If you follow me on Instagram, you know that when the weather gets warm, I'm a little crazy about smoothie bowls (super, super, super crazy). I mean, most mornings, my breakfast consists of a smoothie, but if I have a little extra time in the morning, it's almost always a smoothie bowl that I turn to. I've even shared a few on the blog in the past: my Super Mango Pineapple Açai Bowl, Cacao Berry Bliss Bowl, and the Dragon Fruit Smoothie Bowl). Dressing up a smoothie with some crunchy granola and fresh fruit absolutely makes my day. Every spoonful with the variety of textures coming from the clusters of granola, the luscious smoothie, and the chunks of fresh fruit is, in my book, perfection.
While on most smoothie bowl days, I'll usually just dress up one of my go-to green smoothies, sometimes I like to pull out all the stops and make an extra special smoothie bowl: The Açai Bowl. Ever since our trip to Maui when we had açai bowls for breakfast every day, the special bowl holds special memories for us so when I make them for Chris and I, it's always a romantic little breakfast. It's not just the sentimental aspect of them that makes me love them so. Açai puree adds an extra tartness, an extra brightness, an extra zinginess to the smoothie. It like when you add salt to caramel. The caramel is perfectly good with out it, but when you do add it, oh. my. god. So much better, right?
So I've made quite a few smoothie bowls in the last few years (has it really already been a few years?) and I've gathered a pretty good understanding of how to make them extra stellar in that time. Here are my tips and tricks:
My Tips & Tricks for a Stellar Smoothie Bowl
1. If you're doing an açai bowl, you can get your açai a few different ways: via açai juice, açai powder, or frozen açai packets. I prefer the packets but do keep in mind: NOT ALL AÇAI IS CREATED EQUALLY! The best kind, the kind with the purest, boldest flavor, comes without any additives- no added sugar or preservatives. I know I am speaking against popular opinion here, but there is a very popular brand that starts with the letter 'S' and rhymes with "Amazon" that yes, you can get an unsweetened version of, but it still contains citric acid which, in my opinion, dulls the flavor down. The sweetened variety is even more dulled down and does not appeal to my taste buds at all. My preferred brand is Amazon Planet and the packets contain 100% pure acai. You can get an "energy" blend with green tea and yerba mate, but I always stick to the purest form. It really, really, REALLY makes a difference.
2. Smoothie bowls require less liquid than regular, drinkable smoothies. When you scoop up your smoothie, you want it to be more like a slightly melted soft-serve ice cream or a thick milkshake and less like soup. For my normal huge-ass breakfast smoothies, I usually use a cup of non-dairy milk. For smoothie bowls, I use 1/4 cup.
3. You need to have at least 1 "creamy" frozen fruit in your smoothie to give it that velvety texture and add sweetness. Most people like to use bananas for this, but I actually prefer mangoes. Too much banana gives me an all-day headache, and I think they can actually overpower the flavor of the smoothie a bit whereas mangoes are a little more neutral. But seriously- use whichever you prefer. Chris generally prefers bananas so I often make two separate smoothies for us. Frozen (rather than fresh) is better, so if you need frozen bananas, peel some over-ripe fresh bananas, place them in an airtight container and store them in the freezer for smoothie time.
4. Add greens to the smoothie. I actually add greens (spinach, kale, chard, collards) to all my smoothies, but seriously, it's a great way to add a lot of nutrition without really changing the taste or texture. It's obviously not necessary, but what've you got to lose?
5. Putting granola on the top of a smoothie bowl is divine, but you want to know what's really great? Having extra granola waiting for you at the bottom of the bowl. It makes your last few bites more extraordinary- kind of like all the huge, awe-inspiring fireworks that they save for the end of firework shows. It helps make me less sad when I've finished it.
6. Having a variety of fruit on top kind of seals the deal for me. A scant scattering of blueberries will just not do. Pick out at least 2 different fruits, if not 3 or 4, and slice them into bite size pieces. Some of my favorite fruit toppings are: strawberries, bananas (one of the only places I really like bananas), blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, nectarine, peach, mango, and pineapple. Figs can be good as long as they're not too mushy and you get rid of the stem. And don't just throw the fruit on top of your smoothie (unless you're in a terrible rush). Make it a feast for your eyes as well by taking the time to lay them out in a pretty way. It sounds silly, but sitting down to a gorgeous, smoothie bowl, decked out with a lovely display of fruit toppings is way more satisfying than the slap-dash ones. Of course, it will taste the same either way.
7. You could stop there, with just granola and fruit on top, but there are a couple more things you can add to take this bowl to the next level. I suggest a scattering of small seeds (my favorites are hemp seeds or buckwheat groats, though flax, chia, or even sunflower or pumpkin seeds would work. Even a bit of chopped almonds or cashews might be nice) and cacao nibs for extra crunch. It may sound like a small detail, but I'm telling you- when you scoop up a bite of thick smoothie, a cluster of granola, and a slice of banana with a few seeds and a couple nibs stuck to it, you'll thank me. And if you like your smoothie bowls to be sweet, try a light drizzle of maple or agave syrup over the top. If you want an extra protein kick, try a little drizzle of nut butter.
My favorite açai bowl is a simple one. It consists of almond milk, hemp seeds (for protein), buckwheat groats (for fiber), greens, mango, berries, and of course, açai berry. I top it (and fill the bottom of the bowl) with my favorite crunchy buckwheat granola and a few of my favorite fruit toppings. A light dusting of hemp seeds and cacao nibs with a very slight drizzle of maple syrup makes it a show-stopper.
- 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla non-dairy milk
- 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
- 1 tablespoon buckwheat groats
- 1 large handful of greens
- 1 1/2 cups chopped frozen mango (about 7-8 ounces)
- 1 heaping cup frozen mixed berries (about 5 ounces)
- 1 frozen açai berry packet (I use Amazon Planet)
- granola of choice (I use My Favorite Crunch Buckwheat Granola)
- about 1 1/2 - 2 cups sliced fruit for topping
- 1 teaspoon hemp seeds, optional
- 1 teaspoon cacao nibs, optional
- maple syrup, optional
- Combine the smoothie ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. If your blender has a stirring device to use while it's blending, use it to help move things around. If it doesn't, you may need to stop and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula periodically.
- Fill the bottom of your bowl with about 1/4 cup of granola. Pour the smoothie over the granola. Top with more granola, the sliced fruit, and the hemp seeds, cacao nibs, and maple syrup, if using. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
What goes in your favorite smoothie bowl?
Photography by Chris Miller
Feast for your eyes is right! These bowls are beyond beautiful. I've never had acai or made a smoothie bowl. I'm going to see what kind of acai is available at our natural grocery store! This sounds like a fabulous start to the day.
I just had an acai bowl this morning and this is making me want another one already! I love to use 1/2 bananas and 1/2 mangos for the creaminess factor. So good! I love all your tips, too. I go all out with my acai bowls. There's no other way to do it. 😉
This looks divine! I've never been able to find frozen acai here in Toronto. I must keep looking!
me either !!! any luck ? i feel like i have looked everywhere !
Thanks for the smoothie bowl tips! I love a daily smoothie, but sometimes you just want to add some toppings and eat it with a spoon! I am currently obsessed with acai, so I will have to try this recipe! 🙂
omg delicious!!! this is just the best way to start the day
I want to marry you so that you will make me fancy acai bowls every morning! such beautiful bowls!! There is a place here in Santa Cruz that makes super yummy acai bowls, but it never occurred to me to try to make one of my own. Also, they don't put extra granola in the bottom of the bowl, but now that you've mentioned that I am scarred for life and I will always feel slightly disappointed that they didn't. Thanks for the acai tips - I might try it out!
Dawn @ Florida Coastal Cooking & Wellness
Looks amazing girl! I love all the colors. I live near St Augustine, FL and there is this gorgeous farmers market with tons of food trucks. One particular one has a focus on acai bowls and my 6 year old daughter loves them. Yours looks even better! Thanks for giving me the idea to create my own!!
I never knew that about the Acai or that mangoes work in the same way as the bananas! I always just default to bananas! Thanks for sharing!!
The extra granola on the bottom is genius! I'm totally doing that tomorrow morning!!
Such a timely post! My husband and I are recent smoothie bowl converts. The seed was planted in January (in Maui, coincidentally), but I didn't pull the trigger until seeing your recent instagram posts actually! We are 2 weeks in and it is became an instant daily habit. Banana and cherry has been our favorite base, but I am super looking forward to trying mango and acai! Also, granola on the bottom, BEST IDEA EVER!
I can't wait to make this!
Looks amazing! And that's a wise tip about the granola. Can't wait to try it.
This is beautiful and delicious. I am making one
Ana @ Ana's Rocket Ship
Who knew attaining the perfect smoothie bowl was so complicated- I bet it's good though!
Christine (The Raw Project)
Such beautiful pics, amazing vibrant colors. Great info on smoothies, I'm always tweaking them since they're part of our daily routine.
Sarah | Well and Full
To me, a smoothie isn't complete without some pineapple (my favorite fruit)! 🙂
I love Acai bowls and this is a great recipe for making them at home! Plus they're so colorful and pretty!
Wow! This is the first Acai Bowl recipe I've seen without a traditional base of banana (or sometimes I'll sub avocado or sweet potato)...and I LOVE it! Beautiful photography, and a great blog altogether. Very sexy food...I'm an instant fan!
This is a great recipe. When I have made acai bowls in the past, they have always been too watery. I think have to try this one out. Thank you
Give Purple Grindz a try in your acai bowls and smoothie bowls (and oatmeal, and pancake batter)...really good protein + superfoods blend that works great with these foods!
My bowl is too runny