Chia Seeds vs Sabja Seeds: How They Differ

29 Jun

Chia Seeds and Sweet Basil Seeds

You read that right: chia seeds and sabja seeds are not the same. Ignore the wisdom that tells you otherwise. Here’s a rundown of the differences between these two wonder foods.


Both chia seeds and sabja seeds originate from the aromatic mint family (Lamiaceae) – that explains their resemblance.

They part ways in the specifics:

  • chia seeds: Salvia hispanica, native to central and souther Mexico and Guatemala [link]
  • sabja seeds: Ocimum basilicum, possibly native to India [link]. The plant is commonly called sweet basil or Genovese basil.


A quick chromatic scrutiny is all it takes to tell the seeds apart.

Chia Seeds vs Sabja Seeds

  • chia seeds: Shades of dark brown, color variations
  • sabja seeds: Evenly black

Liquid Absorption:

I ran this experiment with a teaspoon each of chia seeds and sabja seeds, soaked separately in three tablespoons of water.

  • chia seeds: Take their time to absorb water. You see a noticeable swelling only after a while.
  • sabja seeds: Begn to swell at the touch of water. A translucent white film coats each black seed as they swell. Also, sabja seeds grow to a larger volume than chia seeds.

Chia Seeds and Sabja Seeds in Water


They may both look like sesame or nigella seeds when dry, but when soaked, they come into their their own distinctive selves.

  • chia seeds: Soft to bite after they have soaked in liquid
  • sabja seeds: More gluey than chia seeds when soaked in liquid


The proof is in the pudding!

  • chia seeds: Bland/neutral, take on the flavor of whatever they are eaten with. A popular way to eat chia is in pudding form with almond milk or coconut milk, along with with fruit toppings.
  • sabja seeds: Fragrant. When added to desserts or lemonade, they impart their own basilly touch.

Can we substitute chia seeds with sabja seeds?
For most recipes, I would say not. Sabja seeds are fine as garnish in drinks or desserts, not as base for pudding – a role that suits chia seeds beautifully. Likewise, you may gulp down Chia Seed Lemonade keeping the health benefits in mind, but I doubt if you would enjoy the choice of chia over sabja in the drink.


Specific to India: the last I checked in stores, this is how the prices compared:

Seed Type Cost Cost Per Gram
Chia Seeds Rs.285 for a 150 gram pack Rs. 1.90
Sabja Seeds Rs.40 for a 100 gram pack Rs.0.40


Verdict: At the time of writing, chia seeds are over four times more expensive than sabja seeds.


A few interesting recipes from around the web. Enjoy!

Chia Seeds

2 Responses to “Chia Seeds vs Sabja Seeds: How They Differ”

  1. kantha June 30, 2016 at 12:47 PM #

    Hi, what about the health benefits of the two?

    • S July 1, 2016 at 1:46 AM #

      I rely on borrowed knowledge for this one (details in the wiki links @ #1): health-wise, both seem great for keeping weight in check, providing a good dose of nutrients/fibre while being low in calories.

Leave a Reply