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Vegan Chia, Lemon and Blueberry Cake


Vegan chia seed, lemon and blueberry cake |

Passionate cooks live in constant pursuit of new ways to approach the classics, and I am no exception. Lately I’ve had my sights set on mastering vegan baking – particularly, on finding natural, vegan-friendly egg substitutes. I’d used vinegar successfully before (much to my surprise) but was excited to learn of a slightly more exotic ingredient that often lived in our pantry: chia seeds.

Chia seeds are tiny mottled black, white and grey seeds, that somewhat resemble poppy seeds, packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Originally from Central and South America, they’ve taken the West by storm in recent years. We often use chia seeds in smoothies and oatmeal. I’d admired their jelly-like consistency when mixed with water and rosewater in a famous Persian drink, Sharbat e Tokhme Sharbati. Yet I’d never made the connection between chia seeds’ texture and that of eggs, or known that they are a common vegan substitute for them.

Vegan chia seed, lemon and blueberry cake |

Armed with this new knowledge, I grabbed the seeds from the counter, mixed them with water (1 tbsp chia seeds + 1/3 cup water is the equivalent of one egg) and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Lo and behold, they turned into gel, slightly thicker than an egg but remarkably similar in texture.

Chia seeds as a vegan egg replacement |

I worried momentarily that using the black chia seeds I had would lend an unsightly color to the cooked cake, as they had turned the batter slightly grey. Not so – the finished product was bright and studded with the little seeds, practically translucent by that point. The lemon zest, tart blueberries and crunchy brown sugar topping added interest to the moist cake, and ended up turning this late night experiment into a grand success.

Vegan chia seed, lemon and blueberry cake |

Many grocery stores sell chia seeds now, in the health food aisle. But, if you can make it to a Persian or Middle Eastern store, or a farmers market, you can often buy them in bulk for a fraction of the cost.

Vegan Chia, Lemon and Blueberry Cake

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour


  • 2 tbsp white or black chia seeds
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup canola or mild flavored oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I use raw)
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup plain/all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 2-3 tbsp light brown sugar (or, coconut sugar)


Preheat oven to 170C / 325F. Line a loaf tin with baking paper, so that the paper overhangs by 1-inch on either side - this makes it easy to lift the cake out of the tin.

In a small bowl, mix the chia seeds with 2/3 cup water. Let sit for 10 minutes or until gel-like in texture. Stir to smooth out any lumps.

Combine the chia seeds with the oil, sugar, lemon zest and juice, vanilla extract and applesauce until well mixed.

Add the flour and baking powder and fold together until just combined.

Pour the batter into the lined loaf tin. Top with blueberries and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes in the tin, then pull out and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Serve.


This cake freezes well, for up to 4 weeks. Wrap snugly in plastic, then place in a freezer bag. Defrost in the fridge overnight then allow it to reach room temperature before serving.

Black and white chia seeds are both suitable for this cake - the black ones will not discolor the finished product. Use whichever are more readily available and cost effective for you.

Audio pairing: Ondatropica,  Tiene Sabor, Tiene Sazón

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  • Reply Juliet 27/08/2017 at 5:35 am

    Hey there! Is there a substitute for applesauce? I don’t seem to be able to find unsweetened applesauce in the UK

  • Reply Faridabad 15/05/2017 at 4:57 pm

    Truely this is yummy. My kids loved it very much, So I make it again and again for my kids.

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  • Reply Daisy 29/07/2013 at 11:36 pm

    Hi I notice that over the pic of the chia seeds you have 1 tbsp of chia and 2/3 of water but in the recipe it says 2 tbsp of chia and 2/3 water. Which on should I use? I would love to try this recipe but I just want to make sure I get it right 🙂 Thanks!
    P.S. love your page

    • Reply Yasmeen 12/08/2013 at 8:22 am

      Hi Daisy, thanks for stopping by. The ratio of chia seeds to water is 1 tbsp seeds to 1/3 cup water for each egg. So, in this recipe, I used 2 tbsp chia seeds and 2/3 cup water to substitute for two eggs. The text is fixed! I must have been on a mental vacation when I wrote this post 🙂

  • Reply Erin 29/07/2013 at 11:59 am

    I remade this now with the revised recipe, and it was very delicious! So happy that I gave it a second go. This is a very moist cake, mine may have come out a little more dense because I used juice from a whole lemon, regardless, it is great! Thanks Yasmeen!

    • Reply Yasmeen 29/07/2013 at 5:54 pm

      Hooray! I’m so glad it worked out and you liked it. I bet all that lemon juice made it even better. Thanks for coming back and letting me know, that’s really thoughtful of you.

  • Reply Lala 29/07/2013 at 8:27 am

    I made with your revised recipe and OMG it is sooooo delicious! I’m going to recommend it to everyone I know! I used a whole lemon and all its zest.

    • Reply Yasmeen 29/07/2013 at 5:56 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it! And thank you so much for your feedback and for sharing it with your friends – it means a lot to me.

      Try adapting it to the fruit of the season, too, if you want to fresh berries… raspberries or black cherries would be great in summer.

  • Reply Erin 28/07/2013 at 11:27 am

    I made this cake tonight exactly to the recipe except I added just under 1/4 cup of applesauce after reading the reviews. Unfortunately, this came out bland and overly dense. This has a nice lemon and blueberry smell and taste, but everything else about it is not so great. When I made the dough, I was surprised that there are no fats (oil/margarine) or sugars added in, is this a mistake? I would like to remake this, but I’m afraid it will turn out as this one did and I don’t want to waste the ingredients.

    • Reply Yasmeen 28/07/2013 at 11:44 am

      Hi Erin,

      Thanks for pointing out this error in the recipe. I’d gone over it several times but my eye must have skipped over the oil, a crucial element in how it turns out. I’ve amended the recipe.

      I made this with 1/4 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup oil, and it was a tremendous hit with my relatives and workmates. My chia seeds tend to soak up a huge amount of liquid, so I originally added the applesauce to compensate for that.

      Unfortunately, ingredients differ, so it could be a matter of my seeds/flour/etc yielding slightly different results. The beauty of recipes is that we can add/remove what we like, so please feel free to add more vanilla or brown sugar to the top, or whatever you crave. For us, the combination listed above made a mildly sweet, moist tea cake loved by those to tried it.

      If you feel like the applesauce will make it too moist, try leaving it out. Do let me know how it turns out if you give it another go.

      • Reply Erin 28/07/2013 at 12:36 pm

        Thank you for getting back to me. I will definitely be remaking this tomorrow with the adjusted ingredients and let you know how it turns out!

  • Reply Lala 25/07/2013 at 12:37 am

    I made this yesterday after a friend sent me your link. It came out more like bread pudding not cakey like the one in your pic…so I made it again and I still got the bread pudding like texture. What am I missing?

    • Reply Yasmeen 25/07/2013 at 8:53 am

      Lala, thanks for letting me know! A few questions: did you use all-purpose flour? Different flours yield different results. You could also try leaving out the apple sauce, which will remove some of the moisture.

      I’m going to make this again over the weekend and triple check, then get back to you. How’s that?

      • Reply Lala 26/07/2013 at 6:29 am

        Thank you. I’ll try it again this weekend without the applesauce. Should the applesauce be substituted with something else? 🙂

        • Reply Yasmeen 28/07/2013 at 11:38 am

          Hi Lala, I’ve realized, after a comment above, that I made a big error in this recipe by somehow leaving out the oil! I think that may have been the issue with why your cake didn’t turn out. So sorry about that.

          If it happens again, I’d reduce the applesauce in half, as you suggested. I originally added applesauce because the chia seeds tend to absorb a huge amount of moisture, and I feared it would come out dry.

          I hope it works for you this time! It was a hit when I took it into work.

          • Lala 28/07/2013 at 11:49 pm

            thank you I’m going to try it today!

    • Reply Heather M 25/03/2015 at 4:16 pm

      I seem to be having a similar problem. The cake is incredibly dense and isn’t cooking throughout. I’ve had it in the oven for over an hour now, and the cake is still doughy. I’m going to try to put it in for a bit longer now, but I need to get some sleep. 😉 I know this recipe was posted a while ago, but maybe you have a recommendation?

  • Reply Herbivore Triathlete 09/06/2013 at 9:05 am

    This looks incredible. I love the combination of blueberry and lemon. I typically use flax as an egg substitute but love the idea of using chia seeds.

  • Reply Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies 05/06/2013 at 11:20 am

    Wow, this is absolutely stunning! I’ve baked with chia seeds before, but not as an egg substitute.

  • Reply leaf 05/06/2013 at 12:06 am

    That looks lovely with the blueberry-studded top! I have fun with different approaches to baking too, and also made something vegan recently. 🙂

  • Reply Hannah 04/06/2013 at 11:41 am

    Oh-ho, we’re bringing you over to the dark side of omnivores obsessed with vegan desserts! 😉

  • Reply Luvn Spoonfuls 04/06/2013 at 10:56 am

    I’ve been interested in the chia seeds but hadn’t really been too inspired to use them…before now! Thanks for what looks and sounds like a great recipe. Lemon and blueberries–delightful!

  • Reply lamina @ do a bit 04/06/2013 at 7:27 am

    I have a packet of chai seeds that I didn’t know what to do with!!! I am sooooo making this on the weekend! Looks delish!

    • Reply Yasmeen 04/06/2013 at 7:28 am

      Wonderful, Lamina. Let me know how it goes!

  • Reply msihua 03/06/2013 at 10:16 pm

    oooh! What a great idea. I’ve never used them or cooked with them before… priceeeeeeyyy!

    • Reply Yasmeen 03/06/2013 at 10:19 pm

      Markets or Mid Eastern/Mediterranean stores are the way to go! I got a huge bag of them from Sth Melb market for half the price of the supermarket 🙂

      • Reply msihua 03/06/2013 at 10:20 pm

        Ooh good tip! Thanks Yasmeen 🙂

  • Reply Needful Things 03/06/2013 at 6:46 pm

    I bought a bag of chia seeds not really knowing what to do with it. Well, now I know! 😉
    This cake looks very, very moist.

    • Reply Yasmeen 04/06/2013 at 7:29 am

      It is moist – especially because I add a bit of applesauce to it to make up for the chia seeds’ tendency to absorb all moisture in sight. If you prefer a dryer cake, use half or omit the applesauce all together.

  • Reply Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 03/06/2013 at 6:25 pm

    I love chia seeds! they’re quite expensive though and we seem to go through them very quickly! 🙂

    • Reply Yasmeen 04/06/2013 at 7:30 am

      Lorraine, have you tried getting them from a market? I find that if I shop at a Persian store, or a market (Queen Vic or South Melb, in Melbourne) I can get a big bag of them for much less than at the supermarket.

  • Reply Tutti Dolci 03/06/2013 at 4:18 pm

    I’ve never baked with chia seeds but your cake looks wonderful!

    • Reply Yasmeen 04/06/2013 at 7:31 am

      This was my first time using them this way, too. I usually put them in my oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, etc. I was really pleased! Let me know if you get into chia baking – I’d love to see what you come up with.

  • Reply foodnessgracious 03/06/2013 at 3:06 pm

    Wow, i did not know this! Awesome results, you’re so smart 😉

    • Reply Yasmeen 04/06/2013 at 7:31 am

      Thanks, Gerry. Be careful about stroking my ego though. Bottomless pit 😉

  • Reply Rosa 03/06/2013 at 4:35 am

    Delicious! It is a great idea to add chia seeds to this cake.



  • Reply vegeTARAian 02/06/2013 at 8:45 pm

    What a fabulous idea – who knew chia seeds were so versatile!

    • Reply Yasmeen 04/06/2013 at 7:32 am

      That’s right. Dairy substitutions have always been easy for me, but I struggled with the egg component, not wanting to use bananas all the time. Chia seeds have no taste so they were a great match.

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