Soaked slippery chia seed foods are all the rage now, but I was slow…very, very slow to feel the chewy passion. Post Thanksgiving and pre-New Year’s Eve, these next few weeks can be rocky territory for those trying to eat healthy on those non-party days, including yours truly. But since craving a nutrient-dense breakfast alternative to start the day, I’ve slipped chia seed pudding into my life. Call me a convert, but I now love the stuff.

I should have loved slippery soaked chia all along; after all, I adore okra, the princess of vegetal-slime delights. But for the past two years with it showing up everywhere from drinks to sauces in brunch spreads, I just couldn’t get past its blobby amphibian-egg looks. Just picking up a bottle of Mama Chia kombucha drink felt like being watched by thousands of tiny eyes.

For a few years I’ve been blending teaspoons of raw chia into smoothies and baked goods, so what was my problem? This summer I finally caved and gave into drinking chia in fruity kombucha. I was ready to evolve. Like a picky child discovering for the first time olives, capers, or raisins (the three things you couldn’t get me near as a kid but today I can’t get enough of today), I was hooked on texture-loaded charms of soaked chia.

The following recipe is rather raw but not obsessively so. It also can be pantry friendly: chia, cashews, almonds, dates and the spices and nibs are all things you can buy in bulk and when properly stored (refrigerate in warm summer months) are ready when you are.

This is the way I like my chia pudding, slightly thick, a little sweet, and mildly nutty. This makes about 3/4 of a quart of creamy, nutty vanilla pudding flecked with cacao nibs. Or leave out the nibs and customize every serving with other toppings (berries, fruit, jam, shaved dark organic chocolate, nuts, etc.) for an entirely different pudding every time. One batch made Sunday gives me enough to snack on until Tuesday; the fiber rich chia and nourishing cacao nibs keep me full longer, so a small serving goes a long way.

Chocolate chip chia pudding

Makes about 3/4 quart

  • 1/4 cup unroasted, unsalted whole cashews
  • 1/4 cup raw whole almonds
  • 6 large Medjool dates, pits removed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 3/4 cup water (use 2 cups for a thinner pudding)
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons raw chia seeds
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cacao nibs

1. In a glass or plastic mixing bowl combine the cashews, almonds, dates and water. Set aside to soak for 2 hours, then pour into a Blendtec/Vitamix or blender and pulse until very smooth; it should resemble a thick milkshake without any chunks.

2. Pour the nut-date mixture into a 1 quart glass or plastic container, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of chia and use a fork and vigorously whisk the seeds into the mixture; make sure they are free of clumps and completely coated. 1 tablespoon at a time, thoroughly whisk in the remaining seeds. Make sure to break up any clumps. Tightly cover the container and chill for 3 hours or until cold and very thick. Stir in the cacao nibs, or alternatively stir the pudding, distribute into serving cups and sprinkle with nibs. Chill leftover pudding and eat within 3 days.

 Other toppings to stir into individual servings:

-Thawed frozen organic blueberries, raspberries or blackberries

-A spoonful of organic jam

-Shave the edge of a dark chocolate or raw chocolate bar with a veggie peeler for chocolate shards

-Diced seasonal fruit: peaches, plums, strawberries, melons, apples or tropical banana or pineapple

-Gently warm and sprinkle with more cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup