Confession: I’m a serial breakfaster. Not cereal, per se—I eat oatmeal most mornings, only switching it up to eggs or toast when I can’t look at another bowl of oats. After all, oatmeal is fast, filling, and packed with flavor. But making oatmeal exciting is a bit of a challenge. Sure, I can go savory or swirl in berries or nut butters, but it’s not a meal that inspires me to jump out of bed.
Smoothie bowls, on the other hand, are equally filling and flavorful. And while the intricate creations populating Instagram might seem impossible, they’re just as achievable as my comforting go-to. So, if you’re looking to shake up your breakfast routine, or simply start your day with a little more creativity, here’s what you need to know to building Insta-worthy bowls.
It’s fine to use a couple of ice cubes, but you really want frozen fruits in your base, says Kara Jordan, owner of Blenders and Bowls in Austin, TX . “Using frozen fruit is optimal in order to make the blend thick and not soupy.” Great options include bananas, mango, pineapple, or açaí. Berries can work well too, but varieties with loads of seeds can make smoothies a bit gritty.
Adding a whole banana will really push your blender, possibly resulting in a burnt-smelling smoothie, says Giles Russell of NYC-based Two Hands Restaurant. Instead, cut up fruits into inch-sized pieces before freezing to make it easier on your blender.
Don’t just use fruit in your base. Rolled oats, chia seeds, and nut butters add flavor and thickness, which keeps toppings from sinking to the bottom of your bowl. Plus the they’re packed with fiber and protein, which keep you full until lunchtime, Russell says. Also consider powders, like matcha, spirulina, turmeric, maca, or maqui, or vegetables like kale, which add concentrated flavor and an extra boost of nutrients. Either blend powders into your smoothie or use them to create stunning designs on top of your bowl (or both!).
Whether you choose whole-fat milk, nut milk, or water, adding the liquid first helps your blender easily pulse ingredients, says Jordan.
Shallow bowls offer more surface area to arrange toppings, but It's best if the bowl isn't too big, says The Good Sort Manager Kate Ross. “Something that can hold roughly 12oz of smoothie and leave you room to top with your toppings is great.”
There is no right or wrong way to top your bowl. A general rule of thumb is heavier toppings first like granola and fresh fruits, then lighter toppings last like coconut shred, nuts, and honey. Russell also adds powders to the top of his bowls for a consistency of flavor. “I don’t like a million different flavors,” he says. “A tiny bit of an ingredient doesn’t do you any benefit. You have to make sure you’re getting enough of a nutrient to make it worthwhile.” And as for tools, just use what’s in your kitchen. “You really only need a bowl and a spoon,” Jordan says. “That's the beauty of it because it’s so simple.”
If you’re overwhelmed by arranging, just follow The Good Sort's formula: fresh strawberries, blueberries, dried coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sprinkle with black chia, all in simple straight lines across the bowl. “As long as the bowl looks bright, colorful, beautiful and fresh there is no real need for technique here,” Ross says.
How do you top your smoothie bowls? Share your favorite bases and any unsung ingredients in the comments below!