Adapted from Alice Hart | Good Veg | The Experiment, 2017
We know that you know how to make a smoothie. But when it comes to how to make a smoothie without a recipe—or even a basic blueprint of some sort—that’s another matter entirely. Despite your good intentions, when you toss whatever’s languishing in the fridge willy nilly in your blender or juicer expecting something magnificent to result, very very bad things can sometimes happen. And so in an attempt to prevent bad smoothies everywhere, we want to share the below advice from Alice Hart’s latest and greatest cookbook, Good Veg. Her incredibly helpful how-tos will not only inspire your smoothie-making adventures but ensure a pleasing ending. Because let’s face it, life is rough enough. No one should have to choke down a smoothie that tastes anything but spectacular.—Renee Schettler Rossi
What I offer here is general, commonsense advice for those simply wishing to boost their intake of fruits and vegetables. This shouldn’t be torture. If you dislike green or pure vegetable juices, but a fruit-based blend (perhaps with vegetables thrown in undercover) tastes good to you and gives you needed energy, then drink the latter. I would argue that eating with health in mind is as much about boosting mood and enjoyment as it is about kale intake. Along these lines, don’t forget that fresh juices make superb cocktail bases.
What’s the nutritional difference between juices and smoothies?
Juices are often more nutrient dense than smoothies but are lacking in fiber, which means they’re quickly assimilated by the body. Fresh smoothies are less concentrated in nutrients but contain all the fiber in the ingredients so they will keep you fuller longer. [Editor’s Note: The fiber in smoothies not only keeps you fuller but is a boon to gut health and also tempers the impact on your blood sugar level.]
How to shop and prep my ingredients
Focus on seasonal, ripe produce and buy local as much as you can. Organic fruits and vegetables will contain fewer pesticides than nonorganic if buying everything from a supermarket, but I would always choose home-grown or local farm produce over supermarket organic. Rinse and roughly chop your ingredients beforehand, leaving thin skins on and including cores. Remove the zest and pith from citrus fruits and throw the flesh in whole. You can do the prep the night before and keep everything chilled overnight for a speedy morning juice. Try to drink any juice or smoothie immediately. If that isn’t feasible, pour it into a sealed container with as little air as possible, keep chilled, and consume within 24 hours.
How do I create my own juices or smoothies?
When it comes to getting flavors right, trust your taste and your instincts rather than throwing a load of ingredients together and hoping for the best. The chart below is intended to inspire, rather than dictate, and is by no means an exhaustive list.
To make a juice or smoothie, choose from a Sweet or Mildly Sweet or Light base. Then add an Accent or Zing or Booster to tweak the flavor. Experiment. But go cautiously; you can always add more of an ingredient.
If I want a vegetable juice gently sweetened with fruit, I might choose two Mildly Sweet bases, let’s say beet and pear, their sweetness tempered with cleansing notes of fennel from the Light group and the iron-rich hit of kale as an Accent. Lemon juice and mint from the Zing group would brighten.
If I want a less sweet smoothie, I’d choose only one Mildly Sweet base—say honeydew melon—or forgo it all together and add two Light bases (let’s opt for celery and cucumber) to make a gentle and refreshing glass. Add a Zing of fresh herbs and/or turmeric to the juicer at the end or, if using a high-speed blender, change the texture to silken with a Booster of avocado (which isn’t terribly suitable for a juicer due to its low water content; the same goes for mango, coconut, and banana). Passing blended vegetable smoothies through a fine sieve can render them more pleasurable to drink than unstrained vegetable smoothies.
Another way to combine ingredients confidently is to group them by color. Oranges and yellows tend to go together, as do reds and purples, or pale greens and whites. Apart from kale, I have generally stayed away from brassicas as they can be overpowering and hard to digest, but if they work for you, throw in broccoli, cabbage, or spring greens.
MILDLY SWEET BASE
Peach and nectarine
Fresh herbs (a game changer)
Turmeric root (not the ground spice)
Powder (such as spirulina or protein)
Chile powder or cayenne pepper
Oats or oat bran
Soaked nuts or seeds, including hemp or flax
CALM AND SOOTHING
JUICE: 3 pears + 2 fennel bulbs + 2 kiwis + 1 lemon
SMOOTHIE: 1 small pear + 1/2 fennel bulb + 1 kiwi + 1 lemon + water up to the fill line
JUICE: 2 green apples + 3 celery stalks + 4 or 5 kale leaves + large handful of mint + 1 large lime
SMOOTHIE: 1 green apple + 1 celery stalk + 1 or 2 kale leaves + 3 sprigs of mint + 1 lime + water up to the fill line
JUICE: 2 beets + 1 pomegranate, seeds only + large handful of blackberries + 1-inch (2.5-cm) piece peeled fresh ginger root
SMOOTHIE: 1 grated beet + 1/4 pomegranate, seeds only + small handful of blackberries + 1/2-inch (1.5-cm) piece peeled fresh ginger root + water up to the fill line
JUICE: 2 carrots + 1/4 large pineapple + 1/2 papaya + 2 oranges + 1-inch (2.5-cm) piece peeled turmeric
SMOOTHIE: 1 grated carrot + 1 slice pineapple + 1/4 papaya + 1 small orange + 1/4-inch (6-mm) piece peeled turmeric + water up to the fill line
Thank you for this guide! I am just getting into smoothie making and am finding it very useful.
Kayri, you’re welcome!
Than you, thank you! I appreciate this guide so much. It seems like you should be able to just throw fruits and veggies together and voila, but mine always end up bitter so I look forward to implementing these suggestions!
Michelle, sure thing!