The Best Blenders
The best blender can handle the toughest ingredients without stuttering — giving us fine-textured smoothies without a trace of grit or clump of fruit. We took 10 highly rated blenders and tested them against fibrous kale, dense ice, and tiny oats and almonds to determine their strength and efficiency. In the end, we found three blenders great for churning out smoothies.
How We Chose the Best Blenders
Highly rated models
Many brands promote their “high performance blenders” over the lowly “standard blenders,” but no one is willing to clarify what this means. To truly assess long-term performance, 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 a four-star rating 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.
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 and the perfect vegetable to test out the chopping power of our blenders. The best blenders are 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.
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.
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. 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.
For our final test, we wanted to see how well the blenders crushed ice. 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. Fortunately, all of our remaining contenders passed this test without a problem.
The 3 Best Blenders
- Cuisinart CBT-2000 3.5 Peak Hurricane Pro Blender – Best Smoothie Maker
- Cleanblend 3HP 1800-Watt Commercial Blender – Best Budget Blender
- NutriBullet 12-Piece High-Speed Blender Mixer System Gray – Best Personal Blender
- Finely textured smoothies
- Louder than other blenders
TIghtly fitting lid
Why we chose it
Finely textured smoothies
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 for fine-tuning. When we made our smoothies, we changed the settings fairly frequently — starting low to churn softer ingredients, ramping up to crush ice, and dropping to medium to ensure that 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 between high power or low power, indicating that the Cuisinart is programmed to blend smoothies with different ingredients.
Points to consider
Louder than other blenders
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 shrill tone. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, but it may be annoying to hear every morning.
Tightly fitting lid
While we appreciated that the lid on the Cuisinart is ultra-secure — it definitely won’t be wiggling loose when the blender is in action — it does require a little extra force to pry off.
- Not as smoothly blended
Why we chose it
At $179, the Cleanblend is not the cheapest “budget” pick, but it was the cheapest full-sized blender that actually worked. It outperformed less expensive 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 is a fine option.
The Cleanblend ditches pre-programmed buttons in favor of a dial, on/off switch, and a pulse mode. Changing the speed setting is as easy as 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 — 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 that all parts of your thick smoothie are equally blended.
Points to consider
Not as smoothly blended
While the Cleanblend also performed exceptionally well on our oat and nut versatility test, it struggled with chopping, giving us a pineapple kiwi smoothie interspersed with slight strands of gritty kale. It wasn’t a dealbreaker, especially given its price, but the end result wasn’t quite as smooth as that from the Cuisinart.
- Well-blended smoothies
- Bulky as a travel mug
Why we chose it
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.
Points to consider
Bulky as a travel mug
We can appreciate the simplicity of having your blender pitcher be your to-go cup, but the NutriBullet is somewhat bulky as a travel bottle and ill-fitting for a car cup holder (too big with the handle but too small without). The shape somewhat defeats the purpose, and you’re likely better pouring your smoothie into a separate travel mug.
Even with its largest canister attached, the NutriBullet’s volume is limited. 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.
Guide to Blenders
How to get the most out of your blender
Focus on blade design
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 down the mixture sitting on top. 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 that 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.
Layer your ingredients
Placing 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.
Personal 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, followed by fresh items, liquids, and powders.
Use your 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. Blenders work especially well with creamier soups like tomato soup, split pea soup, or a bisque.
The Best Blenders: Summed Up
Our Other Kitchen Appliance Reviews
Why stop at a great blender? We’ve been chopping, toasting, and juicing on the best appliances for years. Check out some of our favorite reviews below.