The Best Blender for Making Smoothies, Crushing Ice and More
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We compared the top brands to find the best blender for smoothies, soups and powering through ice cubes.
Finding the Best Blender
Are you a smoothie fanatic? A milkshake aficionado? A lover of all frozen cocktails? Chances are that you rely on a good blender to make all these treats happen. However, too often we end up buying a blender only to find it struggle to crush ice or make our favorite drinks. Our Test Kitchen tested five of the most popular blenders on the market in 2020 to see which really does the best job.
In need of an immersion blender, too? Take a look at our immersion blender brand suggestions.
To get to the bottom of this, our food stylists and cooks used a few blenders regularly over the course of several months to test recipes submitted by our readers. Then, they took the testing up another level and put the blenders head to head with these challenges:
- Blending: How well did it blend a kale smoothie? Was it frothy and full of air bubbles? Were there large pieces remaining?
- Pureeing: How long did it take to blend a butternut squash soup? Was it smooth?
- Crushing: How long did it to crush ice for a frozen drink? Did the blender get stuck?
- Power: How many watts does the blender have? Does the blender have horsepower?
- Price: Is the product affordable? Was the performance reflected in the price?
The Best Blender: Vitamix Explorian Blender
Beating out all other brands with a five-star review from our Test Kitchen was Vitamix’s Explorian Blender ($350). This powerful appliance performed head and shoulders above the rest.
Features We Loved
- Variable speed control: The Vitamix offers so much more than low/high controls. You can choose from 10 different speeds to get the right consistency.
- Super strong blades: The stainless steel blades in the Vitamix Explorian are aircraft-grade—meaning they can handle anything you throw their way.
- Powerful motor: The Vitamix Explorian has a solid 1,380 watts and 2.0 horsepower motor that can crush ice and frozen berries with ease.
- Self-cleaning system: Sure, you can wash your blender the old-fashioned way, but Vitamix offers a self-clean system that just requires a drop of soap and water right in the pitcher.
- Low profile: The Vitamix Explorian is on the smaller side. It holds plenty to make smoothies and soups (just not enough for milkshakes for your party of 10). This smaller size means that it fits comfortably underneath cupboards without having to store the lid or canister elsewhere.
How It Performed
Vitamix impressed our food stylists and cooks at every turn, but it especially pleased our food stylist Josh Rink as he prepped a healthy kale smoothie. Josh reported that blending up this recipe was a snap. The consistency was smooth, completely emulsified without excess air bubbles (one of the few blenders we tried that achieved this level of perfection).
This stellar performance carried over as Josh made a tasty butternut squash soup. It turned out absolutely velvety—exactly what you want as you enjoy it on a chilly fall day. The key to this spot-on texture, according to Josh: “The variable speed. It made achieving the proper consistency easy.”
Lastly, the blender also powered its way through crushing ice, one of the most difficult challenges for any blender. The ice got stuck once or twice during the process, but using the tamper, it was easy to get the cubes whirring again. Thanks to its super-strong blades, crushing the ice into snow-cone consistency was an easy job for the Vitamix.
The only drawback to this machine, perhaps, is the price. It’s a major investment for a small appliance (though you can often find it on sale for less). For folks that reach for their blender often, it’s worth every penny (and it’s backed by a seven-year warranty).
We Also Recommend…
The Vitamix stood out as our test team’s favorite, but the competition from three other manufacturers was stiff! Try these other great options.
The Best Blender for Smoothies: KitchenAid High Performance Series Blender ($360, left)
The KitchenAid is the most expensive of the blenders we tested, and the most powerful with an incredible 2,237 watts. Our testers thought it was the best blender for smoothies as the kale smoothie emulsified just right, staying thick, creamy and smooth with no separation.
Our tester called the consistency of smoothies “superior” to that of the other blenders. The range of variable speeds, stainless-steel blades and simple controls made it a really close race with the Vitamix.
The Best Blender for Crushing Ice: Ninja Professional Blender 1000 ($90, middle)
You can’t beat the Ninja’s affordability for a 1,000-watt motor. It handled the ice-crushing and soup-blending well, but left the kale-based smoothies a little too grainy. Multiple blades blocked ingredients from falling to the bottom, and sometimes the blade fell out while pouring.
Overall, this was the ice-crushing champion, so if you love a good snow cone, this might be for you.
The Best Blender for Pureeing Soup: NutriBullet Pro 900 ($80, right)
Get silky soup in seconds, thanks to the NutriBullet. This little blender pureed the butternut squash evenly and without any large chunks for a super-smooth texture. The 900-watt motor wasn’t as powerful as the other blenders, leaving behind a few larger pieces of ice and a frothier smoothie.
However, the NutriBullet’s accessories, including 2 32-ounce cups and 3 types of lids, make it a convenient choice for those on the go.
What to Make with Your Blender
Smoothie fanatics know that blenders are just the thing they need to make those juice shop smoothies right at home. Our Test Kitchen’s favorite recipe to make with this blender was this berry smoothie bowl. The blender was able to power through frozen strawberries, raspberries and ice to make this healthy (and beautiful!) breakfast.
Smoothies may be on-trend, but you can make so much more with this versatile appliance. It’s just the tool you need to make smooth soups like this contest-winning roasted tomato soup. It’s also great for whipping up sauces quickly—just check out this cod with a flavorful tomato sauce. Don’t miss our collection of the best recipes to make in a blender.
How to Take Care of a Blender
Blending food can be a messy business, so it’s important to keep your blender clean. It goes without saying that the jar should be washed with soap and water, but you should also be mindful to wipe down the outside with a damp cloth.
How We Test Products
If you’re like us, you want all your favorite recipes to turn out fabulous every single time you make them. That means opting for the best tasting ingredients and the best tools. While picking your favorite brand of chocolate chips or bacon is a task, it’s a delicious one to be relished. Choosing the best gadgets and gear for your kitchen, though, is another story. Unless you buy several stand mixers or food processors and put them through their paces, how can you ever know which will make your recipes turn out their best? That’s where our Test Kitchen comes in. Read about our rigorous testing process, and find more of our favorite brands.