This balsamic strawberry chia jam is going to become your new favorite topping to pancakes, oatmeal, waffles or sandwiches! It's simple to make, only has a few ingredients, and is vegan, gluten free, paleo and can be Whole30 approved.
Growing up I ALWAYS wanted strawberry jelly on my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I just didn't understand why they made any other flavor! I have to admit that not much has changed from my childhood, I still love of strawberry chia jam and add it to anything I can think of (sometimes right out of the fridge with a spoon, fridge door hanging wide open). Let's be honest, this is how most of it disappears!
When I started focusing on my diet, I wanted to learn how to make healthier versions of my favorite foods, knowing there had to be a better solution for the sugar laden strawberry jam I bought every week for my pancakes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Through my research, I found that to make jelly and jam, strawberries are heated to released a natural thickener called pectin. The pectin is heated and combined with sugar and water to thicken and create the base for jelly or jam. I wanted to find a way to create this same thickness without all the added sugar.
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If you have ever made chia pudding or added chia seeds to your dishes as a substitute for eggs, you know how awesome chia seeds are at thickening any liquid they are added to. Chia seeds are small seeds that absorb about 5-6 times their weight in water, instantly making a thick, jelly-like substance, in just a few minutes of soaking. Chia seeds are full of fiber and a good source of ALA (a heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acid), making them a “super food” in my book.
Anytime I use chia seeds in a recipe like this, where there aren't many ingredients, I usually blend up the mixture to help break up the chia seeds so they don't get stuck in your teeth as easily. If you don't have a blender and you still want to make this recipe, you can also buy milled chia seeds and just break down the strawberries with the back of your fork. However, I highly recommend an immersion blender (affiliate link), they are inexpensive, super simple to use and are less of a hassle to clean than your traditional blender (just be sure to soak the top of the blender as soon as you are done with it to make cleanup a breeze).
This recipe for balsamic strawberry chia jam came about when I bought a bottle of strawberry balsamic vinegar from the Oil and Vinegar shop. I used the entire bottle in almost a week and couldn't wait to get more. Balsamic vinegar adds a depth of flavor to anything it's added to and when reduced down, is sweet and rich. I decided to substitute the lemon juice I would normally use with balsamic vinegar to my strawberry chia jam and was pleasantly surprised that the balsamic actually made the jam taste better!
This recipe for strawberry chia jelly adds a touch of sweetness from stevia, but you could also use maple syrup if you don't care for the flavor of stevia. You can add 2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup, depending on how sweet you prefer your jam to be. If you are doing a Whole30, you can add a single date (remove the pit and let it break down a little in the strawberry liquid before blending) for sweetness.
What's the difference between jelly and jam?
I had to look this up myself because I was always curious! Apparently jelly is made from all fruit juice where jam is made by crushing the actual fruit (so there are small pieces of fruit still in the jam). This is why jelly is easier to spread and also sometimes a little sweeter.
Low jams, jelly and raspberries? Try this easy homemade raspberry chia jelly!
Balsamic Strawberry Chia Jam
- In a medium pan, add the 2 bags of frozen organic strawberries, chia seeds, balsamic vinegar, 1 packet stevia (or 2 tbs. maple syrup or one date, see post for details) and pinch of salt.
- Cover with a lid and heat over medium heat until strawberries defrost and start to bubble, stirring after 5 minutes.
- Turn heat down to low and continue to simmer, covered.
- Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly. Blend with an immersion blender or add to your blender (be careful the mixture will be hot). Blend until smooth. If you want there to be some chunks, you can remove a few of the berries before blending and smash them with the back of your fork
- Taste for sweetness and add 1 more packet of stevia or 1-2 more tablespoons of maple syrup.
- Pour in a glass jar and let cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge, covered.
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