When you think of thickeners to use in smoothies, do bananas come to mind? Or maybe ice? If they do, you’re not alone. Bananas and ice are the most popular choices when it comes to thickening smoothies. There are many other options, though, and they won’t all make your smoothie taste like, well, banana.
Sometimes a girl wants a thick chocolate smoothie. Not a thick chocolate banana smoothie.
It’s easy to fall back on easy and reliable thickeners like banana and ice. Especially when you don’t know what other options there are.
Today you’ll learn about some of the options (other than bananas!) you have for thickeners to use in smoothies. Some are common – and maybe you’ve tried them. Others are different and you may not have thought of them before. I was surprised by all of the options there are.
Thickeners to Use in Smoothies
Fresh fruit: Bananas are probably the most common fruit thickeners, but there are many other fruits that will help to thicken your smoothie. Any fruit that has thick flesh will work, like: peaches, apricots, mangoes, and avocados. Adding any of these fruits will help to give your smoothie a thick and creamy consistency.
Frozen fruit: Adding frozen fruit is an easy way to add thickness to your smoothie. It also doesn’t add extra calories to your smoothie since you can use frozen versions of the fruit you would be using anyway. This can be any fruit: strawberries, bananas (freeze bananas that are about to go overripe instead of throwing them out), blueberries, mangoes, kiwis, etc… You don’t have to rely on what your grocer has in the freezer section, either. Learn how to freeze your own fruits and vegetables for smoothies here.
Fresh vegetables: There are many vegetables you can use in smoothies that will help to thicken it. Try leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, or kale to help thicken your smoothie. Other vegetable suggestions are carrot, beets, sweet potato, pumpkin or beans. Personally, I love using beans as smoothie thickeners because they are almost tasteless and they add protein and fiber to your smoothie. If you are going to use beans I recommend you make your own (it’s easy) instead of buying them canned in the store. By making your own, you won’t get the added preservatives that canned beans have.
Frozen vegetables: Buy them at the store or freeze your own. Like fruit, anything works. Peas, carrots, broccoli, spinach, kale, beans… The list goes on. Adding frozen vegetables with give you added nutrients to your thick and chilled smoothie.
Purees: Sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, or carrot puree are good thickener options for smoothies. They will add sweetness to your smoothie. I prefer cooking my own and adding that to the smoothie (it will puree in the blender). Puree can be added chilled or partially frozen to help chill your smoothie.
Xanthan gum: Xanthan gum is commonly used in gluten free baking. You see, gluten is the glue that holds baked goods together. Without it (and without adding anything else) baked goods just don’t come out the same. Bread can’t hold its form, and cookies crumble. Been there, done that… Enter xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is a powerful powder that can be added to cooking and baking recipes to help hold things together – or to thicken. It can also be used to thicken smoothies.
Xanthan gum is a tasteless, gluten-free, plant-based fiber that acts as a thickener and emulsifier. Put into liquid it will add creaminess, viscosity, and volume. Add it to a smoothie that is light and watery and it will transform it into a thick, silky-smooth, and decadent drink. Xanthan gum will also make your smoothie more substantial and satiating, making you feel fuller longer.
Xanthan gum also acts as a stabilizer in your smoothie, helping to stop it from settling. This is great for when you blend your smoothie a while before you are going to drink it. Normally, the smoothie ingredients would separate and settle, but not with Xanthan gum.
It is also low in calories, making it a great choice to thicken up your smoothies without needing to dump a lot more ingredients into it – and raising the calories.
A little bit goes a very long way when it comes to xanthan gum. You only need 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. in your smoothie to thicken it.
Guar gum: Guar gum is similar to xanthan gum. It’s a low-calorie way to add thickness to your smoothie. It will add more creaminess to your smoothie than xanthan gum will. Guar gum is an emulsifier, so it will help to keep your smoothie from separating if you can’t drink it right away.
Like xanthan gum, a little guar gum does a long way. Try 1/4 – 1/2 tsp in your smoothie to thicken it.
Seeds, nuts, and grains
Whole seeds: Sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, chia and ground flaxseed are all great choices. Seeds will add thickness without creaminess to your smoothie. If using sunflower, pumpkin or hemp seeds, try adding 1/8 – 1/4 cup to your smoothie.
Chia seeds are really great for adding texture to your smoothies. If you pre-soak them in 1/2 cup of water for 5 – 10 minutes they form a gel you can add to your smoothie. This will add great thickness and texture to your smoothie. You can also add them dry, and they will thicken your smoothie they longer they are in it. You can learn more about how to use chia seeds in smoothies here. You only need 1 or 2 tbsp of chia seeds in your smoothie to thicken it.
If you are using flaxseeds, for best results use ground flaxseeds or flax seed meal. Our digestive system cannot break through the tough shell of the flaxseed. We need it broken down for us in order to get the most nutritional benefits. Try mixing 1 tbsp of ground or flaxseed meal with 2.5 tbsp of water and let it sit for about 5 minutes before adding to your smoothie.
Whole nuts: Try using walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamias. Nuts will add thickness without creaminess to your smoothie. If you don’t have a high-powered blender, try soaking the nuts overnight in some water. This will make them easier to blend and they will blend smoother. Try adding 1/8 to 1/4 cup of nuts to your smoothie to thicken it.
Seed and nut butters: Almond, peanut, cashew, macadamia, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, and coconut butters are all good choices. They will add protein to your smoothies and thicken it up. The calories in butters can add up quickly so don’t add too much. 1 tbsp of nut or seed butter is all you need to add to your smoothie. Make your own or buy it in the store.
Seed and nut powders: Seed and nut powders have fewer calories than butters, and they will help to thicken your smoothie. They will also add protein to your smoothies. Try adding 1 tbsp to your smoothie.
Oats: Adding a few tablespoons of uncooked rolled oats will thicken your smoothie. You will get the added benefit of fiber from the oats, helping you to stay full for longer. Blend well so your smoothie isn’t gritty. Try adding 1/4 – 1/2 cup to your smoothie to make it nice and thick.
Quinoa: Quinoa is a great option for thickening up your smoothie and will add protein and fiber. It comes in three main types: red, white, and black. Like beans, quinoa can add great color to your smoothie. Try adding 3/4 – 1 cup of cooked quinoa to your smoothie to thicken it.
Kefir: Kefir is a cultured dairy product that contains high amounts of probiotics, vitamins B12 and K2, calcium, magnesium, biotin, folate, and enzymes. It’s a fermented milk product that tastes like drinkable yogurt, adding richness to your smoothie.
Yogurt: Yogurt is often used to thicken smoothies, although I do not recommend adding it to your smoothies. Most yogurt in the grocery store is loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients. If you love the creamy texture yogurt gives to smoothies, try using kefir instead.
Cottage cheese: Cottage cheese can also be used to thicken smoothies, but at a high calorie cost. Unless you really like the flavor of cottage cheese, there are much better choices for thickeners to use in smoothies.
Powders: Adding protein powder is a simple way to boost protein in your smoothie and make it thicker. I always recommend adding a high-quality protein powder to smoothies because it gives your smoothie a nutritional boost. They also add fiber to your smoothie making you feel fuller longer. Learn more about why protein powders are important in smoothies here.
Soy: You can also use soybean curds, silken tofu, or soybean puddings to add protein and make your smoothie thicker.
Beans: Ok, I’m cheating here because beans are also in the vegetable category. Blame my love affair with them. I absolutely love adding beans to smoothies because they are tasteless, add thickness and creaminess, fiber, protein, and some great colors. Make you own – they’re easy. Just follow the directions on the bag. Try adding 1/4 cup of cooked beans to your smoothie.
Water ice cubes: Filtered water ice cubes are a very easy way to add thickness and a chill to your smoothie with zero added calories. I recommend using filtered water ice in smoothies and use them in most of my own. You can also try adding coconut water into your ice cube trays. Adding coconut water ice cubes to your smoothie will add some sweetness to your smoothie.
Fruit or vegetable juice ice cubes: You can pour fruit or vegetable juice into ice trays and freeze it. This will chill your smoothie without making it thin and watery. I do not recommend adding fruit or vegetable juice thawed or frozen to your smoothie. It just adds extra sugar and calories with little to no nutritional value. You are much better off adding the whole fruit or vegetable to your smoothie. If you’re looking for different liquids to use in smoothies, check out the guide 18 Liquids to Use in Smoothies.
Milk ice cubes: Instead of adding milk AND ice to your smoothie, try freezing your milk of choice in ice cube trays. Adding them to your smoothie will give you the taste and nutritional benefits you love while making it thick and cold. Some milks to try freezing into cubes: Coconut (watch the calories, though. Coconut milk is very high in calories), almond, cashew, walnut, soy, or dairy.
Tea ice cubes: You can freeze any type of tea in ice cube trays. Teas that are common in smoothies include green and herbal teas. Learn more about teas in smoothies here.
Vegetable puree ice cubes: Try pureeing some vegetables in your blender and freezing them as cubes to add to your smoothie. Some suggestions are spinach, kale, cooked sweet potato or pumpkin.
So many options to try!
Thickeners in smoothies do not have to be bananas or dairy products. As you can see, there are many, many options for you to try. Some thickeners add more calories than others, so be mindful of how many calories are in your smoothie. If you are trying to lose weight from drinking smoothies, be sure the calories in your smoothie are less than the meal you are replacing.
My typical go-to for thickeners are beans, ice, and protein powder. You’ll be seeing more of the options above in my smoothies in the future.
I’m giving you homework now that you know just how many options there are. 🙂
I challenge you to try one new (to you) thickener in your next smoothie. Pick any one from the list above.
I’d love to hear which one you picked and how it turned out in your smoothie in the comments below!
If you’d like to learn more about how to create nutritionally balanced smoothies, download my free guide:
Like this? Please share it with your friends!