Learn how to make a smoothie that’s “just right” by Goldilocks’ standards.
After slurping enough 16-ounce Strawberry Surf Riders in the early 2000s to basically rewrite our DNA, most of us have come to consider ourselves something along the lines of smoothie connoisseurs. This means that scoping out the overly-watery, bland, or bitter concoctions with just one sip is an absolute gimmie.
That said, let’s be clear: Just because we prefer fancy juicebar-grade smoothies (in which the ratio, ingredients, and consistency are so perfect that charging $18 seems “worth it”—it’s not) apart from the watered-down ones doesn’t mean we’ve mastered the art of smoothie-making ourselves.
Next time your home-blended breakfast turns out too thick (or thin, sweet, sour, spinach-y…) and you feel tempted tof pour it down the drain and head back to Erewhon et al., Adam Wilson, the senior manager of culinary education at Vitamix, says there’s a solution for every smoothie-making woe and a way to spin (pun intended) things around. Ahead, one of the world’s top blending experts shares genius tips for salvaging any major smoothie fail and how to bring any blender recipe fail back to life.
6 common smoothie fails and solutions for salvaging them (and saving the day)
Before we delve in, there’s one thing Wilson wants you to keep in mind: to exercise patience when recovering from a smoothie failure. Regardless of the fix, Wilson says it’s important to work your machine back to its highest speed progressively rather than pulverizing from the get. Processing for 10-20 seconds will allow the ingredients to re-emulsify, which is an important step in the process. This applies to all of the tips listed below.
Smoothie Fail No. 1: It’s too thick
One of the most common smoothie fails is an overly-thick smoothie that’s impossible to slurp through a straw. Before you throw it in a bowl and grab a spoon, Wilson says there’s a quick fix.
In this instance, he suggests rehydrating the ingredients slowly and steadily so as to not overdo it. According to him, it’s best to start by adding just a small amount of liquid—about a tablespoon or so—at a time while blending 10-20 seconds in between each addition until the desired consistency is achieved. Working in small quantities helps prevent the smoothie from becoming too thin too fast. Pro tip: Wilson notes that the lid plug of a Vitamix blender doubles as a small measuring cup. The less cleaning, the better.
Smoothie Fail No. 2: It’s too watery
If you find yourself with an overly-thin smoothie, Wilson says adding a little substance is the way to go. “Use or add frozen fruit—especially ones like bananas and mango—nuts or seeds, or frozen yogurt,” Wilson says. Cauliflower is yet another rather surprising smoothie booster Wilson suggests using. “Frozen cauliflower is another great option that adds creaminess and body—and a nutrient boost—without any hint of cauliflower taste,” he says. Or, you can always add some hemp seeds to help thicken up a smoothie. “Their mildly nutty flavor shouldn’t compete with the other ingredients.”
When adding solid ingredients to a smoothie, Wilson emphasizes that it’s important to work the machine back up to its highest speed and process for 20-30 seconds to fully incorporate all of the ingredients together.
Smoothie Fail No. 3: It’s too bitter
Smoothies can easily go south—especially when working with especially potent ingredients—and become too bitter before you know it. The solution? Neutralizing flavors. “Fresh or frozen fruit like pineapple, mango, and oranges add lots of fruity sweetness. Meanwhile, bananas, in addition to being sweet, seem to neutralize bitter flavors,” Wilson says. Another great option is strawberries, which pair well with most smoothie combinations.
Alternatively, Wilson suggests adding a few pitted dates and raisins that act as natural sweeteners while giving smoothies a boost of gut-healthy fiber. If these options don’t seem to work, he says a bit of vanilla bean, vanilla extract, agave, or cacao can help do the trick. And if all else fails, flavored protein powders are one of the easiest (and best) ways to mask the taste of bitter greens.
To that end, Wilson notes that greens are usually the culprit behind a bitter-tasting drink. As such, he recommends using baby greens or spinach, which tend to be milder in taste than mature greens. Then, once your taste buds have adapted to these earthy flavors, you can start working your way up to more bitter varieties and adjusting the ratios to your liking.
Smoothie Fail No. 4: It’s too sweet
When your breakfast smoothie begins to taste like dessert (which isn’t necessarily a negative depending on your palate), Wilson suggests adding a splash of citrus to balance out the flavors and keep the sweetness levels in check. “Add a touch of lemon or lime juice.
A small slice of lemon or lime can give a punch of acidity to balance the sweetness,” he says. What’s more, Wilson notes that many fruits can act as natural sweeteners, meaning you can eliminate or reduce added sweeteners (like honey, agave, or maple syrup) altogether in most cases.
Smoothie Fail No. 5: It isn’t sweet enough
On the other hand, when your smoothie isn’t sweet enough, naturally sweet fruits (like mango or pineapple), dates, and overripe fruit that may be past its prime for eating out of hand are some of Wilson’s favorite picks. “Smoothies are a great vehicle to make sure foods don’t go to waste,” he says. Wilson also notes that a little sweetener can go a long way, so it’s important to add small amounts at a time to err on the side of caution.
Smoothie Fail No. 6: It’s too gritty
When the “smooth” in smoothie isn’t coming through and all you’re left with is a chalky, gritty drink, it’s time to call in the rich and creamy ingredients, like avocados and bananas. “After removing its skin and pit, you can add a whole avocado to your smoothie or save some for the next day,” Wilson says. He also recommends adding a handful of cashews to give your smoothie a nutty flavor and creamy texture. Again, don’t forget to work the machine back up to high speed and process for at least 10-20 seconds to ensure maximum creaminess is achieved.
At the end of the day, it’s all about that base
To achieve an A+ creamy, dreamy smoothie texture from the get, Wilson says you need to start with the right ratio of solid and liquid ingredients. As a baseline, this means always starting with one full cup of liquid. Then, for fruit-based smoothies, Wilson says to pick two fruits and add one cup of each. For veggie-based smoothies, he suggests using one cup total of greens like kale, spinach, or arugula. (You can also toss in half a raw beet, which will give a smoothie drink a beautiful reddish hue.)
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