Smoothie

The Most Common Smoothie Problems (& How to Solve Them)

You'll never make a watery, bland, too-chunky, or too-gritty smoothie again—we guarantee it.

September 15, 2019

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 can easily improve your relationship with your blender. If you're on the "Drink one smoothie every day" resolution track, we're here to support you—and give you easy fixes when your whizzing and whirring go awry.

Photo by James Ransom

Here are 9 smoothie problems you might face on the regular—and how to solve them.


How to fix your smoothie if it's...

1) Too watery.

Add more fruit (preferably frozen!); something to boost the creamy factor (like nut butter or tahini 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.

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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.

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Top Comment:
“It's the ten tons of foam that gets created in the high-speed blender. Best creamiest smoothies ever, but he FOAM! Drinking foamy smoothies makes me gag. How do you get rid of foam in smoothies?”
— Laura415
Comment

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.

Photo by James Ransom

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 (aka, an 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 (like mint, basil, or tarragon).

4) Not creamy enough.

This one's easy: Add silken tofu, nut butter or tahini, cooked oatmeal (a tip we found on Serious Eats), Greek 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, coconut milk, or any other creamy liquid might change or dull the flavors. Pour in whatever liquid you like best in small amounts, keeping additional ingredients on hand in case the flavors shift.

7) Too gritty.

Sometimes, seeds and protein powders and fibrous stalks can give your smoothie an unpleasant texture. To make it silky-smooth (it is a smoothie, after all), pour your drink through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheese cloth.

8) Too gelled, or separated, or badly behaved in some way.

Give it a scolding. Then make a new plan. If you want to make your smoothie ahead of time, you may have to do some serious shaking (or re-blending) later on.

On separation: 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 your smoothie is too separated, just give it a refresh in the blender, with just a few pieces of additional ice and flavorful liquid (if needed).

On gelling: If your smoothie is gelling, perhaps you added chia or flax seeds too far in advance. Blueberries, which are very high in natural pectin, are also a culprit of jelly-like smoothies. A re-blend with a little bit of ice and some creamy liquid (if appropriate for the flavor profiles) will likely do the trick. Or, you can enjoy your smoothie with a spoon, as a fruity chia or flax pudding.

9) Too Foamy

Sometimes, scummy foam develops at the top of smoothies, making them pretty unpleasant to drink. This foam consists of the insoluble fibers found in the skin of vegetables or fruits. Good news is, there's a way to fix it!

If you've already blitzed up your smoothie and you see foam forming, try blending the smoothie at a very low speed for 10 to 20 seconds longer. (You can also stir the foam back into your smoothie with a long spoon, if it ends up in your cup.) And if foam still forms or persists, try straining the smoothie through a fine-mesh sieve, or pour your smoothie into the cup slowly, using a spatula to hold back the foam in the blender.

To prevent foam to begin with, use fruits and vegetables with soluble fibers, like bananas, peaches, pears, and mangoes. You can also use frozen fruits and vegetables that have soluble fibers, instead of fresh; their icy consistency helps them from causing foam build-up in your smoothie. Last, try adding in a healthy fat that will bond with the insoluble fibers and combine more readily into the smoothie, prior to blending. This can be coconut oil, flaxseed oil, avocado, or a nut butter.

10) Too...unfixable.

You can't get it right 100% of the time. But your smoothies seem to always end up less-than-delicious, don't throw away the blender quite yet: Compost what you've got, then follow a different recipe (like any of the ones below!).

Over time, adapt those recipes as you see fit, swapping like for like ingredients to fit your flavor and consistency preferences (liquid for liquid, frozen fruit for frozen fruit, etc.). Smoothies are so perfect for riffing and transforming.

What are your favorite smoothie flavor combos? Tell us in the comments below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mary-Kate Moody
    Mary-Kate Moody
  • Suz
    Suz
  • Thingamajig
    Thingamajig
  • Laura415
    Laura415
  • Jeffrey Montgomery
    Jeffrey Montgomery
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Sarah Jampel

Written by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.

12 Comments

Mary-Kate M. September 20, 2019
I always feel like smoothie posts are never about how healthful they can and should be.
Check out Dr Rhonda Patrick https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys86ZgjQQYg&vl=en
 
Suz June 10, 2019
We have a mostly fruit smoothie 5 days a week. Avocado (fresh or frozen) makes it extra thick and smooth. Spinach will make it turn brown, but if you have even just a handful of blueberries, you won’t see the brown colour. Fresh ginger gives a bit of zing; almond milk cancels zing :(. Yogurt is a must, I rarely make a smoothie without it. I make my own ‘protein powder’ (includes almond meal, oatmeal, hemp hearts, and skim milk powder, among other things), which helps to thicken up the smoothie if there’s no avocado. I’ll even use leftover fruit crisp (the kind with oatmeal crumbles on top) if it’s getting soggy! There’s always lots of frozen fruit in our freezer, and I’m always buying tired bananas to freeze in chunks. In over 10 years, we’ve never had a bad smoothie, and we love our Vitamix!
 
Thingamajig June 7, 2019
What about foam issues??.... I can't stand when this happens, and I don't know what causes it. Please address this problem. Today mine was so bad I had to skim inches off the top. All that foam has air bubbles and can really upset the gut. How can this be remedied pls?
 
Thingamajig June 7, 2019
I found some Tips: How To Reduce Green Smoothie Foam (or get rid of it!)

1. Run your blender on low speed for 10-20 seconds after you’re done blending. (With Vitamix and Blendtec use Speed 4)

2. Use frozen fruits & greens that have insoluble fiber – our community members noticed zero foam when using cut up frozen apples and leafy greens vs fresh, so we tested this – and it works! This is a great recommendation, especially if you HATE the foam.

3. Avoid it! Pour slowly from the blender, perhaps even using a spatula to hold the foam in the blender – serving the smoothie out from underneath the foam.

4. Stir the foam back into your green smoothie if some made it into your green smoothie cup.

5. Select soluble fiber fruits like mangoes, pears, peaches and bananas. These selections will give your smoothie a creamy texture and it won’t separate.

6. Add a little bit of healthy fats prior to blending, such as coconut oil, flax oil, or antioxidant oil. {𝑇ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑏𝑎𝑐𝑘, 𝑖𝑡 𝑚𝑢𝑠𝑡'𝑣𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑙𝑖𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑑 𝑐𝑜𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑢𝑡 𝑜𝑖𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑒𝑑 𝑚𝑦 𝑓𝑜𝑎𝑚 - 𝑌𝑎𝑦!}
 
Laura415 April 28, 2019
The one thing I needed to fix wasn't mentioned. It's the ten tons of foam that gets created in the high-speed blender. Best creamiest smoothies ever, but he FOAM! Drinking foamy smoothies makes me gag. How do you get rid of foam in smoothies?
 
Thingamajig June 7, 2019
Exactly! Check out my post. Hope this helps.
 
Jeffrey M. August 1, 2018
I recently tried making a strawberry smoothie with strawberries, milk, ice, and sugar. It was tasteless, foamy, and almost made me throw up instantly. What did i do wrong?
 
Christina C. July 1, 2018
Nicely written but this doesn't cover the dreadful brown smoothies..any tips?
 
Francesco C. January 18, 2016
"Too gritty"? Why would you want to filter out healthy fiber?!
That's what makes a smoothies superior to juicing.
 
Leisa H. January 17, 2016
I use whey protein in my smoothie and use a magic bullet so I can just use the cup I make it in and take it on the ride to work with me in the morning!
 
Nicole O. January 14, 2016
And get a Vitamix to have actual smoothies instead of chunkies.
 
Jane K. January 14, 2016
i want them all