This flexible, small batch recipe doesn’t use pectin as a thickener, so there’s no need for a copious amount of granulated sugar as is used in traditional jams. Instead it relies on heart healthy chia seeds and a small amount of maple syrup or honey.
Healthy jam that tastes great…really? The perks of this no-sugar recipe, however, extend beyond the obvious health benefits. The flavor may be varied according to preference and what’s on hand.
It’s a small-batch recipe that can be whipped up quickly and there’s no need to process in boiling water. Frozen fruit is fair game, making it an excellent year round option. And when it’s time to add the maple syrup or honey (you could use agave if preferred), you can taste for sweetness, adjusting to your exact liking.
Truth be told, I make most of my jam recipes just like my grandmother did, and they are not low in sugar. My family and I still enjoy these jams regularly. Standard recipes for canned jams and jellies rely on pectin to thicken the fruit and make it jell. Pectin, though, is very sour, so it must be offset with sugar－a good bit of it. The sugar also helps to preserve the quality of the fruit when canned.
Because I have gotten requests for low-sugar options－and because my kids do eat a lot of PB&Js－I started experimenting with jams that use heart-healthy and highly absorbent chia seeds as a thickener.
Enhanced by a light touch of honey or maple syrup, this virtually tasteless superfood allows the natural sweetness of the fruit to shine. No need for pectin and the resulting need for a copious amount of granulated sugar.
Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are my usual picks for this type of jam. The pictured batch, however, uses blackberries and a peach.
The recipe below offers a variety of options, but the basic formula for just over one cup of jam is the following: 12 ounces of fruit, 3 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons of chia seeds.
A funny thing… The first time, I made this jam with all blackberries that were rather tart. I asked my kids to sample it at a point where the jam tasted good to me but was still on the tart side. I was certain they would want it sweeter, but they loved the tarter version. It was a good reminder to me that not everything must be extra sweet for my kids to enjoy.
An added note: An all-peach version, for example, would allow the tiny, black seeds to be visible. Some kids may object to this before they even taste the jam. Berry versions (or a mix of fruit) mask the chia seeds completely.
Alternatively, white chia seeds can sometimes be found. They taste the same as their black counterpart but often cost a little bit more.
Yield: 1+ cup
- 1 cup blackberries (see notes for fruit substitutions)
- 1 peach, peeled, pitted and diced
- 3 tablespoons honey or pure maple syrup (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- Optional: 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice and/or the zest the whole lemon or lime
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the blackberries, peach, and lemon juice and zest, if using (or substitute fruit of choice, amount directed below).
As the mixture begins to boil, mash the fruit with the back of a fork until it breaks down. This should take 5 minutes, give or take a few minutes depending on the type of fruit used.
Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the honey, starting with 1 to 2 tablespoons. Taste, and add more honey (or sweetener of choice) to your liking.
Add the chia seeds and stir to incorporate. Let the jam set for about 5 minutes to thicken. Cool and transfer to a jar or air-tight container and refrigerate.
The jam will keep for approximately 2 weeks in the fridge and may be frozen.
- This is a very flexible recipe.The trick is to start with 10-12 ounces of berries–a mix, if desired–chopped if large. As done in the above version, the berries may be mixed with fruits like peaches, apricots, or nectarines that have been peeled, pitted and finely chopped for a total of 10-12 ounces of fruit. (Frozen fruit works well and doesn’t have to be thawed. Do dice the larger pieces though; partially thawed fruit is easy to cut.)
- To account for personal preference and varied sweetness among fruits, I recommend tasting as you add the sweetener. If you add lemon or lime juice, you may want a little more sweetener. (Using the zest alone will provide a hint of citrus flavor without added tartness.) Fresh summer fruit may require a little less sweetener than frozen fruit.
- If you prefer a soupier jam－perhaps for a sauce or to blend into a dressing－simply adjust the amount of chia seeds down slightly, starting with 1 tablespoon or so. When varying the amount used from the recipe above, just be sure to allow at least 5 minutes before adding more. This will provide time for the chia seeds to swell, absorb the excess liquid, and thicken the jam. For a thicker mixture, you may add slightly more chia seeds.