Smoothies are a delicious (and easy!) way to start your day, but they often fall short on staying power. Why? Many smoothies lack the protein and fiber (macronutrients that help keep you feeling satisfied) that you'd get from, say, an egg-and-veggies breakfast. Sure, you can bulk them up with expensive powders or tons of yogurt to help give them a boost, but what if we told you the secret to a well-balanced smoothie is in your pantry (plus it's dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan)? Look no further than red lentils! Adding this plant-based powerhouse adds 3 grams more protein than an equal-size portion of nonfat plain yogurt and 4 grams more fiber than your typical serving of protein powder—and lentils' mild flavor blends right into whatever fruity combo you can come up with. Start making your own lentil smoothies with these easy tips.
While all lentils offer protein and fiber, red lentils are the best choice for your smoothie. For starters, they cook quickly (only 15 minutes in boiling water) and their pale hue won't turn your smoothie a funky color. They also break down when they cook, which lends a smoother texture. Just 1/2 cup cooked lentils is all you'll need for one smoothie. We like to start with 1 cup of dry lentils at a time (that yields about 2 1/2 cups cooked). No one wants a warm smoothie, so make sure your lentils are cooled completely before blending. Store the rest in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze them in 1/2-cup portions for up to three months (just thaw them out before you use them).
Related: Top Vegetarian Protein Sources
Pictured recipe: Mango-Ginger Lentil Smoothie
Any frozen fruit is fair game; just make sure you're starting with frozen. If you want to toss in some veggies too (like spinach or kale), try to pair them with a sweeter fruit (like grapes) to offset the flavor. Try these produce options:
• mixed berries
Pictured recipe: Green Protein Lentil Smoothie
As far as liquid goes, the sky's the limit. If you are avoiding dairy, unsweetened plant-based beverages are good options. Juice works well too, but even if you use 100% fruit juice, it can pile on the sugars (plus, you're already getting your fruit serving from the whole fruit). It may take some experimenting, but equal parts liquid to fruit will give you a nice drinkable texture. Try one of these:
• unsweetened almond milk
• unsweetened coconut milk
• unsweetened cashew milk
• carrot juice
• orange juice
Pictured recipe: Berry-Coconut Smoothie
Since lentils don't add much flavor, up to a teaspoon of honey, maple syrup or other sweetener will help balance it out. A small pinch of spices like cinnamon, cardamom or minced fresh ginger can also give your smoothie a kick.
To get that smooth, creamy texture you love in a smoothie, you'll have to blend this lentil version a little longer—about 2-3 minutes. This extended time in the blender can cause friction which leads to heat buildup, but adding up to three ice cubes will help keep your smoothie cool.
More recipes: High-Protein Smoothies