’t want to stir in additional ingredients until after you’ve given your chia pudding that all-important second stir, just before you slip it into the fridge to sit. You can also add mix-ins and toppings right before serving.
Oh! And for extra-speedy, grab-and-go convenience, you can pre-portion your chia pudding into individual containers, like these absolutely adorable glass jars:
I can’t wait to share more of our Chia Seed Pudding recipes with you guys!
But, in the meantime, start with this basic recipe to concoct your own Chia Pudding magic. And be sure to leave us a note in our Comments Section below, to let us know your own favorite type of Chia Pudding … or toss us suggestions of what versions you’d like us to make next!
- Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl with a spoon or whisk, stirring thoroughly to combine.
- Set aside briefly and stir or whisk again after about 10-15 minutes to break up any clumps of chia seeds.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour or two, or overnight. (The pudding will be soft-set after about 1 hour. But, if possible, we recommend waiting at least 2 hours before eating, until the pudding is creamier and more fully set.)
- Serve with mix-ins and toppings, if desired (such as granola, nuts, jelly, and fruit – see post for full list of ideas).
Milk options: As we mention in the post, we've tested this Chia Seed Pudding recipe with various milks, including coconut, almond, cashew, and dairy. All of them work just fine, and although there are slight variations in flavor, those differences are minimal, especially if you're adding toppings and mix-ins. Use whichever you prefer, or whichever best meets your dietary needs (such as vegan or nut-free).
Sugar and other sweeteners: As discussed in more detail in the post, we've tested this recipe with a variety of sweeteners, including sugar, honey, and maple syrup. Although a combination of plain white sugar with maple syrup is our personal favorite flavor-wise for this basic recipe, feel free to use whichever sweetener you prefer.
Make-ahead and meal prep: Chia Pudding keeps well, covered in the refrigerator, for at least 3-5 days. Make a double batch for quick, grab-and-go breakfasts and snacks all week long. You can also pre-portion the pudding into small jars (like the adorable mini tulip jars we used in our photo) or portable single-serve containers.