How to Make a Smoothie
Smoothies are great! They add fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet, and are easy to take with you. Whether you scoop a cup of low calorie protein powder into a healthy morning shake, or are cutting calories and adding fiber, you and your blender can unlock delicious nutrition in a healthy drink! Don't pay $7 for a delicious smoothie you can make at home in minutes!
The physics of blending are the same for all smoothies, while the flavor and texture of your drink is up to you. Follow these steps to make perfect homemade smoothies every time:
- Add liquid ingredients first. It's important to start with water, milk, yogurt, or fruit juice, because of the physics of blending.
- Add any frozen ingredient, whether ice, juice, or frozen fruit.
- Add fresh ingredients, including fresh or canned fruit or vegetables.
- Add any optional extras such as spices, peanut butter, protein powder, powdered vitamins, and more.
- Start blending at low speed. Gradually increase speed and blend to your desired consistency. Starting low helps to blend big pieces of fruit and ice without throwing them against the sides of the container. You'll get better results this way.
The Mechanics of Smoothie Recipes
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.
Add the Liquids First
Most smoothies use at least one liquid ingredient. The rule of thumb in our recipes is 1/4 to 1/3 cup of liquid per cup of solid ingredients. This can be water, juice, milk cream, or a non-dairy alternative, such as soy or nut milk. Almond milk is especially tasty.
Add the liquid first. Spinning blades force larger ingredients to the top of the mix (as they don't fit in the small spaces). If you're not careful, you'll get an air bubble forming as larger chunks are pushed up and to the sides of the container. With liquid at the bottom, the currents of liquid will fit in the smaller spaces and help everything reach the blades to mix together.
More importantly, 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! Without liquid accelerated by the blades, or with a big bubble or chunk of apple keeping the other ingredients out of the path, you'll end up with a chunky, partially blended drink.
Avoid Blender Logjams
It's funny that WikiHow's make a smoothie page quotes this guide, but recommends starting with fruit. In our experience, fruit that's not sufficiently chopped can jam up against the sides of the container and block the liquid from reaching the blades, such that your blender won't take advantage of fluid dynamics to exert shear forces on the ingredients. Not that we're physicists or anything!
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), but it works in a pinch.
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 versions, any decent blender will work (Blendtec, Ninja, old reliable Oster). Even a good food processor may handle ice better than a really cheap blender.
Start blending at a low speed. Work up momentum to move the larger chunks of fruit to the blades to chop them 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 other ingredients.
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 with warm water 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—chopping fresh ingredients and measuring the others. 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!
Good Ingredients for Fruit Smoothies
Our standard ingredient set starts with a banana, an apple, or 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 fruit smoothie recipes 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.