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A thick and velvety smoothie is one of the most difficult things you can demand from a blender. You’re expecting four tiny blades powered by a motor no bigger than a coffee mug to make frozen fruit, ice, fibrous greens, and gloppy peanut butter into soft serve in a minute. So rather than asking about the best blender for smoothies, the better question to ask is: What’s the best blender? And that’s because if a blender can turn out juice-bar-quality smoothies day after day, it will most likely liquefy almost anything else you’d want to with ease.
Any good blender will deliver a sippable smoothie if you add enough liquid. But if you like yours thick—like, get-those-skinny-straws-outta-here kind of thick—the Vitamix 5200 is the way to go. After years of testing and writing about blenders—both full-size and personal—we’ve found that the Vitamix 5200 consistently produces spoonable frozen smoothies better than any other blender we’ve tested. It also pulverizes gritty berry seeds and whizzes through tough kale better than most. All that power and reliability comes at a price, but we’ve learned that you truly get what you pay for in this particular case. That said, for folks who cringe at the idea of dropping $400 or more on a high-powered blender, a personal blender might be a good choice if you want to make only smoothies and don’t mind them a bit thinner (more on that later).
The Vitamix 5200 is the best blender for smoothies—and everything else, for that matter. Yes, it’s pricey. But we’ve tested 22 blenders over the past five years, and the Vitamix 5200 has consistently blended faster and better than every model we’ve put it up against. That’s because it’s powerful enough to pulverize ice, tough berry seeds, and fibrous ginger into a smooth consistency. The tapered jar helps keep ingredients moving down toward the blades, and the tamper busts annoying air pockets. That means you spend less time making your smoothie and more time enjoying it.
We’ve also found the 5200 to be more durable than other blenders, so it should last you for many years of serious smoothie-making. But if something goes wrong, this Vitamix model is also backed with a seven-year warranty, an attentive customer service team, and a seamless claims process. Taking all that into account, $400-plus doesn’t seem like a crazy amount to spend on a great blender. Think of it this way: If you go out and pay $5 to $13 for a smoothie, five days a week, in two to four months you’ve paid the same amount as for a Vitamix 5200. How’s that for sticker shock?
The 5200 is a part of the classic series of blenders that Vitamix’s stellar reputation is built on. We prefer the 5200 over Vitamix’s other models because it has everything we need in a blender: a straightforward control panel, a pulse button, variable speeds, and an ultrahigh speed setting. And many home cooks and professionals alike are fervent supporters of this blender (some enthusiasts even pack their Vitamix when they travel). In fact, your pricey morning smoothie from the corner juice bar is most likely blended in a commercial-grade version of the Vitamix 5200, the original Vita-Prep. For more about what we like about the 5200, see the full discussion in our guide to blenders.
The Keys to a Great Smoothie
If you’re making a smoothie every day, your blender needs to be reliable, fast, and easy to clean so you can get out the door and on with your day. The Vitamix 5200 has all the qualities required to blend a great smoothie.
Mornings are short enough without your having to waste time struggling with a blender that isn’t cutting the mustard. The Vitamix 5200 can puree a silky, lump-free smoothie in about 30 seconds—for comparison, that’s half the time the $500 Blendtec Designer 675 takes to complete its preprogrammed smoothie setting. In fact, the Vitamix 5200 purees faster than any other blender we’ve tested, including our other picks, the Cleanblend 1,800-watt blender and the Oster Versa Performance Blender.
Cuts Through Fibrous Vegetables and Frozen Fruit
Getting a smooth puree from personal blenders and inexpensive full-size models is a tall order, because they simply don’t have the power to quickly pulverize tough foods like the Vitamix 5200 can. And the Vitamix just makes a better smoothie because it’s one of the few blenders we tested that can puree tough greens and rock-hard frozen fruit into a smooth consistency.
Ganda Suthivarakom, Wirecutter’s strategy editor, said she loved how thoroughly her four-year-old Vitamix 5200 pureed even tough ingredients: “I mostly use it for smoothies and dressings. I appreciate that the Vitamix pulverizes carrots and fibrous ginger to make a super-smooth dressing. To be honest, it’s probably more machine than I need, but it’s so good at producing a completely silky texture that I don’t regret spending the money.”
Designed to Handle Thick Mixtures
No blender is a hands-off miracle worker, especially for stiff smoothies that don’t flow easily around the blades. It helps to have a jar with a narrow base like the one in the Vitamix 5200, which pulls ingredients down toward the blade rather than flinging them away. But for particularly thick smoothies, a tamper—the plastic bat included with most high-powered blenders—is also essential for busting air pockets and keeping your ingredients moving in the jar.
We like the Vitamix 5200’s tamper because its long and slender shape allowed us to maneuver it into the corners the best among all the blenders we tested. And in our tests, the 5200’s tamper helped this model make dense smoothies, pasty peanut butter, and thick bean dip more quickly and easily than blenders without tampers, such as the Blendtec Designer 675. The Blendtec is prone to creating air pockets around the blades, especially when blending firm mixtures. And the only way to around that dilemma is to stop the motor to shake or stir the air out (do not stick a spoon, ladle, spatula, or any other tool into a running blender jar), which greatly slows down the process.
Compared with the Vitamix, personal blenders can’t produce smoothies as dense because they have closed jars and you can’t tamp air pockets while the motor runs. To keep the blades moving, personal blenders require more liquid. They also put out less power—and as a result, produce grainier smoothies—than the Vitamix 5200.
Durable Enough for the Daily Grind
You want to be confident that your blender won’t burn out midblend. It’s a real bummer if your first meal of the day is thwarted by an inferior appliance. A cheap blender can prematurely burn out after making one thick smoothie, let alone a few batches in a row. The Vitamix 5200, on the other hand, is a durable machine that can power through many rounds of smoothies, so no one’s left holding an empty cup. In our tests, we made five batches of smoothies in a row in the 5200 without detecting any motor strain, whereas other blenders overheated after two or three.
Kalee Thompson, senior editor for Wirecutter, uses her Vitamix regularly and hasn’t had any issues with the motor burning out. “It’s great. [My husband] bought it, and I thought it was ridiculously expensive. But it’s worth it, in my opinion. I keep it on my counter and use it several times a week to make smoothies with greens or celery mixed in with the yummier stuff. It generally just works.”
I’ve also used Vitamix blenders for many years, both at home and in restaurant kitchens. At one particular job, every day I had to make a flavor-rich lovage oil that involved pureeing a case of herbs into a smooth green paste. Never once did that Vitamix burn out or leave me hanging.
Can Handle Big Batches
The 64-ounce jar of the Vitamix 5200 has enough capacity to blend batches of smoothies for up to four people, so assuming everyone likes the same smoothie, you can knock out breakfast in one go. Compared with the Vitamix 5200, a personal blender (as the name suggests) can accommodate only a single serving of smoothie. Our top personal blender, the NutriBullet Pro, has a maximum blending capacity of 24 ounces, which equals one hearty smoothie or two light snacks.
Easy to Clean
Mornings are hectic, and many people don’t have time to scrub food from the nooks and crannies of a blender jar. Ganda Suthivarakom told us that she likes that the Vitamix 5200’s motor can do the work for her: “I love how easy it is to clean—a drop of soap and a whirr on high followed by a sponge means I can clean everything up before my smoothie has melted.” And the motor base cleans up with a quick pass of a sponge.
We get that a $400-plus high-powered blender might be too much machine, or a cost-prohibitive choice, for some folks. And if that’s the case for you, we think the NutriBullet Pro 900 personal blender is a great option for anyone who wants an affordable way to make a quick smoothie in the morning. It’s also convenient because the blending jar is a single-serve cup with a travel lid. But as we’ve noted above, you won’t get Vitamix performance from the NutriBullet. Compared with the Vitamix 5200, the NutriBullet Pro is smaller and less powerful, and it requires more liquid to puree things. NutriBullet smoothies are thinner and grainier as a result.
Personal blenders like the NutriBullet aren’t as versatile as a full-size blender. Namely, the NutriBullet can’t crush large ice cubes, and you should never use it for blending hot foods. But it’s plenty of machine for small apartments and people who want a simple way to make a quick morning smoothie with little cleanup.
Other Blenders We Recommend
If you’re familiar with our full guide to blenders, you know we have more than one pick. We also recommend the Oster Versa Performance Blender and the Cleanblend 1,800-watt blender, as well as the budget-friendly KitchenAid KSB1570ER 5-Speed Classic Blender. Although the first two models are good for occasional blending jobs, they simply don’t have the longevity to stand up to the daily rigors of grinding up a thick smoothie like the Vitamix 5200 can. The KitchenAid is much less powerful, and really best for infrequent use (and for people who don’t mind a pulpier smoothie). The Oster has a history of burning out in the middle of its seven-year warranty (a turnoff for some people), but the company’s customer service is quick and courteous about replacement. Cleanblend is a new company, and reports of its customer service are spotty. But the Cleanblend model is powerful, and it’s the only blender we tested that performed similarly to the Vitamix.
The NutriBullet Pro is our top personal-blender pick because it strikes a great balance of price to performance. In addition to that top pick, we also recommend the Breville Boss To Go and the Tribest PB-150 in our full guide to personal blenders. Compared with the NutriBullet Pro, the Breville Boss To Go makes thicker, smoother smoothies and costs twice the price. The Tribest PB-150 is the smallest of all our picks and requires the most liquid to keep the blades moving. We consider the little Tribest as more of a supplement to a big blender, not a stand-alone daily smoothie machine.
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