Cha-cha-cha-chia. It's back, but not in kitchy pet form — in edible form. Chia seeds are quickly becoming the health food of 2015 and popping onto menus around the region from smoothies and puddings to cookies and chocolate truffles.
Once an important part of the ancient Aztec's diet, chia seeds are indigenous to Mexico and Guatemala and remain fairly popular throughout Central and South America. And just like South America's indigenous quinoa, chia seeds went pretty much went unnoticed in the US outside of pockets of the American Southwest until recently.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and oils, the chia seeds — when cooked — have a gelatinous texture and are popular as egg substitutes in vegan desserts, such as puddings, and as a thickening agent in smoothies and porridges. They may not be as prevalent right now as green juice, quinoa or kale. But chia seeds are taking the well-worn health foods path of starting in juice bars, vegetarian cafes and other eateries that promote their healthy wares. Like Reaganomics for health foods, it may be a matter of time before there's a trickle down effect, and chia seeds show up on Main Street menus around the region. Here's where to find them in D.C. right now.
Dog Tag Bakery: Georgetown's newest bakery also has a social element to its business — it provides job training to disabled veterans. But while most of the bakery's menu items are what would be expected, it also serves a chia and almond milk porridge that is advertised to help "control hunger."
Halsa: The new Brookland restaurant may be known for its eye-roll-inducing bone broths, but like any self-respecting health foods locale, there is a smoothie that uses chia seeds and a vegan cookie that replaces the egg with chia.
Hawthorne Organic Juice Bar: Located in upper Northwest, the juice bar gives patrons the option to add chia seeds — as well as hemp protein or flax seeds — to its selection of smoothies. Customers can also upgrade to Mila chia seeds, which is a specific brand of chia seeds claiming to be even more nutritious than regular old chia seeds. If customers want something to eat, there's the live chia seed pudding with berries and almonds.
Khepra's Raw Food Juice Bar: The H Street health foods restaurant is also has a small bookstore and market attached to it. But when not browsing for books on holistic medicine or searching for the newest nutritional supplement, customers can order its chia seed pudding.
Le Pain Quotidien: The chain popularly called "LPQ" has a chia seed muffin on its menu and a chia seed pudding with coconut milk and a seasonal compote.
Protein Bar: The downtown eatery loves trendy health foods. Carrying cold-pressed juices, burritos with quinoa, and drinks with agave nectar, it should come as no surprise that it also uses a creamy chia dressing for its superfood vegan salad.
Puree Juice Bar: Bethesda's juice bar goes all in with its love of chia seeds. Customers can order its pure chia blend, which is a seasonal signature juice blend with chia seeds. There's the daily chia pudding made from "house made almond mylk, chia seeds, with a variety of flavors and cashew toppings." In more solid form, the PB protein brownie is made with peanut butter, hemp seeds, chia seeds, dates, and a few other ingredients for a protein-packed brownie that will remove some of the guilt of eating a regular brownie. And perhaps the most interesting use of chia seeds is in the superfood cacao truffles, which include both hemp seeds and chia seeds.
Senbeb Cafe: In Northwest's Manor Park, the vegetarian/vegan cafe has had a chia seed pudding available from time to time.
True Food Kitchen: The Merrifield restaurant in Fairfax's Mosaic District blends the superfood pomegranate juice with chia seeds and lime juice to make its pomegranate limeade. Or for dessert, there is chia seed pudding with banana and coconut.