Chia Seeds as a Substitute for Poppy Seeds: is it possible?

Have you ever found yourself in need of an ingredient but didn’t have it in your kitchen? We found a similar ingredient, and wondered if it was possible for us to replace the required ingredient with it? I asked that question many times when I lacked brown sugar, sweet chili sauce, pandan leaves… and had to research a lot to see the possibility of substitution. This time, it’s the story of poppy seeds and chia seeds. Can we substitute chia seeds for poppy seeds? The answer is depends on what types of dishes we are going to do.

Understanding Chia Seeds and Poppy Seeds

Chia Seeds: Tiny and Useful

Chia seeds might be small, but they’re packed with goodness. These little seeds come from places like Central and South America and have become quite famous for their health benefits. Let’s look at what makes chia seeds special:

  • Size and Feel: Chia seeds are really small, like tiny dots. When they get wet, they can turn into a kind of jelly. This makes them great for all sorts of recipes because they can change the way your food feels.
  • Taste: Chia seeds don’t have a strong taste. They’re pretty plain, which means they won’t change the flavor of your dishes too much.
  • Nutrition Value Inside: Chia seeds are like tiny nutrient powerhouses. They have lots of healthy things in them, like omega-3 fats (good for your heart), fiber (good for your tummy), and protein (good for your muscles).

With all those characteristics, chia seeds are a must-have ingredient in my kitchen. I add chia seeds to my yogurt, milk, drink, black grass jelly, etc. to increase the nutrition value of the dishes.

desserts with chia seeds

Poppy Seeds: Small Seeds with a Unique Flavor

Poppy seeds are also small, but what makes them stand out is the taste and texture. Here’s what you should know about poppy seeds:

  • Size and Crunch: Poppy seeds are round, and usually have dark gray or black color. They have a nice crunch when you bite into them, which adds a special texture to foods.
  • Flavor: Poppy seeds taste a bit nutty and earthy. They have a unique flavor that’s often used in foods like muffins and bagels.
  • Where They’re Used: People use poppy seeds to decorate or flavor lots of different foods, both sweet and savory. They’re common in things like baked goods and salad dressings. My favorite poppy seeds cakes are Czech Poppy Seed Kolache, Poppy Seed Roll and Poppy Seed Bun. All of them taste so great.
zoom in poppy seeds
Zoom-in poppy seeds

What’s the difference between Poppy Seeds and Chia Seeds?

Even though chia seeds and poppy seeds are both small and black or dark grey, they’re quite different in how they feel and taste. Chia seeds turn into jelly when soaked in liquid, similar to Thai basil seeds, while poppy seeds don’t. Poppy seeds seem smaller than chia seeds, so they’ll give you a smoother taste and feeling when biting them.

These differences are important because they make each seed better for certain kinds of dishes.

Can you substitute Chia Seeds for Poppy Seeds?

With all the analysis above, to replace poppy seeds with Chia Seeds, the most important concern is the liquid. Because chia seeds can absorb liquid and form jelly outside of the seeds. Besides, also note that the taste and texture might change, because poppy seeds are smaller than chia seeds. They’re also nutty, earthy and crunchy that you can’t find these characteristics in chia seeds. Therefore, you can:

  • Substitute Chia Seeds for Poppy Seeds if the baking dough is relatively dry, and you’re going to bake them right away so the seeds don’t have the opportunity to form jelly coat. Another case is when you use chia seeds for coating the bread/ dough before baking, it’s also possible. For example, you are able to give it a try with Czech Kolache or Poppy Seed Bun when you sprinkle seeds on top of the cake and bake it immediately. Remember that the taste will differ strongly as Chia Seeds don’t have any feature of Poppy Seeds but have a mild flavor.
  • Not substitute Chia Seeds for Poppy Seeds when you need to mix them in batter/dough with much liquid, for example poppy seed cake, poppy seed roll, muffin or bread.
zoom in chia seeds
Chia seeds

Also give it a taste test before serving. Make sure the chia seeds haven’t altered the flavor too much. If you find that the dish is too bland, you can always adjust by adding a bit more of the flavors you enjoy.

Keep in mind that chia seeds are usually brown, gray, or black, whereas poppy seeds are darker. If you’re making something where the appearance is crucial, like a lemon-poppy seed cake, the chia seeds might not give you the same look. In such cases, you might want to consider using a different seed or a combination to maintain the desired appearance.

Finally, don’t think much. Cooking and baking are all about creativity. Don’t be afraid to experiment with chia seeds in your favorite recipes. The more you use them, the better you’ll get at figuring out how to make them work for you.

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