Do You Really Need a High-Speed Blender To Make Smoothies?

A fancy blender is like a luxury car. It’s pleasant to have one, but you can enjoy a rewarding life with a reliable Toyota.

Overhead view of fresh fruit in a blender to make a blueberry smoothie recipe.
Alison Bickel

Do you have aspirations to make and drink more smoothies, but feel hampered because you feel like you don’t have the right blender? Take heart. A fancy blender is like a luxury car. It’s pleasant to have one, but you can enjoy a rewarding life with a reliable Toyota.

That is to say, with a decent, trustworthy blender and a little blending know-how, you can make green smoothies that are actually smooth. Ready to blend up fresh fruits and vegetables to kick-start your days? Let’s talk blenders and make it happen.

A green smoothie in a lidded glass mason jar with a stainless steel straw sits on a white countertop. The base of a high speed blender is to the right of the smoothie. A bowl of spinach, cut fruit and a bag of protein powder are to the left of the smoothie as well as behind it.
Sara Bir

What is a High-Speed Blender, Anyway?

A high-speed blender is like a regular blender, but stronger, faster, and heftier.  “Blenders range from 200 to 1400 watts, which is the reason we call the Vitamix, at 1400, a ‘high powered blender,’ says Robin Asbell, author of “300 Best Blender Recipes: Using Your Vitamix” and 10 other cookbooks. Vitamix is the flagship brand of high-speed blenders, but these days nearly every maker of blenders makes high-speed models.

Do I Really Need a High-Speed Blender to Make Smoothies?

Theoretically, a high-speed blender makes quick work of blending anything, but in my experience these two truths of blending disprove that.

  1. Even a high-speed blender is ineffective if you don’t load it right. 
  2. A sturdy regular blender can purée more than you’d think. 

So, do you need a high-speed blender to make enjoyable smoothies? Asbell says you don’t. “It just makes it easier. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can make them in a food processor—just process all the solids first and add liquids when the mixture is smooth.”

Blueberry breakfast smoothie on a tray along with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Alison Bickel

Here’s What’s Actually Important for Making Smoothies at Home

No matter what kind of blender you’re using, there are a couple things you need to keep in mind for making great smoothies.

#1 How You Layer Ingredients in Your Blender Matters

It turns out there’s a strategy to using a blender, whether it’s high-speed or not. Who’d have guessed? “You need liquid in the bottom of the blender to get the action going, so everything can be liquefied,” says Asbell. “That’s why you need to put liquids in first, then layer everything else on top. The blender jar has a narrow bottom with a spinning blade, and it works by creating a ‘vortex’ in which the ingredients spin down into the blade, where they are chopped and spun back up the inside of the blender, so everything moves up and down and around.” 

Here’s how you should be adding your ingredients for the smoothest smoothies: 

  • Add first: Liquids
  • Add second: Powders
  • Add third: Leafy greens
  • Add fourth: Chunks of fresh fruit and/or vegetables
  • Add last: Ice or anything frozen

Layering ingredients this way lowers the possibility of an air bubble forming down where the blades spin. If you add liquid first, there’s less air.

TIP! If you have a personal blender (like a Magic Bullet), load the ingredients in the opposite way, since you invert the blender onto the base.

#2: Without Enough Liquid, a Smoothie Isn’t a Smoothie

Another thing: if you don’t start out with enough liquid, your blender can’t blend a smoothie. The right amount of liquid is the vehicle that gets all the chunky stuff moving. 

“Depending on your ingredients, you may be able to get by with as little as half a cup of liquid,” says Asbell. “Half a cup of almond milk is enough liquid to get a cup or two of frozen berries and bananas to purée. You may have to scrape down and repeat.” 

That’s right: you may need to engage with your blender more than you’d suspect rather than turning it on and spacing out. If your ingredients aren’t blending, add more liquid, a few tablespoons. Then scrape the sides as Asbell recommends. That should get it going. 

TIP! I know ice is made from water, but it’s frozen water, and therefore solid. As far as your blender is concerned, ice doesn’t count.

No High-Speed Blender? A Little Prep Helps

Doing a minute of light chopping can get your smoothie off on the right foot, Asbell says, “If you are using a less powerful blender, consider chopping sturdy greens like kale, and even starting by blending the liquids and greens for a bit before adding the rest. Be prepared to scrape down and repeat.” That’s the second time “scrape down and repeat” has come up. It’s important! Being a tiny bit patient and taking those short scrape breaks can be the difference between a lovely smoothie and a gross glass of fruity salad water.

A blender that’s not high-speed can handle smoothies that aren’t as packed with greens and ice. Asbell’s recommendation: “If you keep your smoothies based on liquids, yogurt, and softer fruits, you can use a lower watt blender. The less power you have, the longer it will take to get a nice smooth blend. A 200-watt blender is not a good idea if you are planning on kale and walnut smoothies, or blending lots of ice.”

Quick and easy strawberry banana smoothie garnished with sliced bananas and with whole fruit set around it.
Alison Bickel

The Case for High-Speed Blenders

A high-speed blender is fun. Will proper use get you smoother smoothies? Yes, but note that’s with proper use, as discussed above. 

Given her druthers, Asbell goes with a Vitamix. “The basic Vitamix is really the best, you can spend more for pre-sets and timers, but the power is what you need.”

Remember earlier when I was talking about luxury cars? One high-speed blender in particular has stolen my heart. Blending with the Vitamix Ascent A3500 is like driving my aunt’s BMW. The interface is understated and elegant. The preset programs for smoothies, frozen drinks, soup, and cleaning all do the job slightly better than I would manually (translation: very few “scrape down and repeat” scenarios). Using this blender makes me feel like I am living in a marvelous world of the future. It will give you blueberry smoothies with the smallest dark purple specks of any blender.

As of this writing, the Ascent A3500 costs $524.95. If you blend a lot and can easily afford it, by all means, get this blender.

My Favorite $100 Blender

Good news! The Toyota Corolla of blenders can save the day if you don’t have surplus cash to burn on fancypants appliances. Meet the KitchenAid K150, the friendly and practical blender I bought for myself. It’s under $100 and, at 650 watts, not a high-speed blender. But when following the blending basics shared above, it blends up a textbook smoothie. 

It’s very straightforward: three speeds and a pulse setting. After just one blending session I had the hang of it. It’s not so huge that it dominates a counter. Most importantly, it blends everything I love making, including nut-based sauces like our cashew cheese

For $100, I can live with slightly less minute blueberry skin specks. Especially now that I know a good smoothie isn’t just about the blender.