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Substitute for Chia Seeds

Are you wondering what to use instead of chia seeds? Get inspired by these suggestions, and find the best substitute for chia seeds for your recipe. 

A jar of chia seeds.
Photo Credit: Delphine Hourlay

What are Chia Seeds?

  • Black chia seeds are the most common type of chia seeds. They are small and have a slightly nutty flavor.
  • White chia seeds are less common and bigger than black chia seeds, with a milder taste.

Is There a Substitute for Chia Seeds?

Are you out of chia seeds? Or perhaps they are not something you keep in your pantry. That’s okay! There’s no need for a last-minute trip to the store. Any one of the options mentioned in this list would make an excellent substitute for chia seeds. However, the best replacement depends on what you’re making, and I will leave that for you to decide.

Find the BEST Substitute for Chia Seeds

1. Flaxseeds or Ground Flax

Flax seeds on a plate.

Flaxseeds are an excellent substitute for chia seeds since they share similar qualities and health benefits. Both flax and chia seeds are rich in omega-3s, fiber, protein, and essential nutrients to support digestive health and well-being.

Chia seeds and flaxseeds form a gel-like consistency when added to liquid like water. Because of this, you can use them as a binder or thickening agent in baking recipes. You can also use flaxseeds as a substitute for chia seeds in smoothies, oatmeal, and granola.

Use an equal amount of chia seeds and flaxseeds in most recipes. However, increase the amount of liquid the recipe calls for since whole and ground flaxseeds absorb more than chia seeds.

2. Hemp Hearts

Hemp seeds on a plate.

Hemp seeds, also called hemp hearts, are a good substitute for chia seeds. They offer a similar nutritional profile – full of healthy fats, protein, and fiber.

Like chia seeds, hemp hearts are a perfect addition to salads, yogurt, smoothies, and oatmeal recipes. They have a mild flavor that blends seamlessly into recipes like my keto apple crisp without altering the taste.

3. Sesame Seeds and Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower and sesame seeds on a plate.

While sesame and sunflower seeds differ from chia seeds, their tasty crunch and nutty flavor enhance salads, baked goods, granola, and cereal.

4. Rolled Oats and Oat Bran

Oats on a plate.

Oats and oat bran are particularly rich in dietary fiber, which promotes digestive health and provides a feeling of fullness. Additionally, oats are known for their versatility, nutritional value, and adding heartiness to recipes.

Use oats as a substitute for chia seeds in recipes such as baked goods, oatmeal, overnight oats, puddings, or smoothies.

The soluble fiber in oat bran makes it an excellent choice for recipes that need thickening, like smoothies, oatmeal, and baked goods. 

5. Psyllium Husk

Husk on a plate.

Psyllium husk is a suitable substitute for chia seeds because of its ability to form a gel-like consistency when mixed with liquid, making it an effective thickening and binding agent in baking recipes. While psyllium husk differs nutritionally from chia seeds, it is valuable for those seeking a source of soluble fiber, which supports digestive health.

Compared to chia seeds, psyllium husk absorbs a significant amount of liquid and can produce a dense texture in recipes if the amount isn’t adjusted. For this reason, I suggest using half as much psyllium husk and increasing the liquid as needed.

5. Quinoa

Quinoa on a plate.

Quinoa has a different texture and flavor, but it is a nutrient-dense whole grain that provides protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, similar to chia seeds.

In recipes where chia seeds are added for nutritional benefit and texture, like pudding or smoothie bowls, cooked quinoa can be incorporated as a grainy and protein-rich alternative. You can also use cooked quinoa as a binder in recipes, similar to how I use them to make quinoa balls.

Other Substitutes for Chia Seeds:

You can use arrowroot powder, Greek yogurt, and bananas as a thickening agent instead of chia seeds in recipes like puddings and sauces. It doesn’t provide the same nutritional benefit, but they will help thicken your dishes.

If you enjoy this article, try one of these recipes with chia seeds!  

How are Chia Seeds Used?


Many recipes call for adding a tablespoon or two of chia seeds to your smoothie or milkshake before blending to increase the thickness and provide extra protein and fiber.

Replacements for Chia Seeds:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Rolled Oats


Chia seeds are often added to baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, granola bars, and bread, for their nutritional benefits and unique texture.

What to Use Instead:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflowers Seeds
  • Rolled Oats
  • Oat Bran
A spoon scooping out some of the matcha overnight oats.

Overnight Oats and Pudding

Sprinkle chia seeds on your oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, and overnight oat recipes.

What can I use instead of chia seeds in overnight oats? Replace the chia seeds in oats with flaxseeds (not ground flaxseeds) to thicken the breakfast and increase the protein.

Best Chia Seeds Substitutes:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Hemp Hearts
  • Rolled Oats

Thickening Agent

You can use chia seeds to thicken and add texture to dishes. If using chia seeds in a recipe that relies on their thickening properties, choose a substitute with similar qualities.

For example, use flaxseed, psyllium husk, or oat bran to thicken smoothies and baked goods. Mix one tablespoon of the substitute with three tablespoons of water (or another liquid) and let it sit for a few minutes to form a gel-like consistency similar to chia seeds.

What to Use:

  • Flaxseeds (Ground or Whole)
  • Psyllium Husk
  • Oat Bran


Chia seeds are frequently included in jam recipes. We have a fig tree in our backyard that produces a ton of figs. Every year, in August, I look forward to setting aside a few days to make fig jam. While they aren’t needed to make the jam, I like including chia seeds from time to time for added texture and nutrition.

Best Replacement:

  • Flaxseeds
A small bowl filled with pumpkin protein balls.


Whether you call them energy bars, bites, or balls, combine chia seeds with oats, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and sweeteners for a tasty snack. They are perfect for meal prep, pre-workout, and post-workout. I also pack them in my kid’s lunchboxes.

My recipe for pumpkin protein balls calls for either chia or flaxseeds rolled into balls with chopped dates, protein powder, pumpkin puree, nut butter, and spices. I have also used sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds on occasion.

Substitutes for Chia Seeds:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Hemp Hearts
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Rolled Oats
  • Oat Bran


Use chia seeds to make a refreshing and hydrating drink. Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to water or a flavored drink. Let them sit for about 10 minutes to create a gel-like drink.

What to Use:

  • Psyllium husk


Store chia seeds in an airtight container in the pantry for two years. Refrigerating or freezing the seeds can extend shelf life up to four years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do chia seeds taste like?

Chia seeds have a mild flavor, often described as nutty, neutral, or slightly sweet. On their own, chia seeds are pretty bland.

Their neutral flavor allows chia seeds to complement sweet and savory recipes without altering the overall flavor.

Where can I buy chia seeds?

I buy chia seeds in bulk at Costco since we use them often, but you can also find them at stores like Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Amazon. Regular grocery stores carry them in the spice or baking isles, but they tend to be more expensive. 

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