Monica King today to ask you – Looking for a healthy paleo desert? Here is a wonderfully light pudding using chia seeds that fits perfectly into your diet and is extremely versatile.


The key ingredient to this dessert is chia seeds. These seeds are hydrophilic, they can absorb over ten times their weight when soaked in liquid and develop a mucilaginous coating that gives them a gelatin type texture. If you have never had them, do try some. They are fun to suck on as you work in the garden.

Southwestern Roots

The seeds sold as “chia” come from one of three species of Salvia or wild sage (not garden sage). Salvia are in the very large and varied mint family of plants. Here in the Southwest, they come from Salvia columbariae. There is archaeological evidence that suggests that this same species of chia was once the third most important crop during pre-Columbian times for many Mesoamerican cultures including the Aztecs. Chia was cultivated along side maize, beans, and amaranth as a main staple.

Wild collected chia seed. Photo courtesy of Keir Morse.

Jacqueline shares this story: When I was a child visiting the Tohono O’odham reservation, I was given some chia seeds to try. I was told that the O’odham would suck on chia seeds as they moved their families between their summer homes and their winter homes. My informant said that sucking on chia seeds was supposed to help them stay hydrated as they crossed the desert but I have a sneaking suspicion it was used to keep the kids from chattering.

Southwestern spring wildflowers include chia – if you’re lucky! Photo courtesy of Steve Thorsted.
Wonderful Wildflower for Foraging

Just outside Monica and Dan King’s desert homestead and main apiary is an underground gas pipeline that was reseeded with a seed mixture that included Salvia columbariae, desert chia. Monica enjoyed the beautiful purple-blue flowers, and has since cultivated some of her own in one of her low water area wildflower gardens. To learn how to grow some yourself, visit Gardening With Soule’s recent post on growing wildflowers.


Since the desert chia produces dense clusters of flowers, it is easy to harvest clusters of seed. Simply wait until the blooms are done and the stalk begins to dry. Place a bowl or basket below the stalk and snap it off into the container Let everything dry a few more days (out of direct sunlight). Shake the seed out of the pods. A kitchen colander lets the seeds slide through but holds most of the chaff.

Chia produces cycles of blooms and many easily harvested seeds per stalk. Photo courtesy of Keir Morse.


Chia is a lovely wildflower but also a healthy snack. Besides being packed full of vitamins and minerals, for every 3.5 grams of these tiny seeds there is a whopping 16.5 grams of protein and 34.4 grams of fiber! So no guilty feelings after a serving! The sweetness comes from coconut milk and ambrosial liquid gold: Honey! September is National Honey Month so it is fitting to learn new uses and recipes for honey!


Chia Honey Banana Pudding

This recipe is easy to make and you can do almost anything to jazz it up. Use different in-season fruits to top it or blend in. During off-season use preserves from your pantry. I am even thinking of some fresh chopped prickly pear fruit. Perhaps some strawberries? Chopped nuts? I use this as a base and put fun spins on it. Regardless of variations it is quite wonderful on its own.

coconut milk –           2 cups coconut milk
bananas –                   2 medium ripe bananas
honey –                        2 teaspoons local honey
vanilla extract –          1 teaspoon vanilla extract
ground cinnamon –     1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
chia seeds –                 6 teaspoons chia seed


In a blender combine the coconut milk, bananas, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon. Blend until smooth and pour into a large bowl.
Add the chia seeds, stirring to combine.
Cover and refrigerate, stirring every 10 minutes for the first 40 minutes. This help move the chia seeds throughout the mixture and release their “gelatin.”
Ideally allow to chill for another 3-7 hours before serving, but can be served at this stage.
Spoon pudding into serving glasses and add any desired toppings such as chopped fruit, nuts, coconut flakes, etc.
When using preserves it works better to put a couple tablespoons in the bottom of the serving glass then top with the pudding.
Makes 4 servings.

More cooking with honey tips on our blog – here.

Full USDA report for chia seeds.

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Energy 486 kcal (2,030 kJ)
Carbohydrates 42.1 g
Dietary fiber 34.4 g
Fat 30.7 g
Protein 16.5 g
Vitamins Quantity %DV
Vitamin A equiv. 7%

54 μg

Thiamine (B1) 54%

0.62 mg

Riboflavin (B2) 14%

0.17 mg

Niacin (B3) 59%

8.83 mg

Folate (B9) 12%

49 μg

Vitamin C 2%

1.6 mg

Vitamin E 3%

0.5 mg

Minerals Quantity %DV
Calcium 63%

631 mg

Iron 59%

7.7 mg

Magnesium 94%

335 mg

Manganese 130%

2.72 mg

Phosphorus 123%

860 mg

Potassium 9%

407 mg

Zinc 48%

4.6 mg

Other constituents Quantity
Water 5.8 g

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