How to Make the Best Smoothie Bowl
My top 10 tips + tricks to create the perfect smoothie bowl, every single time!
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with smoothie bowls. There’s just something so good about diving into a creamy, flavorful, dessert-like breakfast that also helps cool you down when it’s warm out! Not to mention, smoothie bowls are a fantastic way to get in an abundance of nutrients! That’s a win-win in my book ;)
I didn’t always used to be this way though. If you would have asked me if I wanted a smoothie bowl less than a year ago, I would have answered with '“no way! I don’t like smoothie bowls". I honestly couldn’t understand how people could enjoy eating a bowl of melty ice. Until I discovered I was making them all wrong.
In the past couple months, I have made SO many smoothie bowls. Some of them were amazing. Others, not so much. Through lots of trial and error I have learned quite a bit about smoothie-bowl making and can finally say I have the whole I-know-how-to-make-an-amazing-smoothie-bowl thing down. Yeehaw!
Now that I know how easy it is to create the perfect smoothie bowl, I’m sharing all my tips so that you, too, can blend a no fail smoothie every time!
1. Invest in a high-quality blender
If the smoothie bowl is your baby, your blender is your baby mama! Seriously though. The blender is where your smoothie is going to be made—a high quality blender will yield a high quality smoothie! I use my Vitamix, the TNC 5200 model. This is the older model, but honestly works amazing! You really don’t need the newest model to make a thick & creamy smoothie! If the Vitamix is still not within your budget, I highly recommend Froothie’s Optimum Blender. It looks just like a Vitamix and honestly is the same thing, just a lot cheaper! When you buy a Vitamix, you’re also paying for the brand name ;)
The reason I specify these two blenders is because they are powerful and both have tampers. A tamper is really important if your goal is thick + creamy, because it allows you to push your ingredients into the blade while you’re blending. My old blender didn’t have a tamper, so I always had to stop the blender to scrape down the sides. Even though it’s only about 1/2 minute each time you stop to scrape down the sides, this takes time—precious time that can cause your smoothie to melt!
2. Use the right fruits & veggies
Does this mean I always have to use the same ingredients? Absolutely not! When I say ‘right’, I mean you need the proper ratios of both fruit:veggies as well as frozen vs fresh as well as ‘creamy’ fruits vs more ‘watery’ fruits. I know that’s a lot of words, but don’t worry! I’m explaining everything below :)
For my smoothies, I always use a base of 250- 300g fruits and veggies combined. At least 1/3 of this (so 100g) has to be a ‘creamy’ ingredient, which is usually categorized as being more starchy. Here are some of my favorites:
frozen banana (100g is about 1 medium)
frozen mango (100g is about 1 cup chunks)
frozen papaya (100g is about 1 cup chunks)
roasted + frozen squash (100g is about 1 cup chunks)
I love adding vegetables to my smoothie bowls, simply because they amp up the nutrition profile! However, you can always sub the veggies for more fruit if you’d like. The type of fruit doesn’t matter here—’creamy’ or ‘flavor’ fruit would both work! Just keep in mind that ‘creamy’ fruit will lend a creamier texture.
When adding veggies to smoothie bowls, I try to go for about 50-100g in each bowl. I really wouldn’t recommend doing more than that, because your smoothie bowl will become too icy due to vegetable’s high water content. My go-to vegetables are:
frozen beet chunks (need to be pre-cooked or roasted)
frozen cauliflower (rice or florets both work)
sliced zucchini (frozen or raw both work)
I always do a combination of two of the above vegetables in a 1:1 ratio. So 50g frozen beets + 50g frozen cauliflower or 50g frozen cauliflower + 50g frozen zucchini. Doing a combination of 2 different veggies helps with neutralizing the strong ‘vegetable’ flavor!
*Note: raw leafy greens, such as spinach or kale, are an exception here. Since they’re not frozen and don’t really make an impact texture-wise, feel free to use them as a ‘free’ ingredient.
After figuring out your ‘creamy’ ingredient(s) and veggies, it’s time to give your smoothie some flavah! Frozen fruit is essential here, because again, it’s what’s going to keep your smoothie thick & creamy as oppose to watery & runny. Some of my favorites are:
frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
frozen peaches or pears (skins removed)
frozen melon (cantaloupe + honeydew melon work well—I don’t recommend watermelon!)
Of course, you can always use additional ‘creamy’ fruit instead of ‘flavor’ fruit if you like. For example, banana and mango are both ‘creamy’ ingredients, but their tropical flavors pair together beautifully! Or, if you want to go all out tropical and make a banana-mango-pineapple-peach smoothie, just adjust the amount of each fruit accordingly to the flavor ratio of your preference.
3. Pick a color & flavor theme
The beautiful thing about fruits and veggies is that they’re unique when it comes to both color, flavor, and nutrition. If we’re looking purely at making a successful smoothie bowl, we’re going to focus on colors and flavors.
Remember learning about primary and complementary colors in art class as a kid? Then you probably also remember that mixing 2 primary colors create a beautiful, new color:
red + yellow = orange
red + blue = purple
yellow + blue = green
However, if you mixed all three primary colors together, you get…brown? Doing so has the same effect as mixing two complementary colors, or two colors on opposite sides of the color wheel.
When deciding on ingredients for your smoothie bowl, avoid using complementary colors. So for example, avoid adding greens to a strawberry smoothie—it will turn brown! Instead, try adding spinach to a smoothie with yellow colors such as banana, mango, and pineapple, and beets or cauliflower to a strawberry one.
Aside from their color, certain fruits go better together than others. More often than not, less is MORE when it comes to smoothie bowl making. Adding too many flavors will actually just cause them to get ‘lost’ in the smoothie!
When I make my own smoothie bowls, I always pick a flavor theme beforehand. Some ideas:
tropical (banana, mango, pineapple, peach, and coconut all go well here!)
very berry (feel free to use strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and/or cherries as your ‘flavor’ fruits)
green (throw in a handful of spinach, kale, or add a spoonful of greens powder to your smoothie)
açaí (add a frozen açaí packet to your base, or add a spoonful of açaí powder to your smoothie)
chocolate cacao (i would use a chocolate protein powder and add some raw cacao powder. goes well with banana, strawberries, raspberries, and/or cherries. also goes incredible with beets!)
If using protein powder, it’s also important to choose a flavor that fits within your theme! I have found coconut protein to go well with tropical flavors, vanilla with berry flavors, vanilla (matcha) with green smoothies, vanilla in an açaí bowl, and obviously chocolate protein for a chocolate flavored smoothie!
4. Biggest smoothie mistake: adding ice
In my experience, adding ice totally ruins a smoothie bowl that once had the potential to be thick & creamy! Because ice is made of water, it doesn’t contribute any creaminess factor and will just make your smoothie bowl, well, icy! Ain’t nobody in the mood for a bowl of ice. Plus, ice takes up space that could go to much better use by using nutritious fruits + veggies!
5. Add a thickening protein
One thing I love about smoothie bowls is that they’re a great way to pack in loads of nutrition, including protein! If you want to get your smoothie bowl extra thick and creamy, I recommend adding one of My Top 5 Vegan Protein Powders. Each of the 5 brands has several different flavors, which are also a great inspiration when deciding on a flavor profile for your smoothie bowl!
For example, I love combining tropical flavors (banana, mango, pineapple, etc) with coconut-flavored protein. Livwell Coconut Protein or Personal Protein’s coconut shot along with their pea protein isolate are both amazing choices!
Not a fan of protein powder? No worries! I can totally understand that some people prefer to get their protein solely from food. In that case, there’s several other options to thicken your smoothie! Below are a list of substitutions for 1 scoop/2 tbsp (12-15g) protein powder:
2 tbsp oat flour or 3 tbsp rolled oats (15g)
1-2 tbsp chia or flax seeds (12-24g)
1-2 tbsp nut butter (15-30g)
1/4 cup full-fat Greek yogurt, or coconut yogurt (60g)
1/2 avocado (60g-80g) (I am intolerant to avocado so personally cannot vouch for this option, but I can imagine it would work really well!)
6. Go easy on the liquid
In the beginning of my smoothie-making career, this was my biggest pitfall. I would add way too much liquid in proportion to my other ingredients, causing my smoothie to be runny and not bowl-worthy! My most important tip here is to start with less liquid—you can always add more!
Your blender will play a huge part in how much liquid you will need. I am convinced that I am able to make the thickest smoothies (with the least amount of liquid) now that I have a high-performance blender with a tamper. Thanks to the tamper, you can continually push down the ingredients so that they can continue to blend. However, even the highest quality blenders need a bit of liquid to get things blending smoothly (ha! see what I did there?).
My go-to liquid for smoothies is dairy-free milk, such as almond, cashew, or coconut. However, my sister despises the combination of milk and fruit (I just can’t understand!), and prefers juice to get her smoothie blending. Recently, I also tried coconut water, which I loved!
I usually use anywhere from 1/4 cup-1/2 cup liquid in my smoothie bowls. Depending on my base ingredients, the amount varies! Start by adding 1/4 cup, and add an additional tablespoon at a time, if necessary. I usually end up around 1/3 cup.
7. The order of ingredients DOES matter!
For the longest time, I thought it didn’t. I would randomly toss everything in the blender and blend until it looked creamy…or not. This was always a guessing game, because it was just unpredictable! Guessing game problem? Solved. It turns out that the order (+ timing!) in which you add ingredients in the blender is of key importance.
First, make sure any raw ingredients (that need to be blended) are on the bottom. Aka raw zucchini, leafy greens, avocado, nuts, chia/flax seeds. If you add these on top of the frozen fruits/veggies, chances are you’ll get chunks of the non-frozen ingredients in your smoothie.
After adding your blendable raw ingredients (if using), add the hardest frozen ingredients. So frozen beets, cauliflower, strawberries, melon, bananas, mango, squash, pineapple, pears/peaches, etc. It’s important to add delicate frozen fruits (such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries) LAST because these blend more easily and will thus cause your smoothie to melt faster if on the bottom of the blender.
So for example, if I was going to make a smoothie out of frozen cauliflower, raw zucchini, strawberries, and blueberries, this would be my loading order: raw zucchini, frozen cauliflower & strawberries, blueberries.
8. Don’t add everything to the blender at once
This is actually a trick I only recently discovered thanks to Dana from Minimalist Baker. The key to creamy, thick smoothies is to simply add the frozen fruits & veggies (+ any raw blendable ingredients) and blend on LOW until it looks like Dippin’ Dots. Then, add your liquid and protein powder, if using. Continue to blend until you have soft serve!
Before I tried this method, I put everything in the blender at once. However, I always seemed to get chunks in there, which was no bueno. The method of blending your base on low first and then adding your liquid and protein powder is a true game changer!
9. Think about how you SERVE
I spent too many minutes thinking about a catchy title for this tip, so ‘think about how you serve’ is just going to have to cut it for now 😂But seriously, you’re gonna wanna read this! It will totally enhance your smoothie-eating experience ;)
We’ve now gone over how to MAKE the perfect smoothie bowl, but what about eating it? Since they’re basically made with frozen ingredients, a smoothie bowl will melt fast if you don’t think about how you’re gonna serve it beforehand. Here are my tips for keeping your smoothie thick & chilled for as long as possible!
choose a bowl thats deep over one that’s wide and shallow—the smaller surface area means slower melting.
chill your bowl beforehand—it doesn’t have to be for long! Just 10 minutes in the freezer makes a huge difference. I like to pop my bowl in the freezer right before I get started with smoothie-making.
consider using a Healthy Human insulated tumbler— if you recently saw my drippy smoothie on instagram, you know what I’m talking about. Since they’re made of stainless steel, Healthy Human’s insulated tumblers keep your smoothie nice and cold the entire time you’re eating it! You can use my code LIVIAA10 to save 10% when you order Healthy Human on Amazon.
10. Don’t forget the toppings!
Because really, a smoothie bowl is incomplete without toppings! Feel free to add whatever floats your boat when it comes to toppings. Personally, I like simple and rarely ever add more than 2-3 different toppings to my smoothie bowls, but again, you do you!
Some of my favorite toppings:
nut or seed butter
nuts & seeds
crumbled baked goods
To ensure that your smoothie bowl doesn’t melt before you get the chance to dig in, I recommend having your toppings ready beforehand. This means slicing any fresh fruit, grabbing any crunchy toppings from the back of the cabinet…you get the gist. Those couple of minutes spent thinking about/gathering toppings really makes a different if your thick ‘n creamy smoothie is out on the counter, melting away ;)
I hope that this 10-tip guide helps you create the thickest, creamiest smoothie bowl you’ve ever imagined! For specific recipes, you can always check out the #dEATs on my instagram feed. If you use any of my smoothie tips or re-create any of my recipes, please be sure to tag me @simplybalancedliv and #simplybalancedliv. I love seeing your takes on my recipes!