I often am asked how I make my smoothie bowls. From "how do you have the time?" to "what do you put in there?" I might not be able to buy you time, but I can share some tips on how to make an Instagram-Worthy Smoothie Bowl.
1. Make nice with your freezer
Step 1 to an Instagram-worthy smoothie bowl: start with a creamy base that is thick enough to securely hold your toppings. The best way to get a thick and luscious smoothie base? Use frozen fruit!
Frozen bananas are a mainstay in my smoothie bowls. But as with all art, there’s a technique behind the frozen banana secret. Buy a bunch of bananas, wait until they are very ripe and covered in brown spots (#uglyproduceisbeautiful), and then peel, slice, and freeze in a ziploc bag. When you’re ready to make a smoothie, just pop them in your blender, and voila, you've made the super-popular #nicecream. If you buy your produce at local markets, they may even sell very ripe bananas at a cheaper price since they’ll be eager to get rid of them. Another reason to shop locally! If you’re looking for antioxidants, add some frozen berries and cherries for even more of that amazing nice cream texture.
2. The creamier, the better
Tip #2 is an extension of Tip #1. Break the rules: you don’t have to rely exclusively on fro bananas to get that creamy base. Some of my other star ingredients are coconut mylk, avocados, cashews, and oats.
Using coconut mylk as your liquid makes for a very creamy, tropical smoothie. And don’t let the high fat content scare you off. Coconuts are loaded with lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that, once it gets into your body, is converted into monolaurin, which is easily digestible and can be used as a source of direct energy instead of being stored in the body as fat.
My next fatty friend that’s perfect for a smoothie bowl is the avocado. Avocados contain more potassium than bananas, are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that can lower LDL cholesterol, are packed with fiber to keep you full, and can even bring you clearer, healthier skin. Try my “Mean Green Smoothies” for a reviving post-workout treat.
You can also try adding raw, soaked cashews to your smoothie base. Just soak ¼ cup of raw cashews for at least 3-4 hours or overnight, drain, and add them to your other smoothie ingredients. Soaking nuts not only makes for a creamier smoothie, but it also helps break down the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in nuts, which makes the nutrients in nuts more readily available for your body to process and aids in digestion. For a post- or pre-gym energizing smoothie, grind up ½ cup of rolled oats in your food processor or blender until the oats turn into a powder, and then add to the rest of your smoothie fixings.
3. Disguise your veggies
I’m not one to hide my veggies. But, when I’m making a smoothie bowl for Instagram, I can’t exactly top it with eggplant or broccoli. Luckily, there are several ways to disguise your veggies within a smoothie bowl.
Of course, if you’re making a green smoothie bowl, go heavy on the spinach or kale, as well as fresh herbs like mint and basil. However, if you’re trying to achieve a colored smoothie that’s not green, you have to think outside the leafy greens box.
First, load up on zucchini. Peel away the green skin and then slice and freeze, as you would bananas. Add this mild-flavored veggie to your smoothies as you would frozen bananas. Frozen zucchini will add creaminess, texture, and nutrition without any change in color or taste. Or sugar! And if you’re hesitant to throw away perfectly good zucchini peels, toss them in a salad, stir fry or pasta dish.
For an orange-ish smoothie bowl, try my favorite tuber--the sweet potato. Did you know that this humble, inexpensive vegetable is so packed with beta-carotene that it could be used as a long-term strategy for combatting Vitamin A deficiency in children living in developing countries? Or that it’s a low-GI food that can improve blood sugar regulation? For a delicious autumn-inspired treat, add a peeled, cooked sweet potato to your blender, and mix with almond mylk, frozen bananas and zucchini, lots of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, and a plant-based protein powder.
Want to get really crazy? Check out this Creamy Cauliflower Breakfast Bowl from the amazing Unconventional Baker.
4. Jump on the Vitamix bandwagon
All this liquefying of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds requires a heavy-duty blender. A standard blender simply can’t turn tough kale leaves or fibrous nuts into a smoothie. The Vitamix can. I’ve had my Vitamix for over a year, and it is the best kitchen investment I’ve ever made. Yes, the price tag is hefty, but when you use it nearly everyday like I do, you definitely get your money’s worth. If you’re looking to branch out from Vitamix, check out some reviews here and here.
5. Milk what you’ve got
No dairy, no problem. It’s 2016, and you can “milk” virtually any nut, seed or grain. From almonds to cashews, rice to quinoa, and hemp seeds to flax seeds, there’s no need to drink a beverage that is designed to feed nursing calves.
You already know I love coconut mylk (see #2 above). It’s creamy, sweet, and reminds me of a tropical island. Soy mylk is also quite creamy and is packed with protein. Hemp mylk is a bit more watery and has a nutty flavor, and it’s packed with amino-acids and omega-3 and-6 fatty acids. Almond mylk and cashew mylk are two of my favorites, with cashew mylk being a bit creamier but almond mylk being cheaper and more widely available. Oat mylk is great for those with nut allergies and, if you make it at home, it’s one of your cheapest options (all you need are oats, water, and a bit of sweetener). Rice mylk tastes like a watered-down version of rice pudding. How bad could that be?
Try experimenting with these awesome plant-based mylks to develop your favorite smoothie recipes.
6. Taste the rainbow...
If you’re making an everyday post-workout smoothie to take on the go, just dump any and all nutritious ingredients in your blender and enjoy your poop-colored smoothie. But if you’re doing it for the Gram, take a minute to color coordinate.
For green smoothies, choose cucumber, avocado, kiwi, basil, mint, kale, spinach, and/or any other leafy green. For a vibrant red smoothie, try frozen or fresh cherries. Mellow yellows, add some mango and/or pineapple. For a vibrant pink smoothie, make friends with beets. Finely dice a raw (or cooked) beet and turn your smoothie bowl into an anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory powerhouse breakfast. For purples, try a mix of blueberries and blackberries. And most importantly, don’t forget to experiment!
7. ...But not with protein powder
Adding a plant-based protein powder is an easy way to pack more nutrition into your morning smoothie bowl, but if your protein powder is chocolate and your smoothie base is strawberries, you’re going to end up with an ugly duckling smoothie.
To keep your smoothie bowl both nutritious and visually appealing, stick with a neutral-colored protein powder that won’t change the color of your smoothie. Recently, I started using Garden of Life’s raw organic protein powder, and their unflavored variety blends seamlessly into my smoothie bowls. As you can see from the ingredient label, there’s protein in an enormous variety of plants, from hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds to brown rice and lentils.
8. Supercharge your smoothies with superfoods
Keeping up with the latest superfoods can be challenging. The lists constantly change and they’re not easy on the wallet. Luckily, a very small amount of the following superfoods go a long way.
Curious about those turquoise smoothie bowls you’ve seen floating around on Instagram? Hello, spirulina powder, a.k.a. mermaid powder. Spirulina is the blue-green algae that you might find on top of a pond, and it has earned its place on the superfoods list. Spirulina wards off inflammation, fights cancer, regulates blood pressure and cholesterol, boosts immunity, and improves muscle strength.
If you want to deepen the purple hues in your blueberry smoothie, check out acai berry or maqui berry powder. Both of these superberries hail from South America and are rich in omega fatty acids, along with vitamins A and C.
For a chocolaty treat, add raw cacao powder to a base of coconut milk, frozen bananas, frozen zucchini, almond butter or tahini, cinnamon, and a dash of espresso powder.
Finally, for a super vibrant green smoothie, invest in some matcha green tea powder. This supertea is packed with significantly more disease-preventing antioxidants than regular green tea, and can also help boost your metabolism. What’s not to love?
9. Patience is a virtue
What do you do if you follow steps #1 and 2, but your smoothie bowl isn’t as creamy as you like it to be? Or it is creamy but it’s humid af and it’s about to melt on the spot? Go back to your freezer!
Pop your smoothie bowl in the freezer for approximately 10 minutes. Your smoothie will be less watery, and you won’t have to worry about your toppings melting into your smoothie while you’re photographing. This is key especially if your base isn’t ultra-creamy but your toppings are on the heavy side--think cherries, half of a kiwi, half of a mango.
10. Last but not least, top it off
This is where the magic happens. When I’m topping a smoothie bowl, I like to think of my fridge and pantry as my art supplies. Sometimes I’ll gather all of the fruit I have and just lay it out on the counter. Seeing it in one big heap helps me visualize which fruits will look best with this particular smoothie bowl.
Don’t limit your toppings to fruit, though. Think seeds, nuts, puffed quinoa or amaranth, shredded coconut, edible flowers, raw cacao nibs or dark chocolate, granola, rawnola, or chia pudding. And don’t forget to visit your local farmer’s market for the freshest seasonal fruit as well as edible flowers. If you want to get super cutesy, use mini cookie cutters to cut your fruit into stars, hearts, and flowers. And if you want to get indulgent, drizzle some nut butter, tahini, or melted chocolate on top of your smoothie bowl.
Have you tried any of these tips on your smoothie bowls, or do you have any of your own tips to share? Let me know in the comments!