Fruit Jam Magic: 5-Minute Recipe With One Secret Ingredient

Making jam the traditional way is fun and delicious, but it is somewhat of an ordeal. Preparing the fruit, cooking it down with a pile of sugar and some pectin, sterilizing jars, filling and canning them in a large pot of boiling water—all of it requires effort, time, and commitment to the cause.

But what if you could make delicious, fresh-tasting jam with a fraction of the effort? I am pleased to inform you that there is a shortcut, and it’s thanks to a surprising (some may even call magical) ingredient you may already have in your pantry—chia seeds.

Chia seeds are described as a superfood, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. Not only are they great for you, but they have the quirky ability to absorb water quickly and turn a liquid softly gelatinous. This is an excellent quality that (you guessed it) helps to make jam.

Instead of boiling off the surplus water and using pectin, the addition of chia to crushed and/or partially cooked summer fruit causes it to thicken almost immediately. Chilling the jam helps it even further, and you’re left with a loose, spoonable mixture that is delightful on toast, stirred into yogurt, or topped with granola.

This is not the kind of jam you’d process and preserve for long-term storage, but it is perfect for storing in the fridge to eat over the following days and weeks.

How to Make Fruit and Chia Seed Jam

Katherine Martinko

After seeing it described online, and in this recipe for Chia Seed Jam, I decided to give it a try. It is peak strawberry season where I live, so I bought a box, cut up 2 cups worth of berries, and cooked for 5 minutes just until they started to break down. (You don’t have to do this, apparently. Just crushing them is sufficient, but I like a looser consistency.) I stirred in 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, followed by 2 tablespoons of chia seeds. I let it sit for 5 minutes and, voilà, strawberry jam! I transferred it to a jar in the fridge and, within an hour, it was even thicker and more spoonable than before—my ideal consistency, in fact.

Katherine Martinko

Two things I didn’t expect: First, surprisingly, I didn’t miss all the sugar that regular jam has. Adding just 2 tablespoons of honey seemed suspiciously little, but it still tasted sweet and delicious.

Second, there are a lot of chia seeds in the jam, which makes it look different from regular jam. If this bothers you, it is possible to purée the jam, but this is purely an aesthetic thing; the seeds do not affect flavor or texture. And if you’re using seedy fruits like strawberries or raspberries, or something dark like blueberries, it doesn’t make a huge difference. Maybe it would seem stranger in peach or apricot jam.

Will I do this again? Absolutely. This is a handy trick to know, particularly when I run out of jam and want something quick and easy that tastes homemade.