The healthy(ish) breakfast is here to stay and we're not mad about it
EC: Smoothie Bowls: Not Just for Showing Off on Instagram
Credit: Photo courtesy of Magone via Getty Images

Smoothie bowls: they’re not just for showing off on Instagram. This morning trend has swept the internet thanks to its healthful good looks—there are currently over 400,000 #smoothiebowl Instagrams—but there’s so much more to smoothie bowls than just dumping a smoothie into a bowl.

So what’s the deal? Did someone just wake up one day and decide they were not into drinking a blended fruit beverage, or what? The earliest mention of smoothie bowls in Google Books dates to a 2007 Trader Joe’s cookbook. But smoothie bowls may be a variation of the açai bowl, a breakfast treat made from frozen açai berries and bananas that was first enjoyed by Brazilian surfers in the 90s. The açai bowl made it stateside when the Amazonian fruit first hit the US market in the early 21st century, and from there it’s not too big a jump to add yogurt, oats, greens, berries, and other standard smoothie ingredients.

Wherever they came from, smoothie bowls are basically smoothies on steroids. And for everyone who’s ever said they couldn’t possibly fill up on “just a smoothie” for breakfast, prepare to change your mind.

They’re Filling

Unlike their fraternal twin the smoothie, smoothie bowls are meant to be eaten with a spoon. That means they need to be thicker, which is often accomplished by simply upping the ratio of fruits and vegetables to liquid in your favorite smoothie recipe. Often smoothie bowls also include peanut butter, grains like oats, or granola. If your smoothie bowl is still too thin, add a banana, either frozen or room temperature. For your first smoothie bowl, try thickening your favorite recipe—we’re partial to this blueberry-pomegranate number from Cooking Light—by any of the methods described above.

One Word: Toppings

Another difference between smoothies and smoothie bowls is that the bowl creates a flat surface that becomes a canvas for toppings. From berries to nuts to flax seeds to fruit slices to dark chocolate syrup (what, chocolate is good for you!), there are endless combos to make sure your smoothie bowl has all the texture, flavor, and health bonuses you’re looking for.

Yeah, They’re Pretty

With all those toppings, there’s plenty of room for customization: the Insta-favorite way to decorate your smoothie bowl is to line up the ingredients in the tidiest of rows, but concentric circles and other designs are also popular. (Of course, if you just dump everything on top it’ll taste just as good, but you won’t get those Insta-likes.)

Not Just for Breakfast

Sweet bowls of dairy, drizzled with toppings, and eaten with a spoon? Sounds like ice cream, to us. And, indeed, many argue that smoothie bowls are a healthy alternative to dessert. For a sundae substitute, leave out the grains and top with ice cream-friendly ingredients like toasted coconut, pecans, sliced strawberries, and cocoa powder. Or if you’re feeling really spunky, crushed Oreos.