Dr. Thomas Campbell remembers how, in his medical-school days, he would make up for his poor eating habits by drinking a kale smoothie: “I put about 6 cups of raw, cleaned kale tightly packed in a mixer along with a little water and nothing else and made the ultimate green smoothie,” he recalls. It was, unsurprisingly, awful: “It was like a grassy tasting slime, or perhaps cow cud.”
Adding fruit would have solved the flavor problem, but that can turn a veggie smoothie into a high-sugar beverage, notes Campbell, the medical director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. A typical smoothie with spinach, strawberries, blueberries, a banana and orange juice might include 32 grams of sugar, he calculates.
Many sugar-conscious consumers want smoothies with no fruit at all. What’s the secret to offering healthy, fruit-free smoothies that don’t taste like a cow’s breakfast? We’ll tell you.
Magical ingredients for delicious no-fruit smoothies
Smoothie creators have perfected the art of surreptitiously slipping vegetables into the mix. Add a little cauliflower in with your strawberries, and no one will know. A handful of raspberries will hide the earthiness of spinach or kale. And a single ripe banana adds the sweetness and creamy texture that make a smoothie satisfying.
This alchemy gets a lot tougher when no fruit is involved. But it’s not impossible! Here are some key ingredients for making satisfying, delicious and fruit-free smoothies. All you need is a high-performance blender.
How to add creaminess to fruit-free smoothies
- Cauliflower is an innocuous vegetable that adds substance and fiber, but almost no taste, to a veggie smoothie. Some chefs recommend steaming it first; others prefer to keep it raw and freeze it.
- Almond butter or sunflower butter are healthful additions that thicken a smoothie’s consistency.
- Technically, avocado is a fruit — a berry, to be exact. But with virtually no sugar and lots of unsaturated fat, we think it’s fair to make an exception for avocados and add them to any fruit-free smoothie. Avocados can replace the creamy mouthfeel contributed by dairy.
- Non-dairy milks, like almond or cashew milk, are a good choice for the liquid base.
How to add sweetness to fruit-free smoothies
- Cooked sweet potato is a luscious smoothie ingredient that adds abundant vitamin A, fiber and potassium. Whole Foods Market has a fruit-free smoothie recipe with sweet potato, coconut milk, honey and nutmeg.
- Another sweet and satisfying veggie is roasted butternut squash, which pairs beautifully with flavors like cinnamon and vanilla.
- Coconut is a powerful ingredient in no-fruit smoothies, because it adds both creaminess and a hint of sweetness. It’s on-trend, too; check out the one-ingredient smoothie at Atla in New York City, which blends fresh coconut meat and water.
How to add flavor to fruit-free smoothies
Serious Eats has some good advice for creating successful all-veggie smoothies: “embrace the greenness and balance the flavors as you would with a juice.” Come up with a list of ingredients that would make a good salad or soup, then blend them together with a little salt and flavor boosters like these:
- The zing of lemon juice counteracts the earthiness of raw greens. Lime juice, too, can be delicious.
- Ginger’s refreshing, piquant taste hits a high note in any fruit-free smoothie.
- Tahini, the ground sesame paste that’s most often associated with hummus, is a surprisingly satisfying addition to smoothies. It has a strong taste on its own, “but when placed alongside other smoothie ingredients, tahini acts like the perfect party guest: it mixes well without drawing any undue attention to itself,” Epicurious says.
- Fresh mint overpowers all kinds of flavors (in a perfectly polite way). We’re fascinated by MindBodyGreen’s Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie, which combines cacao powder, almond milk and mint leaves with greens. It’s not quite a milkshake, but it sounds pretty good.
What’s your secret to creating crowd-pleasing, fruit-free smoothies? Share your smoothie recipe and we may feature it in a future post.