If you love smoothies, chances are you use bananas in every single one, unless you’re like me and have some fabulous substitutes for bananas in smoothies up your sleeve. Here’s the thing: I don’t hate bananas, but I tire of them quickly. They’re also high in sugar and tend to cause my blood sugar to spike, despite their health benefits. If you love them and don’t have sugar issues, then feel free to keep eating them. They’re a great source of fiber, potassium and B vitamins, but if you’re like me and need high quality substitutes for bananas in smoothies to still get that creamy factor, then read on. I’ve become quite the smoothie scientist experimenting with all these different ingredients, and I can promise you they work! Try these out until you find one that works for you. Chances are you’ll be buying less bananas when you see how tasty, thick and creamy these are.
1. Canned Pumpkin
I love using canned pumpkin as one of the best substitutes for bananas in smoothies. I like to use about a ½ cup organic canned pumpkin to thicken a smoothie the same way a bananas does, and I add a little stevia to up the sweet factor. You can also use organic canned butternut squash. Canned pumpkin is so good for you, and don’t knock it til you try it. The smoothie won’t taste like pumpkin if you use ingredients like berries, cocoa powder, vanilla protein powder and stevia. I like to switch up my flavoring agents like these if I don’t want a pumpkin smoothie. Pumpkin is also rich in Vitamin A, fiber, and potassium. It is a great addition to your smoothies as well as a top beauty food and weight loss food due to being fat-free, low sugar and high in fiber and potassium.
2. Frozen Veggies
This is one of my favorite tricks for getting a thick smoothie without a banana. Freeze cubed zucchini and cucumbers in a large freezer safe bag and keep them stocked in your freezer like you would frozen banana slices. When they freeze, they lose their veggie taste and instead act like ice cubes that make your smoothies creamy without watering them down. They make the most intensely thick, ice-cream like smoothies and you’ll never taste the actual veggie in them if you flavor the smoothie the right way. Sweeten your smoothie with cocoa powder, stevia,berries or flavored protein powder if you want a sweeter smoothie like banana-flavored smoothies offer.
3. Frozen Spinach
Just like frozen veggies, using frozen spinach versus fresh is a great way to make a thick, creamy smoothie. You’ll want to use about a ½ cup more liquid such as unsweetened almond milk when you use frozen spinach, since it makes the smoothie intensely thick and creamy. If you don't use enough liquid it won’t blend properly, so add a little at a time until you get a thick, ice cream like consistency. Frozen spinach is my daily go-to trick for getting in a really thick smoothie. Again, sweeten it with stevia, cocoa powder, vanilla flavored protein powder or some berries to add a natural, low calorie sweetness.
Avocado slices are a great way to get a thick, creamy smoothie. Many raw foodists use avocado in raw chocolate pudding. Avocado is a great way to get that milkshake texture quality to your smoothies and it is easily masked by other flavors. You can flavor it however you like and great options include flavored protein powder, berries, cocoa powder and stevia, as mentioned above.
Though mango isn’t lower in sugar than bananas, if you’re tired of bananas, it makes the perfect substitute. I’m particularly not a fan of mangoes at all, but many people love them and they really make a creamy smoothie if you do enjoy them. They also sweeten the smoothie without the need for another sweetener.
6. Food Based Gums
Okay, now this may seem a little odd to those of you not familiar with using food based gums to thicken smoothies. If you’re new to them, let me introduce you to one of the most fabulous smoothie tricks of all time. Guar gum, along with xanthan gum, are food based gums derived from plants. They are used in powdered form to make smoothies and puddings, and they thicken food like cornstarch does, while being almost 0 calorie agents and completely tasteless. The great thing is, you only need a little to go a long way. Use about ¼ tsp. xanthan gum or ½ tsp. guar gum in your smoothies. They are great sources of fiber that, when blended, soak up air and quickly thicken a smoothie in no time. After they sit five minutes, they thicken up even more. If you use too much you’ll have a huge blob of a smoothie, so use the amounts recommended above per 8 ounces of smoothie. You can buy them in your health food store on the baking aisle since they are often used in gluten-free baking, or you can buy guar gum and xanthan gum online at iHerb. I suggest using both versus one or the other in the amounts recommended for the best results. Guar gum helps cream, while xanthan gum helps to thicken. You’ll want to be sure to add some sweetener of your choice so that your smoothie is sweet like bananas offer, since food based gums are tasteless.
7. Frozen Yogurt Cubes
This is my favorite trick of all that doesn’t use other fruits or veggies to replace bananas. Freeze yogurt into ice cube trays and put them in the freezer until they are frozen. They will thicken a smoothie fast and give you that frozen yogurt texture straight out of the blender. I love this trick for making healthy ice cream and healthy frozen yogurt at home, but it is even better in a smoothie as a thickening agent. It also makes your smoothies more like ice cream smoothies you can eat with a spoon versus drink out of a straw. Use about 5-6 frozen yogurt cubes per banana you would use in a recipe.
There are many other ways to thicken a smoothie without a banana, but these are my favorite ways of all, since they give great results with little effort. What are your favorite ways to thicken a smoothie without bananas?