Smoothie FAQ! Plus a Vegan Acai Smoothie Recipe.

You guys know I adore smoothies. You too, right? Smoothies are hands down my favorite recipes to create, test-taste, photograph and post here on my blog. Colorful, fruity and busy-lifestyle approved! If only it were summer year-round. And if only I could do my taste testing from a hot pink beach towel twenty feet from a roaring aqua coastline. Malibu, Maui, SoBe, Santa Cruz, Tahiti, St.Johns, Mexico...perfect smoothie sipping locations. But my NYC office overlooking a busy street will have to do for right now...

Smoothie FAQS. I get a lot of smoothie questions from readers - so I wanted to answer some of the common questions and curiosities I get from you guys. -> FAQs. Plus, just for a dose of frosty fruity yumminess, I've included a brand new acai smoothie recipe. It's delish. Get some info and inspiration smoothie fans!...

Some say you should eat dessert first. Well I say you should sip your smoothie first, so before I get to the FAQs and Substitutions, here is that yummy Acai recipe I promised. It's rich in berry antioxidants and light and creamy. Super simple too, you should be able to find all these ingredients already in your kitchen - or at your nearest Natural Foods grocery store, aka Whole Foods.

Blueberry Acai Smoothie
vegan, serves 2

1 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk
1 1/2 frozen bananas
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 acai frozen smoothie pak OR 1 cup acai juice
*if you use the juice, remove 1/2 cup of the soy milk
3/4 cup ice


Blend. Pour, Sip. Smile. Easy!

Now onto some 411 for your smoothies. FAQs and Ingredient Substitutions sections below...

***be sure to check out my 20 Smoothie Tips to help you blend like a Pro! for some great all purpose smoothie advice***

HHL Smoothie FAQS

Q: Why do you put apple cider vinegar into your smoothies?
A: It adds a tiny acidic flavor that really tightens and tones all the other flavors in the smoothie. To me, it's kinda like adding triple sec to a cocktail - or a squeeze of lemon to your iced tea - it adds a zesty accent that enhances all the sweet, frosty and creamy flavors in your smoothie.

Apple cider vinegar not only adds a kick of flavor, but a kick of health as well!...

The other natural benefit to apple cider vinegar is the slightly alkaline boost it adds to your smoothie. Apple cider vinegar is one of the oldest health remedies around: ( states "In 400 B.C. the great Hippocrates, Father of Medicine, used Apple Cider vinegar for its amazing health qualities.") Adding a splash of ACV to smoothies, juices, salads, baking recipes and entrees is never a bad idea! You can read more about the health benefits of ACV on several health websites - or ACV brand websites like

Apple cider vinegar is unique from other varieties of vinegar - most of which are acidic, while ACV is alkaline-enhancing in the body. See more acid vs. Alkaline foods in this Wolfe Clinic Food Chart.

But be warned, outrageous health and weight loss claims on apple cider products can be misleading. ACV is a healthy addition to your smoothie and diet - but in no way is it a miracle food.

Q: Why do you use coconut water ice cubes?
A: I love to substitute plain old tap water ice cubes with coconut water ice cubes. I always have some on hand in my freezer - plus making cw cubes is a great way to use up the last sips of leftover cw bottles and tetra paks. Why do I do it? Well I adore coconut water for the mild flavor and the nutritional benefits - so I try to add it in anywhere I can. Coconut water ice cubes is a smart smoothie tip to sneak coconut water into you smoothie glass without simply watering it down. You don't have to use the coconut water cubes - but if you have some around, they mesh well in virtually any smoothie recipe! See my Coconut water ice cubes post here.

Q: What's the difference between non-dairy milks (soy, almond, hemp, etc) for smoothies?
A: I love my good old standby of soymilk. I specifically like vanilla soymilk in fruit smoothies. Soy Dream is a delicious brand. But my next choice for a non-dairy creamy beverage is hemp milk. I adore hemp milk - but quite frankly I don't always have it on hand. Next up would be almond milk. And lastly I'd try rice milk. But rice milk is probably my least favorite milk to use in smoothies - simply because it lacks a rich creaminess in its texture.

Q: Why do you specify fresh vs frozen fruit?
A: Simple, it's all about taste and texture. Fresh fruit is incredibly delicate and full of flavor! But it really doesn't hold up on its own if you want a rich frosty smoothie. So I usually combine a little bit of fresh fruit (for fresh bold fruit flavor) with a nice boost of frozen fruit for texture and a milder fruit flavor. Do a taste test of a ripe fresh strawberry vs. a frozen one. The difference in flavor and sweetness is usually substantial. However, frozen fruit retains nutrients quite well and adds that frosty texture we all love, so it's definitely worth adding to your smoothies! And as I say in my 20 smoothie tips, always add fresh fruit last in the blending process, so that you don't over-mush the taste and texture of it.

Q: What's the difference in sweeteners for smoothies?
A: I commonly add a little drizzle of agave or maple syrup to my smoothies. Maple syrup tends to be waterier and less likely to gel up in a smoothie. While agave can act a bit like honey if it gets too cold and get sticky. You can substitute agave for maple in a 1:1 ratio. And if you don't have either of those sweeteners on hand, you can always add in a 1/2 a banana for added sweetness or even exotic sweeteners like brown rice syrup and such.

Q: Why do you add in little bits of random ingredients?
A: Sometimes I'll add in a splash of lemon juice, a grind of ginger, a sprinkle of cayenne etc. But these are the little touches that make smoothies personal and unique - and cravable! No, you don't have to add the little accents of cayenne, cashews, flax seeds, coconut or grind of ginger to your smoothie - but if you have the ingredients and want to be adventurous, go for it. And creativity is the key. You can easily make tiny modifications to my recipes based on your own tastes and cravings. I like to simply act as inspiration for your own smoothie and blender adventures.

Q: Raw nuts in a smoothie? Why?
A: I love adding a handful of raw nuts to some of my smoothies. Raw cashews are my fave. It adds a nice boost of nut nutrients and fiber - as well as adding texture and body to the resulting recipe.

Q: What do I do if I don't have a juicer for the fresh juice ingredients?
A: Buy a juicer! Juicing 101 should convince and guide you. No, no I kid. You don't need to buy a juicer, although I adore using mine for fresh juice blends. You can always use store bought juice - just try an buy high quality brands - preferably juice that is not from concentrate.

Q: What is this stuff... chai tea concentrate, vanilla soy chai beverage, cashew juice, coconut water, coconut water ice cubes, spirulina, aloe juice, probiotics and hemp milk?
A: Here ya go...
*Chai Tea Concentrate is a sweetened chai tea beverage in concentrated form. You can't drink it on it's own - but it is great for making soy chi lattes and adding to recipes and smoothies. If you can't find this ingredient, use deeply brewed chai tea with a bit of liquid sweetener as a substitute.
*Vanilla Soy Chai Beverage is specifically a drink from Bolthouse Farms. I buy it at Whole Foods. If you can't find it, simply use 1 part soy milk to 1 part chai concentrate as a substitution. A dash of vanilla extract would be helpful too - or use vanilla soymilk.
*Cashew Juice is a unique beverage I buy from the ONE brand. They are mostly known for their coconut water - but the cashew juice is a trip! It's tangy and sweet and has a long list of (unconfirmed) health benefits. Find it at Whole Foods. If you can't find it - sub apple juice w/ a bit of lemon juice. More here.
*Coconut Water see here.
*Coconut Water Ice Cubes see here.
*Spirulina is a green superfood powder. Learn more about it in this spirulina facts post. My Green Powder Taste Test here.
*Aloe Juice is just what it sounds like - juice made from the aloe plant. It is not sweet and slightly bitter/sour. Add a tiny bit to your smoothie for some easy aloe benefits (aloe's health claims are vast - though mostly unverified)
*Probiotics see here.
*Hemp Milk is a nondairy beverage that is gaining popularity for its high protein content as well as the high quality of the protein. Hemp, like soy, provides a complete protein - as well as a whole slew of other nutrients. More hemp info here and a hemp smoothie.

Q: What blending/juicing equipment do you use?
A: Meet my Orange X Citrus juicer here. Meet my SuperAngel Juicer here. I also did a Blender comparison review here: Blendtec vs. Vitamix vs. Oster fusion. And my Juicing 101 post is filled with tips!

Common Ingredient Substitutions.
Sometimes you don't have fresh mango. Or you have 3 bags of strawberries, but no blueberries. I know, I've been there. Here are a few ingredient subs that are suitable for my smoothie recipes. note: some flavor profiles may be altered, so if you are subbing ingredients - use your palate to guide you.

Original Ingredient ---- Approved Substitution
note: a two way arrow means

Frozen Papaya ---- Frozen Peaches or Mango
Frozen Blueberries ----Frozen berries of any kind
Frozen Strawberries----Frozen raspberries or frozen peaches
Frozen Mango----Frozen Papaya or Pineapple
Frozen Banana----Possibly frozen Mango or a fresh banana w/ added ice cubes
Frozen Raspberries----Frozen strawberries
Frozen Pineapple----frozen peaches or mango plus some lemon juice for zestiness
Fresh Kiwi----fresh pineapple or fresh raspberries (both are nice and zesty)
Fresh Peaches----fresh apricots or nectarines. Possibly fresh strawberries or a banana
Fresh Strawberries----fresh raspberries
Fresh Blueberries----fresh blackberries or fresh banana
Fresh ripe Banana----hard to sub a fresh banana - they truly are a smoothie's best friend.

General Substitutions Rule for Fruit: Sub fruits with similar tastes and textures. Take the zestiness, creaminess, sweetness, seediness and sourness into account when finding a suitable sub.

Fresh/Frozen note: most fresh ingredients cn be subbed with the frozen version of the same ingredient, say frozen strawberries for fresh strawberries - just take care to add a bit more liquid so the consistency doesn't get too icy and thick. And on that same note, you can sometimes substitute a fresh ingredient instead of a frozen one. Say fresh blueberries for frozen blueberries-just be sure to add less liquid and a bit more ice.

Other Substitutions:

Soy Milk ---- Hemp, Almond, Rice, Grain, Soy Milks can all be used interchangeably
Nut Butters --- Almond Butter/Peanut butter/Seed Butters can all be used interchangeably
Apple Cider Vinegar ---- lemon juice, tart apple juice or white vinegar (or omit if pref'd)
Coconut Water ice cubes ---- regular water ice cubes
Chai Concentrate --- same amount of chilled black or chai tea plus 1 Tbsp agave syrup per cup of liquid
Vanilla Chai Milk Beverage --- for 2 parts VCMB sub 1 part vanilla soy milk and 1 part chai concentrate
Agave Syrup ---- Maple Syrup and Agave Syrup can be used interchangeably ... or sub 1/2 a banana or sweet apple cider for extra sweetness
Cahsew Juice ---- 5 parts apple juice to 1 part lemon juice

Any more??? Let me know your substitution questions in the comments and I'll add them to this list.

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