I have long been a breakfast person. Not an elaborate breakfast person, per se, but the type who simply can’t skip the meal if she wants to be functional past 11 a.m. For the last 10 years of my life, my standby has been oatmeal. A lot of oatmeal. Often packaged, not very fancy, and adorned with just a splash of almond milk and a spoon of nut butter.
But earlier this summer, I fell into an oatmeal rut. It just wasn’t working for me anymore. I was too hot—all of the time, but especially each morning, as I emerged from the weighted blanket I insist on using year-round. The oatmeal was making me sweat, and I wanted to cool down.
I needed something else: a breakfast option that was just as quick, easy, convenient, and nourishing as my oatmeal, but not as stifling. Cereal and yogurt are both nos for me—the former isn’t filling and satisfying enough, and as for the latter, I can’t stomach a large amount of dairy first thing in the morning. So I tried chia seed pudding. Soon, I got into the habit of stopping by a counter-service café on my way to the office, spending $6.75 on an absolutely delightful bowl of it.
But here’s the thing about my $6.75 breakfast: When you eat it three days a week, it becomes $20.25 of chia seed pudding. In a month, that’s $81. To me, that felt like a lot of money spent on a food that fits in the palm of my hand and takes about 45 seconds to eat (perhaps two minutes at most if I’m being particularly mindful).
Eventually, I had a small epiphany: What if I made my own? I hadn’t considered this before only because the dish felt like such a treat: a little vanilla-y, with some puréed mango, another anonymous seed sprinkled in, and a few dried goji berries on top. I love to cook, and do most nights, but some dishes feel like they are too complex—even just in flavor—to replicate. (Mainly, I was thinking, Where the hell am I going to get mango purée? Because I surely will not be making that on my own.)
That said, I know plenty of people do make their own chia seed pudding—it’s heralded as an “easy” at-home breakfast. And there was an actual human at my café, making the small containers of pudding each morning, which meant that it was physically possible for me to do it too. So I decided I’d give it a shot.
I’ll skip ahead to my thesis here: I think that you should try it.
I had the basic ingredients at home, which I found from a simple Google search: chia seeds and some variety of milk. The most intimidating ingredient was time: To eat it when I wanted, I’d have to make it ahead. (The seeds have to soak in a refrigerated environment—more on this later.) Could I become the type of person who preps their breakfast the night before? I wasn’t positive, but I’ll try anything once, especially if I can do it in my pajamas.
So began my first attempt: I put two soup-spoonfuls of chia seeds in a cute little jar that I ordered especially for the occasion—dangling the carrot in front of the horse, if you will. I poured in unsweetened vanilla almond milk, just enough to submerge the seeds. I added a few frozen blueberries, a decision that turned out to be meh. I stuck it in the fridge and went to bed.
The next morning, what do you know—I had chia seed pudding. It wasn’t as sweet or flavorful as I wanted (as I already mentioned, I would not—and I emphasize, would not—be making my own fruit purées) and the seeds had essentially soaked up all of the milk, so it was a bit too dry. But there it was: My wonderful (and cost-effective) cold breakfast.
I repeated this ritual over the next few weeks, making small tweaks each time. I added hemp hearts and coconut flakes for texture and flavor, threw in oats for extra chewiness, started using Trader Joe’s blueberry lavender almond milk instead of vanilla or plain, and became more generous with the milk-to-seeds ratio—I was almost always happier with the result when it felt like I was adding a bit too much milk, which gave it a smoother, more pudding-like texture.
Here’s the thing you should know about chia seed pudding: You can make the whole thing up. I did! Despite the thousands of recipes you can find online, you really do not need exact measurements. (Did you notice my use of “soup spoon” as a measuring tool above?) Just dump some stuff in a jar, stick it in the fridge, and pray it works out—this is part of the fun. It will work out, too, though it may not necessarily end up right the way you want it (too much liquid, too little liquid, too many chia seeds, not enough flavor). But the good news is that tomorrow, you can try it again.
And if I haven’t convinced you yet, then you’ll be thrilled to know that I also discovered you do not have to be the kind of person who prepares breakfast the night before to enjoy homemade chia pudding. The mixture actually only needs 20 to 30 minutes to soak in the fridge; after that, I learned the result was pretty much the same as it was when soaked for 10 hours. So I’ve made the prep part of my morning routine instead: I wake up, brush my teeth, and head to the kitchen where I make my coffee. While it’s brewing, I assemble the chia seed pudding. I stick it in the fridge. I take my coffee to the living room, where I do some journaling. I get dressed and “do” my eyebrows; fix my hair if I need to. I grab my jar from the fridge, and I’m out the door. The pudding always survives my 25-minute commute; I sometimes don’t eat it for 45 minutes after I’ve taken it out of the fridge, and it still holds up beautifully.
It is filling, it tastes interesting, I really enjoy the texture, and it is not hot. I have been using the same 15-ounce bag of chia seeds—which costs $16 at Whole Foods—for almost three months.
I feel physically good when I eat it too: The seed is a “nutritional powerhouse,” as one registered dietitian previously told SELF, due to its hearty amounts of fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. It keeps me feeling satisfied for two to three hours, and by then it’s time for lunch. And then before I know it, I go home, go to sleep, wake up, and make my chia seed pudding again.
Hannah’s Chia Seed Pudding
Black chia seeds
Milk or milk alternative
Old-fashioned rolled oats
1. Put 2–3 spoonfuls of chia seeds in a small jar.
2. Add 1–2 spoonfuls of oats.
3. Add 1 spoonful of hemp hearts and 1 spoonful of coconut flakes.
4. Add your milk so that the mixture is totally submerged; the milk should stop about a half-inch past the “seed line.”
6. Mix well with a spoon—make sure no seeds are sticking to the bottom. You’ll want everything to be evenly distributed.
7. Refrigerate for 20–30 minutes. Can be made 1–2 days ahead of time.
Originally Appeared on SELF