The Nutritious Ingredient That Will Help Thicken Homemade Jam

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Kansas State University discovered that 70% of American homes prepared most of their food at home, which was a 40% increase from 2019. With that shift came a plethora of trending foods to make at home — sourdough bread, dalgona coffee, and TikTok's feta pasta were just a few. And while jelly contains ingredients that make it more difficult to whip up at home, like pectin, people embraced jam as a fun, easy condiment to make that only requires a few ingredients. For example, this easy strawberry jam recipe uses only strawberries, lemons, and coconut sugar.

While many homemade recipes are healthier than store-bought versions, that's not necessarily the case when it comes to traditional jam. It's true that jam can contain antioxidants and vitamin C, depending on which type of fruit is being used, but Healthline explains that cooking the fruit down may reduce the amount of heat-sensitive nutrients it has. In addition, even homemade jam contains a high amount of sugar — many recipes follow a 1:1 fruit to sugar ratio, according to My Cancale Kitchen.

If you'd like to make healthy homemade jam that still tastes delicious — and has the correct consistency, however, there is a simple way to do so.

Chia seeds act as a thickening agent

Although chia seeds are a trendy wellness ingredient today, they actually go back as far as 3,500 years, when they were used as food for Aztec and Mayan warriors journeying long distances (via Audrey's Chia). According to Mayo Clinic, chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse -– they're high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and reduce risk of heart disease. Today, they're used in everything from yogurt bowls to smoothies to overnight oats, and can even serve as an egg substitute for vegans. And if you're looking to make your homemade jam more nutritious, chia seeds can help with that, too.

According to Gimme Some Oven, you can make a delicious jam at home using only fruit, chia seeds, and a little lemon juice –- no added sugar needed. All you need to do is heat fruit (fresh or frozen) on the stove, mash it down, and stir in the remaining ingredients. Chia seeds work in this recipe because they absorb the liquid released in the fruit and cause the mixture to thicken, according to MasterClass. And while you can heat up fruit to make chia seed jam, you can also do so without turning on the stove. Another method, Kitchn explains, is to simply stir chia seeds into mashed up fruit, and let the mixture sit in the fridge until it thickens up. Then grab your favorite sliced bread and spread away.