Ask a Chef: The Secret to Making Great Juice

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 Jay L. Clendenin / Getty Images

Juices and smoothies have been abused in the culinary world. Either they're the sugar-and-yogurt laden fruit milkshakes of mall chains, masquerading as healthy while they fill you with what is functionally sorbet, or they’re all about the cleanse. Cleanse yourself, they coo, cleanse yourself and all will be forgiven, as you fork over $15 and wonder just what the hell "cold pressed" means. It's a shame though, because–hot take–juice is good! On those days where it’s too hot to eat, or where you feel bloated and gross, when you've just worked out and want to make yourself feel even better, that’s when a good juice or smoothie really shines.


The other secret is that they’re good for just about any produce you have laying around the house, and not just fruits. "The nicest thing about making juice and smoothies at home is that you can dictate exactly what goes into it and its supercharged potency," says Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder of Moon Juice in Venice, CA. "I'm such a fan of making a very, very green juice with LOTS of leafy greens, turmeric, and ginger." It also means you can add supplements that aren’t on most menus.

You'll need a juicer if you're a bit more committed to juices, but a good quality blender can get you finely-textured smoothies that are as good as a juice, with some leftover fiber to keep the drink filling. The main thing to consider when making your own smoothies or juices is that quality counts. "If you're out there getting the fruits and veggies and putting the effort into juice, it's already a success," says Bacon. To avoid making a glass of sorbet, though, you have to balance out the sugar. Adding some leafy greens, ginger, carrot, beet, mint or cucumber can cut the sweetness while adding a ton of flavor on their own.

There's also the issue of craving something a little creamier. Of course you can use yogurt in your smoothies, but flavored yogurts are often full of sugar, and even if you use plain greek yogurt, sometimes you don’t want dairy. Bananas are great for adding a creamy texture, but Bacon has another trick–avocado. "To get that frozen creaminess you crave, peel and freeze avocados, blend half a frozen avocado with any nut or seed milk, ice, maca, cacao, protein powder, and sweeten with stevia or coconut nectar for an incredible chocolate milkshake." 

It also turns out that making nut milks is something one can do at home. Start with good quality almonds, since "inherent flavor of the nut is so good, you don't need to flavor it." Then use "one part organic, raw almond (or any other nut/seed you should choose), 3 parts water. Add a pinch of salt and leave unsweetened or sweeten with a touch of honey or stevia." Plus, you can spend that time making a bunch of "nut milk" jokes to yourself. It's fine, we've all done it.