By Fred Decker

Smoothies definitely fall into the category of "What's not to like?" They're refreshing, they're delicious, and they're a great alternative to ordinary breakfast. They're even a good way to sneak some vegetables into a picky kid or a significant other who acts like one. But, part of the fun of smoothies is their thick and satisfying texture, and some recipes just don't bring that. If you find one that's tasty but just not thick enough, there are lots of ways to give it more body.

Chia and fruit smoothie healthy and sugarfree food
credit: hocus-focus/E+/GettyImages
How to Make Smoothies Thicker

Lose the Ice

A lot of smoothie recipes call for ice to give the mixture its refreshing chill and help lend some texture. At the end of the day, ice is just frozen water, though, so if you find your smoothies are a bit watery it's an obvious place to cut back. That doesn't mean your smoothies can't be frosty cold, it just means you have to take a different path to get there. The simplest option is to use frozen fruit whenever possible, instead of fresh. It purees up nice and thick in your blender, and gives you the same frozen texture without adding water. You may even find your smoothies taste better, because fruit that's destined for the frozen section is usually harvested at peak ripeness and processed immediately. Unless you live in a fruit-growing region, fresh fruit is often picked slightly unripe so it's sturdier for shipping.

Swap Out the Milk (or Juice)

If your favorite smoothie recipes call for milk or non-dairy milk equivalents, try using a thicker "milk" instead. Your best bets are kefir and yogurt, which have a tang of their own that works really well with fruit flavors. Dairy producers know that, because they're both often sold with fruit flavors already added. You'll get the most thickening from thick, Greek- or Icelandic-style yogurts, but any yogurt is thicker than milk. If you use non-dairy milk alternatives, health food stores and the natural foods sections of most supermarkets carry non-dairy versions of kefir and yogurt. They'll work just as well. If your recipe calls for fruit juice instead of milk as the liquid, add the fruit instead: orange segments instead of orange juice, for example, or applesauce in place of apple juice.

Choose Your Fruit Carefully

There's a reason why so many smoothie recipes include a banana or two. Fruits that have a lot of fiber or pectin act as natural thickeners to give your smoothie that classic "drive-in milkshake" thickness, so using them as the base of your smoothie helps a lot. Aside from bananas, mango and pineapple are good choices. So are less-common choices like avocado and squash, which are fruit though they're usually treated as a vegetable. The starches and fiber in the squash, and the fats and fiber in the avocado, have the effect of thickening the mixture.

Add Actual Thickeners

You can't necessarily use every tweak in every recipe, so sometimes your best option is just to fall back on an actual thickener to make your smoothies goopier. Just pick healthy options, like quick oats. Oats are filled with soluble fiber, so once you've pulverized them with your fruit, they'll have a mild gelling effect that gives the smoothie some body. You can do the same with ground flax or chia seed, which add a variety of useful nutrients along with their thickening ability. In a pinch, you can even use guar gum, which is a handy, if odd, thing to keep in your pantry. It's a powder that just stirs right in, and, unlike most thickeners, it works great at room temperature or even in chilled liquids. It's a real lifesaver for anyone cutting out carbs or gluten.