Are you craving sunshine and warm days like I am? Let’s divert our eyes from the cloudy weather and focus on these vibrant, refreshing açaí bowls instead. They’re like a tropical vacation in a bowl, minus the jet lag and sand in your pants. You can enjoy them in the morning before work!
I’ve been curious about açaí bowls for a while now, after seeing them pop up on my friends’ vacation feeds from trips to Southern California and Hawaii. Like always, I researched acai bowls to the end of the internet and played with my own acai bowl recipe until it was just right.
Since acai grows in the Amazon, it seemed natural to blend acai with tropical fruits. These smoothie bowls are simply and naturally sweetened with frozen banana, mango and pineapple. If you’ve been looking for a fun way to eat more fruit, this is it.
These vegan acai smoothie bowls are cold, creamy and almost sorbet-like in texture. In fact, the smoothie portion is so delightful that you could serve it as a light after-dinner treat. Or, load it up with crunchy granola, nuts or seeds, and fresh fruit, and you’ll have a nutritious and satisfying breakfast.
Bonus? Unlike most smoothies, this one keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.
What the heck is acai?
First of all, here’s how to pronounce acai. Secondly, acai fruit grows on acai palm trees, mostly in Brazil, along the Amazon river. The fruit looks like deeply purple (nearly black) blueberries, about the size of grapes. You can see them here.
Acai “berries,” as they are called, are actually stone fruit like mangoes. Most of the inside is taken up by the hard seed, with a thin layer of edible fruit around it. The berries don’t travel well, so the fruit is mashed and frozen.
Acai consumption was mostly limited to the Amazon region until the 1970s, when it spread to northern Brazilian cities. It became popular as an energy food in the jujitsu and volleyball circles, and by the 1990s, acai bowls (açaí na tigela) and acai bars were all over Brazil. Learn more here.
What does acai taste like?
Acai is one of few fruits that are naturally sugar free, which means that it doesn’t taste like a regular fruit. In fact, I don’t think you’d want to eat it on its own.
Acai tastes very earthy and sort of tannic to me, almost like a blackberry that’s not very sweet. Sambazon describes the taste as, “a little like exotic mixed berry meets a hint of cacao.”
To balance the acai flavor, I blended acai packets with frozen banana, pineapple and mango. Those frozen fruits make this smoothie delightfully creamy and sweet (although not overtly sweet). No additional sweetener or dairy products required!
Why would I want to eat acai?
Acai berries contain lots of antioxidants, as well as other nutrients, fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats (including omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9). The Mayo Clinic says that acai berries may have more antioxidants than cranberries, blueberries and strawberries.
I tend to be skeptical of “superfoods” that come from far-away places, since many inexpensive grocery store items are rockstars already—such as cabbage, broccoli, wild blueberries and beans. So please don’t feel like you “need” to eat acai to be healthy. These smoothie bowls are just a fun way to explore an exotic fruit.
Where can I buy acai?
You can buy acai pulp in single-serving packets in the frozen fruit section at health food stores and Trader Joe’s. Make sure to buy the unsweetened kind. Sambazon is one of the biggest brands and they have sustainable harvesting in place—especially important since we’re dealing with a product of the Amazon.
Tropical Acai Bowl
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 2 smoothie bowls
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: Blended
- Cuisine: Brazilian
Make your own creamy acai bowls at home! This acai bowl recipe is the best. You’ll need frozen fruit and acai packets, and fresh fruits, nuts or seeds for toppings. Acai bowls are easy, delicious and nutritious. Recipe yields 4 cups, enough for 2 large servings or 4 small.
- 1 ½ cups frozen mango chunks
- 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
- 1 cup frozen banana chunks (freeze ripe bananas in ½″-thick slices)
- Two packets (3.5 ounces or 100 grams each) frozen unsweetened açai berry purée
- 1 cup ice cold water, more if necessary
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice, to taste
- Recommended garnishes: coconut granola, shredded unsweetened coconut, chopped nuts, chia seeds, sliced fresh banana or kiwi or other tropical fruits
- In a blender, combine the frozen mango, pineapple and banana. Run the açaí packets under warm water for about 10 seconds to let them thaw a bit, then cut them open and pour the açaí pulp into the blender.
- Pour in the cold water, securely fasten the lid, and start blending on the lowest speed until you can gain traction, increasing to high speed as it becomes available. If necessary, pause the blender to scrape down the sides, and add ¼ cup to ½ cup more water if it just won’t blend. (I used the tamper provided with my Vitamix and didn’t need to add any more liquid.)
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice, to taste, and blend briefly to combine. Pour the smoothie into bowls and top with garnishes of your choice. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Storage suggestions: If you’re planning on having leftover smoothie bowls, wait to top with fresh fruit or granola just before serving.
Recommended equipment: My Vitamix blender makes this smoothie ultra creamy (affiliate link).