Nothing makes you feel like you’re on a surf trip or yoga retreat more than eating an acai bowl (well, except for maybe surfing and yoga). A cross between eating ice cream and drinking a smoothie, frozen acai is like a tropical vacation in a bowl. And pretty much just as expensive, especially if you’re feeding a lot of little hands. But you can still get all the fun and yum without the hefty price tag! Here’s how to make DIY acai bowls at home.
The Deets on Acai
I’ve been a food blog stalker for a solid decade, and I remember when acai first came on the scene. There always seems to be a berry of the moment, doesn’t there? While I don’t think the acai berry is the health panacea some claimed it to be, I do think it’s an awesome fruit to work into rotation.
As a nutritionist, three food goals I dole out are:
1. Eat more colorful plant matter
2. Diversify your food (and eat as many species as possible)
3. Prepare your food at home as much as you can
Putting these into practice will ensure you’re getting a broad spectrum of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols, fiber, etc.) to support your health while also leaving out suspect ingredients found in packaged and pre-made foods.
Adding acai bowls into your breakfast (or snack) repertoire checks the above boxes. Acai is a high-pigment plant (and therefore super nutritious) that you’re probably not eating much of right now. Make them at home and it’s a slam dunk!
The recipe I’ve included here is a basic template, so read below if you have specific questions about ingredients!
Where can I buy acai puree?
In the freezer section of your grocery store. Locally, Trader Joe’s, Market Basket and health food stores carry them. Be sure to buy the unsweetened version so you don’t get an unwanted dose of refined sugar.
Do the bananas need to be frozen?
Kind of. A complaint I’ve heard about homemade acai bowls is that the texture is never quite right. Using frozen fruit helps to thicken it up. Frozen bananas also lend a desirable creaminess to the bowl.
I always keep banana chunks in the freezer. When bananas look like they’re getting ready to turn, I peel them, break them into chunks and store in a plastic bag in the freezer. I use them for smoothie bowls and banana “ice cream.”
What frozen fruit should I use?
Any kind you like! My favorite is organic berries or cherries. Acai puree isn’t inherently sweet, so if you have a sweet tooth, choose sweeter fruits. Mango, papaya and/or pineapple make a yummy tropical bowl.
What’s the deal with the avocado?
The avocado serves two purposes. One, it lends thickness and creaminess to the bowl. Two, it adds a good dose of fat to a fruit-based smoothie.
One “mistake” I often see people make with smoothies is not filling them with enough fat and/or overall calories. If you’re eating a smoothie (or smoothie bowl) as a meal, 2oo to 300 calories won’t cut it. Ramping up the fats will help keep you satiated until your next meal.
You won’t taste the avocado with all the other fruit, but if you don’t like it, just leave it out. Be sure to add some extra fat for toppings.
What kind of coconut milk?
Full fat canned coconut milk (in a BPA free can) is always my preference. This provides an additional fat source, contributes to the thickness of the smoothie, and leaves out the weird ingredients of most packaged coconut milk. But feel free to use whatever milk (or nut milk) you like. It will all work!
What if it doesn’t blend?
This bad boy requires some elbow grease. If you have a high speed blender like a Vitamix or BlendTec, you’re gonna want to pull out the damper (that’s the long phallic-looking thing that you’ve probably never used). If you have a regular blender, you’ll have to remove the lid and scrape down the sides with a spoon a few times. Don’t worry, I made these for years using a $30 Target blender before I got my Vitamix.
What are the best toppings?
Homemade granola is my go to. I love the crunchiness atop the cold, creamy acai. Fresh fruit slices, unsweetened shredded coconut, dried coconut pieces, hemp seeds, chia seeds, dried fruit, and nut butter drizzle are other great options.
DIY Acai Bowl Recipe
Makes 1 bowl
1 pack unsweetened frozen acai puree
3/4 cup frozen fruit
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 pitted avocado
1/3 cup coconut milk
Place your serving bowl in the freezer. (Not a necessary step, but it will keep your concoction colder longer. Plus, you feel a little fancy doing this, don’t you?)
Follow package instructions to remove puree.
Add all ingredients into a blender. Blend, using a damper or spoon to assist the blending. (Turn off blender before sticking a spoon in it. Learned this lesson the hard way.) You may have to scrape down the sides of the blender a few times if you’re using a slower speed model. The final mixture should be thick, and it should stick to the spoon instead of drip off it.
Transfer acai mixture into your chilly bowl.
Top with low-sugar granola or any of your favorite toppings listed above.