The One Ingredient Diet 2014 Challenge is off to a roaring start: over 200 people from Indonesia to India, from San Francisco to Santa Fe, are eating nothing but whole foods for the entire month. The Facebook group is incredibly lively and participants are inspiring tons of exciting new recipes, including this one. A few members of the group noticed that all store-bought varieties of jams have added sugars, preservatives, and more. Definitely not approved for the One Ingredient Diet!

Making homemade jam often requires pectin or other “gelling agents” so that it holds a firm jelly-like consistency. Making an all-natural variety can be much harder. The a-ha moment came when one participant suggested using chia seeds: they’re a super-nutritious whole food that just happens to create a gel in water. By combining just chia seeds and berries (with optional maple syrup) you have a whole-food alternative to preserves that are incredibly fresh with bright, real-fruit flavors. I’m hooked. Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches will never be the same again…

Strawberry Chia Jam

Makes 1 cup of jam

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons ground chia seeds
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)

Homemade Chia Jam

Step One

Grind the chia seeds, if necessary. You can use whole chia seeds, but they tend to be hard to chew and get stuck in teeth; ground seeds give your jam a much more uniform consistency. A high-powered blender like a Vitamix makes the perfect substitute for a grinder. Simply add the chia seeds to the blender and turn on high for 5 seconds. Alternatively, you can purchase already-ground seeds.

Step Two

Add the chia seeds, whole frozen strawberries*, and 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup to a food processor and pulse about 10 times until some small pea-sized chunks of strawberry remain. I like starting with frozen strawberries because they break up into small chunks rather than turning completely soupy immediately.

* Though I haven’t experimented with other varieties yet, I’m sure you can achieve similar results with any frozen fruit. Raspberries? Apricots? Blueberries? Give it a shot.

Step Three

Add this mixture to a saucepan and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. This serves two purposes: 1) it reduces the mixture (i.e. evaporates some of the water) to create a thicker consistency; 2) it gives the strawberries time to cook so they soften into a jam-like texture.

Allow to cool and set in the refrigerator for about an hour. Store (refrigerated) in a sealed container for up to a week. No, this version doesn’t last forever like store-bought preserves, but that’s a good thing – when food doesn’t go bad, you know there’s a problem.

Chia Jam Sandwich

Strawberry Chia Jam