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Smoothies should be so simple—no cooking, just blending (what could go wrong?)—but they're all too often watery, flavorless, or vegetal.
No more, we say! You should not be a slave to your blender. If you're on the "Drink one smoothie every day" New Year's resolution track, we're here to support you.
Here are 9 problems you might be facing—and how to fix them:
1) Too watery.
Add more fruit (preferably frozen!); something to boost the creamy-factor (like nut butter or pulverized oats or thick yogurt or any of the ingredients listed under problem 4); and a small amount of flavor-saturated liquid, like fruit juice. A small pinch of salt and a generous pinch of a spice like cinnamon or cardamom can also help with resuscitation.
Going forward, use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes (which is also the best way to consume strawberries in the depths of winter). Frozen bananas, in particular, are a smoothie M.V.P. If they're creamy enough to blend into ice cream, you know they'll add richness to smoothies. Frozen pineapple and mango also work well—and they avoid the graininess and unpleasant hard bits that can sometimes come from berries.
And, what's more, a weakling blender will have an easier time pulverizing frozen fruit than it will crushing ice cubes, which will lead to a better texture.
If you don't have frozen fruit on hand and are going the ice route, trying adding pre-crushed ice to your smoothie at the final blend. You'll decrease the risk of warming the ice into water.
And since another typical cause of watery smoothies is... water itself, try supplementing with kefir, which has the same tang of yogurt without the thickness, sweetened with a couple of tablespoons of fruit juice.
2) Too healthy-tasting (accidental liquid salad).
Next time, you'll be less ambitious with the leafy greens, broccoli florets, and carrot juice that made an accidental liquid salad.
For now, add more milk (dairy or non-dairy), half of a frozen banana or crushed or frozen pineapple, and some liquid sweetener, like maple syrup or agave.
Another option: Divide your
salad smoothie into an ice cube tray and freeze it. The next time you make a smoothie and want to add something green, throw in a cube or two. Or who knows? Maybe that smoothie will turn into the base for a great curry, stir-fry, or soup.
3) Too "blah."
When your smoothie has all of the looks but none of the flavor, you need to make it less one-note: Add a splash of apple juice or, if you need acid, orange or lemon juice. If you're looking for something bright and sharp, go with grated ginger or a splash of apple cider vinegar; for tang, try Greek yogurt; for sweetness, pitted dates and applesauce. And don't forget about spices, like cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice; extracts (vanilla or almond or mint); and fresh herbs.
4) Not creamy enough.
This one's easy: Add silken tofu, nut butter, cooked oatmeal! (a tip we found on Serious Eats), thick yogurt, half an avocado, coconut oil (if the other ingredients aren't so cold that they'll solidify it), or puréed pumpkin, sweet potato, or butternut squash. If your smoothie gets too thick, loosen it up with some not-watery milk.
5) Not blended enough.
If your straw is getting clogged with chunks, it may be because you're not adding the ingredients to the blender in the correct order. (Face palm.) Alton Brown recommends you add the liquid first, towards the bottom (to get the blade whirring smoothly and quickly). To the liquids, add leafy greens, then heavier items like chunks of frozen fruit. Start the blender on low speed, gradually increasing to higher speed, to make sure a vortex forms.
If your greens are still too coarsely chopped for your liking, you can pulverize them with the liquid before adding the other ingredients (or it may be time to invest in a high-speed blender).
6) Too thick.
Add liquid—but not just any liquid. Remember that water will dilute the smoothie, whereas milk, kefir, and other liquids might change or dull the flavors. Pour in liquid in small amounts, keeping additional ingredients on hand in case the flavors shift.
7) Too gritty.
Pour your smoothie through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheese cloth.
8) It gels or separates or misbehaves in some other way.
Give it a scolding. Then figure out a new plan. Smoothies are suspensions of foods with different densities, so when you let them sit, they'll separate, with the heavier particles settling towards the bottom. If you want to make your smoothie ahead of time, you may have to do some serious shaking (or re-blending). If your smoothie is gelling, perhaps you added chia or flax seeds too far in advance. Blueberries, very high in natural pectin, are also a culprit of jelly-like smoothies.
9) It's just not working.
And if you can't get it right, don't throw away the blender quite yet: Follow a recipe, then adapt it as you see fit, swapping like for like (liquid for liquid, frozen fruit for frozen fruit, etc.).
What are your biggest smoothie qualms? Tell us in the comments below!