Smoothies have become an incredibly popular and healthy breakfast or snack option. At their core, smoothies are blended fruit juices that can be customized in endless ways. From green veggie smoothies to chocolate peanut butter protein shakes, there’s a smoothie out there for everyone.
When making a smoothie, most recipes call for some type of liquid base. The most common smoothie bases are yogurt, milk (dairy or non-dairy), juice, water, or ice. But with so many options, it can get confusing. Do smoothies need yogurt or milk? Or can you make a smoothie without any dairy at all?
The Role of Liquid in Smoothies
Before deciding whether to use yogurt or milk, it’s helpful to understand why smoothies need some kind of liquid in the first place. Here are the main reasons:
- Hydration – Smoothies are meant to be drinkable, so a liquid base helps achieve the right consistency.
- Creaminess – Yogurt, milk, and other liquids blend with the fruit to create a creamy, smooth texture.
- Nutrition – Dairy products like yogurt or milk add protein, calcium, vitamins, and more to the smoothie.
- Flavor – Liquids like juice or coconut water infuse the smoothie with extra flavor.
- Blending – The liquid allows the solid ingredients to blend properly and fully incorporate.
Without any liquid, smoothies would be too thick and difficult to blend and drink. So yogurt, milk, or another liquid base is an essential component.
Why Add Yogurt?
Non-fat plain Greek yogurt is one of the most popular smoothie additions. Here are some of the benefits of using yogurt:
- Creaminess – Yogurt produces a rich, thick, and ultra-creamy smoothie texture.
- Protein – Greek yogurt provides a big protein boost, with about 17-20 grams per cup.
- Probiotics – The live active cultures in yogurt offer probiotics for gut health.
- Nutrients – Yogurt contains calcium, vitamin B12, potassium, and other nutrients.
- Flavor – Yogurt has a tangy, refreshing taste that enhances fruit and veggie flavors.
- Stability – The thickness of yogurt helps bind all the ingredients together.
For the creamiest, most nutritious smoothies, it’s hard to beat yogurt. Even just a couple spoonfuls blended into the smoothie can make a big difference in texture and nutrition.
Why Use Milk?
Milk is another excellent smoothie base option. You can use regular dairy milk, or plant-based milks like almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, etc. Here’s why you might want to blend milk into your smoothies:
- Creaminess – Milk creates a creamy, milkshake-like richness and body.
- Nutrients – Dairy milk provides protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, etc. Plant milks provide nutrition like protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
- Mild flavor – The light dairy taste of milk lets other ingredients shine.
- Consistency – Milk blends smoothly and keeps smoothies from getting too thick.
- Low calorie – Options like skim or low-fat milk keep calories down.
- Intolerances – Non-dairy milks accommodate lactose intolerance or allergies.
Milk is versatile base that provides a great nutrient boost. Depending on your goals or dietary needs, dairy or plant milk can be an excellent smoothie addition.
Smoothies Without Dairy
While yogurt and milk can optimize smoothies, you don’t actually need dairy at all to make great smoothies. There are lots of non-dairy ingredients that can produce creamy, nutritious smoothies:
- Fruit juice – For a fruity, flavorful base, use orange juice, apple juice, grape juice, etc.
- Coconut water – With electrolytes and natural sweetness, coconut water makes an ideal smoothie base.
- Plant milks – Nut milks, oat milk, soy milk, etc. offer creamy richness without dairy.
- Avocado – For thick, creamy smoothies, avocado is a healthy substitution for yogurt or milk.
- Banana – Bananas blend into a smooth, creamy consistency with no dairy needed.
- Nut butter – A spoonful of almond butter, peanut butter, etc. can add creaminess.
- Tofu – Silken tofu blends into smoothies for extra thickness and protein.
- Ice – Using frozen fruit and a handful of ice cubes helps achieve a chilled, thick texture.
With the right combinations of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and other creative ingredients, you can definitely craft rich and satisfying smoothies without any yogurt or milk.
Sample Smoothie Recipes
To give you a better idea of how yogurt, milk, and non-dairy bases can be used in smoothies, here are some sample recipes:
Strawberries and Cream Smoothie
- 1 cup strawberries
- 1 banana
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Handful of ice
Green Machine Smoothie
- 1 cup kale or spinach
- 1 banana
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1/4 cup avocado
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- Stevia to taste
- Ice cubes
Almond Joy Smoothie
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 banana
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 2 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 pitted dates
- 4 ice cubes
These recipes demonstrate how you can use yogurt, dairy or plant milk, or no dairy at all to make flavorful smoothies. Feel free to get creative and tailor smoothies to your personal tastes and nutrition goals!
Adding Yogurt, Milk, or Non-Dairy Ingredients
When deciding whether to add yogurt, milk, or non-dairy ingredients to your smoothie, here are some factors to consider:
|Yogurt||Thick, creamy texture; Probiotics; Protein; Nutrients like calcium, B12, potassium||Higher in calories; Contains dairy (unsuitable if vegan/dairy-free)|
|Milk (dairy or plant-based)||Creamy, milkshake-like texture; Protein; Vitamins and minerals||Contains dairy (if cow’s milk); Lower protein than yogurt|
|Non-Dairy (juice, coconut water, etc.)||Avoids dairy allergies or intolerances; Lower calorie; Unique flavors||Typically less creamy; Lower protein|
If your priority is a thick, creamy smoothie with probiotics and high protein, yogurt is likely the best choice. If you want to avoid dairy or lower calories, non-dairy ingredients can provide plenty of flavor and nutrients. Milk offers a nice middle ground between the two.
Tips for Making Smoothies With or Without Dairy
Here are some tips for working with yogurt, milk, and non-dairy liquids in your smoothies:
- Always add the liquid to the blender first, before any fresh produce or ice.
- If omitting yogurt or milk, use banana, avocado, nut butters, or frozen fruit to add creaminess.
- When using juice, start with just 1/4 to 1/2 cup and add more to achieve desired consistency.
- For nut milks, aim for unsweetened and unflavored varieties without thickeners or stabilizers.
- If your smoothie seems too thick, drizzle in more liquid until it reaches the right consistency.
- Conversely, you can always add more ice if a smoothie seems too thin or watery.
- Use lemon or lime juice to brighten up the flavors of fruit- or veggie-based smoothies.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different liquids and ingredient combinations until you find your perfect smoothie recipe!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make a smoothie without any liquid at all?
Technically you can make a smoothie without any added liquids, but it would be extremely thick and difficult to drink. Fruit and veggies contain liquid, but not enough to fully blend into smoothie consistency. Some liquid is needed to achieve a drinkable texture.
Which is healthier, yogurt or milk in smoothies?
Both yogurt and milk can be healthy smoothie additions. Yogurt provides more protein and probiotics. Milk provides more calcium and vitamin D. For the healthiest option, choose unsweetened Greek yogurt and skim or low-fat milk.
Do I need to use dairy in green smoothies?
Not at all! Green smoothies made with fruits and veggies like kale, spinach, banana, mango, etc. do not require any dairy. You can use coconut water, orange juice, almond milk, or another liquid base for a dairy-free green smoothie.
What can I use instead of almond milk in smoothies?
If you don’t have almond milk, you can substitute any plant milk such as coconut milk, oat milk, soy milk, flax milk, etc. For nut-free options, stick to coconut, oat, rice, or hemp milk. You can also use dairy milk, yogurt, kefir, or fruit juice.
Is it okay to use water in smoothies instead of milk? How can I make it creamier?
Using water will make a thinner, more icy smoothie, but you can make it creamier by including bananas, avocados, nut butters, protein powders, or even soft silken tofu. Freezing the fruit first helps too.
- Smoothies require some amount of liquid to blend properly and become drinkable.
- Yogurt provides thickness, creaminess, probiotics, and protein.
- Milk adds creaminess, nutrients, and mild dairy flavor.
- You can make smoothies without dairy using ingredients like juice, coconut water, avocado, banana, and nut butters.
- Consider your nutrition goals, texture preferences, and dietary needs when choosing yogurt, milk, or non-dairy liquids.
- Get creative with combinations of fruits, veggies, spices, and supplements to craft your own signature smoothie.
While yogurt and milk are common smoothie add-ins, they’re not required to make healthy, tasty smoothies. With the right ratios of fruits and veggies and a liquid base, you can create smoothies without dairy that are just as nutritious and delicious. Smoothie making is an art – have fun experimenting with different ingredients and liquids to find your perfect blend!