Chia seeds are packed with protein, fiber, and omega-3s. While you can sprinkle chia seeds on top of cereal, or make chia pudding, learning how to grow chia sprouts opens up a new way to include this superfood into your diet. Store-bought chia sprouts are pricey. Luckily, sprouting chia at home is easy.
Chia seeds come from the Chia plant (Salvia hispanica) which is a flowering plant that belongs to the mint family. Chia grows naturally in Guatemala and Mexico. It was a diet staple in ancient Aztec and Mesoamerican Indian groups. Now it’s grown commercially in many countries such as Argentina, Australia, Peru, and the United States.
Let’s learn more about the health benefits of chia and how to grow chia sprouts!
Health benefits of chia
Adding more chia to your diet is a great way to add a dose of nutrients. Its protein-rich profile helps you feel satiated. When you think of protein-rich foods packed with healthy omega-3s, fish probably pops up first. Surprisingly, chia is also a rich source of omega-3s—great news for vegans and vegetarians. (Other seeds rich in this healthy fatty acid are flax and hemp.)
Here’s a fun fact: chia seeds contain the highest level of omega-3s of all plant-based foods (according to The Sprout Book by Doug Evans).
A 1-ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds has 138 calories. Here’s the nutritional breakdown of chia seeds:
- 4.7 grams protein (9 percent DV)
- 8.7 grams fat (11 percent DV)—note that the majority of fats are “healthy fats” from omega-3s, and to a lesser degree omega-6s.
- 9.8 grams fiber (35% DV)
- 179 milligrams calcium (14 percent DV)
- 2.2 milligrams iron (12 percent DV)
- 244.2 milligrams phosphorus (20 percent DV)
- 95.1 milligrams magnesium (23 percent DV)
- 1.3 milligrams zinc (12 percent DV)
So what are omega-3s good for? Here’s just a few benefits (3):
- Promotes a healthy heart: Chia helps to lower blood pressure while also raising “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
- Prevents blood clots.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Reduces the chance of adult-onset diabetes by helping to manage insulin resistance.
- Plays an important role in the nutrition of pregnant women to promote the development of a healthy brain in infants.
Why grow chia sprouts?
Chia seed pudding is a mainstay in our home for breakfast. Besides making pudding, or sprinkling it over cereals and salads, we can also sprout chia seeds.
Why bother growing chia sprouts?
Well, besides introducing chia in the form of a healthy green which you can add to salads and sandwiches, the sprouting process helps unlock nutrients.
Seeds have a hard outer layer which is often difficult to digest and inhibits the absorption of vitamins and nutrients.
The act of sprouting helps break down the outer layer of seeds. This enables our bodies to more readily access vitamins and nutrients we normally couldn’t. In the case of chia, we can tap into a rich source of omega-3s, protein, and fiber.
Sprouted seeds are also easier to digest. Sprouts also have more nutrients than their fully-grown counterparts from the same plant.
Chia seeds aren’t like other sprouting seeds
If you’ve sprouted other types of seeds, you may have used a sprouting jar. This growing method won’t work well with chia because they are mucilaginous seeds (gelatinous). This means they form a layer of gel around each seed when they come in contact with water.
So when you’re trying to grow chia sprouts, it’s best to forget what you know about sprouting. Forget about the twice-daily rinse because you’ll just end up with gooey seeds!
How to grow chia sprouts: step-by-step
Since chia seeds are gelatinous and require a different growing method, you’ll also need a few different supplies and materials.
We’ll show you how to grow chia sprouts three different ways:
- Using the dry seed method with a terracotta dish.
- Using a sprouting bag.
- Using a growing medium (as microgreens).
Chia seeds grow best at room temperature, roughly 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit (21-27 degrees Celsius). Keep away from direct sunlight.
Note: 1 tablespoon of chia seeds yields roughly 1.5 tablespoons of chia sprouts.
#1: Growing chia sprouts with a terracotta dish: dry seed method
The following method is super-simple and uses a terracotta dish. Why use a terracotta dish? Terracotta is a natural, porous material that allows for good airflow. This prevents your chia seeds from getting too moist which could lead to a bad batch of sprouts. If you don’t have terracotta, a glass dish could also work. Just be sure to carefully monitor the moisture levels in your chia.
When chia seeds sprout in this manner, the entire plant is eaten. This type of sprouted chia produces a soft and tender plant.
- A water sprayer (with distilled water, or water of drinking quality)
- A clean terracotta dish
- Something to create a mini greenhouse that fits over your terracotta dish. This could be a clear plastic clamshell lid, a glass Pyrex pie dish, or even a plastic bag.
- Organic chia seeds
- Sprinkle dry chia seeds onto a clean terracotta dish. Start with one teaspoon and add more as necessary. Distribute chia seeds evenly across the bottom of the dish so that they form a single thin layer and don’t overlap.
- Spray chia seeds with a bottle sprayer ensuring they all are wet. Allow chia seeds to absorb water for 1 hour. After 1 hour spray again.
- Place in a warm area away from direct sunlight. Place your mini greenhouse cover over the terracotta dish to keep moisture in. Leave your cover on for the first 2-3 days. You can remove the cover when you see some healthy growth.
- Continue misting your chia seeds twice a day. You’ll begin to see growth as early as day two or three. Optional: You can place your sprouted chia seeds in sunlight for a few hours before harvesting to “green” them, but this isn’t necessary.
- Harvest when sprouts are between 0.5-2 inches (1-5 centimeters). This may be anytime from 2 to 7 days depending on your preference.
Other ways to sprout chia seeds
If you don’t have a terracotta dish, check out these other ways to grow chia sprouts.
#2: Outside a hemp bag
While larger sprouting seeds like legumes or grains are usually grown inside a sprouting bag, smaller seeds like chia can also grow with a hemp sprouting bag. To do this, place the sprouting bag on a plate or shallow dish. (Chia seeds are small, this prevents them from falling through the cracks.)
Using similar instructions as the ones above, just sprinkle a layer of chia seeds onto the bottom of a spouting bag. Spray with water twice a day. Roll the bag’s edges down to give the seeds some light and airflow. In this way, your seeds are growing on the “outside” of the hemp bag.
#3: In a sprouting medium (as chia microgreens)
The difference between sprouts and microgreens is that sprouts are eaten whole (root, shoot, and leaf). Microgreens take root in a growing medium like coconut coir, potting soil, or an unbleached paper towel. The chia microgreens are harvested just above the soil line. The growing process of chia microgreens is similar to chia sprouts. Typically microgreens have a longer growing period. Chia seeds grown as microgreens may have a slightly firmer texture (more crunch) than sprouted chia seeds.
You’ll need a growing tray, pie plate, or something similar to place your growing medium on.
- Thoroughly moisten growing medium.
- Sprinkle seeds evenly over the growing medium.
- Place a glass or plastic cover to create a mini greenhouse.
- When your chia seeds have begun to sprout, remove the cover and place in a sunnier location.
- Continue misting with water twice a day. Chia microgreens are ready to harvest in 5-14 days.
How to harvest and store chia sprouts
To harvest chia sprouts, just place in a colander and gently rinse. Allow sprouted chia to thoroughly dry before storing in the fridge. Chia sprouts may keep up to one week in the fridge. Although like other sprouts, they taste best when eaten fresh or within 2-3 days. They keep best in some type of container with airflow such as a perforated plastic bag, or a Tupperware container with air vents.
If you are growing chia microgreens (sprouted in soil or other growing medium), you simply snip them with a pair of scissors just above the soil line.
Other chia FAQs
What’s the difference between black and white chia seeds?
While most chia seeds you see in stores are black, there are also white varieties. Both black and white chia seeds have the same nutritional content. If you look closely at your package of store-bought chia seeds, you’ll probably see some white chia seeds too.
Does eating too much chia seeds hurt your stomach?
While there are plenty of good reasons to eat chia seeds and sprouts, it is possible to overdo it. Chia seeds in particular (as noted above), are rich in fiber. It’s known that excessive fiber intake may cause bloating and gassiness. So like all foods, remember to eat chia in moderation.
- Britannica, Chia plant, https://www.britannica.com/plant/chia. Accessed March 2021.
- My Food Data, Chia Seeds, https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrition-facts/170554/wt1/1. Accessed March 2021.
- Evans, Doug (2020). The Sprout Book: Tap into the Power of the Planet’s Most Nutritious Food. St. Martin’s Publishing Group. ebook.