Chia seeds, which are from a flowering plant in the mint family, have boomed in popularity over the past few years for their ability to replace gelatin and eggs in vegetarian diets. Originating from Central America, chia seeds can add crunch when sprinkled on such dishes as salad, yogurt and cereal.
Chia seeds have a unique texture when soaked, becoming gelatinous and making a great addition to smoothies and pudding. The seeds can absorb up to 12 times their weight when soaked, giving them the gelatin texture.
Chia seeds are often used as an aid in digestion and weight loss as they are an excellent source of protein, fiber, B vitamin, niacin and thiamin.
Market research firm Datassential reports that awareness for this ingredient is highest among consumers who identify as vegetarian or vegan. The ingredient has increased 109% over the past four years on U.S. menus.
Click though the gallery to learn more about this Flavor of the Week and get inspired by how one chain is using chia seeds on its menu.