Finding food substitutions for animal-based ingredients like eggs is a great kitchen “survival” skill that all plant-based eaters should learn. Flax seed and chia seeds are two important foods that everyone should get acquainted with. Both flax seeds and chia seeds are healthy and considered superfoods. Flax and chia are filled with fiber, protein and omega 3 fatty acids. They are gluten-free, grain-free and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. They both seem to play a positive role in cancer, heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure and healthy digestive tracts. Chia seeds do not have to be ground like flax. Whole flax seeds cannot be broken down by the body while chia seeds can be digested whole by the body. A recent study urges people to eat raw chia seeds with caution if they have problems with swallowing as dry chia seeds can expand in the esophagus. Both flax and chia seeds can be used as substitutes in cooking and baking. Here are some tips on how to use them in your recipes.
1. It’s a Matter of Taste
You can use either flax seeds or chia seeds in recipes; it’s usually a matter of preference. Flax seeds have an earthy, nutty taste while chia seeds have very little flavor so you might choose flax for heartier baked goods and reserve chia for recipes with more delicate flavors. If you don’t want to see the seeds in your finished products, buy white chia seeds that will blend in with the food. See Flax vs. Chia: The Ultimate Showdown for more on both superfoods.
2. Egg Replacement
Both flax seed and chia seeds can be used as egg replacements. One pound of either type of seeds can replace up to 45 eggs. Both seeds can accomplish the same goals as eggs: they can act as a binder in baked goods and other recipes like veggie burgers, add moisture to baked goods and help baked goods rise.
To substitute for one egg:
1. Use a food processor, spice grinder or mortar and pestle (if you want to work your guns) and grind 1 tablespoon of flax or chia seeds into a meal. Only grind up as much as you need. You can buy the seeds already ground up but since they contain oil, it shortens their shelf-life. If you do buy pre-ground meal or want to grind up more than one recipe’s worth, store them in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge or freezer. One cup of seeds will give you approximately 1 1/3 cup of meal.
2. Mix the ground seed meal with 3 tablespoons of water or other liquid. The liquid should be room temperature or warm. This speeds us the gelling process while cold liquids seem to slow it down. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes until it turns into a thick gel similar to a raw egg. This gel, also known as mucilage, pulls together when heated, acting as a binder.
3. Use as you would an egg in your cooking or baking.
3. Fat Replacement
Many times recipes call for fat in the form of oil, butter or margarine. These can often be high in saturated fats and are not very healthy. Either flax seeds or chia seeds can be used to replace part of the fats called for in recipes. Both are high in omega 3 fatty acids, the healthy type of fat. Depending on the recipe, you can replace half the fat with flax or chia seeds or all of it. Baked goods will brown more quickly with the seed replacements. You may also need to use less flour so baked goods don’t become too thick and dense.
1. Determine how much fat is called for in the recipe. If you are replacing all the fat, multiply that amount by 3. If a recipe calls for 1/3 cup of butter, for instance, use 1 cup of flax seed gel or chia seed gel. If you are replacing half the fat, divide the amount of fat in the recipe by 2. If, for instance, the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use ½ cup vegan butter and ½ cup flax gel or chia seed gel.
2. To make the gel, use 9:1 water to flax or chia seed meal ration. Pour the water into a bowl, mix well and let it sit for a few minutes. Mix again and let it sit for 10 minutes until it has formed a gel.
3. Add the amount of gel you need for your recipe in whichever step calls for oil or butter. If you are using a combination of flax or chia gel and vegan butter or oil, mix them together and then add the mixture to the recipe.
4. Flour Replacement
Ground flax seeds or chia seeds can replace a portion of all-purpose flour in baking for a healthier recipe. Adding flax or chia seeds will boost the nutritional value of any recipes. Depending how much flax or chia seeds you add, it may require additional liquid or yeast in the recipe. See 5 Uncommon, Gluten-Free Flours that are High in Protein for more info on chia flour.
The general rule is to reduce the flour in a recipe by ¼ and add the ground flax or chia seeds. So if your recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, mix in ¾ cup flour and ¼ cup ground flax or chia seeds.
5. Xanthan Gum Replacement
Anyone who does gluten-free baking knows about xanthan gum. It’s the ingredient that mimics the properties of gluten to give your baked goods structure and texture. Many people like to avoid xanthan gum for health reasons. Some people get allergic-type reactions to it while others don’t want to add processed ingredients into their gluten-free baking. To learn more, see The Ultimate Gluten-Free Baking Substitution Guide.
Both flax seeds and chia seeds can be used as a replacement for xanthan gum in gluten-free baking. Either one is a healthy way to add binding and structure to recipes.
1. Measure out the same amount of ground flax or chia seeds as the amount of xanthan gum called for in the recipe.
2. Mix the ground seeds in twice the amount of hot water. If the recipe calls for 2 tsp. xanthan gum, use 2 tsp. ground flax or chia seeds and 4 tsp. hot water. Let it sit for 10 minutes until it forms a gel.
3. Add it in place of xanthan gum in the recipe.
Now that you know all about using flax seeds and chia seeds as replacements for eggs, fat and flour in your cooking and baking, try some amazing recipes.
For recipes that use flax, try these Banana Peanut Butter Breakfast Muffins, Cinnamon Rolls, Apple Protein Donuts, Zucchini Blueberry Muffins, Cajun Quinoa Cakes, and Lentil Loaf. Also learn how to make your own flax milk, see 5 Creative Ways to Use Flax in Your Breakfast, and try some creative ways to use flax like this Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie and these Super Flax Green Bean Fries.
For recipes that use chia, try this Double Chocolate Cake, No-Bake Mississippi Mud Pie, Vedic Sesame Ladoos, Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Brownies, and Carrot Gingerbread Muffins. Other delicious ways to use chia include this 3-Ingredient Miraculous Grape Chia Jelly, Almond Butter and Chia Jam Bars with Chocolate, The Perfect Chocolate Banana Smoothie, Raw, Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread and this Veggie Quinoa Bowl. Use both seeds to make these Flax and Chia Seed Crackers.
Flax and chia seeds have so many ways to make our recipes healthier and still keep them tasting incredible. The next time you’re cooking and need a way to replace eggs, fat, flour or xanthan gum, look no further than amazing flax seeds and chia seeds.
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Lead Image Source: No-Bake Mississippi Mud Pie