If you’re like most people, your smoothie-making routine probably goes something like this:
- Dump a ton of healthy ingredients in the blender.
- Hit “blend.” Watch as nothing happens.
- Stop blender. Try stirring up your ingredients with a spoon or adding more liquid to get them to blend.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you end up with a semi-satisfying drink that’s either too tart, too sweet, too thick, or too watered-down.
- Drink it anyway, because what else are you going to do?
Fortunately, the sad smoothie parade ends today. With these expert tips, making a balanced, tasty drink with the perfect creamy consistency will be as easy as pressing “purée.”
1. Grab the good stuff.
“The No. 1 factor for a great smoothie is really great ingredients,” says Jenna Tanenbaum, founder of the Brooklyn-based smoothie delivery service Green Blender. That means no weird packaged mixes, no should-have-tossed-it-yesterday produce... you get the idea. Think fresh, whole foods that’ll deliver the most flavor bang for your buck.
2. Find your balance.
To get a smoothie that’s creamy, flavorful, and filling, you want to have the right ratio of fruit, protein, and healthy fat, says Julie Morris, author of Superfood Smoothies. For a smoothie that serves one, use this as a guide:
Fruit: Go for 1 ripe banana or 1 cup other fruit. Both fresh and frozen are great, but if you use the latter, you might want to skip adding ice cubes.
Liquid: 3/4 cup is enough to get everything to blend without veering into juice territory. Water, low-fat milk, yogurt, coconut water, or unsweetened non-dairy milk all work, so pick whatever you’re in the mood for. Just skip the fruit juice—no one needs all that sugar.
Healthy fat: A tablespoon or two of nut or seed butter or 1/4 avocado helps make your smoothie richer and satisfying. If you like your smoothie to have some texture, use 1 to 2 tablespoons whole nuts or seeds instead. Even chia seeds work, if you prefer a shake that’s thick and gelatinous. (If your blender can’t seem to handle really hard ingredients like nuts, try soaking them overnight, Morris says.)
Greens: Tossing in a handful or two is an easy way to sneak in an extra serving of veggies, which is never a bad thing. If you’re a green smoothie newbie, try something mild like baby spinach or kale, Tanenbaum suggests. If you use regular kale, collard greens, or the like, remove the stems for a milder flavor and smoother texture, or leave them on for a grassier taste (as long as your blender is powerful enough to pulverize the stems). For another veggie twist, try 1/2 to 1 cup cucumbers, cooked beets, or cooked butternut squash.
Boosters: If you used a low-protein liquid, a scoop of protein powder will give your smoothie more staying power. Want more fiber? Toss in 1/4 cup oats.
Herbs or spices: Adding a teaspoon or two ramps up the flavor in a big way. Dried turmeric and fresh or dried ginger can make for a warming smoothie, while fresh mint or cilantro add a refreshing hint, Tanenbaum says. Experiment with your favorite herbs and spices.
Ice: A cup or so keeps a smoothie frosty, plus it lend more volume without extra calories. Go for crushed over cubed, which is easier for a blender to break up.
3. Consider a sweetener.
The ripeness of your fruit, combo of fruits and veggies, and taste preference determine whether you need to add any extra sugar. If you want some, go for it—just don’t go overboard. “I like to add a teaspoon of liquid sweetener like honey, pure maple syrup, or molasses. They blend better,” says Liz Ward, R.D., a Jamba Juice Healthy Living Council member. Any more than that, and your healthy smoothie is starting to look and taste more like a dessert.
4. Layer up.
Yes, there is a “right” way to order ingredients in a blender that will lead to a smoother consistency and greater chance that you don’t find whole berries at the bottom of your glass. “For a high-speed blender, put hard ingredients like fruit or whole nuts into the blender first, because you ensure they’re closest to the blades and will be chopped up,” Morris says. Then add greens and nut butters, followed by protein powders, oats, spices, and finally, the liquid.
For a regular blender, it’s better to add the liquid first and then tough ingredients like veggies or nuts. “Blend those for a minute, then add easier-to-blend ingredients like fruits and powders, and blend again,” Tanenbaum recommends.
5. Purée away.
The strength of your blender also determines how long to let it work its magic, however if you’re aiming for a super smooth texture, it’s really hard to go too long. “I tend to blend my smoothies for a solid 2 to 3 minutes. If you like to chew a bit more, blend for less time,” Tanenbaum says.
6. Add ice.
“Ice will make your smoothie frothy, but too much can also water it down,” Ward says. Since it’s hard to know for sure how thick or thin your smoothie will be until you blend it, leave the ice out at first and see what you think. If desired, add about a cup of crushed ice and blend again, repeating this process until everything has the consistency you’re looking for.
7. Drink up.
Ideally, you want to drink your smoothie ASAP. Letting it sit for more than 20 minutes might mean it starts to thicken or separate. Though you can store it in the fridge for up to a day if you really have to, “the fresh smoothie will taste 10 times better,” Morris says.