Flaxseed is one of those food items nobody would judge you for not being aware of. Flaxseeds are somewhat of health food containing large amounts of protein, omega 3 fatty acids and dietary fibre. The benefits of flaxseeds include controlling weight gain, cholesterol, blood sugar and even blood pressure. For such an unknown food item it packs a lot of benefits. This is because flax is not grown for its seeds but rather for fabric used in making of linen. Just as unknown as this little factoid is the taste of flaxseeds.
Flaxseeds are also commonly referred to as linseeds though they are not quite the same thing. Flax (Linum usitatissimum) is a member of the Linum family and hence the use of the name linseeds. Flax is cultivated for the use of its fibre primarily and the earliest documented use of flax fibre for textiles is credited to the Republic of Georgia some 30000 years ago. The seeds are becoming popular as a standalone food or ground meal but are historically more popular for their oil, linseed oil. This oil has multiple uses including as a nutritional supplement and in wood finishing products. Two main variety of flaxseeds appear most commonly which are golden flaxseeds and brown flaxseeds named for their colours. The two types have differences beyond their colours. Now that we know what flaxseeds are let’s answer the question of what they taste like.
The first flavour note we can discuss in flaxseeds is their nutty flavour. Flaxseeds possess a nutty flavour that goes along with lightly flavoured nuts like almonds. The nutty flavour does not overpower and because of this flaxseed blends well with both sweet and savoury elements. The nutty flavour is best experienced when the flaxseed is eaten alone. You will find this flavour to be closest to the aforementioned almonds and weaker than other nuts such as brazil or macadamia, which do not have very strong flavours. This flavour can be enhanced by the toasting or grinding of the flaxseeds though it is still prominent in raw flaxseeds. What you will find is that brown flaxseed has an earthy hint to the nutty taste while golden flaxseed is simply nutty. The earthiness of flaxseeds can be likened to raw fresh peanuts. Many people say that flaxseed tastes nutty.
While there is a nutty flavour to flaxseeds the flavour is neither sharp nor pronounced. It is, in fact, a mild flavour that sometimes comes off as just a hint of nutty flavour. What you will notice is that flaxseeds in any form will rarely bring a lot of flavour to a recipe. This makes them a great health supplement for many people as they can simply add flaxseed to the favourite recipes and enjoy the health benefits without largely altering the flavour. People will put whole flaxseed in yoghurt, porridge, oatmeal, stir-fries and more. Flaxseed meal tends to have a bit more flavour than whole flaxseed as the flavour is released in the grinding process. However, it is still mild and middle of the road just like whole flaxseeds. So you will find flaxseed meal is used to make anything from pancakes and pudding to savoury sandwiches mixed with mustard or mayonnaise.
Flaxseeds are also described as being oily by many people. This of course makes sense. With a whopping 42%, fat content by weight the flaxseed is certainly oily. This is right up there with many other oil-producing seeds. There is a whole group of people who would argue that this is not the case and they would be right to. While flaxseeds do have a high-fat content those who consume flaxseeds whole even if they do chew them, and many do not, will not get the full oily taste of flaxseeds. The oily taste is more pronounced in flaxseeds that have been ground or in flaxseed meal which releases some of the oil in the process. So as well as having mild nutty flavour flaxseeds also taste oily.
Some people will describe flaxseed as having a fishy taste. While not the most popular way to describe the taste of flaxseeds it is not entirely inaccurate. As hinted earlier flaxseeds are both oily and contain a lot of omega 3 fatty acids. Fish are also a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. It is therefore not at all strange for the brain and the palate to associate the taste comes with omega 3 fatty acids with fish. The flavour in all fairness cannot be said to be that of fish but certainly reminiscent to oily fish.
If you’re looking for another seed with a flavour you can associate to that of flaxseed then look no further than the popular sesame seed. The sesame seed has a mild, nutty and oily taste. Most people will be more familiar with the taste of toasted sesame seed which has a more pronounced nutty flavour than the raw sesame seed. When raw the nutty flavour is played down and the oiliness is more pronounced so it is very similar to the flaxseed.
Finally, the texture of things always has an impact on their taste. With flaxseeds, the outer shell of the seed is sheen and slippery. In some ways, flaxseeds feel like very small sunflower seeds because of their oily nature. They are described as being soft on the inside with a crunchy outer shell.
If we put all that together we can safely conclude that flaxseeds have a very mild nutty flavour to them. Brown flaxseeds have an added earthy taste as compared to gold flaxseeds. They also have an oily tasting containing 42% fat and this taste is somewhat reminiscent to that of oily fish. They have a soft inside with a crunchy outer shell.