I first fell in love with acai bowls during an adventure in Southern California. My LA native friend made an acai bowl cafe our first stop of the day, gushing "YOU WILL TOTALLY LOVE THIS PLACE". I indeed loved it, along with the rest of Huntington Beach. The line to get one was out trailing out the door, there was boxes of banana piled sky-high, and everyone digging into a bowl looked so darn happy - no further marketing needed.
When my acai bowl finally came out, I sat staring at it for a few seconds, spoon frozen in hand. The acai base was a lush deep purple and prettily topped with a medley of colourful fresh fruit, shredded coconut and golden bee pollen. Almost too pretty to eat, emphasis on *almost*…taste-wise it was fresh and light, yet surprisingly satisfying - the ultimate summery breakfast! I was totally sold and bookmarked it to recreate back in NZ.
…back it up a bit. Acai what?
Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) is a small (2.5cm round) dark purple-skinned fruit that grows on acai palms, mostly native to Brazil. Taste-wise, it’s an earthy hybrid that sits kinda between wild berries and unsweetened dark chocolate. Although the acai berry has been a traditional staple food for Amazonian tribes for centuries (where it commonly grows), in more recent years it has gained mass popularity, with a rapidly growing global demand that now sees it cultivated in larger amounts.
The fresh berries have a short shelf life, making them unavailable outside of where they’re grown - instead they’re exported as either juice, frozen fruit pulp or freeze-dried powder; the two latter blended with other fruit to make a smooth dessert-like breakfast, coined the popular acai bowl.
The consistency of acai bowls are in-between a soft-serve ice cream or really thick smoothie that totally needs a spoon. It’s typically served with an instagramable array of tasty toppings e.g. extra fresh fruit, crunchy granola, coconut chips or a drizzle of nut butter. Yum.
The Nutritional Down-Low
The wee acai berry has a diverse and interesting nutritional content. Per 1/2 cup fresh berries, it’s a decent source of dietary fat for a fruit (8.4g, with some coming from essential omega-3 and omega-6), dietary fibre (8.9g, which makes up most of the carbohydrates totaling 9.4g) (1), and, most notably, antioxidants - even edging out other fruit in the antioxidant department, like blueberries and cranberries (2). These come from a variety of plant compounds, such as the flavonoid plant-pigment anthocyanin (3) which contribute to acai’s dark purply hue.
Antioxidants help minimise cell-damaging free-radicals which have gone rouge within our body - think of antioxidants kinda like the police and free-radicals the baddies. Antioxdiants run around pairing up with free-radicals, restoring balance on the (sometimes mean) streets of our body.
Because of its antioxidant content acai berries are often marketed as a ‘superfood’; which, if you’re unfamiliar and according to a generic google definition, are ‘nutrient-rich foods considered to be beneficial to health’. To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the term. It’s a little exploited in food marketing (and eating a range of colourful fruit and vegetables is the best way to get a good range of antioxidants, rather then celebrating a single source!). However, I do enjoy acai powder, and love using it to make acai bowls!
This is Not Your Traditional Acai Bowl, I Repeat.
Traditional acai bowl recipe is essentially frozen acai pulp/freeze dried acai powder paired with other frozen fruit (e.g. banana), with a little liquid to blitz up. This is not that. While I have tried not to butcher the original recipe, this is a version a little more suitable for breakfast as a ‘balanced’ meal. As blended fruit doesn’t keep us full for a wildly long amount of time, I have altered the recipe to include more whole food fat (avocado) and protein (in the from of a protein powder). These nutrients will slow digestion - which means energy for longer!
There's a huge amount of variation in how you want to serve your acai bowl - try out different liquids, combinations of frozen fruit or toppings, whatever. Play and make it your own!
Breakfast Acai Bowl
2/3 cup liquid of choice (e.g. almond milk or coconut water)
3/4 cup frozen mixed berries
1 frozen banana (peel and slice into coins before freezing)
1/2 serving unflavoured protein powder (I used an unflavoured pea protein. You could also do a vanilla, but keep it mind it may alter taste)
2 tbsp freeze-dried acai powder
Optional: 1x tsp mānuka honey/runny honey
Optional topping ideas
Nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, nutty granola/muesli, cacao nibs, nut butter or coconut chips.
1. Add all ingredients (except the toppings) to the blender and blitz until thick and smooth.
2. Pour into a bowl. Sprinkle with the toppings of your choice. Dig in!
1) Analysed by Cronometer