This fun twist on the classic chia seed pudding uses traditional Indigenous ingredients. Wild rice is packed full of fibre, vitamins and minerals and add’s the perfect amount of low glycemic index carbohydrate to this otherwise no-carb meal. Topped with some antioxidant-rich berries and hazelnuts, this breakfast celebrates some of our beautiful land’s original foods.
The original recipe for this was done in April of 2014 and was originally meant to inspire traditionally Indigenous foods found across what is now called Canada. Now, 6 years later, I wanted to share and re-update the recipe. Many people don’t know that along with wild rice and berries, maple syrup, and hazelnuts were eaten by Indigenous populations across Canada prior to European contact. While chia seeds are Indigenous to another continent, they do well to bind all these Canadian Indigenous ingredients together. The food that comes from this land is both nutritious and sustainable.
Making This Chia Pudding
Many of the foods that we associate with being ‘Canadian’are actually foods that were introduced post-European contact. Examples that instantly come to mind are the french fries topped with gravy and cheese-curds known as poutine, or the equally unhealthy butter tarts and Nanaimo bars.
Hazelnuts, along with walnuts, were native to Canada prior to contact and Beaked Hazelnuts were found from the west coast all the way to the east. They were eaten raw and fresh, boiled in soups, or dried and stored for winter. The Iroquois cooked the meats of hazelnuts and other types of nuts with hominy and corn soup, or ground them and mixed them in puddings and bread. They were also boiled to obtain their oil, which was skimmed off and used with bread, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, corn, and other foods.
Wild rice is indigenous to northwestern Ontario, southwestern Manitoba and in the cold lakes of Saskatchewan. Traditionally, wild rice was prepared and served in many ways. Often it was cooked in soups, or boiled with meat, fish, roe, or with blueberries or other fruits. The cooked grain was also eaten plain, boiled or steamed, and eaten with sweets such as maple sugar.
Canada’s Indigenous People taught early settlers how to harvest the sap and boil it to make maple syrup. Maple sugar was the first kind of sugar produced in eastern North America. Haudenosaunee tradition tells of the piercing of the bark of a maple tree and the use of its “sweet water” to cook venison.
Across Canada there are many different native berries. Some of these include blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, currants, gooseberries, huckleberries, raspberries, salal berries, salmonberries, saskatoon berries, soapberries, strawberries and thimbleberries. Berries could be eaten fresh, alone or with oil. They were also added to pemmican, soups and stews, or dehydrated to preserve them for later use.
Like other nuts and seeds, hazelnuts are a good source of monounsaturated fats which is especially important for heart health. Studies have shown that eating just one serving of nuts per day (about 1⁄4 cup) five times per week, is associated with about a 20% decrease in risk of heart disease and coronary artery disease.
Wild rice is actually not a rice at all but is actually from the grass family. Wild rice is a healthy carbohydrate that is higher in protein with a 1/2 cup serving, providing 3.3 grams of protein, as well as fibre compared to white rice. Wild rice is also a great source of folate and is higher in antioxidants than regular white rice, which can help protect us from certain diseases and keep us healthy.
Maple syrup contains small amounts of minerals including manganese, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It also has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar, cane sugar or honey making it a better choice for sustained and stable blood sugar levels.
Many berries are rich in the antioxidant anthocyanin, which has been attributed to heart health, may help protect again some cancers, and may help with cognition in the elderly. The darker the berry the richer it will be in this important antioxidant. All berries are also excellent sources of fibre and are low in sugar, making them great for anyone who is watching their blood sugar levels.
While not a traditional Canadian food, it is indigenous to South America. It is rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (ALA) which can convert to the same omega-3 we get from oily fish such as salmon (EPA and DHA). See my post How To Get Your Omega-3s For Vegetarians and Vegans for more information.
Use leftover wild rice if you have it, otherwise, prepare some by boiling dry wild rice in 4 times the amount of water. I find that if you are not using a small pot, you will need to use more water than this.
Mix the chia and milk alternative of choice. Use a whisk to make sure all the chia seeds are separated and to avoid large chunks.
Divide the cooked wild rice between the bowls with the whisked chia and milk alternative. Divide in the maple syrup between the two bowls, as well as the salt. Mix in well.
Whisk in the wild rice, making sure everything is well incorporated.
After the chia pudding has set for at least 4 hours or overnight, top with toasted hazelnuts (or any other nut or seed) and fresh or frozen berries of your choice.
The chia seeds need at least 4 hours to absorb the liquid from the milk alternative and turn into a pudding consistency. I suggest making this pudding the night before so it will be ready for breakfast in the morning.
A good idea is to double the batch for this recipe and divide it into 4 containers, that way you will have 4 breakfasts ready for you during the week.
Making It Vegan
Using milk alternatives in place of milk and maple syrup in place of honey makes it vegan.
Use any nut or seed. Certain species of walnuts were enjoyed by Indigenous people prior to contact. Walnuts are also especially high in the plant-based omega-3 (ALA) – see this post for more information How To Get Your Omega-3s For Vegetarians and Vegans.
In the winter months, use frozen berries. Option to add frozen berries to the chia, milk alternative and wild rice mix the night before so they are defrosted in the morning. In the summer use any fresh berry you have on hand.
How Long Does It Last?
This chia pudding will last in the fridge for 5 days. Make a double batch of the recipe and have it throughout the week.
These recipes were inspired by indigenous ingredients:
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Chia Seed Pudding with Wild Rice
- 1/3 cup wild rice dry
- 1/3 cup chia seeds
- 2 cup milk alternative unsweetened (almond, organic soy, pea milk)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup pure
- pinch sea salt
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup berries any type
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- I like using leftover wild rice for adding to my chia pudding. For this recipe use about 2/3 cup cooked leftover rice. To cook the wild rice add 1/3 cup of dry wild rice to 1 1/3 cups of water. Usually wild rice is cooked at a 1:4 ratio of rice to water, but because this is such a small amount of rice you may need to add more water. Bring the water and rice to a boil, then turn down the heat and let simmer for 45 minutes. The kernels should have split and the grains slightly tender. Drain water if necessary.
- To prepare the pudding divide the chia seeds and milk alternatives between two bowls. This should be 2 1/2 tablespoons of chia seeds and 1 cup of milk alternative per bowl. Whisk well to ensure no clumps form.
- Add the wild rice, maple syrup, salt, as well as cinnamon and vanilla if using. Whisk again making sure everything is evenly combined.
- Cover the bowls and let set for a minimum of 4 hours in the refrigerator, or overnight.
- After 4 hours check the pudding. The consistency will differ depending on the type of milk alternative used. If it is too thick add more milk alternative.
- Quickly toast the hazelnuts by heating a castiron frypan over medium heat, and gently stirring the nuts until they are lightly toasted. This should take about 3 minutes. Roughly chop the hazelnuts.
- Before serving add the toasted hazelnuts and berries on top of the chia pudding. Option to add more maple syrup to taste. The recipe will last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Hazelnut SubstitutionsUse any nut or seed. Certain species of walnuts were enjoyed by Indigenous people prior to contact. Walnuts are also especially high in the plant-based omega-3 (ALA).
Berry SubstitutionsIn the winter months, use frozen berries. Option to add frozen berries to the chia, milk alternative and wild rice mix the night before so they are defrosted in the morning. In the summer use any fresh berry you have on hand
How Long Does It Last?This chia pudding will last in the fridge for 5 days. Make a double batch of the recipe and have it throughout the week.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.