How to use flax, plus 20 choice recipes

Flaxseed, or linseed, is chock full of nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin E.  These 20 recipes are just a few of the ways you can use this versatile ingredient to enhance breakfast, lunch, snacks, salads or dinner.

Elisa Bosley, Editor in Chief

March 17, 2011

6 Min Read
How to use flax, plus 20 choice recipes

Flaxseed was once used primarily for linseed oil; now it enjoys the spotlight as an excellent, easy-to-use source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, as well as lignans, protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin E. Look for it sold as whole seeds (dark or golden) or preground. Refrigerate or freeze up to six months. Whole seeds maintain more of the delicate fats for longer, but always grind before using; whole seeds pass through the body undigested. Flaxseed has a mildly nutty flavor, well suited to blending in other foods.

Try it

Cereal and smoothies. Need a trusty regularity aid? Simply add 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed to any hot or cold cereal, or blend it into your morning smoothie.

Baking. Liquids in batters keep heat from destroying flaxseeds’ good fats, so add them (ground) to cookies, muffins, pancakes, and quick breads.

Egg substitute. When mixed with water, ground flaxseed forms a gel-like mixture similar to egg whites. Use 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed in 3 tablespoons water to replace 1 egg and to add body (but not leavening) to vegan baked goods.

...for breakfast

Flaxseed and pomegranate smoothie

Serves 2 / An energizing, sweet-tart breakfast on the go—or a satisfying snack any time of day.  view recipe

Flax medley breakfast

Makes about 5 1/2 cups / This granola-style cereal is packe with flash-fighting powerhouses to jump-start your day.  Fresh fruit provides additional phytonutrients. view recipe

Buckwheat-flaxseed blueberry pancakes

Serves 6 (makes twelve 5-inch pancakes) / Ingredient tip: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, high-fiber flaxseeds offer nutrient benefits only when ground (whole flaxseeds pass right through), so opt for the most finely ground flaxseeds you can find, or grind your own in a coffee grinder.  view recipe

Oatmeal, carrot and apple breakfast squares

Packed into every sweet and wholesome Oatmeal, Carrot and Apple Breakfast Square are 8 grams of protein, 20 percent of your daily requirement for fiber, 10 percent of your calcium, and over 100 percent of your vitamin A. Buttermilk keeps the cake tender, carrots and apples add moisture, and walnuts and coconut combine for a crunchy topping.  view recipe

...for a snack

No-bake apple-butter pecan balls

Makes about 20 / Rich in protein, fiber, and complex carbs, these take-along treats are even healthy enough for breakfast. Ingredient tip: Find oat flour in the bulk or baking section of natural foods markets.  view recipe

Brandied cherry scones

Makes 10 to 12 scones / The flaxseeds in these wholesome and hearty scones provide essential fatty acids and a rich, buttery flavor. If you can't find milled flaxseeds, grind up whole flaxseeds in your blender or food processor. view recipe

Almond hazelnut dip

Makes 2 1/2 cups / This fabulous dip is a healthy alternative to sour-cream-laden options. It’s great on pita bread, blue corn chips, or raw vegetables, such as celery and carrot sticks. Prep tip: If you can’t find blanched (skinless) almonds, combine them with the hazelnuts when covering with boiling water; when cool, skins will slip right off. view recipe

Chocolate fondue

Serves 8 / In this healthier version of classic chocolate fondue, cream is replaced by water and omega-3-rich flaxseed oil. Grand Marnier supplies a hint of orange, and is backed up by a little cayenne for an extra kick. Serving tips: Serve with your favorite seasonal fruits, such as bananas, pineapple, and oranges. Don’t worry if you don’t own a fondue pot; any heatproof dish or slow cooker will do. If you have leftover sauce, it’s also delicious poured over vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. view recipe salads

Moroccan three-grain salad with flaxseed-walnut dressing

Serves 6-8 / Colorful accents of carrots, zucchini, red onion, and fresh parsley add eye appeal to this delightful combination of whole grains, topped with a tasty omega-3-rich dressing.  Test kitchen tips:  If you have a toaster oven, it's an easy way to roast nuts.  Spread pieces on foil and set toaster to low.  view recipe

Spinach salad with eggs and watercress dressing

Serves 4 / Watercress is packed with antioxidants and flavor, making a healthful as well as beautiful emerald-green dressing. Combined with spinach and eggs, this is such a simple, light salad, yet it’s spectacularly delicious.  Prep tips: The fragile dressing should be made just before serving. The watercress can be prepared and stored in an airtight bag in the fridge until then, but the rest should be done à la minute. view recipe

Mixed bitter greens with fennel and smoked trout

Serves 6–8 / Like all greens, bitter greens supply iron, but they are also powerful blood purifiers. Taken at the end of a meal, they act as digestive aids as well as palate cleansers. Prep tips: This dressing is fine made ahead, even for days and days, kept in the fridge. Ingredient tip: Check sodium levels on smoked trout; they vary wildly by brand. view recipe

Black bean and jicama salad with roasted pepper dressing

Serves 6–8 / Black beans, rich in B vitamins , iron, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and, of course, protein and fiber, also have a delicious creamy texture that complements the fresh crunch of jicama Ingredient tip:  When buying jicama, look for a very firm one with smooth, unblemished skin.  view recipe side dishes

Flaxseed-chile corn bread with Asiago cheese

Serves 12 / Nutty, dense, and packed with flavor and healthy flaxseeds. Serving tips: Serve warm alongside a Southern-style meal of fiber-rich red beans and braised greens. Or toast and top with poached eggs for a hearty breakfast.  view recipe

Tuscan kale and Napa cabbage slaw with edamame

Serves 8 / A nutrient-rich feast, this salad features tender Tuscan (also called lacinato or dinosaur) kale, edamame (soybeans), probiotic-rich miso, and flaxseed oil for omega-3 fatty acids. Prep tips: Peeling the red pepper yields an unusually mouthwatering texture that is well worth the extra step. This makes an enormous salad—great for a potluck —but it’s easily halved for a smaller crowd.  view recipe

Green tea-scented quinoa with corn

Serves 4–6 / Quick cooking, high in protein, and loaded with flavor, quinoa will become your go-to grain, whether cleansing or not. This recipe is packed with antioxidants and nutrients to get you through your detox with strength. Prep tip: Brew the tea lightly so that it does not turn the quinoa bitter during cooking.  view recipe

Grilled broccoli with tomato-basil flaxseed oil dressing

Serves 4 / Perfect for any salad, this flavorful dressing is especially nice on bitter greens.  Or drizzle it over braised kale or chard.  Top with chopped black olives for added flavor and monosaturated fats. view recipe entrees

Ginger sesame baked halibut

Serves 4 / Delicate halibut, spicy ginger, a crunchy flaxseed-sesame topping, and a cool pineapple relish create a dish that's beautiful, delicious, and full of anti-inflammatory nutrients.  view recipe

Fresh ricotta with arugula and flaxseed pizza

Serves 4 (makes one 9-inch pizza) / Prep tips: Making ricotta is dead simple; leftovers are great on crackers. Of course, purchased ricotta would be fine, too. Whole flaxseeds provide a delectable crunch and added fiber; you could also use sunflower seeds. The combination of hot, creamy, cool, and crunchy is heavenly.  view recipe

Veggie-flax burgers

Serves 4 / This is a true veggie-lover's burger-not an "I can't believe this isn't beef" patty.  The flax adds a little bulk and binding power (and its great nutritional qualities) to this veggie-legume blend.  Garnish with your favorite condiments, cheese, or sliced vegetables.  view recipe

Grilled vegetable pita pockets

Serves 4 / Blending mixed grilled vegetables with a tangy miso dressing creates a high-fiber, satisfying sandwich.  Flaxseed oil provides a healthy dose of omega-3 fats.  Prep tip:  Not vegan?  Add some crumbled feta cheese for extra ichness and protein. view recipe

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