This Basil seed drink is healthy, refreshing and packed with nutrition! Sweet basil seeds also known as sabja, tukmaria or falooda seeds are widely used in India and many Asian countries. Well known for their immense cooling nature & high nutrition levels, these are used in the preparation of drinks, sherbets, falooda, puddings and smoothies. In this post I share all about sweet basil seeds, how to prepare and use them. Bonus! I also have a simplest basil seeds drink recipe & it’s many variations.
About Sabja Seeds
There’s a very good chance you’ve had the leaves of the sweet basil plant, scientifically known as Ocimum basilicum. Its bright green and aromatic leaves are common in Mediterranean, South Asian, and Southeast Asian cuisines.
But did you know the seeds of some kinds of sweet basil are edible too?
That’s right, the little black seeds from which the plants grow can be eaten. Called sabja and often found in South and Southeast Asian dishes, they also have a long history in Ayurvedic and Chinese alternative medicines (Source: Wikipedia).
In India sweet basil seeds have been used to beat summer heat, dehydration, constipation and to manage weight gain issues. The leaves of this plant are used as an herbal medicine for deworming, indigestion, loss of appetite, cough and cold.
The leaves are infused in hot water to make an herbal tea that can provide relief in chronic respiratory symptoms. They are also ground in a mortar pestle to make a chutney that has the ability to ignite the digestive fire. In rural India, the branches of this plant are also used to infuse a mild floral aroma and to purify the water.
Sabja plant also releases a special and unique floral aroma in the Early mornings & late evening. This aroma is refreshing, relaxing and creates positive vibes around you. The leaves are super aromatic and have a floral essence. So they are also used to make essential oils and insect repellents.
Are sabja and sweet basil same?
There are many kinds of Sweet basil plants grown all over the world and Sabja is a kind of Sweet basil. But it literally has no English name. Down in South India, sabja plant is also known as rudrajada and in North India it is known as Marua. Not to be confused with Holy Basil, which is Tulsi.
In the United States, sweet basil seeds are starting to catch on as an alternative to chia seeds. From health products to thickeners to cooking, their mild flavor and gelatinous qualities when soaked offer a wide range of applications in the food world.
Sweet basil seeds also offer similar health benefits to chia seeds, especially a large amount of fiber per serving, and so have taken the health-conscious food loving corners of the internet by storm. If you’re a fan of gelatinous foods like chia seeds and okra, looking to expand your culinary horizons, and looking to add some good-for-you foods to your diet, sweet basil seeds might be worth looking into.
How to Make Basil Seed Drink (Stepwise Photos)
Basil seeds tend to look like small, black, oblong seeds – somewhat similar to chia. Unlike chia, they are still very hard raw and therefore difficult to chew. Basil seeds are best eaten prepared & you should avoid eating the unsoaked seeds.
1.To start, you’ll want to pick over the basil seeds to remove any possible stones or debris. This is a post I published almost 9 years ago. Those days it was hard to find these seeds outside India and only a few places would sell them in Singapore. But we would see a lots of stones and debris in the seeds. So I still keep the steps of cleaning & rinsing in the post. Feel free to skip a few steps if you don’t want to clean.
2. This step is optional. Next, you’ll want to rinse the basil seeds if they’re not already cleaned for consumption. For this either add them to a bowl or a fine strainer. Pour clean drinking water and drain completely in a fine strainer. I use my tea/coffee strainer for this.
3. Add them to the serving glass or a bowl. The general ratio for soaking basil seeds is half cup of luke warm water for every 2 teaspoons of basil seeds. Combine the water and basil seeds and let them sit for 30 minutes to overnight. You can use more water if you want, but the basil seeds won’t absorb more water than they need.
4. As the basil seeds soak up the water, they’ll expand and develop a gray outer gel layer with a crunchy black interior. Leave them overnight if you have digestive issues.
Make the Sabja Seeds Drink
5. A closer look at the soaked seeds.
6. Pour your favorite juice or simply plain water, some sugar or rock sugar and lemon juice. You can also crush 3 to 4 mint leaves in a mortar pestle and add it. I made ours with plain water, some freshly squeezed calamansi juice and rock sugar.
Keep in mind that if you’re adding basil seeds to liquid preparations like puddings, desserts or soup, you will strain the seeds in a strainer to leave out any excess water, cool the preparation completely. Then stir in the soaked sabja seeds.
Ways to Use Basil Seeds
Once you’ve prepared your basil seeds to your liking, there’s so many ways to use them in your diet. They’re quite mild in flavor so don’t be afraid to experiment!
Soaked basil seeds are a popular topping on cold drinks in South Asian cuisine, especially in the summer. Use your basil seeds to top fruit juices, iced teas, lemonades, or other mixed drinks. You can blend it into smoothies or milkshakes to utilize its nutritional and thickening properties.
Like tapioca, it can also be used as the basis for gelatinous desserts such as puddings. Use it in place of chia seeds or tapioca to make a vegan pudding.
For a similar effect, layer it with Yogurt and fruit for a delicious breakfast or dessert parfait. If you’re looking for more breakfast options, try sprinkling them over warm cereal, cold cereal, or pancakes for extra fiber.
Big fan of baked goods? Top your muffins with homemade jams filled with basil seeds instead of chia seeds. For more savory applications consider using it in salad dressings and soups.
These are only suggestions to start. Once you become comfortable with their texture and preparation, the wide world of basil seeds will open up to you.
Health Benefits and Nutrition
To be clear: there is very little recent scientific research on the health properties of sweet basil seeds. More research is needed and current information about their health benefits must be examined carefully.
For example, we know that basil seeds are high in fiber, especially soluble fibers like pectin. Preliminary research indicates that the fiber in basil seeds may help control blood sugar and lower cholesterol. These studies have small sample sizes, however, and more studies with larger sample sizes are needed to confirm these effects.
Along with fiber, we know that different types of basil seeds are full of minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, and are rich with compounds called flavonoids that have antioxidant properties. Both minerals and antioxidants are important to our health; essential minerals like calcium help our bodies function and regulate themselves, while antioxidants counter free radical molecules that can damage our cells.
Basil seeds, like chia seeds, are also a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain cell membranes and their receptors, as well as maintain our hearts and improve blood vessel function.
While specific health claims concerning basil seeds are still unclear, basil seeds still provide plenty of nutritional benefits. Many of them are actually similar to those of beloved chia seeds, although basil seeds have less omega-3 fatty acids and more fiber. Basil seeds also contribute plenty of vital minerals and antioxidants, making them an excellent choice to start adding to your cooking.
Side Effects and Risks
While fiber is great for most diets, too much fiber can wreak havoc on the body. When you begin adding basil seeds to your daily regimen, start slowly to let your body adjust. Eating too much fiber too quickly can cause digestive discomfort like bloating.
As mentioned previously, the nutritional content of some basil seeds can vary. Be careful of some vendors who sell basil seeds drinks that exceed the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. Vitamin K assists the body with blood clotting, and therefore could interfere with blood-thinning treatments.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 2 teaspoons Sweet basil seeds (sabja/tukmaria/falooda seeds)
- ½ cup luke warm water
- ¾ cup water (or any fruit juice)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 3 to 4 tbsps calamansi juice
- 1 teaspoon Rock sugar (or any sweetener, optional)
- Optional – Pick over the basil seeds to remove any possible stones or debris. Add them to a fine strainer (like a coffee strainer) and pour some clean water to get rid of any dirt or residue. This step is optional.
How to Make Basil Seed Drink
- Add them to a cup and pour luke warm water and let them soak for 30 minutes to overnight.
- Pour water or any fruit juice, lemon juice and if required sweetener. Serve basil seed drink.
- Stir the soaked basil seeds into your smoothies, cold puddings, milkshakes, Falooda, or popsicle mixture.
- The soaked seeds can also be stirred into cold soups or added to warm or cold cereals.
- In the past sabja seeds were hard to be found on the grocery and food stores outside India. Only some Indian stores had them but always had plenty of debris. So I would always rinse them before using. You may skip this step if you don’t care.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
This Post is from the Archives and was first Published in March 2013. Updated and Republished in May 2022.
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me
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