While plenty of shops, restaurants, and food trucks offer acai bowls as a healthy treat, they are often loaded with sugar. Since sugar decreases your body's ability to absorb nutrients, the best acai smoothie bowl is one you can make yourself at home with no added sugar.
If you've been wondering how to make an acai smoothie bowl that is easy and healthy, you're going to love this version. This homemade acai bowl recipe is packed full of nutrients, is naturally sweet, and has the creamy consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Once you make your own acai bowl for the first time, you may never feel the need to visit a smoothie shop again!
What is Acai?
Acai berries come from South America and grow in the Amazon rainforest. They are harvested from the acai palm tree. They have dark purple skin, yellow flesh, and a pit in the middle. Since they are highly perishable, they are sold in a frozen puree or powder form instead of fresh fruit.
Why Are Acai Berries Considered a Superfood?
While blueberries are known to be high in antioxidants, acai berries have triple the amount in comparison! Antioxidants help prevent or delay damage to the cells in our bodies.
The combination of antioxidants found in acai berries can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and cardiovascular disease. These antioxidants can also help to lower cholesterol and provide anti-aging benefits.
Due to their high vitamin C content, acai berries can also boost your immune system. There are a host of other health benefits associated with this superfood berry, so these are just a few highlights.
Unlike acai smoothie bowls from shops or grocery stores, this recipe contains a gentle sweetness that comes from a variety of frozen fruit, providing a more interesting "sweetness" profile than refined sugar.
- Frozen dark sweet cherries - I get the big bag of organic ones from Costco and line the bottom of a bowl with these cherries. There's no need to defrost in advance or measure how much you use. This base layer is a great way to keep your smoothie cold while you add on additional layers.
- Unsweetened acai puree - while acai also comes in powder form, I prefer frozen pureed acai packets over acai powder for making smoothies. I recommend the Sambazon brand as they sell frozen packs of organic acai puree and they are a fair trade certified company. You should be able to find this product in the freezer section at your local grocery store.
- Unsweetened dragon fruit - I love using dragon fruit because it adds vibrant color to the smoothie as well as some natural sweetness. Did you know that dragon fruit can help reduce insulin resistance?
- Unsweetened almond milk - while any plant-based milk or dairy milk will work, almond milk provides a neutral flavor, so it won’t overpower the other flavors.
- Unsweetened protein powder - I recommend adding some unflavored protein powder such as the Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, but this ingredient is optional.
- Frozen sliced bananas - if you need to watch your sugar intake, you can use green bananas, which are simply regular bananas that are not yet ripe or only partially ripe. Also, green bananas contain resistant starch, which helps feed the good gut bacteria. Good gut bacteria are essential to your digestive health.
Here are my favorite toppings when making a quick and easy healthy breakfast. With everything combined, this recipe has 10 grams of fiber per serving!
- Shelled hemp seeds - this adds a boost of healthy fats, fiber, and protein to your smoothie bowl. They have a subtle nutty flavor and make a great topping.
- Unsweetened coconut flakes - it can be difficult to find unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut, but they have been available consistently at my local Trader Joe's and Whole Foods grocery stores.
- Unsweetened 100% dark chocolate chips - adding some chocolate chips easily brings your smoothie to the next level. Dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants.
- Frozen mixed berries - blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are all good low-sugar options, but feel free to use any of your favorite fruits.
Remove frozen sliced bananas from the freezer and thaw for 5-10 minutes before use.
Place each frozen acai berry packet and the dragon fruit packet into a tall container of hot water for a few minutes to partially defrost them. Break up the contents into thirds within each packet before opening.
Add all of the smoothie ingredients to a high-speed blender, making sure to add the liquids first and the solid ingredients last. Reversing the order can make it difficult to blend.
Begin blending at the lowest setting, then gradually increase to the highest setting within 5-10 seconds. Use a tamper if needed to push the ingredients towards the blade. This is only necessary if the mixture isn't combining well. Do not over-blend as this will start to warm up the smoothie.
Transfer the smoothie into a bowl, filling about half to three-quarters of the way, allowing room for some toppings. You should have enough to make four homemade acai bowls.
Add frozen mixed berries, unsweetened coconut flakes, a sprinkle of hemp seeds, and some chocolate chips.
- While I recommend almond milk in this recipe, feel free to substitute it with your favorite plant-based milk. If you consume dairy, regular cow's milk will also work.
- If you don't have any hemp seeds on hand, chia seeds are a great alternative.
If your blender is struggling, it may need more liquid to process. In this case, you can add ¼ to ½ cup more almond milk. If you like thick smoothie bowls, then start with the minimum amount to avoid making it too thin.
For a chocolate acai smoothie bowl, add two tablespoons of cacao powder per serving into the blender before adding bananas.
If you tend to get "brain freeze" easily, try any of the following:
- Use fresh bananas instead of frozen ones.
- Use fresh fruit toppings such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
- Skip the frozen cherries at the bottom of the bowl or microwave them for 30 seconds to thaw.
When making smoothies, use a high-speed blender for the quickest and best results. I own a Vitamix blender (I'm not an affiliate) and there are a couple of useful accessories:
- Tamper - used to push the ingredients down towards the blade when the mixture is not combining well. This is a really helpful tool because you don't need to stop and restart the blender.
- Scraper - used to get the blended ingredients out from below the blade. This is a great way to minimize the amount of smoothie that would otherwise go to waste.
- The acai smoothie bowl can be kept in the refrigerator for several hours before serving. This will keep it cool, but it will lose the thicker consistency.
- You can also keep it in the freezer for up to 15 minutes to retain the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.
- Be sure to reserve the toppings until ready to serve. If you add them ahead of time, they will get absorbed into the smoothie, look a bit stale, and turn mushy in texture.
Acai itself is a highly nutritious food. What makes an acai smoothie bowl healthy depends on the other ingredients used to make it. Acai bowls often contain high amounts of sugar, which is not healthy. Sugar causes inflammation, spikes your blood sugar level, and feeds cancer cells.
Yes, an acai bowl is a smoothie made with acai puree. It can be thick or thin in consistency, depending on the recipe and personal preference. Acai bowls served in restaurants, smoothie shops, or purchased from the grocery store tend to be thicker in consistency.
In general, it's best not to eat acai bowls every day because they tend to contain a lot of natural sugars and most have added sugars.
If you are concerned about your sugar intake but would still like to enjoy an acai bowl on occasion, I recommend the hack from a book called Glucose Revolution, by Jessie Inchauspé, a.k.a. The Glucose Goddess.
The hack is to drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with some water right before, during, or after eating. This should lower your glucose curve by a meaningful amount without increasing insulin levels.
HOW TO MAKE AN ACAI SMOOTHIE BOWL (EASY AND HEALTHY)
FOR THE SMOOTHIE
- 1 cup almond milk or any milk of your choice
- 8 scoops protein powder I recommend Vital Proteins
- 400 g frozen acai puree I recommend the Sambazon brand
- 100 g dragon fruit puree I recommend the Pitaya brand
- 4 bananas, sliced, frozen to reduce sugar intake, use green bananas
TOPPINGS (for 4 bowls)
- 1 cup frozen mixed berries I like a mix of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, but any frozen fruit works
- 4 tablespoon shelled hemp seeds I recommend the Manitoba Harvest brand
- 4 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes shredded coconut works fine too
- 4 teaspoons 100% dark chocolate cocao nibs optional. I use Trader Joe's Organic Completely Cacao Chips
- Remove sliced bananas from the freezer and thaw for 5-10 minutes before use.
- Place the frozen acai and dragon fruit packets into a tall container of hot water for a few minutes to partially defrost them. Break up the contents into thirds within each packet before opening.
- In the order listed, place all of the smoothie ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth (30-60 seconds). If needed, use a tamper to assist with the blending.
- Transfer the smoothie into a bowl, filling about half to three-quarters of the way, allowing room for some toppings. You should have enough to make four acai bowls.
- Add the toppings to each bowl and serve immediately.
- If your blender is struggling, it may need more liquid to process. In this case, you can add ¼ to ½ cup more almond milk. If you like thick smoothie bowls, then start with the minimum amount to avoid making it too thin.
- For a chocolate smoothie, add 2 tablespoons of cacao powder per serving.
- If you prefer a thinner smoothie consistency, use fresh bananas instead of frozen.
- If the smoothie is too cold for your liking, use fresh fruit toppings such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
- While acai bowls are best served immediately, they can be kept in the freezer for up to 15 minutes to retain the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.