Considering the ingredients of both Chia Powder and Chia Seeds are one and the same – Chia – many people assume that both products can be used interchangeably. Chia Seeds are nothing more than the whole, raw seeds and Chia Powder is created by grinding up these seeds into a fine powder. From a technical standpoint, that's the only difference between the two (there is no nutrition or absorption difference). Yet, because each product has such a separate role in the kitchen, you may want to consider actually having both of these superfood ingredients on hand.
Let's take a closer look at specifically how they're used.
Versatile Chia Seeds
Whole Chia Seeds are one of the most versatile superfoods on the planet. When used straight out of the bag, their small size and mild flavor makes them an unnoticeable addition to just about any kind of dish. You can sprinkle Chia Seeds on salads, garnish some pasta or swirl them into yogurt – they can go everywhere!
Aside from their versatility as a dry ingredient, Chia Seeds also have a gelatinous quality to them: meaning, when they're surrounded by moisture or liquid for as little as 15 minutes, they will become enlarged and swell up with a jelly-like coating. These swollen Chia Seeds are often used as a fun textural agent in things like sauces and drinks, and it is this same feature that makes Chia pudding so slippery and fun to eat.
Flavorful Chia Powder
When the Chia Seeds are ground into a powder, you'll notice some surprising changes. The first difference is the flavor: Chia Powder exhibits a slightly stronger nutty flavor over whole Chia Seeds (although, it is still relatively mild). This enhancement is simply due to the Chia oils being more exposed, so our taste buds have a better chance to explore them. Ground Chia is also more powdery, so it's not quite as conducive to the ubiquitous garnish feature that whole Chia enjoys (just the way you might top a salad with almonds, but not with almond flour).
What Sets Them Apart
But, perhaps the biggest difference between the two forms of Chia is found back in the subject of it being a gelatinous food. When whole Chia Seeds are hydrated, each seed attracts liquid to itself, forming an individual gel “bubble,” which is what makes it slippery. When ground Chia Seeds are hydrated, rather than a bubble, the entire surrounding liquid is infused with this gelatinous material, thickening the liquid mixture as a whole. This is why ground Chia Seeds are considered to be a binder, like eggs, in baking recipes, whereas whole Chia Seeds are not. Therefore, the best ways to use Chia Powder is in liquids that need to be thickened and baking recipes that need binding (and, of course, as a superfood boost).
All differences aside, you can always feel confident that regardless of the way you choose to enjoy it, Chia is one of the most nutritious superfoods nature has to offer! Check out our Recipe Library for some of our favorite ways to use both Chia Seeds and Chia Powder.