What is the liquid for a smoothie?

Quick Answers

The main liquid used in smoothies is some kind of milk or dairy alternative like almond milk, oat milk, or coconut milk. Fruit juices like orange juice or apple juice are also commonly used as the liquid base for smoothies. Water is another option for creating a lower calorie smoothie. The liquid provides smoothies with their creamy texture and allows the other ingredients to blend together smoothly.

Smoothies have become an increasingly popular and nutritious breakfast or snack option. Blending together various fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients into a cold, thick beverage provides a refreshing way to pack in servings of produce and get a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals. But what turns this mélange of solid ingredients into a drinkable, smooth concoction? The secret lies in the liquid base of the smoothie.

Choosing the right liquid is key to achieving the ideal creamy consistency and allowing the flavors to properly meld together. The liquid base provides the foundation upon which the rest of the smoothie ingredients can shine. Without enough liquid, the smoothie will be too thick and hard to drink. Too much, and the flavors become watered down and thin. Finding the right balance is essential.

But what are the best options for smoothie liquids? And what unique qualities does each type of liquid bring to the table in terms of nutrition, flavor, and texture? Read on to learn all about the most common categories of smoothie liquids and how to decide which is best for your needs.


Dairy milk is one of the most popular smoothie bases. Any type of milk can be used, including cow’s milk, goat’s milk, almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, hemp milk, and more. Milk provides a rich, creamy texture that is hard to replicate with other liquids. It has a mild flavor that combines well with both fruit and vegetable smoothies.

The fat content of the milk you choose will impact the consistency and mouthfeel of your smoothie. Higher fat milk like whole dairy milk results in a thicker, richer smoothie. Lower fat milks like skim dairy milk or low fat nut milks create a lighter, more refreshing drink. The protein in dairy milk or nut milks also helps make smoothies more filling and nutritious.

One downside to dairy milk is that it curdles when blended with acidic fruits like oranges, pineapples, or mangos. This gives the smoothie a curdled, chunky consistency. Non-dairy milks generally do not have this issue. Overall, milk makes a great base for flavorful smoothies with added protein.

Benefits of Milk

  • Creamy, rich texture
  • Neutral flavor
  • Nutritious protein
  • Blends well with fruits and veggies

Downsides of Milk

  • Dairy milk can curdle with acidic fruits
  • Higher in calories than water or juice

Fruit Juice

Using fruit juice is another excellent way to get a flavorful, nutritious base for smoothies. Juices like orange, apple, pineapple, grape, or other options add vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from real fruit.

The naturally sweet taste of fruit juice balances out stronger or more bitter ingredients like greens or cocoa powder. Citrus juices like orange or grapefruit work especially well in fruit-based smoothies with mango, berries, banana, peach, or other options. Apple juice offers a more neutral flavor for combining with vegetables like spinach or kale.

One downside to fruit juice is that it does not provide the creamy thickness that milk does. But this can be enhanced by using frozen fruit or adding Greek yogurt to provide a cold, thick texture. The other drawback is that juice spikes blood sugar more than whole fruits or milk. But fruit juice in moderation can be a healthy smoothie base.

Benefits of Fruit Juice

  • Natural sweetness
  • Vitamins and antioxidants
  • Enhances fruit flavor
  • Neutral or citrusy options

Downsides of Fruit Juice

  • Less creamy than milk-based smoothies
  • High natural sugar

Coconut Water

Coconut water has grown in popularity in recent years as a health beverage full of electrolytes like potassium and magnesium. These same benefits make it a great option for smoothie bases as well.

The mild coconut flavor pairs well with tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, papaya, or banana. Or create an ultra refreshing post-workout recovery smoothie with spinach and protein powder. The electrolytes in coconut water replenish what is lost through sweat.

Since coconut water on its own is thinner than milk or juice, be sure to include plenty of frozen fruit, yogurt, protein powder, or nut butter to achieve the right smoothie consistency. Canned coconut milk or coconut cream can provide even richer texture and coconut flavor.

Benefits of Coconut Water

  • Natural electrolytes
  • Low calorie
  • Subtle coconut flavor

Downsides of Coconut Water

  • Thinner consistency than milk or juice
  • Strong coconut taste may overpower other flavors


Kefir is a cultured milk beverage similar to drinkable yogurt that has experienced a surge in popularity for its probiotic content. It has a thinner consistency than Greek yogurt while providing a tangy, tart flavor from all the live active cultures.

Using kefir as the base for smoothies adds a healthy dose of probiotics, protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients. The tartness balances sweeter flavors like berries, mango, peach, or banana. Or pair it with Matcha powder for a green tea smoothie with proven gut health benefits.

Since kefir is thinner than regular yogurt, adding some oats, nut butters, or chia seeds can help thicken up the consistency. Overall, kefir makes a probiotic-packed alternative to yogurt or milk in smoothies.

Benefits of Kefir

  • Probiotics for gut health
  • Tart, tangy flavor
  • Protein and calcium

Downsides of Kefir

  • Thinner consistency than Greek yogurt
  • Tanginess can overpower more delicate flavors


Don’t overlook plain old water as a simple smoothie base! Using water allows you to create lower calorie smoothies that still pack in all the nutrients from fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.

The key is to include plenty of chunky frozen produce like bananas, pineapple, mango, strawberries, and spinach or kale. The ice crystals provide thickness as they blend, while the fruit lends natural sweetness. Flax or chia seeds also help thicken up water-based smoothies.

Try starting with half water and half fruit juice if you miss the creaminess of milk. But for light, summery smoothies, infusing water with fresh mint or cucumber can create refreshing hydrating drinks without any dairy.

Benefits of Water

  • Lowest calorie option
  • Allows fruits and veggies to shine
  • Hydrating and refreshing

Downsides of Water

  • Thin consistency without frozen produce
  • Can dilute flavors

Choosing the Best Smoothie Liquid

With all the options available, from fruit juice to kefir and more, how do you choose the right liquid base for your smoothies? Here are some tips:

  • Pick milk or a dairy alternative if you want extra protein and a rich, creamy texture.
  • For straight fruit smoothies, go with orange, apple, or other fruit juices.
  • Use coconut water or aloe juice for refreshing post-workout smoothies full of electrolytes.
  • Try kefir or yogurt for an extra dose of probiotics.
  • Choose water for lighter, cooler smoothies.
  • Balance thicker bases like Greek yogurt with enough liquid to blend properly.
  • Mix and match liquids like milk and juice or juice and coconut water.

You can customize smoothies to your tastes and nutritional needs by selecting creative combinations of liquids. Get adventurous trying out different juices like pomegranate, aloe vera, or acai. Or stick with classic dairy milk or nut milk for creamy simplicity. The liquid you choose provides the foundation for every good smoothie.

Smoothie Liquid Ideas

Need some inspiration for delicious smoothie liquid bases? Here are ideas for yummy flavor combinations:

Orange Juice

  • Orange, mango, pineapple, banana
  • Orange, strawberry, banana
  • Orange, peach, raspberry
  • Orange, carrot, ginger

Almond Milk

  • Almond milk, dates, banana, cacao nibs
  • Almond milk, spinach, vanilla protein powder
  • Almond milk, blueberries, flax seeds
  • Almond milk, peanut butter, oats

Coconut water

  • Coconut water, pineapple, coconut flakes
  • Coconut water, mango, chia seeds
  • Coconut water, banana, lime, mint
  • Coconut water, spinach, avocado, matcha powder

Greek Yogurt

  • Greek yogurt, mixed berry medley
  • Greek yogurt, vanilla protein powder, peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt, peaches, honey
  • Greek yogurt, kale, avocado, lemon

Smoothie Liquid Measurement Guide

Use these rough guidelines for how much smoothie liquid to use as a starting point:

For one serving:

  • 1⁄2 to 1 cup milk/dairy alternative
  • 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup fruit juice
  • 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup coconut water
  • 1⁄2 cup kefir
  • 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1⁄2 to 1 cup water

For two servings:

  • 1 to 2 cups milk/dairy alternative
  • 1 to 11⁄2 cups fruit juice
  • 1 to 11⁄2 cups coconut water
  • 1 cup kefir
  • 1 to 11⁄2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1 to 2 cups water

Keep in mind thicker, frozen, or dry ingredients like frozen banana and peanut butter will thicken up the smoothie. So you may need to add extra liquid. Tweak the amounts until you find the perfect creamy, drinkable consistency you love!

Substituting Smoothie Liquids

Not every smoothie liquid is easily swapped for another, but some substitutions can work in a pinch:

  • Instead of milk: almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, kefir
  • Instead of orange juice: apple juice, pineapple juice, mango juice
  • Instead of coconut water: water, aloe vera juice
  • Instead of kefir: Greek yogurt
  • Instead of yogurt: bananas, avocado, silken tofu

When substituting, you may need to adjust other ingredients to get the right texture. For example, use frozen bananas or nut butter to thicken up thinner water or juice. Getting the proportions right may require some trial and error.

Common Smoothie Liquids to Avoid

Steer clear of these liquids which don’t tend to work well in smoothies:

  • Soda – Too much sugar and carbonation, masks other flavors
  • Coffee – Overpowers most ingredients with strong flavor
  • Beer or wine – Adds alcohol, which does not blend well
  • Heavy cream – Makes smoothies too thick and high fat
  • Vegetable oil – Wrong consistency, greasy taste
  • Lemon or lime juice – May curdle dairy, adds sourness

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are smoothies healthy?

Smoothies can be a very healthy option depending on the ingredients used. Loading up on fruits, vegetables, protein sources like Greek yogurt, and healthy fats provides fiber, vitamins, minerals, and satisfaction. But smoothies with mainly fruit juice or added sweeteners like sugar or honey spike blood sugar. Always combine fruits with protein, fat, or greens.

2. What is the best smoothie maker?

High speed blenders like Vitamix, Ninja, Blendtec, Cleanblend and other brands excel at breaking down tough whole foods like kale leaves into smooth, drinkable smoothies. Cheaper blenders may struggle with frozen foods or ice. But any countertop blender will work, just adjust ingredients to the blender power.

3. How long do smoothies last?

Smoothies made with just produce like fruit and greens will last 1-2 days max in the fridge. Smoothies with fresh dairy ingredients like yogurt only keep 1 day. For longer shelf life, freeze smoothies in portions for up to 3 months.

4. How can I thicken up my smoothie?

Using frozen fruits, vegetables, and bananas adds thickness as they blend. Avocado, Greek yogurt, nut butters, chia seeds, oats, and other foods also create a creamier blended drink. Avoid too much water or juice for a thicker smoothie.

5. Why is my smoothie curdled and chunky?

Dairy products like milk can curdle and separate when blended with acidic fruits like pineapple, oranges, grapefruit, and mangos. Switch to a non-dairy milk or decrease the acidic fruit. Old or overripe produce may also water down and curdle smoothies.


With infinite combinations possible, smoothies provide an endless array of options for creating nutritious drinks packed with fruits and vegetables. The liquid base sets the foundation for layering in flavors and textures to your liking. Milk, juices, yogurt, kefir, coconut water, and other liquids each impart their own unique qualities.

Keep tinkering with combinations until you discover your perfect smoothie. Then simply tweak and customize to match each day’s mood and needs. With the right smoothie liquids and mix-ins, you’ll look forward to starting every morning blended with a tall glass of cold, refreshing, and satisfying goodness. So grab your blender and drinking glass and start experimenting with healthy, delicious smoothie liquids today!

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