Smoothie Ingredients: Beyond Bananas

Smoothies are an indispensable summer food. Cold, nutritious, and easy to digest, they’re a good way of getting nourishment even when it’s far too hot even to consider eating anything more substantial. The problem, of course, is bananas. Now, I have nothing against bananas – they’re a tasty, healthy, conveniently wrapped snack. But because of their buttery texture, they are overused in smoothies, in which they tend to be the base ingredient and to overwhelm the other flavors. Since a good smoothie does need to have a base with a similarly creamy texture, below you will find some ideas for alternative ingredients. These bases can work individually (mixed with berries and other sorts of fruit) or in combination. Experiment – have fun – and see what combinations you like best.

Yogurt is a good base for a creamy smoothie. Because it comes in a variety of types and flavors, you have many choices (although if you’re adding real fruit, I don’t recommend the fruit-on-the-bottom ones, since the sugary fruit preserves will overwhelm whatever else you add). 1% or 2% yogurt works vastly better for this purpose than fat-free, but if you simply must torture yourself, fat-free is still better than nothing.

Coconut Milk
Coconut milk, which can be bought canned, is ideal for adding a creamy texture to your smoothie without resorting to actual dairy. Coconut milk can also be frozen and eaten on its own for a creamy, mildly sweet hot weather treat.

Not all pears work for this purpose. Yellow pears are the best for this, and they have to be at their peak of ripeness. Skinned and pureed, they add a sorbet-like texture and a neutral sweetness to the smoothie. Underripe pears just don’t contain enough juice.

Because of its mild, sweet flavor and luscious, juicy texture, honeydew melon makes an excellent fruit base for a smoothie. It’s particularly good with tart flavors like berries, pear (see above), and lime (see below).

Avocado is a miraculous fruit. Buttery in texture, nutty in flavor, and laden with healthy vegetable oils, it blends well with savory or sweet ingredients and makes a good base for a smoothie. Choose an avocado that is yielding to the touch, but not mushy. Especially good with lime and mint (see below).

Cooked beets have a firm, juicy texture and a bright crimson color. Throw in some sliced, cooked beets to add thickness to your smoothie and to tint it a vivid fuchsia.

The last two ingredient suggestions aren’t intended as bases; rather, they serve to add piquancy and brightness to the other flavors.

The juice of half a lime can add a bright, clean note to contrast with the sweetness of a fruit smoothie. Lime harmonizes especially well with berries, melon, pear, and avocado, but adds something special to any smoothie.

Mint has wonderful cooling properties and an almost spicy kick when added to a smoothie. Throw in some spearmint leaves for a light, complex, balanced taste.

Smoothies, particularly those with yogurt, coconut milk, or avocado for a base, can be frozen in popsicle molds for an even more refreshing treat.

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