The Baking Essential You Should Start Blending Into Smoothies

The start of the new year is the smoothie's time to shine. After months of indulging in delicious holiday eats and drinks, many people re-establish healthier routines in January, incorporating nutritious meals into their daily rotation. And with smoothies, it's easy to pack a lot of nutrients into one yummy, sweet drink. Take this healthy black forest smoothie, for example — not only does it taste like a creamy black forest cake in a glass, but it packs in half a cup of spinach, a banana, a cup of cherries, and ground flaxseed. If you're looking for a healthy drink that tastes like dessert, look no further.

Beyond the basics of fruit, vegetables, and milk, there are a plethora of ingredients you can add to smoothies to give it that je ne sais quoi. Try unsweetened cocoa powder, for instance, to add a chocolatey flavor without the sugar, or avocado to give your smoothie creaminess and a dose of healthy fats (via PA Eats). If you're a fan of colorful smoothies that also pack in the health benefits, throw some beets or turmeric into your blender — not only will you get anti-inflammatory properties, but your beverage will turn a pretty pink or gold, according to Elle. And for a complex flavor, you'll just need a few drops of a baking ingredient you probably already have.

Vanilla extract enhances the flavor of other ingredients

It turns out that vanilla extract is not just for baking. If you add a little to your smoothie, the extract will provide a greater depth of flavor, The Spruce Eats shares. But how exactly does vanilla extract accomplish this? According to Honest Food Talks, the main purpose of the ingredient is to ward off the smell of raw eggs in baking, but it also is essential in enhancing the flavor of the other ingredients. Try making a baked good without it, and you'll notice the flavors don't taste quite as potent. The role of vanilla extract can be compared to the purpose of salt in sweet and savory foods; The Kitchn explains — too much is overpowering, but just a little magnifies the surrounding flavors.

If you want to try your hand at a smoothie with vanilla extract, start small. This sweet potato smoothie calls for one teaspoon, while Bon Appétit's banana blueberry smoothie with tahini only requires a drizzle. Once you've mastered the art of adding vanilla to your blended beverages, why not then dabble with alternate extracts? For instance, Ambitious Kitchen's almond cherry smoothie uses both vanilla and almond extract to produce a drink that tastes like Cherry Garcia ice cream but still has plenty of healthy ingredients like almond butter, cherries, and spinach. Healthy drinks that taste like dessert? Sounds like a win-win.