Liquid is necessary for helping your blender to mix the ingredients. It’s impossible for most low-end blenders to make a smoothie without some added water. Not adding enough liquid might make the smoothie too thick.
The amount of liquid you will need to add will vary depending on your blenders make and model. I have found that high-powered blenders like the Vita-Mix need slightly more water than lower-end models. This is because a high-powered blender does a better job at pureeing the fruit and greens and it needs more water to thoroughly mix them. A low end blender doesn’t blend as thoroughly and may produce a slightly chunky smoothie where separation occurs.
I used to only add about four ounces to my old blender, but my new Vitamix needs eight ounces since it blends much more thoroughly.
What Liquids To Use
Filtered Water: I like to use filtered water when I make a green smoothie. It doesn’t affect the flavor and doesn’t detract from the flavor of the fruits from coming out.
Coconut Water: If you want to give your smoothie a tropical tone, use young, Thai coconut water straight from the coconut itself. You can find young coconuts at Asian markets or at certain health food stores. Each coconut contains about 16 ounces of delicious, sweet water and the meat is soft like hard-boiled egg white. Not only can young coconut help improve the texture of your smoothie, it adds a wonderful flavor to any tropical fruit like pineapple, mango, papaya and oranges.
Fruit Juices: I don’t recommend using commercial fruit juice in your green smoothie because commercial juices are not fresh. They have also been pasteurized which has exposed them to heat and therefore reduced the vitamin content and enzymes that are normally found in the whole fruit or freshly squeezed juice that you make at home.
You can use your own, fresh squeezed fruit juice. Oranges, grapefruit and other juicing fruits are perfect. Use the same principle of flavor combining as you would with flavor fruits. Juice fruits that will complement the other fruit you put into your smoothie.
Milks: My personal philosophy about green smoothies steers me away from using animal milk as a liquid. The reasoning is that green smoothies are the perfect detox food, and dairy products interfere with that. If you are tempted to add milk in order to boost the calcium content, remember that many fruits and vegetables, especially greens, are rich in calcium. It’s actually quite easy to make a smoothie with more calcium than a glass of milk!
If you do want to use milk as a liquid, I recommend trying plant-based milks made from hemp, almond, oat or rice. You can find certain brands that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. I personally do not use soy milk due to the health controversy surrounding soy products, but that’s another option if you choose.
Step 2 – Pick Your “Base” Fruit
Base fruits give your smoothie that creamy smoothie texture. Otherwise, it will be too runny or you’ll end up with pulpy fruit juice (like if you blended oranges and grapes together).
Avoid water-rich fruits like watermelon, grapes and oranges (you can use them in a smoothie, but not as your “base fruit”).
If you want to make a smoothie using more than one fruit, like a banana and strawberry, then use slightly more banana than you would strawberry. For example, two bananas to one cup strawberry would provide a nice flavor combo while preserving the smoothie texture.
Avocado and coconut meat can also help thicken your smoothie while adding more calories and healthy fat for a meal-replacement shake. I typically only use no more than ¼ of an avocado in any smoothie recipe I make.
Greens will help thicken a smoothie as well, so the more greens you add, the less base fruit you will need. You shouldn’t rely on greens for a base, though.
Step 3 – Mixing Flavors
Flavor fruits are optional. They do enhance the flavor of your green smoothies as well as boost the overall nutrition. I like to use berries, citrus fruits, pineapple or other strongly flavored fruit. I like to find fruits that will complement the base fruits I use.
It’s easy to come up with ideas by looking at the fruit juice aisle or the yogurt section in the supermarket. Millions of dollars in product research has done the legwork for you, so just look at what popular flavors of juices and fruit-flavored prepared snacks are and make your own smoothies based on those combinations.
I’ve even gotten smoothie ideas while looking at scented candles. A wonderfully fragranced peach-ginger or a citrus-cilantro candle stirs up curiosity and ideas for new smoothies to try.
Use your taste buds as a guide and don’t be afraid to let your whimsical side shine when you’re at your blender. I blended a crisp Fuji apple with young coconut one time and it came out well!
My favorite flavor combos are:
Banana (base fruit) with strawberry
Mango (base fruit) with pineapple
Pear (base fruit) with orange
Apple (base fruit) with blueberry
You can get creative with your smoothies by flavoring them with vanilla bean, clove, cinnamon or even cayenne pepper (great with chocolaty smoothies made with raw cacao). Flavored protein powders will also change the overall smoothie flavor so keep this in mind when mixing fruit.
Now would be a good time to blend your fruit and liquid together. Just hold down the “Pulse” button on your blender until the ingredients are lightly mixed into a “sludge”. Doing this before adding the greens will make it easier for you and your blender.
Step 4 – Add Your Greens!
While you can make a smoothie with just fruit, I consider greens an essential part of a healthy smoothie regimen. Greens are essential because they play a vital role in overall nutrition and should make up a significant portion of your diet in order to achieve optimum health.
Before you wrinkle your nose at the notion of drinking spinach, let me tell you that when blended in a green smoothie, the fruit masks the flavor of any veggies you put in. I’m serious! Give it a try! It’s a perfect way to get your greens without tasting them. You can even sneak them into your kid’s diet too!
I started off with fresh baby spinach and now use primarily dandelion greens, romaine lettuce (I stuff the entire head in my blender!), kale, chard, parsley and any other organic leafy green I can find. (Read more about suggested smoothie greens.)
Fresh baby spinach has a mild flavor, so start with that and gradually increase your dose to a large handful or two in each smoothie. Your body will thank you for it!
The recommended percentage of greens to use in a green smoothie is 40% greens to 60% fruit. You can start at a lower percentage and work your way up as you get used to it and even boost your greens beyond to 50, 60 or 70%.
Blending greens in a regular blender can be hard. We have a Vitamix blender and we LOVE! It easily blends greens into a creamy smoothie without leaving chunks and it does it in half the time of a regular blender. Read more about why we love our Vitamix.
Step 5 – Now Blend It Up!
Depending on your blender, you might need to hit the “Pulse” button a few times to mix the greens before hitting any pre-set “Smoothie” buttons. Otherwise, blend on high for anywhere from 30-60 seconds or until all ingredients are whirling away, your smoothie turns bright (or dark) green and it’s smooth as silk!
Unless you have a high-end Vitamix or Blendtec blender, you might need to chop up your greens rather than adding whole leaves or large bunches. If you have large chunks of fruit that won’t blend, try cutting smaller pieces and leave out tough bits of core from pineapple and other fruits.
Try not to over-blend your smoothie. It might take a few times to get the hang of it, but once you do, aim for blending your smoothie enough to drink through a straw, but don’t leave your blender whirling the ingredients for more than a minute at most to reduce oxidation and nutrient loss.
Optional Smoothie Additives
Your green smoothie is nutritious enough on it’s own. But if you really want to go all out for a healthy kick, you can use your smoothie to deliver extra protein, vitamins and superfoods to your diet.
Protein Powders: Your options for protein powders are numerous. I use Epic Protein by Sprout Living. It’s a high-quality, organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free, sprouted protein that has up to 23 grams of protein per serving and you can get in several flavors. I actually use the plain flavor. It does not make the smoothie chalky.
Hemp protein is also an excellent, quality protein choice. It is more expensive than rice protein, but you can find brands that are certified raw, which is important if you are following the raw food diet.
Spirulina is a good source of protein. It’s a blue-green algae that is widely praised as a super health food. It is quite expensive and you don’t need to add much.
I don’t recommend soy protein as I have read research suggesting that soy protein isolate is not a healthy protein choice. You can do your own research and make up your own mind. Soy protein is the least expensive protein option and is widely available.
Any protein powder should work in a smoothie, although some types or brands might be more chalky than others.
Green Powders: I’m on the fence about green powders. I used to use Complete Greens which is a green powder made from a variety of herbs, grasses, vegetables, algae, probiotics and trace minerals. This was before my green smoothie days. I really liked the product but I no longer use it because I can’t justify the expense when I get so much nutrition from all the fresh, organic greens and fruit I drink every day now.
Powdered and Liquid Vitamins: Personally, I don’t believe it is necessary to use a powdered multivitamin if you are drinking two, high-quality green smoothies every day and you make healthy dietary choices. Green smoothies are such a rich source of most vitamins and minerals that it doesn’t make sense to add synthetic versions into the mix as well.
If you are a vegan supplementing with vitamins B12 and D, or another vitamin/mineral supplement, adding it to your green smoothie is a convenient way to take it.
Superfoods: Superfoods are great additions to green smoothies. I sometimes use powdered maca root and cacao in mine. Ground up Goji berries blend well too. You can easily add phytoplankton or whatever you want.
Omega-3s: Just one tablespoon of flax seeds have over 100% of your recommended daily value of Omega-3 fatty acids. Grind up whole seeds in a coffee grinder before adding them to your smoothie.
Sweeteners: When you are new to green smoothies, you might find that the fruit is not as sweet as commercial juices or drinks that you are used to. Try to only use fruit that is in season and ripe as it is at it’s nutritional peak, fullest flavor and sweetest.
If you feel that you need to add a sweetener to counteract the bitter greens, I encourage you to use just a little bit with the idea of weening yourself off of it as soon as possible. Your taste buds will adjust and you will enjoy the natural sweetness of fruit.
For sweeteners, I recommend adding extra banana or a couple dates to your smoothie. Otherwise, try agave nectar, honey or stevia. Avoid table sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.