Break out the blender.
While the smoothie making process might seem like a no-brainer to some, it can intimidate those who have never dabbled in the blender arts. Whether you’re looking to chip away at some holiday weight, or simply trying to eat more mindfully, working smoothies into your everyday diet can be an easy and enjoyable way to make small strides towards your goal.
Though making a smoothie can be as simple as tossing some ice, fruit, and milk in a blender, these ingredients will help you take your smoothie making skills to the next level.
As a rule of thumb, for the right smoothie ratio, you’ll add two cups of liquid for every cup of fruit or vegetables. While we’d recommend primarily using frozen fruit to give your smoothie its trademark frosty temperature and texture, you can also add in a few ice cubes if the texture is too liquidy, though this will water down your flavor slightly.
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In order to achieve the creamy liquid consistency that’s expected of a smoothie, you’ll obviously need some kind of liquid base to start with. Whether you’re a dairy fan or want something entirely fruit-based, there are a few reliable options to work with.
Milk and Dairy Alternatives
Whether you opt for dairy milk, or one of the many non-dairy alternatives now available in every supermarket across America—like almond, soy, cashew, and oat milks—you can’t go wrong with using this creamy liquid as your base if you’re striving for a more milkshake-like experience.
To take the creaminess to the next level, you can also opt for a yogurt base. Typically, yogurt is best used in combination with another liquid, as it can be too thick to give your smoothie a sippable texture. However, if you’re using liquid-heavy fruits, like pineapple, yogurt can work in tandem with the excess juice in those fruits perfectly.
Though we’d recommend steering clear of many of the store-bought juices that contain tons of added sugar, using an organic 100 percent fruit juice—or some you’ve juiced at home—is a great way to add some sweetness to your mixture.
Perfect for tropical-inspired smoothies, coconut water can be a wonderful liquid alternative for your smoothie if you’d rather steer clear of the creamier bases or sugary fruit juices. Just be sure to pick out a pure coconut water without added sugars or flavors.
While you can certainly feel free to throw any fresh fruit you have on hand into your smoothie, there are a number of benefits to making smoothies with frozen fruit. Though ice cubes will water down the flavor of your smoothie, using fruit as your frozen base will result in a more rich and flavorful drink. Buying your fruit frozen in bulk can also be a more economical move than buying fresh fruit, saving you money and prep time. Plus, slicing and freezing any fruit that’s on the verge of expiration in plastic bags is the perfect way to cut down on food waste. Though there are countless fruits to experiment with, these are the essentials that will result in the best possible smoothie combinations.
Affordable, versatile, and naturally sweet and creamy, bananas are one of the best smoothie ingredients available. The key to using this ingredient to its best ability is to wait for the banana to fully ripen with brown spots before slicing and freezing. If your bananas are still fully yellow or green before freezing, your smoothie won’t take on that signature sweetness.
Whether you opt for strawberries, blueberries, or a frozen mix, there’s a reason these fruits have always been one of the most popular smoothie additions. With a flavor that’s a balance of sweet and tart, berries will give your smoothie a vibrant tone and dominate the flavor. Since fresh berries can be expensive, we’d recommend opting for the frozen variety, which can be bought more affordably in bulk at Costco, Sam’s Club, and other stores.
These naturally sugary fruits pack a powerful flavor punch, and are the ideal addition for those who prefer their smoothies to taste like a sweet treat. While there are multiple varieties of dates—including medjool, deglet noor, and zahidi—all of them will taste similar in your smoothie, so don’t stress over finding the right kind. For the best result, chop up your dates before throwing them in the blender, as their tough texture can be difficult for even more powerful blades.
While berries and bananas tend to dominate the smoothie scene year-round, mangos can be an amazing addition to any tropical-inspired smoothie. While it may be hard to find fresh mango year-round in some parts of the U.S., keep your eye out for frozen mango cubes, which will add substance and a deliciously sweet and creamy taste to your smoothie.
Another excellent tropical fruit option, this ingredient contains a great depth of sweetness and flavor, which works well to mask the taste of greens and other vegetables. It’s important to use the ripest possible fruit for your smoothie, so be sure to pick out a pineapple that is heavy for its size, meaning the sugars and juices within have fully developed. Fresh pineapple will also add plenty of excess juice to your smoothie, making the additional liquid requirements minimal.
These vibrant summer fruits, which include peaches, pears, and nectarines, make for delicious and subtly sweet smoothie additions. Though more seasonal, and therefore difficult to find in the winter months, making a sweet stone fruit smoothie is the best way to get into a summery mood.
Though melon is a less common addition to smoothies, very ripe melons can be a great unexpected ingredient. In-season, fully ripened melons not only have a pleasantly sweet flavor, but they’re also packed with water, meaning your smoothie will require minimal additional liquid to reach a smoothie consistency. This is a great move for people who want a more pure fruit smoothie, without any kind of dairy or dairy substitute.
This rich green fruit, which is technically a member of the berry family, is a great addition to any smoothie lacking in creaminess and healthy fats. While the mild flavor of the avocado is likely to be masked by other more dominant fruit flavors, this somewhat surprising addition will take your texture to milkshake levels, sans the dairy.
While pure fruit smoothies are undeniably delicious, adding some vegetables to the mix will make your blended beverage a much more nutritious and virtuous experience. Luckily, the natural sweetness of fruit tends to dominate the flavors of vegetables, making smoothies the ideal method for sneaking some nutrients into the diets of even the most anti-veggie picky eaters.
Though the thought of chomping down on a mouthful of raw kale or spinach might make you shudder, these nutrient-packed greens make the perfect smoothie addition. When paired with fruits with more dominant flavors, like pineapple and banana, you won’t pick up on any of the flavor of the greens, all the while getting their healthful benefits.
Naturally sweet, creamy squashes like butternut, kabocha, and pumpkin make for amazing, unexpected smoothie additions thanks to their texture and mild flavor profile. Just make sure your squash is fully cooked before adding it into your blender, and get ready to reap the nutritional rewards, including a hefty amount of vitamins and fiber.
This root vegetable with a super mild flavor and smooth texture once cooked is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and will disappear into your smoothie completely, overpowered by pretty much any other flavor it’s paired with.
Another smooth root vegetable, the sweet potato can add tons of potassium and healthy carbohydrates to your smoothie, which will help to keep you powered up throughout your day. These vegetables are also naturally sweet but low on the glycemic scale, so you’ll get a burst of energy but not mess with your blood sugar levels.
While beets have a dominant flavor and color that’s guaranteed to still shine through no matter what they’re paired with, these vibrant vegetables make the perfect addition to smoothies that are primarily veggie based, as they will lend some sweetness and variety of flavor to the overall mixture.
While these additions certainly aren’t necessary to your basic smoothie, they can contribute significantly to the flavor, texture, color, and nutritional value of your blended beverage.
If you’re not using super-sweet fruits—or any fruits whatsoever—in your smoothie, adding a squeeze of a natural sweetener like honey, agave, or pure maple syrup can go a long way towards giving your drink a more dessert-like quality.
This addition has the potential to turn your everyday smoothie into a nutty treat. We’d recommend using a natural, unsweetened peanut or almond butter free of added sugar or oil. The addition of a tablespoon of nut butter is enough to lend a craveable creaminess and nuttiness to your smoothie, while adding fat and protein to power you up.
For those relying on their smoothie as a supplement for a full meal, an added dose of protein could be necessary to power through your morning or afternoon. We’d recommend sticking with an organic, plant-based protein powder, rather than options packed with mysterious artificial ingredients.
These fibrous plant seeds will add bulk, fiber, and tons of minerals to your smoothie. Just be sure to choose and cook your legumes carefully. Some great options for smoothie additions include chickpeas, beans, and split peas—however if you opt for the canned version, make sure to look for legumes with no added salt. You’ll also want to make sure the legumes are fully cooked until soft before integrating them into your smoothie, or else they can result in a grainy texture overall.
For the chocolate lovers out there, adding cocoa to your naturally sweet smoothie will make it feel like a virtuous chocolate milkshake without all the added sugar. Though cocoa powder is bitter on its own, once combined with the sweetness of ripe bananas or other fruits, it will take on the sensation of a sweet treat.
Nuts, Oats, and Seeds
Additions like whole oats, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and a variety of nuts can add a host of nutritional benefits to your smoothie, from extra protein and healthy fats, to vitamins and nutrients. A spoonful of these ingredients will also contribute to the texture of your smoothie, and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
While those who don’t love the taste of ginger might want to steer clear of this addition, given its dominant flavor, ginger can make a great compliment to many combinations of fruits and vegetables. As a bonus, it’s also great for digestion and fending off any pesky colds circulating around your home or workplace.
Adding a small amount of your favorite spice to a smoothie can go a long way in regards to the flavor and appearance of your beverage. Some of our favorite spice additions include cinnamon and the trendy spice of the moment, turmeric, which not only contains tons of antioxidants, but will also give your smoothie a vibrant golden tone.
Once you’ve stocked up on all of the smoothie ingredients you need, it’s time to start mixing and matching to find the combinations of your dreams. We’d recommend starting with classics like a Berry Banana Smoothie, Raspberry Mango Smoothie and Kale Ginger Smoothie before moving on to more out-of-the-box recipes like a Pumpkin Spice Smoothie Bowl, Turmeric Mango Smoothie, and Green Tea Kiwi Smoothie.
For more inspiration, check out these 35 Healthy Smoothies to start blending immediately.