Banana Chai Smoothie

by Gena on January 8, 2011

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Sweet responses to my lunch date with Emily!

Chai. It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot, isn’t it? We all think we know what it means—it’s a sort of tea, right? Maybe just a liquid spice mix we see swishing around at Starbucks? Cinnamon, ginger, that sort of thing?

We’re all partially right. Masala chai is a hot tea, indigenous to India, that’s made by brewing black tea with a special blend of spices and herbs (also indigenous to India). In various parts of Asia, chai is so ubiquitous that the word has become synonymous with tea itself, though it really does refer to a particular type of tea. I learned all of this when Chloe went to Southern India for five weeks a few years ago, and returned with wide-eyed stories of the marvelous chai she’d had throughout her travels. “It’s soooo good, Gena!” she exclaimed. “Nothing like the crap stuff at Starbucks.”

Chloe may have been right, but I’ll admit it: I remember my first Starbucks (soy) chai latte a little more than fondly. I had no idea what chai really was—I just suspected it would be sweet, and tasty, as (let’s be honest) most Starbucks beverages are. It was love at first sip. Since then, I have managed to wrest myself away from the sugary liquid mixes at Starbucks, but my love for chai flavors has yet to abate. I love buying chai teabags and brewing them in almond milk and stevia. I love them in my chia pudding. And now, I love them in my smoothies.

I’ve wanted to make a banana chai smoothie since I fell in love with my friend Brendan’s vanilla chai Vega smoothie optimizer. The chai+banana combination is a winner. I was curious to see, though, how it would be to use real chai spices in a banana smoothie, so I began to research the actual components and proportions of chai spice. I found this recipe for chai spice mix, and decided I’d modify it a tiny bit—most notably to omit the sugar. The result was the spice mix below, which you can toss into smoothies, puddings, cookies/muffins/cakes, or anything else you’d like to taste chai-like. It would be a great addition to a cup of hot almond milk!

Chai Spice Mix (yields about 1/3 cup spice mix)

2 tbsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cloves
2 1/2 tbsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. white pepper

Mix all spices together, and store in tupperware or a sealed plastic bag. Use to taste!

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Since there’s no sugar in this particular chai mix, you’ll probably want to add some healthy sweetener to anything you use the spice mix with. But the benefit here is that you can absolutely control how sweet things get.

Next, it was smoothie time. I began with a heaping teaspoon of my new spice mix, and the following was born.

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Banana Chai Smoothie (serves 1)

1 heaping tsp. chai spice mix (recipe above)
1 1/2 large bananas, frozen (or 2 small)
4 ice cubes
2/3 cup almond milk
1 tbsp almond, cashew, or coconut butter (optional!)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth.

I topped mine with a sprinkle of cinnamon, and all was right with the world.

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I always love figuring out how to make a favorite food at home. Now I have a fragrant little bag of chai spices at the ready at home, and I see many almond milk chai lattes in my near future! Hope you guys try this smoothie out soon.

And now, I’m preparing to tuck in and rest up for a jolly weekend here in D.C.—which will include a vegan cookoff dinner party! That’ll be a fun recap. For now, I’m curious to hear what’s on your weekend agendas? Whether it’s a lot or a little, I hope you enjoy it.


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{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer and Jaclyn @ sketch-free vegan January 8, 2011 at 12:30 am

Love chai spice! It’s so under-rated! I’m going to keep chai in mind next time I make my smoothie…


michelle whitney January 8, 2011 at 12:47 am

i am one of the people that wasnt to sure about what exactly chai was:) so i really appreciated this post. and making your own mix? great idea, you are always so unselfish with your recipes.


sab February 6, 2011 at 9:51 am

chai is actually the greek and egyptian words for tea


and December 29, 2013 at 9:36 am

It’s actually Persian word for tea too .
In Chinese the word is also similar, Cha .


Kim January 8, 2011 at 12:54 am

that smoothie sounds so delicious! i am definitely treating myself to one soon. my weekend plans include seeing the “forks over knives” documentary, which is debuting in my city this weekend. not as fun as a vegan cook-off dinner party though!


Elise Anderson January 8, 2011 at 1:00 am

Interestingly–though generally irrelevant to most people, I am well aware–”chai” is more than synonymous with tea throughout much of Asia. It’s actually the most general word for tea in a variety of languages. Uyghur and other Turkic languages: chay or choy. Tajik and other Persian dialects: choy or chay. Chinese: cha. And those are just from the languages I know. One can use modifying adjectives, most often colors, to specify certain types of tea in all of these languages, but chay functions as the most basic word for all teas. (It’s similar to the nan/naan phenomenon: the word actually just means “bread” in a host of languages. Predictably, this means Americans often have a redundancy issue with their “nan bread” and “chai tea.”) A bit of trivia-like knowledge for the day.


Helen January 8, 2011 at 5:33 am

It’s true… chai is just the word for tea – masala chai is the name that’s specific to what gets sold as chai. Masala means spiced.

Redundancy-wise it’s more sensible to ask for a “masala tea” than a “chai tea”!


Gena January 8, 2011 at 11:52 am

Thanks Helen! Helpful to know.


Michelle January 8, 2011 at 9:00 am

True. I have found that in america we often say chai tea or naan bread, when the words themselves chai means tea, and naan bread, alhtough a specific form of bread as opposed to roti or chapati. I have spent 5 years learning hindi, and remember laughing to myself when I went into a store and saw they were selling chai tea. Basically they were selling tea tea! This smoothie looks delicious and I will have to try!


Gena January 8, 2011 at 11:53 am

Thanks Elise! This was very educative :)


Ingrid Nevin January 8, 2011 at 8:43 pm

“Chai” is also the word for tea in Russian, as it came to Russia from India.


VeggieGirl January 8, 2011 at 1:47 am

Ooooh, fabulous combination!


Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) January 8, 2011 at 1:48 am

Hi Gena..I love that you made your own mix! GOOD! Way to control what goes into it, omitting anything that you dont absolutely adore, and of course, is probably wayyyy more economical to make your own mix.

I am sure I could google this to figure out the difference but your chai mix looks similar to what garam masala spice blend would be. Just going from memory, too tired to google it :)

I love cloves, cinnamon,cardamom, ginger…pretty much it’s all awesome. Which reminds me, that it’s also fairly similar to pumpkin pie spice mix, right? All of these mixes have the same “Base”,i.e. cinnamon, cloves, ginger, but then differ with a few extras.

It all sounds (and smells) great to me!

Enjoy your weekend! :)


bitt January 8, 2011 at 2:11 am

I love chai and spice! I thought the Starbucks were a bit sweet but other local places here make some pretty good ones. I love brewing up some rooibos chai with almond milk and extra spices. Good stuff.

Never had it as a smoothie though, I will have to try it.


Kirsten @ Cooking in Japan January 8, 2011 at 3:06 am

That looks delicious! I will have to mix some of this up pronto.

Have you tried putting chai spice in overnight oats as well? Amazing.


thefruitpursuit (Sabine) January 8, 2011 at 3:37 am

Ohhhh Gena that smoothie sounds devine! I will try it asap and let you know how it went down with me and the boy ;)


emma January 8, 2011 at 3:43 am

That looks soooo good! I love chai tea. My bestie even bought me a bag of chai teabags for my birthday last week :-) This weekend? Well today my boyfriend and I are going on a road trip to the Lake District herw in England. Cameras and picnic at the ready! xx


Mariannes January 8, 2011 at 4:14 am

Being fortunate enough to live amongst a large population of pakistani immigrants in Oslo you get to taste alot of good chai. I always get annoyed when they whip out the scary sweet yucky chai syrup. I am so going to love this – just have to run out and get some more bananas first.


Hannah January 8, 2011 at 6:29 am

Thank you so much, Gena. When you mentioned the protein powder my heart fell, as I live in Australia where I can’t access any of your American fancypants protein powders! I adore proper, spiced, made-in-a-saucepan chai tea, and *just* bought a Vitamix a fortnight ago, so this post is tremendously timely. Huzzah!


Gena January 8, 2011 at 11:52 am

I’m not such a protein powder devotee, fear not! Glad this is useful for you.


Julie J January 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Hannah, if you have access to hemp seeds, you could grind them up and you’ll have an all natural, whole food protein powder. I use 1-2 Tbsps of this in my breakfast smoothies. Hemp is the most complete source of plant-based protein (or at least that’s what the Bob’s Red Mill package I get says).


Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) January 8, 2011 at 7:06 am

Gene–this looks sooooo perfect. I love the flavor of chai and I have all of the ingredients in my pantry. I’m going to clean up my kitchen and make up the spice mix right now. Just an awesome idea!!!! I love that you do the thinking for me . . .


Loopyloobyloo January 8, 2011 at 7:53 am

Oh yes, rushing to the kitchen now! My local Starbucks has gone and we now have Neros instead – all super sugary and very much a treat to be savoured as long as possible. I have masala teabags amongst about 19 other non black teabags but somehow they’re not the same.


Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) January 8, 2011 at 8:32 am

Holy Cow! Update . . . one of the best smoothies ever!!!! Here’s how I used your blend:
1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 heaping tsp chai spice blend
2 large pitted dates
1 large frozen banana
1 Tbsp ground flax
giant handful fresh spinach
7 med ice cubes

this is sooooooo yummy!
Have I told you lately that I love you?


Gena January 8, 2011 at 11:50 am

Ha! Love you too, and this looks absolutely delicious.


Kristin (Cook, Bake, Nibble) January 8, 2011 at 8:51 am

I am actually sipping a home made vegan chai latte right now!! (steeped chai spices,frothed unsweet coconut milk, stevia)
I love me some chai! This one I will definitely try. Looks amazing!



Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day January 8, 2011 at 9:05 am

Vegan cook off party? I can’t wait to hear more about that.

I grew up around a lot of Eastern Indians and have very very fond chai memories… this smoothies sounds delicious!


Alex January 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

This post makes me want to try chai tea again! (I tried it a few times many years ago and didn’t care so much for it) Every tea deserves a second chance! :)


Ashley @ Taste for Healthy January 8, 2011 at 9:51 am

Thank you for sharing your chai spice mix recipe! I love chai, and used to always drink the pre-made mix stuff; However, these days I am turned off by the ingredients. I can’t wait to make this… it looks like heaven in a glass!

And, I can’t wait to read more of your blog!! :)


Gena January 8, 2011 at 11:50 am

Thanks Ashley!


Faith @ lovelyascharged January 8, 2011 at 10:17 am

I’m more of a coffee gal, but when I do drink tea, it’s usually chai. Those spices are so delish! I had no idea what they included, though. Your list is great for a homemade version I’ll try out once I finish my box of Celestial Seasonings. And as far as the weekend…I’m off to hot yoga and then I’m going to overhaul my closet. New job = new wardrobe…right? ;)


Melissa (It's a Veggieful Life) January 8, 2011 at 10:23 am

This looks so amazing. I had been used to Starbucks and Panera’s chai soy lattes as well and I was trying to figure out a way to make my own concoction. I’ve just started getting into raw food the last month so I’m experimenting with all sorts of different foods and methods I’ve never tried before. I can’t wait to use the chai mix in smoothies and other things.


Alayna @ Thyme Bombe January 8, 2011 at 10:46 am

Awesome, I love chai! I really don’t like the overly-sweet pre-made mixes, so this is something I would really enjoy.


Carry January 8, 2011 at 11:07 am

Whoa! I LOVE chai, but gave it up when I figured out how much sugar was in it. This looks AMAZING! It will be on table for breakfast tomorrow, guaranteed!


Sylvia January 8, 2011 at 11:26 am

I used to love Starbucks soy chai, but I worked there a few years ago and was so disgusted to see that it is a brown, slushy, sticky, oozy, liquid that gets pumped out of a metal vat. Shudder! WAY to sweet, hello high fructose corn syrup! Ughh and the worst part is so many people ask for extra pumps of it but you already get so much normally!

Anyway, great idea on the banana chai smoothie. Sounds delish! Love real chai spices, and it’s interesting to know that that’s the general name for tea in some places.


Sylvia January 8, 2011 at 11:28 am

Ew and it makes this certain gross squeezey, splashy sound when you pump it. I warn you all against it!


Namaste Gurl January 8, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Mmmm, bookmarked this lovely smoothie idea. I don’t own any cardamom sadly…. along with Garam Masala, I want both of those spices!


Kate O'Neill January 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I made the spice mix just as described (only with black pepper instead of white since I was out of white) but threw the smoothie together with two bananas, two ice cubes, about 1/3 cup of coconut milk, a few squeezes of agave nectar (I know, really precise, right?) but then a whole mess of the spice mix. I kept adding and tasting and adding and tasting, but it took a lot to get it spicy enough for my taste. But you’re right about it being great to be able to control everything just to your liking, because I am now sipping truly the most fabulous banana masala chai smoothie ever in the history of banana smoothies. Thanks for the inspiration!


Lola January 8, 2011 at 3:12 pm

OMG!! I die! bananas and chai, two of my favorite things together!
I always find it so funny when I take out my chai tea bags to make at home, and there’s a friend around and they always say something like “oh, I thought chai latte was like a cappuccino flavor from Starbucks”


Ela January 8, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Chai might be my all-time favorite: maybe love it even more than chocolate! I love how cardamom-heavy your mix is. thanks for sharing!


melissa January 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm

chai is one of my fave simple pleasures in life. i had my first taste of chai at starbucks in the form of a latte. flash forward to me spending a month in india and i was hooked forever. i’ll have to give this spice mix a try. the smell takes me back immediately and what a fond memory it is! cardamom is such a unique flavor and i often get a little happy with it haha stoked to try this out!


melissa January 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm

p.s. you could get a cup of masala chai from a vending machine in a tiny cup in india! it was like 5 rupee (at the time like 10 cents US)


Christine (The Raw Project) January 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Thanks for clearing up what chai is, it seems to have become an over-used word lately. And wow, this smoothie looks wonderful, I can’t wait to try it.


Tina January 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I must try this considering how much I love anything and everything that is chai flavored!


Sarah January 8, 2011 at 7:28 pm

This is absolutely genius. Definitely making it soon. You were getting me all excited about warm chai, but I was thinking “How can I make chai when it’s 8:30 am and it’s already 90 degrees?” A smoothie, of course! Brilliant.

(yes, I am prone to hyperbole, but really, this looks delicious)


Lisa January 8, 2011 at 9:58 pm

That sounds amazing! And, as a huge fan of Brendan’s Vanilla Chai WFHO, I’m sure I’ll love this recipe.


sophia January 9, 2011 at 1:41 am

Okay, that sounds kind of awesome, even though I’m not much of a smoothie person. banana and chai! Yum! I could add that combo into oats, too! :-)


FoodFeud January 9, 2011 at 10:06 am

Yeah, I definitely love the flavor of chai. Thanks for the spice mix, though, I was never quite sure how to recreate that. I can see it going into a lot of things but that smoothie sure looks awesome too.


Griffen January 9, 2011 at 10:18 am

i love chai. if you ever want to have a treat try Bhakti Chai. It’s local to denver, it has sugar but man it is so good. I’m gonna have to try your recipe because I love anything banana. =)


Mandy (theamazonprincess) January 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Hi Gena!

I don’t know if you remember or not, but I interviewed you (via e-mail) for one of my classes at Iowa State University about a year ago. I haven’t commented on your blog forever, but am finally getting back around to doing so because I finally started my own blog!

I’m glad to finally learn what chai is. I’ve always heard it’s delicious but was always a little intimidated to try it without knowing exactly what it was. As always, another insightful post! ;)


laura January 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm

i have never tried chai because i’m not sure what it was, now i know, i might give it a try.


Annie@stronghealthyfit January 9, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Awesome. Thanks for this, Gena! I <3 chai.


Asmi January 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

This looks delicious! BTW, you can also find chai masala at Indian and specialty/ethnic stores. All the stores in Curry Hill will have it, chai masala usually does not come with sugar added.


elise January 10, 2011 at 4:27 pm

ive been meaning to look up a chai recipe forever. the rate at which im FLYING through my tea is $$$$$ so thank you thank you thank you for this post.

hope schools going well love!


s January 11, 2011 at 12:53 am

after reading this post i had chai spice on my mind for days … ok, a day. i went out to the grocery store and got all the ingredients and it smells awesome. i love how it has a lot of cardamom! and no sugar. i can’t wait to try it in a smoothie tomorrow.


sarah January 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! I made the spice mix and then tried the smoothie with a spoonful of vanilla protein powder. It tastes exactly like eggnog! Will be making often.


Katie March 5, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Do you need to have cardamom to make this?


Kate (Bread & Chocolate) March 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I love chai – and this recipe! I added it to my smoothie post. My current smoothie fave is banana & mango – simple and sweet.


Kim June 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm

This is just what I was looking for, thanks!


Amanda January 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm

I can’t wait to try this! I found this as a pin on Pinterest! I’ve always had a great love of the Chai teas at Starbucks. (They’re the best when you ask for them with no water). Ooo….I’m cravin one now! I just started eating raw in early December and this recipe will definitely be on my list of things to make? Do you get cardamom in the spice isle?


Loriann February 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm

The smoothie sounds delicious! How do you use the mix to make your hot chai?


Corazon May 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm

It sounds amazing! And I actually have most of the ingredients, I can’t wait to try it. Thank you so much:D


Tempe Thomas November 18, 2012 at 11:27 am

I use this chai spice all the frickin time! Couldn’t find ground cardamom and I lessened the amount of pepper. I add it to my kale smoothie or my morning quinoa. DeLISH!


raechel @the rebel grrrl kitchen December 7, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I just made this and added kale. It’s SO delicious! Thank you for this!


Gena December 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm



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