I’ve been asked a few times for smoothie recipes recently, which caught me off guard; to me, smoothies are a “kitchen sink” kind of meal or snack, and it’s pretty hard to go wrong when you’re making one.
But, maybe we can get better. Here’s how I construct my smoothies – no recipes, per se, because quantities will vary based on your nutritional needs.
These smoothie ingredients are listed in the order in which they should enter your blender for the smoothest results, unless you have a fancy blender and then you can literally do whatever you want because those are magic. Base + leaves + chunks + topper + bonus = smoothie goodness.
The Smoothie Base
Honestly, I just use water most of the time. I live in Houston, where it’s always hot and steamy and I’m always sweating with you guys so I need to replenish. But, because I know you think that’s lame, here are some smoothie bases you might want to consider:
- brewed, cooled tea (green, black, herbal, chai…you can get a lot of flavor here)
- brewed, cooled coffee
- non-dairy milk (*probably* unsweetened, but do you)
- coconut water
- juice (I personally am unlikely to use juice as a base, but we’ll talk about that at the end)
Smoothies are great for hiding stuff that you know you want to be eating but haven’t fit into your day otherwise. If I’m adding greens, which for me would usually be a handful of pre-washed boxed mixed greens like chard, spinach, and kale, they go into the blender next. Greens you might want to add:
- kale (raw or plain and cooked)
- spinach (raw or plain and cooked)
- chard (raw or plain and cooked)
- broccoli (raw or plain and cooked)
I only have a regular blender, not a high speed one, so I do not blend blueberries (they get too thick and gooey because of the high pectin content) or pineapple (foamy sadness) into my smoothies. Test your blender. Warning over.
Almost any fruit can make a happy home in your smoothie! Choose a mix that is seasonal (or fresh from the freezer) and use your personal nutritional needs as a guide for serving sizes. Some very blendable chunks:
- pumpkin (straight out of the can or steamed from fresh)
- beets (steamed and not pickled please)
- banana (to me, best frozen)
- avocado (fresh or frozen) – include a tiny pinch of salt
- peas (not kidding)
This protein-rich part of the smoothie is totally optional, so figure out what you might add based on how your smoothie fits into your day. I call it the “topper” because in order for smooth blending in a regular blender, I recommend adding the topper through the top of the blender while your smoothie is blending. The center of your lid comes out for a reason! Keep your speed low.
If you need to add protein to your smoothie, you might find it from sources like:
- protein powder (whey and egg white hide pretty well; check your ingredients!)
- greek yogurt
- cottage cheese
Another optional addition to your smoothie that should be added through the top of the running blender, the bonus can help you sneak in additional flavor and nutrition to meet your needs.
Important: balance your smoothie to meet your specific needs! Just because a personal trainer on the Internet says you could add honey to your smoothie, for example, does not mean that it is what’s best for you.
- coconut oil (adds creaminess, healthy fats)
- ginger (grated fresh or powdered dried)
- cocoa powder
- nut butter
- any other powdery or thick mix-in that you don’t want to get stuck to the side of the blender
- a splash of citrus juice or sprinkle of zest
- vanilla or another extract
What I Do Not Add to my Smoothies
- ice – commercial smoothie places use ice to bulk up and thicken their smoothies, but I find it unnecessary and taxing for my blender unless I’m trying to make an ultra-thick smoothie for a smoothie in a bowl
- chia seeds – they just stick inside the blender, so if I want them I stir them into the glass at the end
- juice – I would rather have the fruit or veggie itself!
- oats and grains – I used to add rolled oats to my smoothies sometimes when it was trendy to make cookie dough smoothies, but really it mostly gave me a stomachache
- protein powder – I like my protein shakes on the side, and without other stuff to slow their digestion, but that’s just me and my needs
Some Smoothie Ideas
The sky is really the limit, but I know you came here for ideas. I can’t tell you what’s right for you, but I can tell you that I love these combos:
- strawberry + kiwi + cottage cheese + green tea
- mango + lime + coconut water + turmeric + Himalayan salt
- banana + avocado + vanilla + coconut milk (+ coffee)
- peaches + greens + water + a little banana or honey
- strawberry + beets + black tea + maybe ginger
- pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, honey, and coconut milk
- the “beginner” green smoothie: 1 full banana + greens + coconut milk (you won’t taste the greens)
Should You Be Making Smoothies?
Smoothies can be a great way to get in your fruits and veggies if you tend not to get your “five a day”, to add in extra calories if you’re having a hard time meeting your intake goals, or to feed yourself if you’re just not hungry at certain times of day but know that you need to eat. They’re also good if you have digestive issues (or, let’s be real, are lazy about chewing), because liquefied food is easier to digest.
They’re not magic, though! There’s nothing about a smoothie that’s necessarily healthier than just eating its components on their own. They are portable, and you can make them ahead (though I would freeze them if you’re not going to to drink them on the same day – they won’t spoil, but the color and texture can change after a night in the fridge). I take my to-go smoothies in disposable round containers like the ones pictured here – yes, they’re plastic and not glass, but they’re leakproof as long as you put the lid on straight, easy to clean, and recyclable when they get gross.
Another thing you might see on Pinterest and in meal prep blogs is “smoothie packs” – pre-bagged groupings of fruits and veggies that are ready to dump into your blender. There have been phases of my life when I woke up so early that these were helpful, but in general I don’t find them to save a lot of time or effort. Even with a smoothie pack, I still had to add a base liquid and any other mix-ins that were going through the top of the blender.
Don’t forget the cleanup!
As soon as you’re done blending, pour your smoothie into its vessel and rinse your blender OR run it for a few seconds with a squeeze of dish soap and a splash of water, then rinse out the soap. Do not leave it until “later”. Science (I think) has proven that it takes less than 30 seconds to wash a blender jar that was just used and nearly 4 minutes to scrub one that has been left full of dried kale bits and banana goo.
What’s your favorite smoothie combo?