A few summers ago, Ryan and I were at the beach here in California when we stopped at a juice bar for a refreshing drink. We saw Acai Bowls advertised and couldn't help but get one to share along with our juice. We fell in love with Acai Bowls during our brief move to Kona back in 2011, and couldn't pass one up when we saw them on the menu on the mainland. They served us this giant bowl filled with a purple smoothie made from frozen acai berries, frozen bananas, blueberries, and some strawberries. On top of the perfectly blended smoothie laid toasted almond slivers, cacao nibs, coconut chips, a sliced banana, and dried goji berries. They left out the granola since we asked for a gluten-free acai bowl. The crunch usually provided by granola wasn't missed as they offered so many grain and gluten-free options!
Ryan has been hooked on these nutritious bowls forever, and I love how versatile acai bowls are! I can blend up the smoothie base and let Ryan and the kids each individually load up their bowl with the healthy toppings they want. Plus I love to “eat” a smoothie, rather than drink it through a straw.
How to Make The Perfect Base
You want an acai berry base that is extra smooth and creamy, and thick enough to be able to use a spoon. Make sure to use a quality high-speed blender and dairy-free milk. Consistency is everything. Similar to ice cream, no one wants an icy acai bowl! Carefully watch the liquid to solid measurements in my recipe for success. I like to use homemade cashew milk because the flavor is so rich, but you can use any option that best suits you! You can even use water if you don't have any dairy-free milk on hand.
I've found that even the best high-speed blender has trouble when the mixture is too thick, so I started blending half of the fruit with the liquid until it's extra smooth and then adding the last half in afterward. It seems to cut the workload for the blender in half and results in a much thicker base.
What is Acai?
Acai berry is considered a superfood, which means that it is exceptionally nutrient-dense. The most significant benefit of acai is that it contains antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals. For the immune-compromised, adding fruits like this to our diet is always a good idea. Of course, it's also slightly tart and delicious on top of all of that! You can purchase frozen acai puree (just look for ones with no sugar added), or you can use freeze-dried acai powder like I do in these smoothie bags.
A Few Personal Tips
When you make these, prep ahead by stocking your freezer with the frozen fruit! I like to put all of the ingredients, besides the liquid, into reusable bags and stash them in the freezer so we can make a bowl quickly without having to measure out the fruit and collagen. As mentioned before, I tend to skip the granola on mine since I don't tolerate oats. But if I have some of my homemade granola made from my Against all Grain cookbook, it makes these extra-special!
I enjoy using nuts and seeds, like flax or chia, cacao nibs, and crispy dried bananas. If you aren't paleo and you can tolerate gluten-free oats – add it to your toppings! I also recommend serving these immediately because you don't want the perfectly blended base to melt and get too liquidy. It won't ruin your gluten-free acai bowl, but it will be more of a soup than a smoothie!