There are many types of seeds that I regularly love to use in my cooking and baking. Just like nuts, seeds are jam-packed with crazy-good nutrients, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and antioxidants.
Types of Seeds - Healthy, Crunchy & Delicious
Yes, seeds are a superfood! But don’t get me wrong - that’s not the sole reason why I love to include seeds in my recipes. Used properly, seeds can add beautiful, complex flavor and crunch to your dishes.
In this article, not only will I explain to you about incredibly healthy (and delicious!) types of seeds, but also some tips and ideas to include more seeds in your diet.
Seeds vs Nuts - For other seeds, such as almonds and pine nuts (yes, they are technically seeds but in a modern food sense, most people think and refer to them all as nuts) read my article on types of nuts. I'll tell you about the main types you should know and what their characteristics and flavor profiles are and how you can use them in your cooking.
Chia seeds are getting their spotlight back! A little history, these tiny black seeds were an important ingredient for the Mayans and Aztecs. Some say that the word “chia” itself came from the ancient Mayan word, which translates into “strength”. And for that same reason, these types of seeds have gained popularity among health-conscious people.
Chia seeds are in fact really tiny, about 2 millimeters or 0.08 inches long, and are a flattened oval shape. They come from a flowering plant that is native to central and southern Mexico and are a mottled black, grey, brown, and white color. They are also really absorbant and great at soaking up lots of liquid. I personally love mixing chia seeds with my morning smoothie. Just add them as they are - whole, raw, and ground or unground. They sure make it tastier and healthier and add a terrific slight crunch. What’s not to love?
Chia Seeds: Use these types of seeds for adding to smoothies, breakfast cereal, granola bars, yogurt, and breads.
Flax seeds come in two varieties: brown and golden. Brown flax seeds, which are more common, have a nuttier and earthier taste, whereas golden flax seeds are lighter in flavor. However, both are equally delicious.
These types of seeds are a similar shape to an apple pip and are about 0.5cm or 0.2-inch long. They are available both whole or ground into flax meal. It is important to keep ground flax seeds in an airtight container, preferably in the fridge to stop it from going rancid.
Flax Seeds: Use ground flax seeds in savory dishes such as a casserole or stew. For sweeter treats, add flax meal to granola, the batter of my banana bread recipe and banana muffins recipe, and sprinkle on top of this easy apple cobbler recipe.
Hemp Types of Seeds
Indeed, hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa. However, they’re different strains. So, no, eating hemp seeds won’t get you high. These types of seeds are in fact very nutritious and are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Hemp Seeds: These types of seeds are very versatile. Sprinkle them over anything, from oatmeal to cereal, from yogurt to smoothies. Or blitz them with water to make plant-based types of milk. You can even use them as a breadcrumbs substitute if you’re gluten intolerant!
Sunflower seeds, the fruits of the sunflower, are not only healthy, but they’re also extremely delicious. They are one of the most flavorful types of seeds. Crunchy, with a sweet and savory nutty taste and a hint of a floral note. And for that reason, these types of seeds are so versatile.
You can easily buy sunflower seeds from your local grocer either raw or dry roasted, with or without their shell. They are budget-friendly and can easily replace cashew nuts in a recipe.
Sunflower Seeds: Enjoy them as a snack, sprinkle them over a casserole, make a peanut butter recipe variation with them, or add them into your veggie burger, or even toss them with your stir-fries. The possibilities are endless when it comes to sunflower seeds!
Pumpkin seeds, sometimes referred to as pepita (what a cute name!), are just plain yummy! These types of seeds are a must-have, and I always have them in my pantry. They also have a unique texture, crunchy and slightly chewy in the center. And inside those green, flat, oval seeds are bombs of nutrients, guys!
These are very tiny oval-shaped seeds that have a sweet, rich, and nutty flavor. You can eat sesame seeds raw but they taste extra good toasted as it enhances their taste and texture - little flavor bombs! For this reason, they are used in both savory and sweet dishes and have a long history of being used for thousands of years in many countries' traditional cuisines.
Sesame Seeds: I use sesame seeds a lot including using them to garnish my brown rice salad or slaw. And of course, I almost always sprinkle them over my burger buns to achieve that deluxe commercial-worthy burger look.
They can vary in color from white to red, with the main types available being golden and black. The golden ones are the most common version that you will find at your local grocer and are also the cheapest. The black seeds, a little bit more expensive, are especially common in many Asian cuisines. I think that the black seeds have a stronger flavor too which I really like. Plus, I love how striking they look when used to garnish my dishes.
- Asian: Sesame seeds are one of the most commonly used seeds in Asian cuisine. You see them sprinkled over sushi rolls, topokki, curries, glutenous rice cake, and General Tso’s chicken.
- Middle East: Sesame seeds, ground into a paste to make tahini, is the vital ingredient for hummus and for sweet tahini cookies.
- Europe: In Sicily they love to use the golden version on top of baked breads and in giurgiulena, a type of nougat made especially at Christmas time.
Poppy seeds…I love poppy seeds! They are tiny tiny (so tiny!) seeds that are available in two different colors. Generally, the Indian ones are an ivory/beige color and the European variety is dark grey. Both types can be used as a decoration or as a spice for their flavor. I like to sprinkle the dark seeds over my bagels and quick bakes such as my banana muffins recipe. I sometimes use the white seeds to add a nutty and fruity note to my Indian curries.
Poppy Seeds: Use them to decorate muffins, cakes, and bread and as an added ingredient in my simple oatmeal cookies. Or grind them up with other spices to thicken and flavor an Indian curry.
Types of Seeds - How to Store Seeds
Do you have bags of seeds but don’t know the proper way to store them so they don’t go rancid? These are the rules you should follow:
- STORE THEM DRY – The first and most important thing when storing seeds is to make sure that they’re fully dry… and I mean, dry. If for some reason they’re slightly damp, spread them on a tray and airdry them.
- AIR-TIGHT – Store your seeds inside an airtight container. You can either use a glass jar or plastic container. As long as it’s airtight, your seeds will be just fine.
- DARK, DRY, COOL – Seeds last longer when stored in a dark, dry, and cool place. Store them inside your pantry or your basement. Avoid storing them near the sink, stove, and oven.
- HOW ABOUT FREEZING? – At room temperature, seeds usually last for 1 year. Depending on the types of seeds, they might even last for up to 2 years. However, if you’re living in a hot climate, it might be a good idea to extend the shelf life of your seeds by refrigerating or freezing them. Simply store them in an airtight plastic bag or container and pop them into the refrigerator or freezer.
How to Eat More Seeds
You probably know how healthy seeds are and how they benefit our bodies. But how exactly can you include more seeds in your daily diet? These are some ideas to consider for how to eat more seeds.
- Sprinkle over smoothies or yogurt - A teaspoon of chia seeds or flax seeds are especially great in adding a little bit of crunch to contrast your creamy smoothie or yogurt bowl.
- Add to oatmeal or cereal - I love to add a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds to my oatmeal or cereal. But chia and flax seeds are also great. Ah, and of course, you can experiment by combining several types of seeds!
- Sprinkle over cookies, muffins, breads, or bagels - This is my favorite way to use seeds. Not only will your baked goods smell and taste better, but seeds will also make them look fancier. All of the types of seeds I have mentioned are great for sprinkling over your baked goods, such as this apple cobbler recipe. Try to mix and match several types of seeds. My favorite combo is pumpkin + flax + sesame seeds, in equal parts.
- Make trail mix - Just toss several types of seeds you have in a jar. You can also add your favorite nuts for more “bite”. And voila! A perfect jar of trail mix, a perfect guilt-free snack for binge-watching Netflix.
Types of Seeds - Toasting Tips
Should I Toast Seeds?
Actually, it depends on your preference. All of the types of seeds that I have mentioned above can be consumed both raw or toasted. If you don’t feel like toasting your seeds, or if you prefer a milder taste, that’s completely fine. I personally almost always use raw seeds in cold dishes and drinks, like yogurt bowls or smoothies. However, whenever I’m making savory dishes, I always toast my seeds to wake the flavor up. Toasting increases the nuttiness, making your seeds taste deeper and more complex.
How to Toast Seeds
Spread your seeds in a skillet; don’t overcrowd. Toast the seeds over medium-low heat, constantly stir to prevent burning. If your pan is smoking, turn down the heat to low. Depending on the types of seeds, it should take between 3 to 5 minutes, or until the seeds are fragrant and slightly darken. Smaller seeds like sesame seeds and poppy seeds require less time, while bigger seeds like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds may take up to 5 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a tray or plate so they don’t continue cooking in the pan.
Types of Seeds - In Conclusion
All the different types of seeds can add je ne sais quoi to your dishes. (I mean, don’t you think that almost everything looks artisanal when sprinkled with seeds?) And knowing which types of seeds to use certainly helps you to be a better home cook!