We’ve all been there. You want to lose some weight or be healthier, so you decide you’re going to make a smoothie for breakfast. You Google “healthy smoothies” and find many recipes that are basically the same:
½ of a banana
1 cup berries
A spoonful of almond butter
A handful of spinach
Ice and water
It tastes okay, and you feel super good and #healthy while drinking it, but let’s be honest: it’s not the best thing ever. So you try to just do your own thing and improvise. It’s mostly fruit, so it can’t end up too bad, right? WRONG. After multiple attempts, you always end up with a semi-tolerable drink that’s either too watery, so frozen it won’t blend (and almost breaks your blender), brownish and full of kale chunks, or just bland and “healthy” tasting. I’ve been through all of these scenarios. Here’s how to up your smoothie game to Jamba Juice, restaurant-level delicious:
First of all, you need to decide whether you want a fruity smoothie or a milkshake-y dessert smoothie. In this post I’m going to cover the four main components every pro smoothie needs, and go into further detail specifically for milkshakes in the next one. Milkshakes are a bit different, so for this post let’s assume you want a regular thick, cold, and sweet fruit smoothie.
There are four key elements to great smoothies – 1. Main base flavors, 2. Sweetness, 3. Tang, and 4. Coldness. If you make sure each smoothie has these four elements, and you nail the ratios – 2/3 vs 1/3 – it’ll be amazing. Don’t worry, I’ll explain each of these below.
These make up the main bulk/base of the smoothie. It can be bananas, mango, peaches, anything really. For a simple smoothie you’ll need two main flavors: think strawberry-banana, strawberry-kiwi, orange-mango, etc. Two flavors will make a yummy smoothie, but for those that really want to step it up to the profesh level, THREE main flavors is where the magic happens. Think strawberry-banana-pineapple or orange-mango-passion.
If you’re using sweet fruit such as bananas for your base, you might be able to get away with not adding any sweetener (or if you’re a raw vegan/someone used to eating super healthy all the time and your taste buds are adjusted). If you’re a regular person you’re going to add some sugar (gasp!) Don’t listen to people who say “added sugar is the devil!” or “sugary smoothies aren’t healthy!” or whatever else. You can either pretend to enjoy your super #healthy! green juice and eventually cave and eat cheesecake later on, or you can add some sugar to your fruit smoothie and start to crave homemade blended fruit shakes instead of other sugary crap you’d eat anyway.
If you’re sugar-phobic, you can use something like zero-cal sweetener, some agave, natural coconut sugar, or just use juice as a sweetener. This can also be used as the bonus third flavor, like orange juice in a mango-pineapple smoothie. Apple juice can be added to almost anything because it’s neutral.
TANG (for fruity) or BONUS FLAVOR (for milkshakes) – To take a smoothie up a notch, you need to add a hint of sourness to balance out the sweetness. Once I started adding some sourness my smoothies went from “Oh, that’s good,” to “Holy crap! What IS this crack?!” I like to use pineapple (or pineapple juice), orange juice (not the whole fruit unless you own a Vitamix; it makes it too pulpy), passion fruit, snake fruit, or even a little splash of lemon/lime. Tang makes all the difference.
Very cold smoothies taste way better. I like to use mostly frozen fruit if possible, because it makes the smoothie creamier and thicker. Frozen bananas are a great base for almost any smoothie because it basically makes it ice cream. Make sure your bananas are as ripe as possible! The riper, the sweeter. If you don’t have any fruit frozen, just use ice cold water or juice as your liquid and add a good amount of ice. Remember, the more water or ice you add, the more sugar/sweetener you should put in. Frozen fruit is ideal because it adds the necessary coldness without blanding it down. If you’re going with all frozen fruit, add room temp water/juice and maybe one non-frozen element (such as frozen mango and frozen blueberries with a non-froze banana) or you’ll end up with an un-blendable solid chunk of ice. Always add fresh fruit first, then frozen stuff if applicable, then ice if applicable, in that order. If you add the ice first you’re going to have a hard time getting the blending started. Use crushed ice if you can.
You need to have about 2/3 frozen ingredients and 1/3 non-frozen ingredients for the perfect consistency. The same goes for solids to liquids ratio. You need about 2/3 solid and 1/3 liquid when you look at the total of everything in your blender. Keep in mind that watery fruits such as pineapple or watermelon are already like 90% water, so they don’t need much or any added liquids.
If your main flavor is watermelon or pineapple, this will make a great slushie. Don’t add bananas or anything creamy to this, it’ll curdle and be weird. Stick to juicy fruits like strawberry, passion fruit, or lime as your bonus flavor. These fruits are almost all water (especially watermelon) so if it’s something like a watermelon slushie, don’t add any liquid! Just add about half as much ice as watermelon. The extra ice will give it the nice slushie texture.
BONUS TIP: if you want a pretty, Instagram-worthy drink, use a brightly-colored fruit as your bonus flavor, like pink dragonfruit, grape/pomegranate juice, blueberries/blackberries, or cherries. If you want orange, do orange-mango with maybe a hint of strawberry or papaya. Once you have your basic components and ratios down, then you can start getting creative with the colors.
- NEVER add grapefruit – no matter what else you add, it will taste like actual throw-up, just trust me
- NO full apples (juice is okay) – gives it a weird mealy texture
- DON’T make it brown! – The only time a brown smoothie is appetizing is if it’s chocolate. Avoid this aesthetic mistake by not mixing opposite colors on the color wheel. For example, red and green – don’t add spinach to a strawberry smoothie
- The only acceptable leafy green is spinach! Kale, lettuce, and other greens may be healthy, but it’ll taste “healthy” too. Stick to spinach or (gasp!) don’t add any leafy greens. You can always have a salad for lunch, girl.
In this case, you’d want to add the fresh pineapple first so the blades can blend easily, then the frozen banana and mango, then everything else.
MORE TIPS: If you’re adding orange juice, don’t add water, if adding sugar instead of juice, add water or the liquid of your choice. Make sure you have only 1/4 – 1/3 amount of liquid to solids in the blender because the pineapple adds a little liquid. You could also make this a pretty bright green color by adding spinach. Variation: if you wanted to make this taste like a Banana Mango Julius, use milk as the liquid and add vanilla as your bonus flavor instead of pineapple.
For this one, you’d want to add the peaches first if they’re fresh or canned, then the strawberries, then everything else. If you have fresh strawberries instead of frozen, just add more ice and don’t use liquid.
I didn’t include exact amounts of ingredients, because it’s highly dependent on whether you use ice vs. frozen fruit, or sugar vs. fruit juice, etc. What matters most is the RATIOS. If you have all four components (1. Main base flavors – at least two, 2. Sweetness, 3. Tang, and 4. Coldness) and you have the proper ratios of frozen vs. non-frozen and liquids vs. solids (2/3 : 1/3 for both) then you can make any kind of smoothie that is the perfect consistency, beautiful, and delicious – every time.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite smoothie consists of, and please share any tips you have so we can all take our smoothie skills to the next level.