I don’t buy something unless I can figure out at least 2 different ways to use it.
This is my approach to small kitchen appliances and the latest trend in foods. I don’t care how healthy it is – if I can only use it for one sole purpose, I’m not buying it.
That’s one reason why I’ve come up with a huge list of ways to use flax seed. That, and because my eye doctor told me to eat more fish.
What does fish have to do with flaxseed? Let me explain.
I went to the eye doctor earlier this year for my yearly check-up and during my appointment, my eye doctor asked if my eyes watered a lot and were itchy.
I said yes and explained that it was because of allergies. Or that it could be the sun, because my eyes are light-colored and have been sensitive to light for as long as I can remember.
“Nope, that’s not it,” she tells me. “You have meibomianitis.”
Meobomianitis is when the glands in the eye lids are swollen and clogged and cannot produce oil to lubricate the eyes. As a result, the eyes are dry.
She said that if left untreated, I could have chronic dry eye and require eye drops for the rest of my life!
Her recommendation was to treat meibomianitis from the inside out and to start taking fish oil because of the omega-3’s.
Since I prefer to eat food instead of swallow pills whenever possible, I asked if I could just eat more fish.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Wild caught salmon would be best, but tuna is okay too, just not too often because of the mercury.”
I’ve been eating salmon twice a week for lunch ever since and it’s helping, but I want to do more. When I researched more about which foods were naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids, I learned that flaxseed was very comparable to salmon in terms of the percent daily value.
As it turns out, flaxseed is also crazy high in fiber, high in protein and considered a superfood with its antioxidant and cancer-fighting nutrients. According to this article, flaxseeds:
could help you improve digestion, give you clear skin, lower cholesterol, reduce sugar cravings, balance hormones, fight cancer and promote weight loss…
Who wouldn’t like benefits like those?!
Generally speaking, the term “flaxseed” can mean either the whole seed or the seed ground into a powder. However, the proper term for the ground powder is milled flaxseed.
You can make your own milled flaxseed by putting whole flax seeds in an inexpensive coffee grinder, but I make so many other things from scratch and there’s only so much time in the day, you know? Frankly, I’m willing to concede with flax.
Milled flaxseed doesn’t cost anymore than whole flax seeds, and since my eyesight depends on incorporating flaxseed as a regular ingredient in our favorite recipes (with the help of all the ideas below!) and I’d much rather have this brand milled flaxseed ready to go instead (or you can get it off Amazon too).
Flax Seed Nutrition
Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has a knack for the science behind food and has some good information on flax (whole seed, ground and oil), but it’s basically made up of three main ingredients:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acid- a “good” fat for heart and bone health.
- Lignans- free-radical fighting antioxidant found red wine; also shown to interfere with cancer-promoting effects of estrogen and promotes regular digestion.
- Fiber- helps keep the pipes clean.
No one likes clogged pipes… 😉
I can’t give you an entire line up of every single good-for-you ingredient, but I would take a guess that flax seed is towards the top of the list of affordability. I was able to find a 48oz re-sealable bag of organic ground flax seed at Costco for $6.79. One serving is two tablespoons, making it only 7 cents per serving.
I sneaked in nutrition, giving an extra oomph to unsuspecting taste testers.
Flax has a “nutty” flavor, but when you add just a serving or two to a batch of something (or a recipe that already has nuts in it) you can’t really taste it. I’ve made nearly duplicate muffins where one had it and one didn’t and neither the kids nor the husband noticed.
The only difference I personally can see in the final results (and it’s probably only because I know I put it in there) is that flax seed makes it more bindy.
Is bindy a word?
Probably not, but you know how eggs makes baked goods bind together? Like a glue? Flax seed does the same thing, but in a subtle manner. In a blind taste test, my family actually preferred the muffins with flax because they tend to be more moist and don’t crumble apart when you take bites.
And yes, I actually blind folded the kids and husband!
Kidding… but that would be fun!
My magic ratio is one tablespoon of flax for every cup of flour. I used to take one tablespoon of flour out in order to keep the total amount of dry ingredients the same, but I don’t really do that anymore unless my flax is up to 1/4 cup or more.
Notice that I’m only adding a little – not a lot. Adding more would significantly alter my recipe – and that’s fine – but it’s not my goal.
Now that we know how to increase the nutrition of the food we already eat, without sacrificing taste or altering family favorite recipes, lets get on to the best ways to use flaxseed!
18 Ways to Use Flaxseed
1. Make An Egg Replacer
Whether you ran out of eggs or are baking for someone who’s allergic to eggs, you can use flaxseed as a replacement for eggs in many recipes that typically call for eggs.
To make a flax egg (as it’s affectionately referred to), mix 1 tablespoon milled flaxseed with 3 Tablespoons warm water. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes to thicken. (Read the full tutorial here.)
Flax egg doesn’t bind and stiffen like eggs do in recipes, so it’s not always a 1:1 substitution. However, using flaxseed as an egg replacer works really well in recipes like pancakes, brownies, muffins, cookies and quick breads.
2. In Breaded Chicken Recipes
Beef up the nutritional value of your breaded chicken or crusted tilapia by adding flaxseed to the coating mixture.
A good starting point is 1-2 Tablespoons flaxseed per cup of breadcrumbs. Flaxseed has a slightly nutty flavor and would compliment any coconut or herb based coating. It would be good on homemade chicken nuggets or almond crusted chicken.
3. Make an Egg-less “Egg Wash”
The reason French toast is crispy and the coating of baked chicken comes out crunchy is because of the egg wash. But making an egg-less “egg wash” a great way to use flaxseed.
To make an egg-less “egg wash,” combine 1 Tablespoon flaxseed with 1 cup milk and any other flavors you usually add when you’re making French toast (i.e. cinnamon, vanilla extract, etc.). Let this mixture sit for 10-20 minutes and stir before using.
4. As a Thickener
I’m kinda picky about texture on certain things, like applesauce. I like my homemade applesauce to be thick. I don’t care if it has chunks or not, but I don’t like runny applesauce.
Use flaxseed to thicken applesauce or cottage cheese or any other dish that might be too watery. Start with adding ½ tsp flaxseed to ½ cup of your item and let it stand for 5 minutes. Add additional flax as needed until you reach the desired thickness.
5. Make Homemade Pudding
Traditional pudding is made with eggs, but since you can use flaxseed in lieu of eggs in other recipes, why not use flaxseed in homemade pudding!
For a basic flaxseed pudding recipe, combine 3 Tablespoons flaxseed with ½ cup milk. You can add honey or maple syrup to sweeten, or even ¼ tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of salt to flavor. Combine everything in a jar and let it sit in the fridge for at least 15 minutes, or overnight. Stir before enjoying!
6. In Lieu of Breadcrumbs
Think of all the recipes that call for breadcrumbs… meatloaf, meatballs, baked macaroni and cheese, crab cakes… Now think of all the ways you can use flaxseeds instead!
For recipes that use a small amount of breadcrumbs as a binder, like meatloaf and meatballs, swap flaxseeds directly for the breadcrumbs.
For recipes that use a larger amount of breadcrumbs, swap flaxseed for part of the breadcrumbs. I’d start with substituting up to ¼ of the breadcrumbs with flaxseeds, and then taste and adjust as needed.
Here’s how you make your own breadcrumbs.
7. Add to Granola Recipes
The most basic granola recipe is essentially toasted oats and in my opinion, is fairly boring. But when you add other delicious and healthy ingredients like flaxseed, granola becomes incredibly delicious and borderline gourmet!
Start with your favorite granola recipe (strawberry chocolate and cranberry orange and classic cinnamon are the winners in our house) and add 2 tablespoons of flaxseed per 1 cup of oats when you add the other dry ingredients.
8. Add to Granola Bar Recipes
Since you can use flaxseed as a binder, it only makes sense to add it to foods that are already bound together, like granola bars!
Again, start with your favorite recipe (I recommend no bake soft and chewy peanut butter chocolate chips granola bars) and add 2 tablespoons of flaxseed per 1 cup of oats. Be sure to incorporate the flaxseeds well in any granola bar recipe, so that they’re evenly distributed among the wet ingredients.
I use flaxseed specifically in my no bake sweet and salty energy bites.
9. In Lieu of Oat Bran, Wheat Germ and/or Wheat Bran
Oat bran and wheat germ are often used in baking recipes to add nutritional value, but neither of these ingredients are readily available in most grocery stores. If you’re allergic to wheat or are celiac, wheat germ is not an option. Luckily, you can use flaxseed instead!
Substitute flaxseed for oat bran, wheat germ and/or wheat bran in a 1:1 ratio. A great recipe to give this a try is mix-and-match homemade granola bars.
10. Add to Smoothies
Adding flaxseed to smoothies isn’t a new concept, but it’s so simple and effective that it’s worth repeating.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed per 1 serving of smoothie. Flaxseed will absorb some of the liquid as it sits so either drink quickly or add another ¼ – 1/2 cup liquid to the smoothie recipe to compensate.
Tip: This is one way to boost the protein profile in homemade protein smoothies!
11. Add to Thick Soups and Stews
It’s still summer, but when I’m making slow cooker soups this fall, flaxseed will fit right in.
The amount of flax you can add to your soup will depend on the type of soup it is. For soups that are thin and mostly broth, add 1-2 tablespoons per cup of stock. For soups that are thicker, like stews or chili, can add 3-4 tablespoons per cup of stock.
12. Sprinkle on Peanut Butter
Anytime you eat peanut butter, you can probably eat flaxseed too. Making a PBJ for lunch? Sprinkle some flaxseed on top.
Topping toast with peanut butter and honey? Sprinkle some flaxseed on top.
13. Thicken Natural Peanut Butter
You know how the oils in natural peanut butter will separate and rise to the top of the jar? Take the thickening properties of flaxseed and put them to work in your peanut butter jar!
Start by adding 1 teaspoon of flaxseed per 15-16 ounces of peanut butter. Stir it together well and let it sit for at least 15 minutes, but preferably overnight. Stir again and if the oil continues to separate more than you’d like, add another 1 teaspoon flaxseed and repeat the process. Remember that you can always add more flaxseed to thicken, but it’s harder to add more oil to thin.
Related: How to Make Your Own Nut Butter
14. Add to Cracker Recipes
The most basic homemade cracker recipe is only 3 ingredients, and adding flax is an easy way to boost the nutrition of an otherwise very plain cracker!
Add 1-2 teaspoon per cup of flour to the recipe. You might have to add additional liquid to compensate for the additional dry ingredient.
Another option is to make the cracker recipe as-is, and then sprinkle flaxseed on top just prior to baking.
15. Sprinkle on Top of Salads
When mixed with other ingredients, flaxseed looks a lot like ground pepper. And when it’s all mixed up with greens and veggies and homemade salad dressing, you can’t even taste it.
For a single serving salad, sprinkle ½-1 teaspoon of flaxseed on top. Dress the salad and toss before serving. For main meal salads, use 1-2 tablespoons flaxseed.
16. Add to Sauces
Wednesday is pasta night in our house. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s a “night off” from cooking bigger meals in the kitchen. It’s also a prime opportunity to use flaxseed!
Add 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed per 1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce (we like meat-based hearty spaghetti sauce). This is also a great way to “doctor up” store-bought pasta sauces.
17. Add to Hummus
If you can get your family to eat beans, then flaxseed is a no-brainer. If there’s a bean-hater in your family, I recommend either chocolate hummus or cookie dough hummus. Both are amazing and will have kids (and husbands!) asking for more.
Depending on the recipe, you’ll want to add between 1-2 teaspoons of flaxseed to 1 cup of hummus. Add less for recipes where a nutty flavor will stand out. Add more for recipes that compliment the nutty flavor of flaxseed.
18. In Lieu of Butter and/or Oil
I’m a huge fan of butter, so I don’t know if I’ll ever try this substitution idea or not, but it might be perfect for those who can’t have butter or oil for whatever reason.
Substitute 1 tablespoon butter or oil with 3 tablespoons flaxseed.
Wow – that’s a pretty amazing list of ways to use flaxseed, don’t you think?
With all of these ideas, you can bet I’ve got some awesome flaxseed recipes coming up!!
Do you use flaxseed at home? What other ways do you incorporate it into your foods?
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hodgson Mill. I’ve been using Hodgson Mill products in my kitchen for a long time now, and long before this blog was born. As always, I would never recommend anything on Crumbs that I wouldn’t recommend to a close friend or neighbor, and all opinions here are my own.