Behold, the smoothie. A meal in a glass. And not just any meal. A meal anyone can make, no matter how inept in the kitchen or bound by time constraints. And done right, smoothies are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, healthy fats and so much more. Not only can smoothies be nutritious, they’re also super delicious. That combination doesn’t come round too often.
Use it as a meal replacement (e.g. breakfast), a post-workout drink, a supplement, snack or a healthy dessert. Use smoothies as a way to get your daily dose of fruit and veg, to lose weight, build muscle, or gain weight. Adapt smoothies anyway you can to suit your needs. The only thing holding you back is your imagination. There’s so much more to smoothies than fruit, yogurt and ice.
So, without further ado, here’s your go-to guide on how to make a smoothie – awesome! But first, the all important ratio to make the perfect smoothie.
The Perfect Smoothie Ratio
- Liquid: 1 – 2 cups
- Fruits + Vegetables: 2 to 3 cups
- Thicken: ¼ to ½ cup of dairy; 1 tablespoon seed/ nut butter (optional)
- Flavor: ¼ to ½ teaspoon spices; 1 teaspoon sweetener (optional)
- Superfoods: 1 scoop protein powder; Add supplements such as spirulina according to label’s instructions (optional)
And now, how to make a smoothie, step-by-step.
Choose A Base Liquid
Smoothies are all about balance. Balance of flavor, balance of texture. Consistency of your smoothie is as important as taste. Start by adding about 1 cup of liquid to the blender – this is your base.
Exactly how much you need depends on the type of fruit you’re using. Bananas and mangos for example are thicker fruit, which means you’ll want to add more liquid. Frozen fruit also thicker smoothie. Watermelon, on the other hand, produces a lot of juice, so you’ll need to add less. In any case, if it’s too thick you can always add more liquid, and if you added too much liquid just add more ingredients that thicken your smoothie (see next step).
Nothing is irreversible when making a smoothie, you can always add a little more of this or a little more of that to get it just how you want. In fact, experimentation is the best way to find out how you like your smoothie!
How much: To get the right consistency add between 1 and 2 cups of liquid. Start with 1 cup, and add more as needed.
Milk is a classic smoothie base, as it helps to mellow bitter flavors and adds creaminess.
Fruit-based smoothies are fresh and summery. Their natural sweetness and acidity help to bring out the smoothie’s fruity flavors.
Fruit juices may be fresh squeezed, pressed or store bought. (Fresh is best!)
- Orange juice
- Apple juice
- Pear juice
- Grape juice
- Pomegranate juice
Other Liquid Bases
Coconut water makes for a wonderful hydrating smoothie base packed with electrolytes, and adding sweetness.
- Coconut water
- Iced coffee
- Iced green tea, black tea, rooibos tea, herb tea
Add Fruit/ Veggies
Key ingredients: Bananas are a popular ingredient in smoothies because they add natural sweetness and, perhaps more importantly, give the smoothie a creamy consistency. Alternatively, add about ½ avocado, which doesn’t really add flavor, but does give the smoothie a rich, luxurious creamy texture.
Read more: How to make a smoothie without bananas.
Use fresh or frozen fruits to make your smoothie. Out of season, frozen fruits are a good choice, as they’re picked at the peak of ripeness and immediately frozen, sealing in the vitamins and minerals for maximum nutrition and maintaining textural integrity.
Of course frozen fruits are incredibly convenient, but they also score high in terms of taste. Because you need less ice, you can achieve a more intense, purer flavor and yield a creamier smoothie.
How much: 2 – 3 cups of fruits and vegetables. About 2 cups if using frozen fruit.
Fruits to Add to Smoothies
Why not freeze your own fruit, especially if you prefer organic? Just buy fruit in bulk when in season (esp. when on sale), peel, cut, place in freezer bags and freeze.
Fruits that work well in smoothies include:
- Berries (e.g. strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, cherries)
- Melon (e.g. watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew)
Leafy Greens to Add to Smoothies
Smoothies are a great opportunity to get some greens into your diet without actually tasting them. The fruit in smoothies mask most of the flavor of the vegetables, such that it still tastes like a fruit smoothie (though slightly different in color).
Spinach is one of the most popular greens added to green smoothies because it has a mild flavor (its taste is masked by fruit) and because it is easy to blend. Other mild greens include romaine lettuce and bok choy.
Adding a few greens will massively boost the nutritional content of your smoothie. As you experiment with ingredients and recipes, try some of the greens listed below.
- Swiss chard
- Bok Choy
- Collard greens
- Spring greens
- Beet greens
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
- Romaine lettuce
Vegetables with a high water content such as fresh cucumber, celery, and bell peppers also make great additions to smoothies.
For robust vegetables like carrots, beets, broccoli, and cauliflower, cut into roughly 1-inch pieces to make it easier to process. Alternatively, gently steam and allow to cool before adding to your smoothie. Some vegetables such as sweet potatoes need to be cooked before adding.
If you’re new to making smoothies stick to veggies with mild flavors or are naturally sweet.
As important as flavor, is making a smoothie with just the right consistency. Too runny and it’s not really a smoothie, too thick and you’ll need a spoon.
This step will give your smoothie body, texture and creaminess, and balance out any acidic taste from fruits such as oranges and berries. But it’s also an opportunity to boost the nutritional content of your smoothie and make your smoothie more filling.
Thickening your smoothie is especially important if you’re working with watery fruit such as watermelon or pineapple, or haven’t used thick, balancing fruits such as avocado and banana.
You only need to add one of the below ingredients to thicken your smoothie, unless you’re choosing it to add flavor. Remember to keep an eye on the calorie-content of your smoothie.
Nuts, Seeds & Nut Butters
Nuts, seeds, and nut butters are rich in protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids, and give smoothies a lovely flavor. Preferably use natural & unsweetened nut butters. Try this delcious and healthy almond banana smoothie recipe!
How much: About 1 tablespoon nut butter or 2 tablespoons nuts.
Below is are some ideas for seeds, nuts, and nut butters.
- Almond (butter)
- Cashew (butter)
- Hazelnut (butter)
- Macadamia nut (butter)
- Peanut (butter)
- Pecan (butter)
- Pistachio (butter)
- Walnut (butter)
- Pumpkin seed (butter)
- Sesame seed butter (tahini)
- Soybean (butter)
- Sunflower seed (butter)
How much: ¼ to ½ cups of dairy.
- Yogurt (e.g. Greek yogurt, soy yogurt)
- Silken tofu
- Cottage cheese
- Frozen yogurt
- Ice cream (best used for dessert smoothie, as a treat, or in a weight gain smoothie)
- Ice (start with 3 cubes)
- Coconut meat
- Chia seeds
- Psyllium seed husks (drink smoothie quickly or psyllium will swell making it difficult to drink)
- Cooked beans (use white beans or chickpeas in fruit, vanilla or other light-colored smoothies and black beans in chocolate or dark smoothies)
Calories: If you’re worried about the calorie content of your smoothie, check out how to make a low calorie smoothie.
If you don’t want to thicken your smoothie with any of the above ingredients or are only adding ice, work with fruits such as avocados, bananas and mangoes, that are naturally thicker or frozen fruits to achieve a thick, rich and creamy smoothie.
This is where you take really good smoothie and make it special.
Ideally, the smoothie’s sweetness should come from fruit. If you’re using sweet and ripe fruits such as banana and mango, you should need little sweetener.
If you do need to sweeten your smoothie, you can use (brown) sugar, but there are many better ways you can sweeten your smoothie and add nutritional value or at least limit calories.
How much: Start with 1 teaspoon of sweetener, blend, then taste. Add more if needed.
- Maple syrup
- Agave nectar
Spices & Herbs
Adding spices will take your smoothie to the next level, both in flavor and nutritionally.
How much: Start with a a dash, or about ¼ teaspoon, blend, then taste. Add more if needed.
- Cilantro/coriander (green smoothies)
- Parsley (green smoothies)
- Cinnamon (adds a layer of sweetness, without adding calories)
- Vanilla (extract)
- Almond extract
As well as the following (a little will go a long way):
- Cayenne pepper
Salt or Lemon
Just as any meal, a wee pinch of salt or a splash of lemon/ lime juice (for smoothies without dairy) can enhance the taste of your smoothie. To add extra nutritional value, use high quality sea salt such as Celtic sea salt, instead of table salt.
How do you make a smoothie super healthy? Easy. With super nutritious add-ins. This is where you take your smoothie to the next level in terms of nutrition. There are a plethora of foods you can add to smoothies to give it a massive nutritional boost.
If you haven’t already added nut butter earlier, adding a little healthy oil (e.g. fish oil and coconut oil) is an easy to way to turn a smoothie into more of a meal.
How much: 1 tablespoon of healthy fats.
Adding healthy fats help you absorb some of the nutrients, will make the smoothie more satisfying and help you feel fuller for longer. Instead of a tablespoon of oil, you can add some avocado, it’s full of healthy fat and will make your smoothie creamy.
- Coconut oil/ butter
- Flaxseed oil
- Fish oil
Another awesome addition to your smoothie is protein. Like fats, protein transforms your smoothie from a snack into a meal. Protein takes longer to digest, stabilizes blood sugar, helpes you feel fuller and keeps hunger at bay.
How much: 1 scoop of protein powder.
Protein is important if you’re using smoothies as a meal replacement or as a post-exercise snack.
- Protein powder (e.g. whey protein, hemp protein), which come in all sorts of flavors
- Dairy such as cottage cheese, yogurt or milk (see step 3 above)
More Nutrient-Rich Add-Ins
As with the previous steps, the following is just a list of what you can add, it’s not meant to be overwhelming, but just give you an idea of the possibilities and encourage you to experiment a little.
How much: Generally about 1 tablespoon. However, add supplements and powdered foods, according to label’s instructions.
- Unsweetened cacao powder
- Seeds (e.g. hemp seeds, ground flax seeds)
- Wheat germ
- Powdered foods (e.g. green powder, spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, maca, acai, bee pollen)
- Nutritional supplements (e.g probiotics, multivitamins)
- Goji berries
- Aloe vera
- Fresh sprouts
Blend, Blend, Blend!
Finally, if you haven’t used frozen fruit, add about 3 ice cubes to the blender for a refreshing and frosty smoothie. And now it’s time to blend!
Start out on a low to medium setting and work your way up to the top speed. This allows the blender’s blades to slowly chop the ingredients without burning out the motor. It’ll take about 30 to 60 seconds – depending on ingredients – to blend. Pour, drink and enjoy!
How to Layer Smoothie Ingredients
The order in which you add the ingredients to the blender is important to creating a smoothie with a velvety smooth consistency. The way you layer smoothie ingredients depends on the size of the blender:
- Large blenders (greater than 20 ounces): Add wet ingredients first (e.g. liquids, yogurt). Then add powdered ingredients, followed by the softer, high-moisture leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables. Last add hard, solid foods (e.g. frozen fruit, harder veggies, ice).
- Small blenders (20 ounces or less): Add harder ingredients first. Then add softer fruits and vegetables, followed by leafy greens and dry ingredients (grains, seasonings, powders). Finally add the wet ingredients.
And to sum it all up, here’s an infographic on how to make a smoothie awesome!
Don’t stress when making smoothies. Learning how to make smoothies should be fun, experimental and stress-free. The more you experiment, the more you’ll find out what you really like. If you come up with some wild and interesting (and of course tasty!) concoctions, let us know in the comments below!
Did we miss your favorite ingredient or do you have a favorite smoothie recipe? Leave a comment and let me know!