The best blender can handle the toughest ingredients without stuttering — giving us fine-textured smoothies without a trace of grit or a clump of fruit. We took 10 of the most highly rated blenders and tested them against fibrous kale, dense ice, and tiny oats and almonds to determine their strength and efficiency. We found three blenders great for churning out smoothies.
The Cuisinart gave us perfectly smooth drinks, whether we pitted it against stringy kale or tested its ability to powder nuts and oats. It has pre-programmed buttons for when you want to hit smoothie and run off to find your shoes, and a dial for when you want to customize your blending experience.
We loved the Cleanblend’s straightforward dial, which gives you personal control over the power. This machine gave us bits of kale in our smoothie, but did better than other full-sized blenders twice its price.
NutriBullet 12-Piece High-Speed Blender
The pint-sized Nutribullet churned out grit-free smoothies, helping us get our Vitamin K and protein without the usual sandy texture. Its small size makes it easy to carry on the go, or store in a cupboard.
The Best Blender
- Cuisinart CBT-2000 3.5 Peak Hurricane Pro Blender -
- Cleanblend 3HP 1800-Watt Commercial Blender -
Best Budget Blender
- NutriBullet 12-Piece High-Speed Blender Mixer System Gray -
Best Personal Blender
While blenders can be used to make anything from hollandaise to pumpkin miso soup, for most people, blenders are smoothie machines. A great blender will have adjustable speed settings, ranging from low speeds for even chopping to high speeds that can power through dense foods. But the best blender will able to handle any ingredient we throw in it — we shouldn’t have to think twice about tossing some kale leaves or an almond protein boost into our morning smoothie.
Our top pick is the Cuisinart CBT-2000 Hurricane Pro Blender ($399, though we found it for about $100 less). It chops and crushes notoriously difficult ingredients like kale, ice, and oats into a finely-textured smoothie. We loved that the Cuisinart has both pre-programmed buttons and a dial on its light-up display. For beginners, the buttons are an easy introduction to varying power settings for the best results — be it a smoothie or a soup. For blending pros, the dial makes it easy to adjust power on the fly, ramping up for a chunk of frozen kiwi, or ramping down to get that silky texture.
If you’re looking for a full-sized blender without a hefty price tag, we like the Cleanblend 3HP 1800-Watt Commercial Blender. While $165 may not feel like a budget pick, the Cleanblend was the cheapest full-sized blender that was able to blend well. Further drops in price seriously compromised performance, whereas the Cleanblend outperformed blenders more than twice its price. Our smoothie did still have a few gritty pieces of kale, but this was nothing compared to the chewy kale flakes left behind in cheaper blenders. We also loved that the Cleanblend comes with a tamp — usually an upgrade feature. This helped us push ingredients down into the blades without stopping the machine, or reaching for our spatula.
The NutriBullet 12-Piece High-Speed Blender is our pick for best personal blender. It blends quickly and efficiently, giving us some of the best smoothies despite being one-third the size of most of the other blenders. Its simple on-off switch makes it less customizable, but we loved being able to blend our smoothie and carry the jar with us on our commute. At $70, it's also an excellent small-capacity option for the budget-conscious.
How We Found the Best Blender
At first, high performance was a big question, and we saw quite a few websites promoting their “high performance blenders” over the lowly “standard blenders.” But no one was willing to clarify what this meant, so we dove into consumer reviews on Amazon and read up on picks from foodie blogs. We ended up with eight of the most highly-rated full-sized blenders. Each has at least four-star ratings, and is popular amongst smoothie-aficionados. We also included two personal-sized blenders: the Nutribullet and Oster’s MyBlend. We wanted to see how these popular smaller machines compared to the larger ones.
Blenders typically stumble on two difficult challenges: getting tough and fibrous ingredients silky smooth, and having motors and blades strong enough to chop through ice. We set up two tests to determine which blenders could puree kale and which motors wouldn’t get stuck on dense ice.
The Kale Test: From Fibrous to Smoothie
Kale is closely related to other stalky fibrous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, making it one of the toughest ingredients frequently added to smoothies. So we chose kale to test out the chopping power of our blenders. The best blenders would be able to puree that kale into smooth green goodness. If we found little chunks, or large pieces, we'd know that blender wasn't up to the task.
Our recipe? The pineapple kiwi kale smoothie. We added the leaves from four stalks of kale, in addition to frozen pineapple, kiwi, banana, and some coconut water.
We started each blender off on its lowest setting, and gradually increased the speed to give our blenders the best chance of getting to a finely textured smoothie. Low speeds help the blender tackle softer foods like fresh fruit, quickly crushing them into the base liquid to form a whirlpool. Once a whirlpool is formed, higher speeds help increase the power and speed of the vortex. Denser food, like frozen fruit or ice, is then dragged down into the blades.
The best blender needed to take the kale and whir it down until the tiniest particles were gone. The best smoothies were, well... smooth. Our first contenders, the Blendtec and the Cleanblend, got most of the way there, with only a tiny amount of grit. They weren’t bad smoothies, but we didn’t like the vaguely sandy texture. They were better than the next tier down, where we could see the leafy chunks throughout the cup. The Breville, Kitchenaid, and Ninja failed to properly blend the kale, leading to unpleasantly chewy smoothies.
The Cuisinart, NutriBullet, and Vitamix did the best job blending the kale. Our taste-testers picked these out as not even having a trace of grit. On the other end of the spectrum, the Hamilton Beach was completely stalled by the kale. The longer we let it whir, the frothier the coconut water became, climbing higher in our pitcher even as the fruit and kale remained motionless.
The Versatility Challenge: Ice and Fine Powders
For our next test, we wanted to see how well the blenders crushed ice and how well they pulverized nuts and oats into a fine powder. Weak motors can leave large chunks or shavings of ice and can stall on large pieces of frozen fruit. The best blenders won’t require us to crush our ice or chop up frozen strawberries beforehand.
Adding oats or nuts to a smoothie is an easy way to add protein and make it more filling. We used the smoothies to pulverize the oats and almonds first, without any liquid, before adding the rest of our ingredients to see whether each blender’s blades could reach every corner of its pitcher. We made ourselves some Blueberry Almond Oatmeal smoothies, supplementing the recipe with some whole almonds to make the test a little tougher on our blenders.
Great blenders were able to reduce every almond and oat to fine powder, while bad ones left behind large pieces that made our smoothie distinctly crunchy. We left the Hamilton Beach out of this test, since it did so singularly horribly in the first one.
After blending the oats and almonds to see which blenders made the finest powder, we added almond milk, a little vanilla extract, frozen blueberries and banana, and half a cup of ice.
Layer your ingredientsPlacing ingredients in the right order will improve the performance of your blender. Liquids and powders go on the bottom, then fresh fruit and vegetables. Put the frozen fruit and ice on top, or add it later, so your blender has a chance form a whirlpool before hitting the hardest ingredients.
All of the blenders crushed ice without a problem. We were impressed by the Cleanblend, which ramped up its motor speed to power through a noticeably large chunk of frozen banana slices.
The result was clear — the Cleanblend made one of our top three smoothies for this round.
We found the largest differences between blenders to be how well they handled our oatmeal-almond mixture. The Cuisinart and the Cleanblend were our frontrunners here, making a very fine powder that translated into the smoothest smoothies.
The Ninja struggled the most on this test. Its blades are stacked, so it does best when there is a lot of food. With our combined half-cup of almonds and oatmeal, the Ninja could only chop with one blade. Ultimately, it left us with coarsely chopped nuts.
Blade Design Matters Most
After testing, we went back to figure out what separated the best from the rest. All of our top performing blenders had two things in common: they had blades aimed horizontally, and blades angled upward. The blades pointing upward form and shape the vortex, which pulls the mixture sitting on top down. This determines how effective the blender is at churning ingredients. The blades aimed horizontally cut through the mixture swirling around them. Having both sets of blades allowed these blenders to produce a finer texture.
It’s also important to look at how close the blades get to the inside edge of the pitcher. The blades of the best performing blenders were all less than a centimeter away from the edge. The short gap meant the blades could reach more of the ingredients, and cut through larger amounts of smoothie at a time, than those with large gaps. The Hamilton Beach had the worst gap between blades and bowl, with at least an inch of free space. This meant it and other wider-gaped machines (we’re looking at you, Breville) literally couldn't reach the desired smoothness.
Our Top Picks
The Cuisinart gave us better results than we expected from even our local smoothie shops, completely chopping kale into microscopic bits. It also crushed ice, and successfully powdered almonds and oats — outperforming even the formidable Vitamix in the blueberry almond oatmeal challenge. We particularly liked the Cuisinart’s churning power. Unlike many blenders, there were no hiding spots for powder to get stuck in, so our smoothies got their full protein-punch, without any surprise pockets of dust.
The Cuisinart is the only one of our top picks to offer pre-programmed buttons as well as a dial. When we made our smoothies, we changed the settings fairly frequently — staring low to churn softer ingredients, ramping up to crush ice, and slowing down to medium to ensure all ingredients were meeting the blades. The Cuisinart’s Smoothie, Ice Crush, and Soup options vary the power settings automatically, so you can walk away and come back to the perfect mix. We liked how the smoothie setting alternated whether the blender ran at high power or low power, as this told us the Cuisinart was programmed to blend smoothies with different ingredients.
We do have two minor complaints about the Cuisinart. While it wasn’t the loudest blender we tested (that prize went to the Blendtec), we weren’t overly fond of the Cuisinart’s slightly shriller tone. Additionally, while we appreciate that the lid is secure — it definitely won’t be wiggling loose when the blender is in action — we didn't love the extra force required to pry it off.
Best Budget Blender
The Cleanblend ditches pre-programmed buttons in favor of a dial, on/off switch, and a pulse mode. Changing the speed setting is easy and straightforward, just by turning the dial higher or lower. It was a nice relief from the Hamilton Beach, where we wondered which specific setting — puree, whip, grate, or crush to name a few — was actually intended for smoothie.
The Cleanblend also has an ace up its sleeve: If it encounters a particularly tough object, like a slab of frozen banana slices, the motor ramps up the speed on its own. We were a little intimidated the first time it happened — it’s the only blender that seemed to have an opinion on how to blend our smoothie. But we liked the results.
We also liked the Cleanblend’s tamp, which allowed us to push down chunks of frozen banana into the blades. Only the Cleanblend and the Vitamix came with a tamp. If your blender isn’t making a strong enough vortex to pull food down into the blades, and you don’t want to add more liquid to help create that churning effect, a tamp will make sure all parts of your thick smoothie are equally blended.
When it came to our oat and nut versatility test, the Cleanblend also performed exceptionally well. On its lowest setting, we reached powder within a few seconds. Although when it came to kale, the Cleanblend gave us a Pineapple Kiwi smoothie interspersed with slight strands of gritty kale. Not a dealbreaker, but it wasn’t quite as smooth as the Cuisinart’s.
At $170, the Cleanblend is not the cheapest “budget” pick, but it was the cheapest full-sized blender that actually worked. It outperformed cheaper options, like the Hamilton and the Ninja, but also more expensive models, like the Breville ($200) and the Blendtec ($420). It also came very close in performance to our top pick, the Cuisinart. If you don’t mind the lack of pre-programmed buttons, and slightly grittier smoothies, the Cleanblend’s only flaw compared to the Cuisinart is that its pitcher is a little heavier.
If you’re looking to save even more cash, we recommend taking a look at the Nutribullet. You won’t be able to make large batches, or add ingredients without stopping the machine, but it has excellent results and won’t take up much counter space.
Best Personal Blender
The Nutribullet gave us the best smoothie of the personal-sized blenders we tested, and it was in the top three for best smoothie overall (only the Cuisinart and the Vitamix gave us finer smoothies). It created a very fine powder of almonds and oats, making for an excellent blueberry almond oatmeal smoothie, and although a leaf got trapped in the locking mechanism, the rest of the pineapple kiwi kale smoothie was perfectly silky.
We liked the Nutribullet’s simple design: Lock in the blending canister, and the blades turn on. Turn it slightly counterclockwise, and they turn off. Even though it didn’t give the option of going to a higher speed, it didn’t ever need to. It handled kale, ice, and frozen fruit without getting stuck and blended them into silky oblivion.
It comes with two blending canisters, which are simple cylinders, and a blending cup, which has a built-in handle. You also get a twist-on handle, two twist-on caps for the fridge or your commute, and a plastic rim guard. We can appreciate the simplicity of having your blender pitcher be your to-go cup, but the Nutribullet is somewhat bulky for a travel bottle and ill-fitting for a car cup holder (too big with the handle but too small without).
Upend layers for personal blendersPersonal blenders flip upside-down to attach to the blade unit, so you’ll want to add layers in reverse order. Hard or frozen ingredients first, fresh items, liquids, and finally powders.
Even with its largest canister attached, the Nutribullet is limited to how much food it can blend at a time. Its maximum volume limit is 20 ounces, which is about a third of most blenders'. The larger Cuisinart CBT-2000 and Cleanblend 3HP 1800-Watt Commercial Blender can both hold 64 ounces. This makes the Nutribullet great for single smoothies, and its small jar is easier to fit in a cupboard, but it’s not going to be your go-to tool for the family.
Others to Consider
We wanted to love the Oster for its sheer convenience: fill the canister, blend it, add a lid, and head out the door. Unlike the Nutribullet, it looks like a bottle we can take on the road, with a simple flip-top lid that’s easy to attach and sip from on your way to work.
That said, the Oster struggled with tough ingredients, and couldn’t get a good churning whirlpool going. Its results were… chunky. The Oster did well with frozen fruit and ice, though, so if you’re not planning on blending anything too hard, it can’t be beat for price ($20).
The Vitamix was very close to the Cuisinart in making the best smoothie. It uses a dial to control speed, like the Cleanblend, and also comes with a tamp, which was helpful for pushing pieces of ice down, resulting in a silky delicious blend. One taste-tester noted, “This smoothie makes kale palatable.” But the Vitamix had a few corners that hid almonds, resulting in an unevenly ground powder.
We also had to add more liquid in both tests to get the Vitamix to churn properly. Due to its high price ($366), and comparable results to the Cuisinart ($292), we didn’t feel like the Vitamix could take the spot for best blender. But if you’re looking for excellent results, prefer to skip over the pre-programmed button options, and love being able to tamp down on ingredients, the Vitamix is a good option.
Did You Know?
Is a blender the best tool for you?
In the world of small kitchen appliances, there’s no shortage of ways to chop, puree, and whirl our food around a plastic jar. Blenders, food processors, and juicers are each designed to perform differently.
Blenders work by creating a vortex which draws food into the blades waiting at the bottom of the machine. They work best when they have enough liquid to create their characteristic churning effect.
- Use a blender for smoothies. Juicers remove the fiber and other nutrients from your morning beverage, making a smoothie a healthier option for most people.
- Use a blender for soups. By creating that swirling vortex, blenders are able to puree soups better than food processors, pulling the last roughly chopped ingredients through the liquid to be pureed.
- Avoid blenders for chopping vegetables. A blender will try and liquefy the ingredients closest to the blades while bringing down those on top. A food processor will give you a more even result, without the extra stirring a blender would require.
Food processors use centrifugal force to mix through ingredients — food that has just been chopped by its blade gets flung to the outside edge of the pitcher. As more food is added, this creates a churning process different from blending, that helps ingredients get chopped more evenly.
- Use a food processor for tasks like chopping vegetables and shredding cheese. It’s probably the most versatile tool of the three.
- Avoid food processors for smoothies, or soups that need to have the same texture throughout. A food processor will eventually chop everything into tiny pieces, but expect to leave it running for five to ten minutes to get that texture. A blender will be able to do the same job in under a minute.
Juicers come in two varieties: centrifugal and cold-press. These types use different technologies to separate fruit pulp from fruit juice. Centrifugal juicers shred and whirl the pulp against the basket walls, and the juice dispenses out the bottom. Cold-press juicers use a large auger to crush your produce against the walls, and lets the juice drain out.
- Use a juicer if you have trouble digesting fiber. Blending a smoothie uses every part of the fruit you add in, including the fiber.
- Avoid juicers for bananas, avocado, pineapple, protein powder, yogurt, and some vegetables. Either add these ingredients to your juice, or reach for your blender. These ingredients don’t have a high enough water content compared to their pulp. They may not break your juicer, but most of the fruit will be thrown away with the rest of the pulp.