A Quick-Fix Breakfast Secret: Smoothies Without the Blender

Melissa loves starting the day with a healthy breakfast, and the smoothie is a go-to favorite. Get her recipe for a simple chia smoothie that can be made sans blender.
Melissa d'Arabian

Photo by: GRACE KIM


They say breakfast is the most-important meal of the day because it kick-starts the day with energy-giving nutrients. I agree, and there is another reason why I think we should all give our breakfasts a second look: The choices I make early in the day impact the choices I make later in the day. And that means that eating a healthy breakfast means that eating healthier throughout the day will just plain be easier. (And I’m all for anything that makes healthy living easy living!)

I make no secret about how much I love a morning smoothie! I can toss just about anything in my blender and within seconds I have a portable breakfast that I can sip as I take the dog for her morning walk, or read my morning devotional. Both of my cookbooks feature smoothie recipes that range from the trusty Green Morning Smoothie in Ten Dollar Dinners to the caffeinated Coffee-Oat Smoothie in Supermarket Healthy. Ask me what my favorite kitchen appliance is and you’ll probably find me waxing poetic about my trusty blender and how I use it multiple times a day, making everything from protein drinks to fruity smoothies for the kids’ snacks to raw veggie soups.

But what about those days when I don’t have access to my blender? How does a smoothie lover go about making a blenderless smoothie?

My secret can be revealed in one word: chia. Chia seeds are tiny, but they're full of protein, fiber and healthy fats that give staying power to any breakfast. And when chia seeds are exposed to liquid, they thicken the liquid into a gel-like substance, which is why chia puddings are so trendy right now. (BTW, love chia pudding for breakfast too!)  Add chia seeds to a cup of liquid and they will thicken it just enough to turn said liquid into smoothie-like texture. Genius, right? Add chia seeds to your favorite dairy or nondairy milk, shake well, and in about five minutes you’ll have a very simple smoothie.

As you may know, I am a big fan of adding goodies like raw nuts, oats, and even white or black beans to my smoothies. And those are fine for a blender smoothie, but for the blenderless chia smoothie, you’ll want to stick to, well, smooth ingredients (or those that dissolve well), like yogurt, matcha green tea powder, instant espresso powder, agave syrup and similar items.

Even with these constraints, for the constant traveler — or for those really busy days when even three minutes with a blender is two and a half minutes too long — just load up your ingredients in a plastic shaker cup, or any jar with a lid, shake vigorously, and head out the door ready to sip. (The ice cubes are my secret little mini blenders; two of them inside the shaker or jar breaks up the chia seed and keeps them from clumping!)

Here is my basic no-blender smoothie recipe to get you started:
Vanilla-Cinnamon Blenderless Chia Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened milk (dairy, almond, soy)
1/2 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 drops vanilla extract
1 to 2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey
Dash of cinnamon
2 tablespoons chia seed
2 ice cubes

In a plastic shaker cup or jar, combine half the milk and all the yogurt. Seal and shake until the yogurt is smooth (about 15 seconds).  Add the rest of the milk and other ingredients, and shake for an additional 30 seconds or so. Let sit for 5 minutes before drinking.

Tell me about your on-the-go breakfast hacks in the comments below.

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