Do you add milk or water to a smoothie?

Smoothies have become an increasingly popular way to pack nutrients into a delicious, portable meal or snack. But when it comes to making your own smoothies at home, one of the first questions that arise is: should you use milk or water as the base liquid?

Both milk and water have their benefits when making smoothies. Water provides a lower calorie option, while milk adds protein, calcium, and vitamin D. The liquid you choose can also impact the flavor and texture of the final product. So how do you decide which one to use?

The case for using water in smoothies

Using water as the base for smoothies has a few advantages:

  • Lower in calories – Water adds volume and liquid without any extra calories. This can help create thicker, frothier smoothies without packing on the calories.
  • Allows ingredients to shine – The neutral taste of water allows the flavors of the fruits, vegetables, and other mix-ins to take center stage. The taste won’t be diluted by dairy.
  • Intolerance friendly – Using water avoids dairy, making smoothies with water a good option for those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies.
  • Keeps smoothies vegan – For those avoiding animal products, water is the ideal smoothie base over milk.

Water is readily available, free, and easy to use. Simply fill your blender with fruits, veggies, and liquid ingredients like juice or coconut water, then top with water until the desired consistency is reached. Water-based smoothies also tend to be thinner, allowing you to fit more smoothie in each cup.

The benefits of using milk in smoothies

There are also some good reasons to consider using milk as your smoothie base:

  • Nutritional boost – Milk adds protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B12, potassium, and phosphorus. This transforms a smoothie into a nutrient-dense meal or snack.
  • Creamy, thick texture – The natural fat and protein in milk creates smoothies with a thick, creamy, milkshake-like consistency.
  • Kid approved – Milk amps up the flavor and creaminess, making smoothies more appealing to kids who are sensitive to chunks or strong flavors.
  • Enhances flavor – Milk has a mild sweetness that complements fruits and other mix-ins. Many people feel dairy takes a smoothie to the next level by making it creamier and more indulgent.

For best results, choose a higher-fat milk like whole milk, 2% milk, or a nut-based milk. Lower fat milk options can sometimes make smoothies watery. Lactose-free milk or nut milks are good alternatives for those avoiding dairy.

Key factors in deciding between milk and water

When trying to decide whether to use milk or water for your smoothies, consider these key factors:

  • Nutritional goals – If your priority is a lower calorie smoothie focused on fruits and veggies, stick with water. If you want to maximize nutrition and don’t mind the extra calories, use milk.
  • Texture – For thick, creamy smoothies similar to a milkshake, milk is the best choice. Water makes lighter smoothies with a more juice-like consistency.
  • Dietary needs – Use water if you follow a vegan or dairy-free diet. Milk is better for kids or those looking for a high calcium, high protein boost.
  • Flavor – Milk enhances sweetness and fruit flavors, while water allows pure fruit taste to shine through.
  • Calorie needs – Lower calorie smoothies can be made with water as the base. Use milk if you need a higher calorie meal replacement.
  • Ingredient combinations – Dense, low water content foods like nut butters, avocados, and bananas tend to work better with milk. Water is fine for produce-heavy smoothies.

Making smoothies with water

Here are some tips for making great tasting, nutritious smoothies with water:

  • Use ripe, flavorful fruits like mangoes, berries, peaches, or pineapples as the foundation.
  • Include some juice or coconut water for extra flavor.
  • Add nut butters, avocado, bananas, or soft silken tofu to make it creamy.
  • Toss in spinach or kale for green smoothies.
  • Mix in ground flax or chia seeds, wheat germ, oats, or nutritonal supplements for an extra nutrition boost.
  • Add fresh herbs like mint or basil for a flavor pop.
  • Use frozen fruits or crushed ice to make it cold and thick.
  • Top with extras like shaved coconut, sliced almonds, cacao nibs, or granola.

Feel free to experiment with your favorite flavor combinations. Many types of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and herbs can be blended into delicious smoothies using water as a base.

Water smoothie recipes to try

Here are a few tasty water-based smoothie recipes to try:

Tropical Fruit Smoothie

  • 1 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup mango chunks
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • Ice cubes

Green Machine Smoothie

  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp spirulina powder (optional)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup ice

Berry Beet Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1 small cooked beet, diced
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup ice

Making smoothies with milk

For best results when making smoothies with milk, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use fuller fat milk options like whole milk, 2% milk, or nut milk. Skim or 1% milk can make smoothies watery.
  • Limit watery fruits like watermelon or citrus. Berries, mangos, bananas, and stone fruits work best.
  • Cut back on ice. A few cubes are fine but too much dilutes the milk.
  • Add yogurt or soft silken tofu for extra thickness and protein.
  • Mix in peanut butter, nuts, avocados, or nut butters for creaminess.
  • Add in oats, ground flax, or chia seeds for fiber and texture.
  • Stick to 1/2 to 1 cup milk per serving. Too much can make smoothies thin.

Milk allows you to blend in bolder, more nutritious ingredients while maintaining a thick, drinkable texture. Milk also gives you more leeway to create creamy dessert or shake-like smoothies.

Milk smoothie recipes

These milk-based smoothies make for flavorful, protein-packed treats.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Ice cubes

Carrot Cake Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 cup canned pineapple
  • 1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ice cubes

Cookies and Cream Smoothie

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 oreos, crushed
  • 1 cup ice

Combining milk and water

Another option is to use both milk and water in your smoothies. This gives you some of the benefits of each liquid.

There are a couple ways to mix the two:

  • Make “creamy” water smoothies – Use 3/4 to 1 cup water plus 1/4 to 1/3 cup milk. This adds richness without going overboard on calories.
  • Make “light” milk smoothies – Use 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 cup water. You get the nutritional benefits of milk with fewer calories.

Adjust the milk to water ratio based on your preferences and the ingredients used. For example, use more milk if blending in peanut butter or bananas. Or use more water for produce-heavy smoothies.

Should you avoid adding both milk and water?

While using both milk and water can help balance out their pros and cons, some people claim you shouldn’t mix the two in smoothies.

The main argument against using milk and water is that it leads to a thin, watery texture. Milk proteins and water don’t properly emulsify together in the blender, so the smoothie ends up thinner than if you used all milk or all water.

However, if you blend the ingredients well and tamper down the contents, you can achieve a nice consistency. It mainly comes down to ratios – only adding a small amount of water to milk is fine. But equal parts milk and water may make the texture too liquidy.

The other potential issue is taste. Too much water can dilute the flavor provided by the milk and fruits. Again, a little water for a lighter smoothie works well. But overdoing it on water impacts the sweetness and creaminess that milk adds.

Overall, combining water and milk is worth trying, especially if you want the nutrition of milk without all the calories. Just aim for no more than a quarter to a third of the total liquid as water. And be sure to blend thoroughly for the best possible texture.

Should you make smoothies with plant-based milk?

Non-dairy milks like almond, coconut, oat, and soy milk can also be used to make smoothies. Here’s how they compare to regular dairy milk:

  • Taste – Plant milks vary in flavor. Coconut milk is sweet with a subtle coconut flavor. Nut milks tend to be milder. Soy milk has a roasted, cereal-like taste. Most are fairly neutral but won’t have the same dairy sweetness.
  • Texture – Thicker, creamier plant milks like coconut and cashew work well in smoothies. Thinner milks like almond or oat may lead to a more watery blend.
  • Nutrition – Plant milks vary in nutrients. Most contain protein but less than cow’s milk. Many are fortified with calcium and vitamins. Fat content depends on the type – coconut milk is higher while almond milk is very low.
  • Calories – Plant milks are generally lower calorie than whole milk since they contain no dairy fat. But coconut milk is an exception and quite high in calories from saturated fat.

If opting for plant milk, look for varieties that are thicker, higher in protein and nutrients, and lower in additives. Soy, coconut, and cashew milks tend to work best. Opt for unsweetened versions.

You can also make your own homemade almond milk or oat milk. Use less water than most recipes call for to make it thick enough for smoothies. Homemade milks will be thinner but allow you to control the ingredients.


So should you use milk or water in your smoothies? In the end, it comes down to your specific goals and preferences.

Water is the lower calorie, vegan-friendly option that keeps flavors pure. Milk provides thickness, creaminess, and a nutritional boost of protein, calcium and vitamins.

Combining the two allows you to fine tune smoothie texture and nutrition. And plant-based milks offer an alternative for non-dairy smoothies.

When in doubt, start with one or the other liquid. Then tweak ratios of milk to water based on your ideal smoothie attributes like flavor, thickness, calories, and nutrients.

The most important thing is choosing fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients that make you excited to blend up and enjoy these healthy, satisfying drinks!

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