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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Not too long ago, chia pudding was that weird-looking concoction that your hippie friend (we all have one) had in her fridge. But now the tables have turned. Chia pudding, which many of us once thought of as a strange hybrid of tapioca and rice pudding that we wouldn't touch with a ten-foot spoon, is everywhere: I've seen it in juice bars (and not just those in L.A.), in restaurants, and even stocked at grocery stores next to the Greek yogurt.
More: Skip the juice bar altogether, and make your açaí bowls at home, too.
Once I gave chia pudding a chance, I found I couldn't get it enough of it, either, and the best bowls I've had are those I've made at home. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things that don’t taste better from my kitchen: I’ve failed miserably at making homemade ice cream, sushi rolls, and pasta from scratch; don’t even get me started on the years I've lost to trying to figure out how to make that perfectly golden, crispy cheese top on French onion soup.
But not chia pudding. It always tastes best right out of my own fridge. And the best part? It's just about the simplest thing to make, and there are dozens of possible combinations to make each batch a little different.
If you do fall in love with chia pudding like I did, don’t forget to call your hippie friend up and tell her that you’re sorry for doubting her ways—and that you’ve got a fresh batch ready with her name on it.
1 cup coconut milk (whole fat, from the can)
1 cup fruit of your choice (I usually use either strawberries, bananas, or blackberries)
1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more as desired
1 pinch either cinnamon, vanilla powder, or cocoa powder
4 tablespoons chia seeds, plus more if desired
1 handful shredded coconut, for garnish (optional)
1 handful chopped mint or basil, for garnish (optional)
1 handful chopped nuts, for garnish (optional)
First, get your ingredients ready—once they're set out, the rest of the process will go quickly. For this recipe, coconut milk (full fat and right from the can) works best. Sometimes I’ll blend the coconut milk with a handful of soaked cashews to make it even richer, and a few of my friends like to blend in a little almond or hazelnut milk as well. Use about a 1 cup total of whatever milks you choose—but make sure three-quarters of it is coconut milk.
If you aren't a chia pudding purist, and especially if you get bored easily, feel free to mix it up a bit with fruit. Berries work great, as do bananas. And there’s no shame in using frozen fruit. When berries are out of season and a carton of organic strawberries is $8, you’ll find me in freezer section. Set aside 1 cup of your desired fruit.
For your sweetener, pure maple syrup is the winner, though you can also use honey or brown rice syrup. If you’re going heavy with the sweet fruit, you may not need any at all. For this recipe, you'll want to start with 1 tablespoon of sweetener, then add however much your sweet tooth desires.
Next, choose your spices. And why not get creative here? This recipe calls for a pinch of cinnamon, cocoa powder, or vanilla powder, but feel free to experiment with other spices like cardamom. If you're in the mood, add a dash of rum or bourbon.
Once you've chosen your add-ins, combine your milk, fruit, sweetener, and spices in a blender and pulse to combine. Taste, then add more maple syrup if you want it sweeter. Once blended, pour the milk mixture into a jar—mason or old pickle jars both work well. As long as it has a lid and is big enough to hold your milk mixture, you’re in business.
Add your chia and stir it up. It doesn't matter if you use black or white chia—you really can’t taste the difference here. I prefer using 4 tablespoons of chia seeds for this recipe, but if you prefer a thicker pudding, add another tablespoon. Stir the chia seeds into your milk mixture until well combined. I like to use a knife to do this—it’s less messy and you can easily scrape every last bit of chia back into the jar.
Put your finished pudding in the fridge, covered, and let it thicken for a few hours. The longer you can wait, the better. Sometimes it’s best to make it right before bed so you aren’t tempted to eat it before it’s ready.
Once the pudding has set, remove it from the refrigerator. It will taste delicious without garnishes, but if I'm serving this for company, I like to add a little something to pretty it up. (Feel free to make it pretty just for you, too.) To garnish, use a handful of shredded coconut, chopped mint or basil, and some chopped nuts—whatever you prefer. Finally, grab a spoon and dig in.
Photos by Jessica Murnane