So, what exactly is a smoothie bowl? The uninitiated might be wondering whether it’s exactly that: a smoothie in a bowl. But for those in the know, the smoothie bowl is a completely separate entity and one of the best treats breakfast can serve up.
The difference is primarily between the consistency of the smoothie. The base of a smoothie bowl needs to be thick, more like a soft-serve ice-cream consistency. The amount of liquid that goes into a smoothie bowl is minimal, you only need enough liquid to allow blending of the key ingredients. This is the opposite of a smoothie, where you will add a large amount of liquid into the blender so it forms a drink.
A smoothie bowl is a bit more of a meal then. Think of it like a bowl of oats that you can add toppings to all thanks to its super-thick consistency.
So if you’re new to the smoothie bowl game, or a seasoned pro, here’s a guide to making picture-perfect and delicious smoothie bowls every breakfast time.
6 Top Tips For Making The Perfect Smoothie Bowl
Add Your Liquid A Bit At A Time
There is nothing worse than removing your blender lid and looking down at a watery smoothie. It’s hard to turn back from this point unless you add a lot more frozen fruit, by which time you’ll end with a whole lot more smoothie than you anticipated. So, add just enough liquid to allow the blending process to start. Then if it looks too thick add a drop more and so on until you have the consistency you are looking for.
Frozen Bananas Are A Great Base
As we all know, bananas can turn from ripe to extremely overripe in a blink of an eye. So rather than wasting any bananas that are on the turn, put them into a sealed container and freeze them. My advice would be to slice them into chunks before freezing too. This way they will blend that much easier, rather than trying to blend a whole frozen banana, that depending on your blender, you may struggle with.
Don’t Over Sweeten
Don’t be too quick to glug in any syrups to sweeten up the smoothie. The addition of frozen fruits like banana, mango, pineapple and kiwi will add sweetness to the smoothie without the need for anything extra. Try a little first, and then add your maple, agave, coconut or date syrup at the end, if you need it.
Like I have already mentioned, the thickness is key to a good smoothie bowl. Frozen bananas are always a good base as it will provide a creamy texture to your smoothie bowl. Other frozen fruits such as mango, pineapple and berries will also help.
Another good thickener is grated frozen cauliflower. You can either purchase this or simply do it your self. Grate a cauliflower so it resembles rice and freeze in a sealed container. Then add a handful or so into your smoothie mix when blending to add thickness.
Silken tofu is also a great way to thicken, and gives the smoothie bowl a silky texture while increasing the protein content. Add the silken tofu in first, so it sits closest to the blades of your blender; this way it will blend easier.
Sneak Your Greens In
Smoothie bowls are a great way to add an abundance of micronutrients with ease. If you are making a green smoothie bowl, ingredients such as spinach, kale and avocado can be added without adding any of the flavour. When making a berry-based bowl, adding beetroot can be a great way to increase your nutrient content. The other stronger flavours of the smoothie will mask the taste of the beetroot but the vibrant colour will turn your smoothie into a winner.
The great thing about smoothie bowls is that the ingredients can be prepared in advance. Chop up the ingredients that you need per smoothie bowl, place them into a suitable freezer bag or container and freeze. This way, all you need to do is pull out the bag, place the ingredients into the blender and blitz. A smoothie bowl ready in minutes.
If you cut the fruit quite chunky, get them out of the freezer 10 minutes before blending to allow them to soften ever so slightly. This will make blending them easier. If your fruit is still very hard when placing into the blender, place your liquid in over the frozen fruit, this will start softening the fruit instantly and help with the blending.
The Most Common Smoothie Bowl Mistakes
All In One
I have already mentioned liquid content. Just make sure not to add it all in one go. A watery smoothie means, no bowl, no spoon and no toppings.
A Feast For The Eyes
Although the main focus should be flavour, let us not forget that we still eat with our eyes. A funky looking smoothie bowl is never a good look. Mixing complementary colours like red and green will end up giving you a wishy-washy brown looking colour, which is never very appealing.
Try to group similar colours together to avoid strange outcomes in colour. Don’t add berries to your green smoothie bowl for example, because while you think it will taste nice, it will end up becoming a browny grey splodge.
Always check that the ingredients are well blended. When you are using frozen ingredients like fruit and ice to thicken your bowl, it is very easy for them not to blend well. Add these items first, so they are close to the blade and will blend quickly and easily. Use a tamper if your machine has one, to make sure the ingredients are well combined and blended completely.
If your machine does not have a tamper, remove the lid and scrape down the sides and give it a little mix, to ensure that all ingredients are blended. You may well need to repeat this process several times whilst blending.
Toppings, Toppings And More Toppings
Think about your toppings. Don’t add items like granola and quinoa puffs first so they get soft and chewy. Add items like seeds and nuts first, then add your seeds and granola on top of this. That way they will remain crunchy and bring a pleasant texture to the bowl. Also chop up your fruit into bite-size pieces when placing on top.
Remember that although the smoothie bowl will be thick, it will still be soft, so there will be no cutting through large pieces of fruit. Try to make all the toppings easily fit on your spoon then.
Watch Your Ingredients Don’t Defrost
Don’t allow your frozen ingredients to defrost. This may sound obvious, but if you leave them for too long on the side whilst you prepare or chop other ingredients, or get your toppings ready, they will start to defrost pretty rapidly. This will end up with a thin smoothie, rather than a thick smoothie bowl.
The Best Smoothie Bowl Flavours To Serve Up
When it comes to flavour I love creating contrasting tastes. So, if the bowl has a good level of sweetness, add something like lime zest to bring some zing. Always keep the zest to the end and sprinkle it over the top. This way you’ll get some with every bite.
If you fancy something with a bit more of a dessert-like feel to it, then try frozen sweet potato. Using sweet potato with some cacao powder, banana and a nut butter gives you a really creamy but fudge-like bowl, great for a post-workout meal.
Frozen mango is another favourite as it brings a sweetness that helps with the thickness and doesn’t affect the colour of a smoothie bowl, so is always worth having some tucked away in the freezer. I’m all about the toppings too, so I love shaved dark chocolate, shaved fresh coconut, pomegranate, quinoa puffs for some crunch.
To inspire you in your own smoothie bowl creations here’s five easy ingredient combinations and recipes to help get you started:
To Protein Powder, Or Not To Protein Powder?
There is never any problem getting enough carbohydrates into a smoothie bowl due to the very ingredients that make up the vast majority of the dish. Using nut butter, avocado, and seeds like hemp, flax, pumpkin, sunflower and chia ensure we are getting some much needed healthy fats into the mix too. But how about protein?
Protein is one of the main macronutrients that most people overlook, especially when it comes to smoothie bowls. Protein not only helps our body repair and recover from our daily activities and exercise, but it also helps with satiating hunger. Making sure you get a sufficient amount of protein in your smoothie bowl will certainly help to keep you fuller for longer, helping take it from a snack to a meal.
On the flip side, it can be hard to get the required level of protein into your daily plan without feeling uncomfortably full. Adding protein powder to your smoothie bowls in the morning then not only helps you hit your daily required amounts of protein but does it in a way with minimal impact on the rest of your eating habits for the day.
I have already talked about adding silken tofu to your smoothie bowl to help with thickness and to increase the protein content. But another convenient way is to incorporate a scoop of your favourite protein powder into the mix.
By using an unflavoured powder (like Form’s Pureblend) ensures you don’t alter the flavour of your favourite tasting bowl, but using a flavour such as vanilla can help elevate your bowl to heavenly dimensions. Trust me when I say, adding a scoop of vanilla protein to your smoothie bowl will add another level of creaminess to it.
Paul Coonan has been a chef for over 20 years, working in restaurants and hotels for the first half of his career after becoming a head chef position at 24, before making the switch to contact catering. He now also runs The Urban Canteen, a site dedicated to healthy, tasty food recipes and is a qualified nutrition coach.