Smoothie 101: How to Make a Smoothie With Frozen Fruit
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I cannot express enough how great smoothies are! They are incredibly low key, versatile, and easy to make. If you can find it at a farmer’s market or the produce section of your local food mart, you can probably put it in a smoothie. Well ok. Maybe you can’t use asparagus. But really the sky is the limit!
So I’ve been writing a lot of smoothie recipes over the last few weeks (and I’ve got many more to write). The August heat is definitely perfect for them! But I realized a few posts ago that I have never really broken down the process on how to make a smoothie with frozen fruit. It’s pretty straightforward; however, there are just a few nuances to the whole process that if overlooked can keep your drink from reaching perfection.
To go along with that, I thought I’d also relay many of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years as some of these elements can trip up an inexperienced smoothie maker. This is also a great way to show you exactly all the options you’ve got to make your own recipes or change up your favorite ones to suit your mood.
So without further ado, let’s get into the basics!
The Basics: Fruit and Juice
The fruit base can be any kind of fruit as long as it has a lot of ‘meat’ to it (for lack of a better word). They are typically fruits that wouldn’t yield a lot of juice if you tried to juice them (like, for example, a banana). These kinds of fruits include but are not limited to: banana, strawberry, mango, papaya, peaches, kiwi, dragon fruit, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, avocado, coconut, pumpkin, and blackberries.
The juice base is really any liquid you would fancy to put in your smoothie. There are many options other than fruit juice that you can use. I’ve made smoothies from a large list of liquids. As far as fruit juice, you can use orange, grapefruit, pineapple, apple, watermelon, and cucumber (remember: it is a fruit). I’m sure you could also use fruits like grapes, or something from the melon family like cantaloupe, although I’ve never tried these (I might need to change that soon, however).
But you aren’t limited to just fruit. There are a few vegetables that work incredibly well in smoothies too. These include carrots, celery, and sweet potato. Outside of vegetables, you have other kinds of liquids at your disposal. You can use all kinds of milk like hemp, almond, soy, cashew, rice, and even cow’s milk. And let’s not forget coconut water! There is also just plain old water but I never use it.
Take It From The Boy Scouts – Always Be Prepared (Or Prepped)
As this is about frozen fruit, I feel it necessary to talk about this for a brief minute. I personally don’t have a ton of time in my day to cut and prep every fruit I use, so I buy most of them in the freezer aisle.
However, the one exception to that is bananas. If you use bananas in your smoothies, overripe ones make the absolute best smoothies. They blend much better and of course are sweeter. I buy a bunch, and when they are ready I break them into thirds or fourths. Place them in a freezer-safe container or Ziploc bag for at least a day but preferably two and you are good to go!
So instead of making that banana bread, just freeze them instead! I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it.
Now on to the really fun stuff!
Spontaneity Is the Spice (or Add-In) of Life
Ok! This is really the part that takes an average smoothie and really makes it wonderful and unique! It is from here that you can customize and develop smoothies for your personal tastes or needs. The list of additional ingredients that fall into this section is massive, so I have broken them down into categories to make it easier to understand and follow. You can customize virtually any recipe you find with this list of add-ins, or use it as a reference for substitution ideas to any allergy. So let’s get started!
Greens are an awesome way to get some vegetables into any smoothie. Spinach is an excellent go-to as it does not change or compromise the flavor in any way, so you can’t really go overboard with it (although for the texture I try to limit it).
Kale is also a good one for any smoothie, but this one you can have too much of a good thing: enough of it will start to change the flavor.
With both these, a good rule is no more than 1/2 cup of either, or combination of the two, per 16 oz. of your total drink.
Celery is another good option in the greens group, but this one is a bit tricky. To start with, celery does have a strong flavor in the finished drink, so I usually limit it to about a 2-inch piece per drink. This also adds more liquid to the smoothie when it gets blended, so add just a little less of your liquid of choice than you would use normally.
The most important trick with greens is they need to go in your blender first. This is critical! When the greens are closest to the blades they get broken down first and blend seamlessly into the fruit as the blender works its way up. If you wait and put your greens in at the top, your finished drink will either get runny from blending too long while you were breaking up the greens, or you’ll have large pieces of greens in the finished drink and it’ll make the texture grainy.
A good rule for the liquid is to err on the conservative side for any greens you put in your smoothies. Greens add bulk to your smoothies but do not absorb the liquid at all, so it’s very easy to have a finished drink that’s too thin. I usually put in enough liquid to cover the greens, and possibly some of the fruit, depending on how much I am making. At most have your liquid 2 inches below the very top of the fruit. But be careful! If your blender is overtaxed by not having enough liquid, slowly add more while it is running…just until the blades are turning properly.
I love to add other vegetables (and fruits) to my drinks that fall outside of greens! I throw in chunks of beet, carrots, ginger, garlic, coconut, durian, avocado, cilantro, parsley, lime, lemon, jalapeno, and turmeric in many of my smoothies. These you have to be careful with though as they have very strong flavors and can overpower a drink very quickly.
A good rule I’ve found that works is a chunk of beet or carrot no bigger than your thumb (or 2 inches, in case you have really big thumbs). Mostly this is due to texture rather than flavor. Too much of either of these and it makes the finished drink grainy. If you’d like more than that I’d suggest juicing them instead.
With ginger, garlic, and turmeric I go no larger than 1 inch (or about the size of my pinky to the first joint). If you are sensitive to these taste I’d suggest limiting it even more: you can always add more, but you can’t take away if you have too much.
With cilantro and parsley, a small handful that you could squeeze into a 2-inch ball should be enough. Jalapeno is really a matter of taste and spice tolerance, but I have thrown one or two whole peppers in before and loved it. And lastly, with lime or lemon, I use juice and minimize it to 1 oz. per drink made. Likewise, I limit durian, coconut, and avocado to 2 oz. at most per drink (especially durian).
There are a ton of options here! I’ve used every kind of nut butter out there in a smoothie at some time. Peanut butter is always a great staple but there is also almond, cashew, sunflower, hazelnut, and many others out there. All of these impart different flavors to the finished product and can be equally delightful. If you have an allergy to peanuts or nuts, you can substitute each of these out for another one in the recipe and it’ll taste great.
Nuts are also a great option as well: I look to those bad boys when I want some texture to my drink. If you’d like to add some crunch to your smoothie, a simple trick is to wait until the end; before you crank it to the highest setting, throw them in and blend for no more than 5 seconds.
Oils also have a ton of options as well. My favorites are hemp, coconut, and flax but there are many more out there you could try. All of these you can add to your smoothie at any point, although I tend to put them in last.
The only exception to this is coconut oil, since it solidifies when cold. The trick to keep it from making your drink grainy is to wait until the drink is fully blended and, while the machine is still running on high, add it and blend an additional 3-5 seconds, just like adding nuts.
With nuts, nut butters, and oils, a tablespoon per drink is usually enough, but again you can adjust the ratio as you figure out what you like.
Supplements, Powders, and Spices
This group of add-ins is the biggest one yet! To avoid an exhaustive list that would take up a chapter in itself, I thought it best to break it down into these three categories.
You might be surprised the kinds of supplements I’ve seen get put into drinks. If it comes in a capsule (not to be confused with a tablet), you can simply just drop it in or open it up and pour the contents in. If it comes in a tincture form, use the recommended dose on the label. Some classic supplements I’ve seen added to a smoothie are moringa, CBD oil, and colloidal silver.
Powders as a group include cacao (or cocoa), protein powders, matcha, spirulina, maca, camu camu, and bee pollen (I know it isn’t technically a powder). As a general rule I keep my cacao and protein powders to a tablespoon per drink and put them in before the fruit to ensure proper blending, but it doesn’t really matter too much. The only tricky one I’ve found is whey protein, which tends to fluff up a smoothie. The best way to deal with that is to keep your blender running a low setting as long as possible and bring the speed up very slowly. Once you reach high setting really only run it a maximum of 10 seconds if possible.
Treat maca, matcha, and bee pollen very similarly, but keep it at a teaspoon per drink as they can make a smoothie chalky. Camu camu can be between 1 to 1/2 teaspoon per drink. Spirulina should be at a 1/2 teaspoon since it can start to add a fishy taste if overdone.
Spices really vary according to taste and recipe. The most well-known and popular spices include cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, cardamon, mint, and black pepper. Depending on the drink, the amount can vary. I’ve made drinks usually adding 1/4 teaspoon but I’ve gone as high as 1 teaspoon before as well. Like everything else, it’s all about your taste preference really but start small and add more as you go. For fresh spices like mint, I use around 5-10 leaves depending on size and strength.
This list includes any type of brewed drink. First, it needs to be cold. Warm liquids would defeat the purpose of a smoothie, especially one with frozen fruit. Other than that I usually limit to a maximum of 4 oz. per drink. Just keep in mind these should be added to your total amount of liquid. As an example, if I put in 4 oz. of cold brew coffee in a recipe that calls for 12 oz. of juice or milk, reduce the juice or milk to 8 oz. so you still come out 12 oz. in total.
This is the last group I want to touch on. I generally avoid adding additional sweeteners to my smoothies as there is usually enough sugar from the fruits and juices, but there are some cases where I will add more – because it’s a dessert smoothie, or it just really tastes that much better.
My favorite sweetener to add to smoothies is dates. If you have a high-performance blender, you don’t have to pre-soak the dates to soften them. I just add them in straight from the fridge and they blend up nicely (although sometimes they take a little longer). I usually do 1-2 dates at most but you can definitely do more. Otherwise, if you plan ahead (which I’m terrible at doing), you can soak your dates in warm water 30 minutes before making your drink.
Other natural sweeteners I use are maple syrup and honey, but there are others out there too like agave. With any of these types of sweeteners is good to stick to just 1 tablespoon or less.
The Right Equipment For the Job
The most common thing that makes or breaks a great smoothie is the type of blender that you use. A cheap conventional blender will do fine with fresh fruits, but limits your options with the add-ins, and cannot do frozen fruits – period. Most of these machines will not properly blend spinach, kale, beets, carrots, and celery.
I’m also not a big fan of smoothies made with fresh fruits. Not that they are terrible tasting but they aren’t as good as ones with frozen fruit. I just really like my smoothies to have the silky texture…similar to an ice cream shake.
But, besides personal taste, frozen fruit will kill your machine. A good way to gauge whether your machine can stand up to frozen fruit is to test it with ice. If it can’t cope with ice, it most certainly won’t handle
That being said if you can drop the money, a high-performance machine is worth it! I use my blender for many things other than smoothies. I make all my baby’s food purees with it as well as pesto, nut butters, salsa, sauces, and even breadcrumbs. But these aren’t cheap! Plan to spend anywhere between $300 to $800 dollars or more.
The one I personally use is a Vitamix 5200 series. I recommend the Vitamix as they make wonderful blenders but there are other equally good brands out there so I highly encourage you to look around.
The Order of Things
The last thing I want to mention in this post is the order that your ingredients should go in the blender and the technique I recommend for blending to achieve the best results. It isn’t too complicated but it does make a difference in how your smoothie comes out.
To start with the order of your ingredients does make an impact on how well the smoothie blends together. My experience has shown me that the way your layer your everything makes the difference between a passable drink or a silky, creamy smoothie. So here’s a quick rundown of how to place in your ingredients:
- Any leafy greens
- All the add-ins like protein powder, butters, oils (except coconut oil), avocado, spices, etc. (basically everything but the fruit and juice)
- frozen fruits
- juice, milk, or other liquid
- coconut oil or other ingredient used for texture
After you have put all the things you want in your smoothie in the pitcher (except the coconut oil or other item used for texture), start up your machine on the lowest setting. Assuming you have a high-performance blender with variable settings like my Vitamix this would be on speed 1. Once the blender has started, I give a few seconds to start turning
and then move the dial between 2 and 3. Let it stay here for a few minutes until the greens and add-ins have thoroughly mixed and the fruit has submerged into the liquid fully. At this point add more liquid if the blades aren’t moving properly but not more than is necessary. After that, slowly move your dial all the way to 10 if everything is moving well. It should only take another minute or two once you are on the highest setting. As soon as everything is blended and you see the vortex on the top, hit the left switch from variable to high (if you have it). At this point add coconut oil or other ingredient and blend for about 5 seconds more. And that’s it!
Smoothies For All Occasions
So there you have it!
If you made it this far, I want to thank you for sticking with me until the end! This was a lot of information and I hope this proves very useful to you whether you’ve been making smoothies for years or are just starting out.
Smoothies have so much variety that it would be impossible to touch on everything you can do with them. But this is also the reason I love them so much! I never get tired of experimenting with what exactly I can do. You can use smoothies as meal-replacements, detox drinks, snacks, weight loss aids, pre and post workout drinks, desserts, and even alcohol mixers (Bloody Mary anyone?)!
I also prefer them over juicing for a few reasons. First, you get the fiber and plant material from the fruits and veggies so they make you feel fuller. This proves very useful if you are trying to lose weight! Second, some of the nutrients get lost in the juicing process as well that are retained in smoothies.
If you have any questions about any part of the process to making a smoothie or have an ingredient you are curious about that I didn’t touch on, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below and I will happily help you out.
And as always thank you for visiting Late Summer Mama!