Smoothies are great! They taste good, help you add fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet, and are easy to eat on the go. Don't spend $7 every morning on something you can make at home. You and your blender can unlock delicious nutrition in a healthy drink!
Whether you're adding protein powder or extra fiber or cutting calories or just want a tasty treat, making a smoothie is all about physics. The basic ingredients and recipe for a smoothie are all the same. Follow these five simple steps to make a homemade smoothie perfectly every time:
- Add the liquids first. Start with water, milk, yogurt, or fruit juice. The physics of blending work out better this way.
- Add frozen ingredients. This can be juice, fruit, or ice.
- Add large ingredients. This can be fresh or canned fruit or vegetables.
- Add any optional extras such as spices, peanut butter, protein powder, or powdered vitamins.
- Start blending at low speed. Gradually increase speed and blend to your desired consistency. Start low to blend big pieces of fruit and ice without pushing them up and away from the blades against the sides of the container.
You can throw everything in a cheap blender and get pretty good results, but experimentation and a little physics reveal that the best smoothies come from following a script.
What Liquid Ingredients work in Smoothies?
Most smoothies use at least one liquid. Our recipe rule of thumb is 1/4 to 1/3 cup of liquid per cup of solid ingredients. You can make a smoothie with milk, juice, cream, or a non-dairy alternative such as soy or nut milk. Almond milk is especially tasty.
Use water in some form to make a non-dairy smoothie. We prefer ice. Use the same amount of water as you would other liquid ingredients. You don't have to stick with plain water; try coconut water or green tea to add more flavor.
You can make a smoothie without liquids, but you'll be blending for a while. You'll need a fruit or other ingredient that's already pretty juicy, such as a peach or frozen strawberries. The end result will be super thick, so get a sturdy spatula ready to dish it out and a thick straw to drink it up.
Yogurt is a staple in our recipes. We prefer Greek yogurt, thanks to its texture (and lower sugar and higher protein than regular yogurt)—but sometimes a few cubes of ice or a couple of tablespoons of other liquid work well. We tend to prefer vanilla yogurt, but honey or unflavored are also popular. Fruit yogurt can be too sweet (with too much sugar and not enough texture), but it works in a pinch.
You don't have to add ice to a smoothie. It adds a nice cooling touch plus a little bit of liquid in the blender as it melts, but frozen fruit (grapes, banana, strawberry) adds the same cooling without watering down the flavor.
Start with a high quality blender. We proudly use Vitamix blenders, so our drinks always come out great! Even though fancy smoothie shops use the professional Vitamix and Blendtec models, any decent blender will work (Ninja, Oster). Even a good food processor may handle ice better than a really cheap blender.
To avoid blender logjams, add the liquid first. Spinning blades force larger chunks to the top of the mix because they don't fit in the small spaces. Unless you have liquid around the blades, you'll form an air bubble with everything pushed up and away from the blades to the sides of the container. With enough liquid around the blades, you'll get currents so that larger chunks will reach the blades to mix together.
Start blending at a low speed. Work up momentum to move the larger chunks of fruit to the blades so that they get chopped finely. Gradually increase speed to high. This is especially true when using frozen fruits or nuts; the slower you go, the more blending power you have at the start.
If you start too fast or speed up too quickly, you risk making a dreaded air bubble. That makes for a chunky smoothie you'll have to dig out with a spatula—not bad if you like something like a thick strawberry banana smoothie, but less ideal if you want to blend in anything else.
Remember that the high velocity of fluids swirling in the blender actually acts to break down large chunks of ingredients. It's not just the blades that chop things up! The shear forces of high velocity liquid break down and smooth out big chunks of ingredients. For more information on the physics of blending, see how blenders cut down food and how cavitation works in a blender.
Clean Up Immediately
Immediately after pouring your drink, clean your container with warm water. The remnants of your delicious drink can quickly dry in your container, making it hard to clean. Our Vitamix is super easy to clean (especially with the automatic cleaning cycle), but if you're diligent about rinsing immediately, you'll be fine.
Should You Rest Your Smoothies?
Letting a smoothie sit tends to make it less frothy, but some smoothies will separate. For example, a spinach apple banana smoothie turns into a green juice floating atop a chunky green mixture if it sits for more than a few minutes. The same goes for all green smoothies, in our experience. Other smoothies are better after resting for a few minutes. Anything with a lot of light or frothy ingredients, or a lot of air whipped up into them, applies.
If you're in a rush, prepare the ingredients beforehand by chopping and measuring them. Start only when you're ready to eat! You can store ingredients or even store smoothies overnight in the fridge, if you're preparing for an early morning!
A thick smoothie can last in the fridge up to 24 hours while retaining its flavor and texture. Thinner smoothies may separate before then. We prefer to drink immediately, though grabbing a drink prepared the night before is almost as good. To store a smoothie in the fridge, pour it into a tightly sealed container such as a Mason jar. Unless you have a tight, screw-on lid for your blender bottle, don't bother—you'll get better flavor and have an easier time cleaning up if you store it in something else.
In a pinch, you can put plastic wrap over the top of a glass.
Choosing the Right Ingredients
Our standard fruit smoothie recipe smoothie starts with a banana or apple and yogurt. You can use almost anything, though. We've made delicious treats with peanut butter, pineapple, carrots, spinach and kale, and more. We've even added celery to the spinach pear grape smoothie. If you're going for complete nutrition, adding protein powder to smoothies puts power in your day without changing the flavor.
Our favorite smoothies use at least one frozen ingredient. Instead of watering down your drink with ice, get creative with whole frozen fruits. Grapes are great—see our amazing spinach pear grape smoothie! Frozen juice such as cranberry or orange works well too.
You don't have to break the bank by paying out the nose for little bags of washed, chopped, and frozen fruit at the store. Freezing your own fresh fruit takes less time than you think, and you can make your own mixture of ingredients—ready to dump a little baggie in your blender!
The amount of ice affects how smooth or chunky your smoothie is (assuming your blender's motor is powerful enough to handle everything you put in it). The more ice, generally the chunkier the end result, though you can adjust that with blending time. Too much ice or too much frozen fruit and you'll end up with a sorbet—delicious, but harder to drink through a straw.
Now that you know how to make smoothies, you can rely on your own taste and style. Experiment. What's the worst that can happen? You get to eat your results! You'll discover which fruits and vegetables go well together. Look for flavors and textures which complement each other. There's a wealth of fruits, vegetables, and herbs to enhance the basic yogurt-ice-banana combination.