Make Your Own Energy Chews (With Chia Seeds!)

Chia Piña-ColadaHow would you like to save a ton of money on your gels, chews, and sports beans? What if I told you that you could save, while also eating healthier?

For me, these gels and chews make up a substantial portion of my annual running budget. Or at least, they did.

The problem is that there are few really good commercial alternatives to these expensive, highly artificial gels, and chews. Compounding that problem is the necessity of staying well-fueled on longer runs. You don’t fuel, you bonk. Nobody wants to bonk in the middle of a big race, right?

Well I, for one, am no longer content to spend as much on gels in a year as I would a new pair of shoes. And I’m putting my foot down on consuming products containing a majority of ingredients I can’t pronounce (or find outside of a lab).

What’s in your “performance” food?

I already fired the first shot back in March. As Fred Rogers would say, “Can you say, ‘all-natural, $0.66 energy gel?’ I know you can.”

Brace yourselves, folks, because here comes the second volley.

This time, I’ve taken aim at the more solid version of the performance food family. You may know them as chomps, or bloks. A ton of runners (including yours truly) prefer the texture of these chews to the sludgy consistency of the energy gels. If that’s you, this is my way of making sure you’re not left out of the cheap and wholesome fun.

As with my gel recipe, I’ve added the additional wrinkle of incorporating the ancient tarahumara superfood, chia seed. My goal is to help you fuel your runs using only the most wholesome, nutritious ingredients possible. What could be more appropriate than the staple trusted by the most regarded runners on the planet?

We’ll be using the same electrolyte mix as in the previous recipe.

Electrolyte Mix: 
¼ teaspoon salt substitute (potassium chloride), such as Morton’s Lite Salt Mixture
⅛ teaspoon baking soda

Vegan friendly gelatin alternative

As one final note before I show you the recipe, you’ll find one very strange ingredient in this mix. It’s a vegan gelatin substitute derived from seaweed known as agar-agar, or kanten.

I can’t tell you how difficult it was for me to find kanten at retail. I ended up at a small asian grocery, where it was tucked in among the desserts.

If you find that you also have this problem, there are two real solutions. First, if you’re not vegan, you can substitute gelatin for the kanten in equal amounts.

Second, you can find kanten/agar online at iHerb. As a bonus for this second option, if you use the code RUF029 at checkout on iHerb, you’ll get $5.00 off your first order. Since agar is a whopping $5.98, it’ll be a little under $3.00 shipped, and makes four recipes (40 servings).

Full Disclosure: I’ll receive a small commission if you take the discount using the code above.

Anyway, on to the recipe.

Piña-Colada Energy Chew

Ingredients:
1 cup pineapple juice
2 ounces chia seed
¼ cup coconut milk
1 serving electrolyte mix
1½ cup turbinado sugar, such as Sugar In The Raw
1 cup brown rice syrup
1 cup water
½ ounce powdered agar-agar (kanten)
vegetable oil
corn starch

Preparation:

  1. Mix the pineapple juice and chia seed together in a small saucepan. Boil the pineapple juice mixture over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Place the mixture in the refrigerator until it returns to room temperature. Once cooled, combine the pineapple juice mixture with the coconut milk and the electrolyte mix, stirring until the mixture is fully incorporated, then set aside.
  2. Mix the sugar, brown rice syrup, water, and agar-agar together in a heavy saucepan. Cook the sugar mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 230°. This should happen in approximately 20-25 minutes. However, allowing the mixture to exceed 230° can result in chews which are too hard to… well… chew. To that end, you’ll want to use a good candy thermometer during this process.
  3. Once the sugar mixture reaches 230°, remove it from the heat and place the saucepan into a cool water bath to stop the sugar mixture from continuing to cook. Make sure the water level is low enough that it does not breach the top of the pan and spill into the sugar mixture. Quickly stir in the pineapple juice mixture from step 1.
  4. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9″x9″ baking dish with vegetable oil. I dab a bit on some paper towel and rub it on to make sure the coat isn’t too thick. Pour the contents of the saucepan into the baking dish, and let it stand for approximately 4 hours, or until it is mostly set. Cut the gel into 1″ squares, then coat lightly with corn starch to remove any remaining stickiness.

Yields approximately 10 servings

So that’s the recipe. It’s a little more work to make than the energy gel, but I just love the chewy consistency. It reminds me so much of a gummy bear. Plus, it’s substantially more portable.

I should also mention that the skinflint in me loves that I pay only $0.97 per serving for something all-natural as opposed to $2.00+ for chemical slurry. That’s over a $10 savings in just a single recipe!

With this recipe, I know I’m not only taxing my wallet less, but also my body. As runners, we rely on our bodies for so much. Isn’t it worth a little time in the kitchen to know we’re supporting them well so they’ll be there when we need them?

Find Ingredients And Additional Recipes

NMA Pinole RecipesIf you’re having trouble finding agar powder and chia seeds, I typically order my supply through iHerb.com. First time shoppers can use the coupon code RUF029 to knock $5.00 off your first order. And, as a bonus, orders made using the coupon code help support articles like this one.

Finally, if you’re looking for additional recipes to help you fuel your runs, you should check out No Meat Athlete’s recipe book: Fuel Your Run The Tarahumara Way! Matt’s vegetarian-friendly pinole recipes will definitely become some of your favorite running fuel. The pinole buckwheat pancakes alone are reason enough for me to affiliate this one.

What do you think, Midpack Readers? Does controlling what goes into your performance food make a difference to you? What questions do you have for me about the recipe? Leave me a comment!

  19 Responses to Make Your Own Energy Chews (With Chia Seeds!)
  1. Jim Stewart

    I just bought your book and I had a receipe for chocolate-pinola chew. I lost it can you send me the receipe. I have got a ten miler on Saturday and need it for that. Thanks Jim

    • Tim Woodbury

      Ah, the missing recipe. Sent you an email, Jim.

  2. WOW! Thank you SO much for this recipe! My husband, a long-distance runner, has been using up so many of the Clif Shot Bloks that I was beginning to think we needed to buy stocks in the Clif Company!!

    I am all over this recipe and will definitely be making them!

    Thanks Tim!

    • Tim Woodbury

      Thanks, Natasha! I know the feeling of seeing the monthly long-run fuel bill. Scary stuff, right? From the look of your site, you’re no stranger to chia either. The brownie recipe looks great!

  3. [...] Colada Energy Chews Original recipe was found on Midpackrunner,com, I made some changes and adaptations in the recipe [...]

  4. [...] Make Your Own Energy Chews (With Chia Seeds!) — Midpack Runner [...]

  5. Rebecca

    Hey, So yours was the only recipe that I’ve made that even compares to the actual clif shot blok. I’m obsessed with shot bloks so when I saw your recipe and gathered all the ingredients and whipped them up, they turned out a little soft and jelly like, not as gummy as I was expecting. That may be because I wasn’t sure how much 1/2 oz of agar was in teaspoons. I think I used 1/4 teaspoon. I just found an article that said 1/2 oz is equal to 1/2 teaspoon. Is that correct? Also is there a way to flavor them, like say strawberry flavored?

    Thank you so much for your help and I LOVE LOVE LOVE your recipe. I can’t wait to check back and see your responses!

    • Tim Woodbury

      Hi, Rebecca. Thank you for your kind words. They’re very much appreciated.

      This question comes up a lot, so let’s start with the proper conversion ratio for agar. A single teaspoon of powdered agar weighs about 1/14 of an ounce. For this recipe you’ll want to use about 7 rounded teaspoons of powdered agar. If you still find the texture too soft, you can get a firmer texture with a 1-to-1 substitution of unflavored gelatin.

      Now, if you can only find agar flakes, this changes slightly. Substitute agar flakes for powdered agar as 1 tablespoon flakes for 1 teaspoon powder.

      As to the flavoring question, there’s absolutely a way to make these in strawberry. In fact, agar is a mainstay in many asian desserts, so it’s very versatile. I can’t say that I have a recipe right on-hand, but I’ll spend some time playing around this weekend and see if I can post a recipe for strawberry chews by late this week. Fair deal?

  6. Rebecca

    Tim,

    Thanks so much for your quick response! So at first I wasn’t too keen on my failed attempt at making your recipe, buuuut then I got to eating them & they grew on me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m Definetely using 7 rounded teaspoons once I hear back from you on your strawberry chew post, but I don’t think I’ll throw the batch away, which is good b/c then I won’t be obsessing about my lack of them. The store bought ones are just so stinkin’ expensive. I’m so so so glad I found your website & so so happy for your creativity in making up this delish & healthy recipe. Oh! Also! I posted a pic of my 1st attempt shot bloks on pinterest tonight but didn’t know how to link up your page with it, PLUS, I wanted to get your permission. I don’t have to post your site publicly if u don’t want but I do want to give u credit since ur the brains behind e recipe. I’m sure others will have great success the 1st time, I totally was out of the loop in measurement conversions & it was my bad the chews didn’t turn out right. Sorry I’m blabbing way too much! I look forward to hearing from u & your strawberry escapades! :) I’m giddy excited to hear & try out whatever recipe comes about!!!! P.S. Were you planning on using whole fruit strawberries or strawberry flavoring? I guess I’m wondering if it’s possible to get a good strawberry flavor without having the seeds of a strawberry that comes when using the fruit. I just hate crunching on strawberry seeds long after I’ve eaten them, does that make sense? Okay, I’m totally done now, sorry! Hehehe :)

    • Tim Woodbury

      You don’t every have to worry about gabbing here. :) I love to hear how people make out with these recipes. I’m glad to hear you didn’t lose the batch.

      I had a similar problem with a batch of mocha-flavored chews. The acid in the espresso combined with the fat in the chocolate interacted in a way I didn’t expect – they were soft, but still usable.

      To keep with natural ingredients, I was planning on using whole strawberries for the chews. My working hypothesis is that, cooked thoroughly, the seeds will soften as the chia does. The other option is to peel them first. I will have to experiment. ;)

  7. Rebecca

    Looking forward to hearing how things go! Can’t wait — yay!! Strawberry clif shot blok knock off here we come!! :) I’m salivating just thinking of them. Mmmmm… Goooo Tim!

  8. Terri

    So, I’m curious ??? Did you come up with a strawberry version? Enquiring minds want to know :)

    • Tim Woodbury

      Hi, Terri. I came up with what I think is a great replacement for artificial strawberry chews. You can find the strawberry energy chew recipe through this link (in the PDF).

      Give it a try and let me know what you think.

      • Terri

        Tim – Awesome ! Thanks . . . I am going to try it for sure. I’m making the Pina~Colada today. I just discovered your site yesterday when I was looking for ways to use Chia seeds. I’m training for my first Marathon. I went right down to my local Health Food store and bought all the ingredients. I forgot the Brown rice Syrup – I’m going to try using the Agave that I have on hand. We’ll see?? I almost bought strawberries but didn’t – dang! Love your site !
        Thanks, Terri

  9. Harris

    I love the Clif Shot Bloks (hate the gels) and the Gu chews, but they are expensive. I did a search and found your great site, and tried the recipe for the Pina Colada chews this weekend. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out so well. For some reason, the mixture was kind of firmly set on the top, but the rest was almost the consistency of jam. I couldn’t find any agar, so I used Knox gelatine, substituting 1 package, which the website says:
    ’1 pouch is about 2 1/2 teaspoons (7g) unflavoured gelatine. If a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon, use 1 pouch of unflavoured gelatine. Each pouch will gel 2 cups (500mL) of liquid and up to 1 1/2 (375mL) cups of solids. ‘ I also found another recipe for Knox, where it said that 1 pouch =1/4 oz, which would only be half of what you call for in agar.
    Finally, I did a 1:1 substitution of Agave Syrup for Brown Rice Syrup (couldn’t find it).

    Any recommendations on what I should try, or where I might be going wrong? I heated it up to 230F, which didn’t take that long, so I’m wondering if I need to boil it longer to thicken things up?

    Thanks.

  10. Jon

    Awesome recipe! I’ve made a batch of the strawberry ones and they came out great. Couple of questions:

    1) How long do they stay good for?
    2) How should they be stored?

    Thanks!

  11. Thanks so much for this recipe! I wanted an “energy” supplement I could make myself for a couple reasons:

    1) For my husband and I to use on our long rides and races.

    2) For me to use to sustain my energy through labor when I have my baby in a few short weeks! I feel like labor is an endurance event, and should be treated accordingly. Last time I checked folks doing ultra endurance events don’t eat ice chips! This is my second kid and I’m definitely looking to do things a little differently!

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