As someone who lives an active lifestyle and has an obsession with all things nutrition, making green smoothie recipes at home was a total game changer. No time to make a salad? Green smoothies to the rescue! Need a healthy meal-on-the-go that won’t break the bank? Green smoothies can be made in under five minutes and poured into a portable water bottle for a nutritious breakfast or post-workout meal. All you need to get started is a blender, a green smoothie recipe, the greens themselves, and a few other healthy additions.
It’s easy being green—when you’re making smoothies, that is!
Everyone knows eating your greens is a healthy choice, but preparing and eating salads and sautéed greens with every meal can be tiresome (and time-consuming). Many greens (and other fruits and veggies) have a strong flavor that some people don’t like, making it extra-difficult to get those recommended 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Green smoothie recipes make it easy to incorporate dark leafy greens and other healthy ingredients into a portable meal. Registered dietitian Julie Kostyk of Pure Nutrition says:
Adding dark, leafy greens into your smoothies is a great way to incorporate a food that is rich in fiber and many other nutrients, including iron, into your diet. Many people struggle to get enough green vegetables into their daily intake, but this alternative helps to increase your likelihood of meeting your daily intake.
How to Buy and Store Fresh Greens for Smoothies
How do you know which greens to add to your smoothie recipe? Look for leafy veggies that don’t have an overly bitter flavor or tough texture (mustard, collard, and Chinese greens tend to fall into this category and have a much better taste when cooked). Baby greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are perfect for smoothies as they have a milder flavor and can be blended seamlessly into a smoothie.
All that said, even if you’ve bought the “right” greens for smoothies, you may have experienced them languishing—going yellow-leafed and slimy in the crisper (which usually results in them all being thrown out) before you’ve had a chance to enjoy your first green smoothie. If this is something that happens to you regularly, consider buying frozen greens instead. Not only do they have a much longer shelf life, frozen greens are picked and then flash-frozen, a process which preserves their nutrients so effectively that in some cases they contain even higher concentrations of nutrients than fresh options.
If you’re purchasing fresh greens, look for crisp leaves that show no signs of spoilage or withering. Once you get home, remove the greens from their plastic bags and place them in a glass- or plastic-lidded container (or use a large resealable freezer bag). Line the container or freezer bag with a paper towel, which will help with excess moisture, and store with the lid on or the bag sealed shut. Wash them in cold water once you’re ready to use (not before, as this will speed up spoilage) and dry in a salad spinner or with a clean tea towel. Use your freshly washed greens immediately.
Hold back on the sugar.
Although green smoothies seem inherently healthy, it’s still important to pay attention to the ingredients being used, especially when it comes to sugar content. Kostyk says:
It is important to make sure you are not adding too much sugar, which could shift a green smoothie from a healthy choice to more of a dessert. I like to only use natural foods to sweeten smoothies, such as bananas or dates. I also try to limit the amount of fruit in my smoothies to no more than ½ cup, and if needed I will add a small date for additional sweetness.
Use fruit-flavored or dessert yogurt, fruit juice, agave, and honey in small amounts, opting for lower sugar ingredients whenever possible.
Choosing the Right Liquid Base for Green Smoothies
In order for green smoothies to have the most nutritional bang for their buck, it’s important to choose a liquid base that’s low in sugar and high in nutrients like protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Kostyk recommends keeping the following in mind when selecting a base for your smoothie:
I also try to encourage people to use milk as a base—either cow’s milk or soy milk—rather than juice, as milk adds a source of protein to your smoothie in addition to other nutrients, and juice will only add a lot of extra sugar and no protein. If people choose to use a dairy alternative other than soy milk, for example, almond, cashew, rice, et cetera, they should consider adding [another] a source of protein to their smoothie as these dairy alternatives do not contain a significant source of protein.
A half cup of Greek yogurt provides around 10 grams of protein and gives green smoothies an extra-creamy texture. Stick to plain, low-fat versions whenever possible and add your own frozen fruit to the smoothie.
Pasteurized Egg Whites
Pasteurized egg whites have been treated to eliminate the threat of food-borne illnesses and are can be found packaged in cartons in the egg case. Very high in protein, pasteurized eggs whites give green smoothies a frothy texture.
One of Kostyk’s favorite liquid proteins to use in green smoothies, dairy milk also contains the added benefit of calcium and vitamin D. Combine non-dairy milks with any other protein option to maximize the amount of protein in your green smoothie.
Adding protein to your green smoothie ensures you’ll stay fuller, longer (this is especially important if you’re using green smoothies as a meal replacement option). But not all protein powders are made equal, so it’s important to choose high-quality proteins whenever possible.
Most protein powder is made from whey, a by-product of the cheese-making industry. However, vegan protein powders made from pea, hemp, and rice are also available. Add a scoop of protein powder to your green smoothie to help keep you satiated first thing in the morning or after a workout.
Made from spirulina, a blue–green algae, this superfood contains an impressive 12 grams of protein per 3-tablespoon serving. What makes spirulina so special is that it’s a plant-based complete protein, which means that it has all 20 amino acids (including the 9 amino acids your body can’t produce on its own). Powdered spirulina is also a good source of iron, thiamin, riboflavin, and copper.
Nut butters made from peanuts, almonds, or cashews, for example, are a fantastic way to add protein and healthy fats to your green smoothies. Worried about how much fat you’re adding? Powdered peanut butter is a great, lower fat option for green smoothies.
Now that you have some liquid base and add-in options in mind, here are some green smoothie recipes to get you started:
Julie Kostyk’s Chocolate Hemp Green Smoothie
This green smoothie is packed with protein thanks to the addition of pasteurized egg whites and powdered peanut butter. Don’t let the raw egg factor deter you from trying this tasty smoothie; the pasteurization process eliminates the threat of food-borne disease and the egg whites add an impressive 13 grams of protein per serving.
Yield: One 12-Ounce Serving
- ¾ cups dairy milk or soy milk
- ½ cup pasteurized egg whites
- 2 Tbsp. powdered peanut butter (we love Bell Plantation’s PB2)
- 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- Half of a large date (for sweetness)
- Half of a frozen banana
- 1 Tbsp. hemp seeds
- Handful of fresh or frozen greens (kale, spinach, Swiss chard, etc.)
- Begin by adding half the milk and the pasteurized eggs to the blender.
- Top with the powdered peanut butter, cocoa powder, date, banana, and hemp seeds.
- Blend for 20 seconds to combine, then add the rest of the milk and pasteurized eggs and finish with the greens.
- Blend the ingredients together until smooth—about 30 seconds. Drink immediately.
Super Strawberry Low-Sugar Green Smoothie
Perfect for summer sipping, this refreshing green smoothie gets its sweetness from raspberry herbal tea and frozen strawberries and blackberries. Strawberries and blackberries offer plenty of sweetness without any added sugar and are good sources of vitamin C (a single cup of strawberries has over 150 percent of the recommended daily intake) and dietary fiber.
Yield: Two 12-Ounce Servings
- 1⅓ cups unsweetened raspberry iced tea (brew your own using Celestial Seasoning’s Raspberry Zinger)
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- ½ cup frozen blackberries
- ½ tsp. grated ginger
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 cup ice (optional)
- Add 1 cup of the unsweetened raspberry iced tea to the blender, then the frozen strawberries, blackberries, grated ginger, and spinach.
- Blend briefly to combine the ingredients before adding the remaining ⅓ cup of unsweetened raspberry iced tea.
- Blend the ingredients together until smooth—about 30 seconds.
- To thicken up the smoothie, add the optional ice and blend once more.
- Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
Tropical Mango Banana Green Smoothie
Frozen mango, banana, and coconut milk make this tropical-inspired green smoothie an extra-creamy addition to your lineup. The sweetness of the tropical fruit covers up any lingering green aftertaste from the spinach, which makes this an ideal green smoothie for the whole family to enjoy.
Make sure to use frozen bananas if possible as they’re responsible for the milkshake-like texture of the smoothie.
Yield: Four 10-Ounce Servings
- 1 cup milk (dairy or otherwise)
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
- 1 cup frozen bananas chunks (about two large bananas)
- 1 cup frozen mango chunks
- 1 dried date
- Juice from half a lime
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ½ cup orange juice
- Add the milk, coconut milk, and vanilla to the bottom of the blender.
- Layer the frozen banana, mango, dried date, lime juice, and baby spinach on top.
- Blend the ingredients together for 30 seconds, adding the orange juice in a slow stream until the smoothie achieves a smooth, creamy texture.
- Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
Chocolate Blueberry Matcha Green Smoothie
This green smoothie recipe uses matcha, an emerald-colored powder made of dried and ground green tea leaves. While many people love matcha’s slightly funky, bitter flavor, it can prove to be too strong for some palates. In this green smoothie recipe, matcha is combined with naturally sweet blueberries and coconut water so that you can reap its many nutritional benefits without having to worry about its strong taste.
Unsweetened cacao nibs give this smoothie a delicious chocolate flavor, but you can also substitute unsweetened cocoa powder if you don’t have cacao nibs on hand.
Yield: One 8-Ounce Serving
- 1 cup coconut water
- ¾ cup frozen blueberries
- 2 Tbsp. cacao nibs OR 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1 oz chocolate protein powder (about 1 scoop)
- 1 to 2 tsp. matcha powder (try Starter Matcha 100% Organic Matcha)
- Add half the coconut water to the blender and top with the frozen blueberries, cacao nibs (or cocoa powder), chocolate protein powder, and matcha.
- Blend for 30 seconds or until mostly blended, then add the remaining coconut water.
- Blend for 30 more seconds and pour in a glass. Serve immediately.
Vegan Raspberry Oat Green Smoothie
This vegan green smoothie will keep you feeling full for hours thanks to its high fiber and healthy fat content from the oats, raspberries, and almond butter. Although this recipe calls for almond milk, you can use any non-dairy milk that you like.
Yield: Two 12-Ounce Servings
- 1½ cups almond milk
- 1 cup frozen raspberries
- ½ cup frozen banana slices (about one large frozen banana)
- 2 Tbsp. rolled oats
- 1 Tbsp. almond butter
- Two handfuls baby kale
- Add 1 cup of almond milk to the blender along with the frozen raspberries and banana, oats, almond butter, and baby kale.
- Blend for 30 seconds or until mostly smooth.
- Add the remaining almond milk and blend for 30 seconds or until completely smooth.
Can green smoothies be used as a meal replacement?
The short answer? Yes! Kostyk says, “Green smoothies can be used as a meal replacement—even daily—provided that they are adequate in calories and have a balanced amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.”
It should be noted that many green smoothies that are made at juice bars and even fast food restaurants tend to come up short in terms of their nutrient balance, so before you start using green smoothies as a meal replacement, it’s very important to get the correct nutritional facts.
A Final Note on Keeping It Clean (Your Blender, That Is)
If you love making green smoothie recipes but find cleaning your blender a pain (and let’s face it, it isn’t exactly the most pleasant of tasks), this simple hack will have your blender clean in no time. The next time you’ve finished using your blender, fill it a third of the way up with warm water and a small squirt of dish soap. Place the lid back on the blender and “blend” the soapy water for 30 seconds. This will remove any green smoothie remnants stuck under the blade. Pour the soapy water out of the blender into the sink and give everything a good rinse. You should be left with a clean blender, no scrubbing required.