Isn’t it so annoying if you desperately want to make a dish or a beverage and the only thing standing in your way is that you have the wrong piece of equipment? It is so similar, but still not what the recipe calls for.
Smoothies are especially frustrating as there are so many different appliances that recipes call for – it’s impossible to buy them all.
Most people have either a food processor or a blender, rarely both, but are they interchangeable?
Can you make smoothies in a food processor? The short answer is yes, you can. The process, however, is a little different, as ingredients must be added in the right order, rather than all together, and can take slightly longer. But most food processors will get the job done.
In this jam-packed article, we will take a look at the difference between a food processor and a blender, if they are interchangeable, how you can use a food processor to make smoothies and the many other functions they both have.
What is a Blender?
A blender is used to create a smooth liquid – that is why smoothie recipes often call for a blender, or a similar product such as a Vitamix, instead of a grinder or a food processor.
The structure of a blender is designed to create ultra-smooth liquids or purees by having the actual vessel (the container that holds the ingredients while blending) in the shape of a long, large jug.
This ensures that the liquid constantly circulates and moves inside of the jug to blend all of the ingredients until they are smooth.
They also have flaming sharp blades (usually 4) that can rotate at different speeds to create different textures.
The higher the speed is set, the more powerful the blades become and they will be able to blend through tougher ingredients like pineapples.
Some blenders also have other settings such as “pulse” and “crush” which have different uses mainly related to the force used.
Blenders come in different shapes and sizes to create either individual portions or a larger amount. Some of them are even designed to use as a travel mug to drink on the go.
There are blenders on the market today that is powerful enough to complete some of the functions of a food processor, however, the shape of a blender still prevents it from performing all of them.
What is a Food Processor?
A food processor is usually used to perform more labor-intensive work. Some examples of using a food processor include making doughs, creating butter, chopping vegetables, shredding ingredients, etc.
Food processors can perform a much wider range of functions due to the way it is designed and built. Food processors are usually more bowl-shaped than jug-shaped, and thus have a larger surface area to process and mix the food.
They are also very large and chunky and come with a heavy bottom. This allows the appliance to mix difficult items without moving, shaking, or requiring any additional stability.
They almost always have detachable blades that are sometimes interchangeable with others. The blades can be smooth but are usually slightly serrated to be able to cut through ingredients and help them incorporate into each other.
What’s the Difference?
The main difference between the two is their functionality that is determined by their structure or design. A food processor will be able to complete more functions of a blender than vice versa.
If you were trying to shred cheese in a blender, all the cheese would get stuck at the bottom of the jug, but when shredding it in a food processor, it would be able to constantly move around and get chopped.
Food processors are built to crush, mix, or grind foods, not necessarily to blend ingredients until smooth.
Can You Use a Food Processor as a Blender?
As we have mentioned, each has its functions and although they can perform some of the others’ functions, they cannot perform all. Luckily, this applies more to the blender than the food processor.
You can most definitely use a food processor to make smoothies or other liquids instead of a blender.
There are, however, some other steps you have to follow than simply adding all of the ingredients. If you don’t mind the few extra steps, you won’t have any problems.
All this being said, it does depend on which food processor you have – not all of them are the same, and thus not all of them will work. The ones’ that have the best chance at working are the ones that have multiple attachments.
Some food processors come with blender attachments that you can use. If you are looking at buying a food processor, definitely find one with this function.
How to Make Smoothies in a Food Processor
1. Blend the green ingredients first. This includes any kale, spinach, chard, or leafy greens. They are sometimes the most difficult to blend smoothly (even in blenders) due to their awkward size. Blending them first will help with that.
2. Add your frozen fruit to the greens. Frozen fruits will ensure a thicker, icier, and more refreshing smoothie. Add fruits or berries one type at a time to ensure all the ingredients incorporate evenly.
There is a shoot (tunnel) at the top that will assist you with adding ingredients.
3. Add any health boosters, powders, or additional ingredients such as seeds, flakes, fats, or berries. A few ideas include maca powder, hemp seeds, coconut oil, raisins, or cacao.
4. Add the liquid base to the mixture. The liquid base is any form of liquid that bulk up the smoothie so you have a pourable consistency and not a spread. Some examples are animal or plant-based milks, coconut water, or regular water.
You can also add flavored liquids such as juices or cooled coffee. If you want to add Kefir or yogurt, it will add flavor as well as act as a thickening agent.
5. Add your sweeteners. These can include honey, maple syrup, simple syrup, or agave nectar. Ensure that all your ingredients are fully blended and fully incorporated before serving.
6. Remove the blades from the food processor and serve the smoothie immediately. It will be more difficult to pour the smoothie out of the food processor than the blender as they do not have a spout.
Tips and Tricks
These tips can also apply when making any liquid recipe such as soups or cocktails in a blender.
- Do not add all of the ingredients to the food processor. Because the blender is built to crush, chop and grind, all of the ingredients might not blend evenly. Another concern is the liquid that could run out the spout in the middle of the bowl.
- Do not overfill the bowl with liquid. If you want to create a large batch of smoothie, rather make a few smaller batches than overfilling the container.
- Pre-crush your ingredients. This will ensure them blending smoothly, rather than resulting in a chunky soup.
- Use frozen fruit. The reason people add ice in smoothies is because the cold temperature helps thicken the liquid. Thus by using frozen fruit, the temperature will still be there to thicken the liquid without the ice creating more water when it melts.
Excessive ice creates a watered-down product once it stands a while.
What Can You Make in a Food Processor Vs a Blender?
As we have already discussed in-depth, each has its unique purpose, but what are these appliances best used for.
To recap, blenders are used to create smooth liquids such as smoothies, soups, and cocktails. Food processors have a wider range of functions such as chopping ingredients, creating doughs, or shredding and crushing.
Sometimes the functions can overlap between the two, but they are still best used for certain things.
In the table below we will look at different uses for blender and food processors and why they can perform the functions.
|Food/Beverage Item||Food Processor||Blender|
|Meatballs or patties||Best||Never|
|Mashed vegetables (potatoes)||Best||Not ideal|
|Biscuits (scones or crumpets)||Best||Never|
|Rosti, potato gratin or hashbrowns||Best||Never|
Recipes You Can Make in a Food Processor
Below is a breakdown of food items that can be made in a food processor as well as why they are ideal.
|Item||How it works|
|Smoothies||Like we have already mentioned, it is very possible to create delicious smoothies if you follow the correct steps.|
|Meatballs or patties||Food processors are great for incorporating spices and flavoring ingredients into ground meat. It prevents you from having to incorporate them with your bare hands and whilst mixing, they also work the meat a bit to create a very pliable mixture.|
|Spreads or pastes||When making spreads, food processors are great as you can adjust the consistency very easily. You can make delicious vegan spreads or plain old hummus.|
|Mashed potatoes||Using a food processor to mash your potatoes will save you a ton of time and it also cleans up very easy.|
|Sauces||If you want to create a nice thick, chunky sauce, like an Italian tomato sauce, doing so in a food processor is ideal. If you want a more liquidy and smooth sauce, use a blender. |
|Crusts||Creating pastry crusts, no matter how fine the crumbs, can only be done in a food processor. It prevents pulverizing the crumbs, for them to still bind. |
|Jams||Again, depending on the consistency you would like your jam to be, you can use a food processor to create beautiful chunky jams. You can also crush your fruit in the food processor before cooking it and refining it in a blender.|
|Biscuits (scones or crumpets)||This is the best way to make scones in our opinion. The way the blades run through the flour and butter will ensure that the perfect crumb can form and create the perfect texture.|
|Rosti, potato gratin or hashbrowns||Rostis are usually made by grating potatoes, but that takes forever. Rather place potato chunks in a food processor and quickly allow the processor (with the chopping or grating attachment) to do its work.|
|Dough||Be it pie dough or bread dough, or any other dough for that matter, making it in the food processor is quick and easy and takes all the hard work out of it. |
We would not recommend making authentic doughs like this. However, if you are short on time and do not mind this shortcut, do it.
|Batters||If it is a thick, chunky batter, like a carrot cake batter, use the food processor to make for easy cleanup and mixing. |
Do not use the food processor for thin batters such as pancakes or crepes.
|Cauliflower rice (or other vegetable rice)||We would recommend only using a food processor when making vegetable rice. It creates the perfect sized grains and takes tons of chopping out of the process.|
|Cookies||There are tons of cookie recipes you can make using a food processor, especially if they involve crumbling other ingredients like Oreos or crackers.|
|Butters||Butters require a long churning process. If your food processor scrapes the bottom of the container, I would recommend using it on a low-medium speed. The blender will simply blend it smoothly without allowing it to churn. |
|Chopped vegetables||If you have a food processor with a chopping blade, definitely use it if you are not bothered by roughly chopped vegetables in your food. It will save a lot of time.|
|Shredded cheese||Again, this depends on the type of food processor you have, but if you have the correct blades, it is capable of shredding medium-hard cheeses and crumbling hard cheese. |
Recipes You Can Make in a Blender
Below is a breakdown of food items that can be made in a blender as well as why they are ideal.
|Item||How it works|
|Juices||Juices are perfect for a blender as you can just add any fruit (or vegetable) into it and allow the blender to do the rest. Because a blender has a jug, you don’t have to worry about any overflowing of liquid ingredients.|
|Smoothies||Like we have said, smoothies are usually made in blenders. And although they can be made in food processors, it is still much easier and quicker to make them in blenders. You get a very smooth, chunk free liquid that also pours easy.|
|Cocktails||We love a good cocktail. Whenever you need to incorporate crushed ice, use a blender. It will incorporate ingredients evenly and create amazing flavors while crushing the ice as you mix.|
|Soups||Of course, some people prefer chunky soups, but traditionally it should be smooth and lump-free. A blender would be your best bet, especially if you need lump-free soup for medical reasons.|
|Puree||As with the soup, any type of puree, be it a side dish, spread, accompaniment, or baby food, it needs to be silky smooth and that can only be achieved using a blender. |
|Milkshakes||We love a good milkshake, but not when it is more ice cream than a shake. The best way to break up your ice cream without having to melt it is to blend it along with the flavoring ingredients.|
|Sauces||Just like the food processor can give us delicious chunky sauces, so can the blender provide us with incredibly smooth sauces. Even if you made a sauce by hand and it has some lumps in it, pop it in the blender to get rid of any big lumps.|
|Batters||Some batters can be made in a blender. For example, tons of oat-pancakes require a blender to pulverize the oats. Granted, not all batters should be made using blenders, but some recipes definitely would work.|
|Ice creams||If you have ever made a “quick and easy” ice cream, you know that mashing the ingredients by hand (or even with a stick blender) takes forever. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. This is much quicker and will save you a lot of time.|
|Jams||If you want a smooth, lump-free jam, use a blender to remove any chunks left after cooking.|
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