Derived from the acai berry, a small fruit that grows throughout Central and South America, acai bowls combine a number of healthy fruits and ingredients into a large smoothie, topped with additional garnishes. Traditionally used as both a food and as a medicinal plant, the acai berry has gained ‘superfood’ status thanks to its notable antioxidant levels and additional health benefits.3
If you like stopping for a bite to eat at local coffee shops and juice bars, sooner or later you’ll find yourself wondering, “What is an acai bowl?” as you peruse the menu. Somewhere between a smoothie, oatmeal, and a parfait, acai bowls are a tasty and filling morning treat.
While the options for toppings are endless, all acai bowls are based on a key ingredient: acai puree. Health benefits aside, the flavor profile alone is enough to convince you that this fruit is worth keeping on the menu. Known for its rich texture and tangy taste, acai berries have been added into smoothies, sorbets, juices—and now—breakfast bowls. A quick internet search offers dozens of ideas for making a homemade acai bowl, with acai bowl recipes incorporating a wide range of ingredients from peanut butter to oatmeal to spirulina.
How to Make Acai Puree
If you’re going to make your own homemade acai bowl, you’ll need the basic ingredient: acai puree. You can either buy pre-packed acai puree, or you can make it yourself. It simply depends on your personal preference.
Option 1: Buy puree
Thanks to its increasing popularity, you may find acai puree in local food co-ops, Whole Foods or Costco, depending on where you live. These pureed packs are sometimes called smoothie packs, and may only be available in limited varieties.
It’s an especially good idea to buy acai puree if your blender doesn’t handle ice cubes very well, as making acai puree requires blending ice cubes in a blender.
For the best deal, we recommend purchasing bulk packs of acai puree as they can be stored in the freezer for months. While local grocers generally don’t offer acai products in bulk, online retailers conveniently offer bulk acai puree packs that can be shipped right to your door.
Option 2: Make puree from powder
Acai berries have a short shelf-life; since they’re largely grown in Brazil, it’s rare to find fresh acai berries outside of Central and South America. Each berry also has a large stone (or pit) inside. For these reasons, it’s difficult to make your acai puree from fresh acai berries. As an alternative, individuals can use acai powder.
Made through a process called “dry freezing”, acai powder is made from dehydrated acai pulp, which helps preserves the berry’s nutrients. Acai power is available at many natural grocery stores in addition to online retailers like Amazon.
To make puree from powder, you’ll simply add a few teaspoons of acai powder to your blender as you make your bowl, along with 3-5 ice cubes to turn the powder into a frozen puree.
Acai Bowl Recipe
Acai bowls are versatile and simple to make, in addition to being healthy and filling. When you make an acai bowl, you are essentially making a thick smoothie made from frozen fruit, topped with nuts, seeds, fruits, and other garnishes. To prepare for rushed mornings, make your own ‘acai bowl mix’ by making a batch of your favorite toppings ahead of time so you can just pour and go. For those wondering how to make an acai bowl at home, here’s a simple recipe to help get your morning started.
- 1 handful frozen mango chunks (or other frozen fruit of your choice)
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 pack acai puree (you can also use 2-3 tsp of acai powder with 3-5 ice cubes)
- ¼ cup rolled oats
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt (can also use milk, including coconut, soy, rice, hemp, etc.)
- 2 tsp. maple syrup or honey (less if using milk instead of Greek yogurt)
Ideas for Garnish
- coconut flakes
- roasted buckwheat groats
- berries, banana slices, or other diced fruit
- sliced almonds
- pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, or sunflower seeds
- rolled oats
- If using frozen acai puree, try to break up the frozen block into a few pieces before you begin.
- Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour into a bowl.
Acai Bowl Calories
While many breakfast foods may appear healthy, they can quickly rack up unwanted calories. While acai bowl nutrition facts can vary, for the recipe above there are approximately 400 calories per serving.
While other breakfast options may simply provide macronutrients, research has shown that acai is one of several fruits high in polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that help prevent oxidative stress.1,2
Readers should also keep in mind that the calories in acai bowl recipes will depend on how you prepare and garnish your bowl. As a rule of thumb, to reduce calories:
- Replace some of the frozen fruit with spinach.
- Use unsweetened milk alternatives such as rice or coconut milk, which have fewer calories than regular milk.
- For texture, use more oats and less seeds/nuts.
According to Sambazon (a popular supplier of acai products), a 100-gram serving of their unsweetened acai puree contains 0 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of fat, including healthy omega-3, omega-6, omega-9, as well as saturated fat.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2016, November 29). Acai. Retrieved September 14, 2017 from – View Reference
- Tapiero, H, Tew, K.D., Ba, G.N., & Mathé G. (2002) Polyphenols: do they play a role in the prevention of human pathologies? Biomed Pharmacother, 56(4), 200-207. Retrieved September 14 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12109813
- Marcason, W. (2009) What Is the Açaí Berry and Are There Health Benefits? Journal of the American Dietetic Association.1968. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2009.09.017