How to Make a Chocolate Vanilla Smoothie

By Dr. Ben Kim

Moving on from our look at how to make almond milk, let's take a peek at how to make a richly satisfying chocolate vanilla smoothie.

Once you go through the steps below, with just a few simple tweaks on the fly, you'll know how to make an endless variety of yummy, nutrient-dense, and dairy-free smoothies and soft ice creams, all with a blender and a few inexpensive ingredients.

Start with a cured vanilla bean - we get ours from a place called The Organic Vanilla Bean Company, but you can probably find quality vanilla beans locally.


Chop off both ends with your favorite knife.


Use the pointed end of your knife to carefully split the vanilla bean in two, length-wise.


This is a look at the cut surface of half a vanilla bean - see the chewy-looking flesh in the middle? That's a collection of hundreds of vanilla bean specks.

There's probably a more accurate name for these specks.

I've just always called them specks.


Lie the uncut side of one half on the cutting board, anchor one end with a finger or thumb, and gently but firmly scrape the sharp edge of your knife along the length of the open vanilla bean, just like this:


Nice, right? Save these vanilla bean specks for just a bit later.

Now add some frozen banana slices to your best blender - you'll want to use about a cup of banana slices for each serving you want to make.


Frozen banana slices are really the one essential requirement for sweet and creamy smoothies and soft ice creams. We almost always buy extra bananas when we go grocery shopping, and when our extras get nice and ripe - we slice them up and keep them in an air-tight bag or container in the freezer.

If you're not already doing this with your smoothies and using ice instead, you really owe it to yourself to give it a go. I can pretty much guarantee that you'll never go back to ice-based smoothies.

Now, add a teaspoon of quality cocoa powder to the mix - about one teaspoon per cup of frozen banana slices is the right amount for most people.


If you want to make, say, a berry-flavored smoothie, simply avoid the cocoa and add fresh or frozen berries. About two heaping tablespoons of any type of fresh berry works quite well. And if you want a straight vanilla smoothie or soft ice cream, don't add anything but the vanilla.

And here's where the vanilla comes in.


You'll need to use your finger or a utensil to scrape the vanilla beans into the mix.

Now add just enough non-dairy milk to give your blender the bite it needs to bring everything together. About a cup of non-dairy milk per cup of frozen banana slices is a good amount, but try to start with just a bit less - you can always add a bit more if you need to.

We typically use almond milk.


And after a solid whirl in the blender, here's what you're left with - a cold, creamy, and richly satisfying chocolate vanilla smoothie:


See the real vanilla specks in there?

If you like a little chocolaty crunch to your smoothies, sprinkle a small handful of cocoa nibs on top.


It's hard for me to know how good these smoothies look in these pictures because familiarity numbs the senses just a smidge, but let me be clear: This is one fabulous smoothie that will not let you down.

Ah, one thing to note: Because it's best to start with too little rather than too much milk while blending, you may need to pause the blender at times and use a utensil to push the unblended banana slices towards the blades.

I'm a tad bit aggressive in just about everything I do, so I usually just jostle the blender a bit as it's blending, and this tends to do the trick.

But jostling a live blender isn't something I can recommend without being by your side to guide you on proper form. So try the pause-and-scrape-down method first, please.

One other note: If you have a heavy-duty blender, like a vita-mix, use half to three-quarters of a cup of milk per cup of banana slices, and you'll end up with ice cream that really looks and tastes like ice cream.

For just the recipe sans pictures, view:

One last thing: If you don't have easy access to vanilla beans, do not hesitate to make this smoothie without it. Real vanilla adds a lovely layer of flavor, but even without it, I'm pretty sure that you and those you make this for will be quite pleased.

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