The complete guide to smoothie-making for all levels

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Photo: Hannah Packer for Well+Good
If you’ve been relying on the pros at Liquiteria for your smoothie fix, it’s high time you learn the tricks of the trade yourself. Being able to whip up your favorite fruit and veggie combo whenever you want (yes, even 11 p.m. on a Thursday when you’re craving a turmeric “milkshake”) is a must for any smoothie fiend. Bonus: It’s cheaper to rely on your own produce—even if you’re following Gwyneth’s lead. But with infinite flavor profiles to go with, not to mention loads of add-in options—macaspirulinareishi, oh my!—how do you know what tastes good?

Enter the smoothie starter kit.

No matter your level (whether you’re planning your first pulse or have long mastered the fruit-spinach-yogurt combo) or willingness to spend (yes, blenders can cost more than a vacation), we’ve got you covered.

With the help of Alison Wu, the aesthetic guru behind the gorgeous layered smoothies that have been popping up all over your Instagram feed, this guide lays outthe equipment to invest in and the ingredients you should add to your grocery list. And unlike being bound by the constraints of a juice bar’s menu, Wu notes that when it comes to blending at home, the sky’s the limit: “Get creative and experiment with different ingredients. You are your best teacher.”

Whatever you do, always remember that what you’re blending up is so much more than just a grab-and-go breakfast. “I love the bright colors that can be achieved using plant-based ingredients,” says the food stylist-turned-recipe developer. “So much beauty can be achieved through layering of different kinds of smoothies and using slices of fruit pressed against the glass.” Amen.

Ready to turn on your blender? Keep reading for a customized smoothie kit for every kind of devotee.

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Beginner Smoothie Kit
Photo: Hannah Packer for Well+Good

Beginner Smoothie Kit: Mango Ginger Smoothie

A short, simple ingredient list keeps this smoothie manageable if you’re dipping your toes in the blended pool for the first time. Wu points to bananas as a staple for any beginner combo, citing their sweetness as the base to a tasty smoothie. Her other suggestions? “Ginger adds a punch of flavor, and spinach gives you the nutrients you need to kick-start your day.” If you’ve never had a smoothie that’s remotely green, fear not—the sweetness of the mango and banana will reel you in.

No need to invest in a fancy blender just yet, either. Something glass that’s in the mid-range, price-wise, should have no problem turning fruit and small amounts of greens into sippable goodness.

Blender: Oster 12-Speed Blender

1 banana
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 cup spinach
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 cup almond milk

Intermediate Smoothie Kit
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Intermediate Smoothie Kit: Blueberry Cardamom Smoothie

When you’re ready to change up the flavor profile of your a.m. smoothie, Wu suggests venturing into the land of spices. “Dates and cardamom mixed together provide the perfect amount of sweetness and spice,” she raves. And since smoothies are also about getting as much good-for-you ingredients as you can, Wu likes to blend in chia seeds. “They’re great for thickening smoothies, as well as providing fiber and protein.” Is there anything the super-seed can’t do?

If you’re tossing things in the blender a bit more regularly, it’s probably a good idea to rely on something with some flexibility. The NutriBullet comes with different cup and blade options, so it can tackle heftier greens and thicker ingredient combos without breaking a sweat.

Blender: NutriBullet High Speed Blender

1 banana
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
2 medjool dates
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cardamom
1 cup almond milk

Advanced Smoothie Kit
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Advanced Smoothie Kit: Mint Chip Superfood Smoothie

If you can already whip up a nutritious green smoothie in your sleep (or find yourself fantasizing about new flavor combos), it’s time to break into the land of superfood add-ins and not-your-average-pantry ingredients. “Maca is a great gateway adaptogen,” Wu advises. “It’s energizing and has a nice flavor profile.” Wu also recommends spirulina for it’s rich color and major nutrient profile. Next, look for ingredients that play with texture. “Cacao nibs add the perfect crunch,” says Wu. “I usually use them as garnish, but they can also be blended into the smoothie.” And really, who wouldn’t want to sip on a healthier take on chocolate chips?

When you’re asking your blender to break down more bulk, or adding crunchy, dense ingredients, you’ll want something durable with a bit more power. This KitchenAid blender can handle crushing ice and thicker greens alike.

Blender: KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender with Glass Bender Jar

1/2 avocado
2 cups spinach
1 tsp spirulina powder
1 tsp maca
4 leaves fresh mint
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 Tbsp cacao nibs, plus extra for garnish
1 cup almond milk
1 cup water

Expert Smoothie Kit
Photo: Hannah Packer for Well+Good

Expert Smoothie Kit: Adaptogenic Super-Smoothie

Ready to go pro? The time has come to supersize your adaptogen amounts. For this smoothie, Wu chose astralagus, chaga, and matcha, but she also loves rhodiola and ginseng. “These powerful adaptogens are great for boosting immunity and energy levels while combating the negative effects of stress,” she says. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, an adaptogenic smoothie a day keeps adrenal fatigue away.

If you’re willing to try just about anything in your smoothie, you should probably have a blender that can handle just about anything, too. Wu is loyal to her Vitamix, and she isn’t alone—many wellness gurus start their morning with a Vitamix creation. And yes, the price tag is high, but it’s proven worth it for devoted smoothie makers.

Blender: Vitamix 5200

1 banana
1 pear
1 Tbsp cacao butter, melted
1 Tbsp chia seeds
2 oz coconut yogurt
1/2 tsp astralagus
1/2 tsp chaga
1 tsp matcha
1 tsp maple syrup
3/4 cup homemade nut mylk
Small handful of ice
Shredded unsweetened coconut and cacao nibs, for garnish

Any of these smoothies will give you the morning boost you need to kick-start your day. Need more a.m. inspiration? One of these breakfasts will get major attention from your Instagram followers. And if you’re looking for more ways to add matcha to your diet, try this delicious chia pudding.

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