The One Ingredient You Should Add To Every Smoothie

Regardless of whether you're a master chef or known for your ability to burn water, you can probably make a smoothie. With only a handful of ingredients and a blender, the filling drink comes together in a matter of minutes and is easy to adjust to your preferences. And best of all, you can use a variety of frozen and pantry items you have on hand, so you don't have to go to the store to make one.

Even though combining ingredients in a blender may not sound like cooking, it's worth donning your metaphorical chef's hat for the activity. That means taking the time to taste your smoothie before you serve it and adding one important ingredient to the mix. Whether you're following a recipe or creating a new concoction, you'll see a big difference if you season your smoothie with salt.

Counterintuitive as it may sound to add the savory mineral to fruity beverages, the salinity actually brightens and sharpens the flavors you've chosen. The contrast of a pinch of salt helps highlight the sweetness. You only need a pinch for the effect, so start with a small amount and taste as you add more.

The benefits of salting fruit

Cultures around the world turn to salt when digging into sweet or tart fruits, so it's no surprise that smoothies benefit from the same treatment. In small amounts, the mineral diffuses bitter flavors and reduces metallic tastes. That's why salting grapefruit tricks your taste buds and makes the fruit more palatable.

A sprinkle of sodium also makes sweet foods taste sweeter, which is why recipes instruct bakers to add salt to desserts. Those big flakes of sea salt dotting chocolate cookies and caramel add more than texture. Even fruit salads benefit from a pinch or two, which is all the more reason to add the seasoning to your blender.

Best of all, the additive magnifies the taste of each ingredient. Even if your smoothies feature only the ripest, sweetest fruits, you'll still find the mixture tastes better after you've used the salt shaker. And if you find yourself with a ho-hum assortment of off-season fruit, you can finish with a squeeze of honey and salt to bump the taste back up.

Balancing smoothie flavors

Next time you get out your blender, keep in mind that not all salts will bring the same benefits. For this culinary task, choose kosher salt rather than table salt. The larger chunks are actually less salty and dissolve quickly, making it easier to add, taste, and balance your drink as you blend.

Another caveat to keep in mind as you salt your smoothies is that non-dairy milks and nut butters will already contain salt. Check the sodium levels in your products before you begin sprinkling in the crystals, and try to taste your drink after you blend it. If your drink is naturally savory due to protein powders or other additions, you'll likely need far less of the balancing ingredient or none at all.

To put this ingredient to the test, we suggest whipping up a green smoothie. Bitter, metallic leafy greens like kale, a major component in the drink, benefit from the sodium's neutralizing effect. Or, skip the pinch and instead take the sting out of pineapple with a salt water soak before adding it to the mix, as you'll find the sodium-infused fruit excels as a sweet component. The same trick works for papaya, which contains the same tenderizing protein and may have left your mouth with a similar burn in the past.