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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 14 2010

5 Sweet and Savory Primal Shakes

By Worker Bee
130 Comments

Some days, a fork and spoon can feel like a bit of a hassle. Okay, not really, but the temptation to simply drink our food is one we give into now and then when convenience is a priority. A Primal shake is a good way to mix things up, treat yourself to a healthy snack in the afternoon or add a little extra something to an evening meal. Some shakes, even without the addition of dairy or added sugar, can even satisfy a hankering for dessert.

When you’re making a shake, it’s tempting to throw anything that looks good into the blender, stick a straw in it and suck it down. But be careful; what started as a healthy snack or meal-replacement can quickly turn into a huge glass of carbs and sugar.

In the following recipes we avoid this pitfall by limiting sweeteners and starting our shakes with a solid base of healthy fats, ideally, 50-70% of the total calories. Coconut milk, nut butters and avocado are a good starting point, and you don’t have to choose just one. Coconut milk and nut butters are practically decadent together and coconut milk with avocado is a soothing combination worth trying. The avocado loses all its savory inclinations and blends into a shake with a slightly sweet flavor and incredibly creamy texture.  An occasional spoonful of seeds will add fat too, as will a drizzle of coconut or olive oil, or an egg if you’re so inclined. Which leads us to the next layer in our shakes: protein.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to shoot for 10-30 grams or so of protein. Again, nut butters are great for this, and a scoop of whey protein can boost the protein content of any shake. Once you have your fat and protein in place, the last thing to consider is keeping the carbs in check.

Try not to total more than 25 g per shake; the lower the better. Though, of course the precise carb count will depend on your particular goals. Berries work well here. Their carb/antioxidant ratio is tough to beat and they’re high in flavor, so a mere 1/2 cup is usually plenty.

Even if you concoct the perfect ratio of fat, protein, and carbs, it’s all for naught if the shake doesn’t taste good. If you throw ingredients into a blender in clean-out-the-fridge mode you might end up with some questionable flavors and colors. Then again, you might stumble onto some combinations that are pure genius. We already mentioned the avocado/coconut combination we stumbled upon. We’re equally fond of the refreshing combination of blueberries and kale, and a savory shake made with tomato and cucumber. We’ve provided recipes for these shakes and a few more to get you started, but experimenting is the best way to come up with your own favorite. For example, the last two recipes are delicious as-is but are low in fat, so you might want to either add some fat or create them as a complement to a fatty Primal meal.

Tell us what you think in the comment board. Share your thoughts on your personal favorite Primal Shake concoctions. Grok on!

Coconut Avocado

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 scoop whey protein
  • 2-4 tablespoons water (optional, if needed for texture)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup ice

FitDay says:

Calories: 461
Fat: 36.2 g
Carbs: 17.2 g
Protein: 26.9 g

 

Chocolate Almond

  • 3 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 – 1 cup ice
  • 2-4 tablespoons water (or other liquid)

FitDay says:

Calories: 519
Fat: 43.7 g
Carbs: 16.5 g
Protein: 26.0 g

Spicy Tomato

  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/4 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/3 cup frozen spinach or a small handful raw spinach
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce or black pepper, or to taste
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 1/2 cup ice

FitDay says:

Calories: 148
Fat: 10.9 g
Carbs: 13.2 g
Protein: 3.1 g

Berry-based shakes tend to be higher in carbs and lower in fat, which is why we prefer drinking them right before or after a meal that is high in fat and protein, like eggs or steak. You can, however, up the fat content in either of these shakes by adding half an avocado, a spoonful of coconut milk or oil,  nut butter, or yogurt if you eat dairy.

Vanilla Berry

  • 1/3 cup frozen berries
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1 scoop whey protein
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • sprinkle of cinnamon or fresh mint

FitDay says:

Calories: 177
Fat: 0.9 g
Carbs: 26.5 g
Protein: 17.9 g

Blueberry Kale

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup coconut water
  • 1 stalk kale, chopped (stem removed). Kale is easiest to blend if you either boil it for 1-2 minutes or put it in the freezer for 30 minutes or so.
  • 1 scoop whey protein

FitDay says:

Calories: 166
Fat: 1.8 g
Carbs: 22.8 g
Protein: 19.9 g


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130 thoughts on “5 Sweet and Savory Primal Shakes”

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  1. Blended fruit smoothies are one of my favourite sweet treats I get from my girlfriend. I`m gonna definitely try these recipes out because now we mostly make them from frozen berries, bananas and pears. This is something new and interesting!

  2. My favorite is a half cup of heavy cream, about a quarter cup of blackberries, a scoop of egg protein, a bit of ice and a little sweetener if the berries are a little tart.

    Heaven in a glass. 🙂

  3. Chocolate whey protein and avocado mix well with water and make a pretty good shake for race day. I didn’t believe it until I tried it out.

  4. We use fresh, young, Thai coconuts often in our smoothies. Alternatively, almond milk or hazelnut milk works well as a liquid base, too. If we want the coconut flavor, but don’t have coconut milk or fresh coconut, using a tablespoon of coconut oil works, too.

    Frozen bananas are also a great way to ‘thicken’ a sweet shake, but we’ve never tried avocado. Great idea!

  5. We’ve found that our Vitamix blender makes short work of Kale if you put it in first with a little water, no need for boiling or freezing.
    Thanks for posting these recipes I’m looking forward to trying them out!

  6. Does kale work if you’re making your smoothies in an ordinary blender? (as opposed to a high-powered one/a Vitamix) Some of us aren’t yet so blessed!

    Have never tried it, for fear it wouldn’t blend sufficiently.

    1. not really-you really need a Ktec or Vitamix to break down the fiber of the kale. But if you have hypothyroid be sure to cook yr kale first before blending (kale is goiterogenic)

        1. seriously $20 vs $389 (costco canada). an increase of just 5 notches but almost 20 times the price. my 25 year-old $20 also does just fine. it’s this offhanded arrogance that sometimes comes with paleo that is sooooo tedious. not everyone can drop hundreds of dollars to turn their veggies into a slurry–which seems oddly unpaleo

      1. What a great idea! And I can’t tell you how much Kale I’ve wasted because it does go bad rather quickly. I can’t always eat Kale as fast as it goes bad. Also I’ve posted your article on my blog “Old Is The New Black” because more of *us* should be eating better and Kale is the best but not particularly good boiled or made into chips. Thanks!

  7. Mark, you have this incredible ability to write a post on whatever my mind has been thinking about lately…I’ve been thinking about trying to make more shakes as of late(possibly investing in a vitamix) and then you write an awesome post like this. I will have to try these out with my current blender..they look awesome.

  8. Sorry for the double post…but where do you all suggest getting all these coconut products(water, milk)? I have some coconut oil but cannot find the other two that easily at my local grocery.

    1. If your supermarket has an international section (most do) you can find coconut milk with the Thai foods. Whole Foods has a house brand coconut milk which is the only one I’ve encountered that will turn into near-custard if you put it in the fridge–kind of primal pudding!

    2. you can find coconut milk in the ethnic aisle with the asian foods, and coconut water can generally be found in the baking aisle.

      1. Making coconut milk is easy!!!

        2 cups organic desiccated unsweetened coconut

        6 cups hot water

        Pour 3 cups hot water over coconut in blender and let sit for 20 minutes.
        Blend for 2-3 minutes and pour through fine sieve into container, pressing to remove most of the liquid. Add remaining 3 cups of hot water to blender, along with coconut pulp in sieve and let sit for another 20 minutes. Blend again and press through sieve. Discard pulp. Refrigerate or freeze milk in 1 cup portions (or whatever size you want/need)

        You will never need to buy canned coconut milk again!

  9. 4 oz. Coconut milk kefir
    4 oz. water
    1 raw egg
    1 scoop chocolate whey protein
    1/2 banana
    spoonful almond butter
    spoonful coconut oil

    Filling and satisfying

  10. If kale is too bitter for some – spinach is a great replacement (1-2 Cups). Avocado is definitely adds some creaminess to a shake! I throw in some wheatgrass as well.

  11. Beautiful pictures, by the way.

    I liked to add raw, pastured or organic egg yolks and coconut oil to my smoothies. A friend adds coconut flour for added fiber and protein.

  12. 1/4 c coconut milk
    a little water
    1/4 c pumpkin
    1/2 banana
    1 egg
    1t. vanilla

    1. This sounds unbelievably good. Think you could add a bit of cinnamon? It might taste like a pumpkin pie.

      I’m having this tomorrow (I’d have it right now if I wasn’t going to bed).

      Thanks!

  13. I’m sitting here at work eating my big salad, but now I wished I had a smoothie for lunch. I wonder if anyone would notice if I plugged a blender in underneath my desk? haha.

  14. Great looking shakes…I like adding about 1/4 cup whole plain yogurt to my shakes. Really gives them a creamy texture.

    1. I use greek yogurt too. I couldn’t figure out why none of these recipes were using it….. because it’s dairy I suppose, but I don’t have any trouble with dairy, so…. yum!

  15. And in case you don’t want all the yummy fat in an avocado, the stores now sell Lite avocados with 30% less fat… WHAT??? I can’t believe that some idiot scientist decided to screw with the avocado and take out the fat… next thing they’ll make coconut oil with 0% saturated fat.

  16. Here’s a recipe that I like a lot:
    2 scoops whey protein
    water

    harden up.

  17. Doesn’t being primal somehow indicate that we should be using the chewing mechanism for food (which a shake is).

      1. well, I use botanical deoderants, etc. But point well taken. I just wonder whether the chewing mechanism is important in the digestive process.

  18. There is a blog I follow “Oh She Glows” and she makes “Green Monsters”. It’s amazing how much spinach or kale can be thrown into a shake yet not tasted when fruit and coconut water is added. Very healthy and clean:)

    These are yummy recipes, thanks for sharing Mark!

    Babs

  19. I love doing green smoothies. They really pack a bunch of nutrients into my breakfast. You’re right though, many smoothies end up being sugar traps. I hate that so many smoothie places load sugar into the blender. Fruit is naturally sweet on it’s own. No sugar needed!

  20. My wife & I share a smoothy every morning. Half cup frozen berries, 2 scoops whey protein, a little fruit juice, a lotta water, liquid D3, and liquid fish oil. That holds us over for a while.

  21. What about using raw eggs in smoothies? Much cheaper than whey protein. If you wash the shells, there’s a very low chance of getting salmonella. I’ve been making eggnog-y smoothies with egg, cream milk and cinnamon.

  22. I am eager to try these shakes out. In the meantime I drank this for my postworkout tonight:
    1 cup almond milk
    1 cup raspberries (frozen)
    25 g whey protein

    What a great snack following a great kettlebell routine!

  23. What a wonderful post, Mark! I have a smoothie for breakfast every day, but mine is pretty boring with just coconut milk, water, and whey. This will help me to shake things up a bit, so to speak!

    And thank you so much for including whey in your ingredients. People poo-poo whey a lot on the forums but it really is an efficient way for busy people like me to pack on the protein at 6am on a work/school day!!

  24. Mark…

    What about the insulin spike all of these shakes are going to cause (yes even whey protein will spike insulin and cause an increase of IGF-1)?

    Why not just eat real food, with fiber?

    I believe these are about as un-primal as it can get when it comes to regulating hormone levels. Adding fat isn’t going to stop the insulin as much as people think here.

    Go eat a grass-fed steak. Its better all together.

    1. I have to say as a type 1 diabetic that it is true that whey protein powder raises blood sugar- a scoop of whey protein raises my blood sugar about as much and as quickly as a gala apple.

      That being said- I think that most of the readers at Mark’s Daily Apple are comfortable eating apples, so…

  25. When I am too lazy to clean a blender, I make a morning “shake” in a saucepan. Melt 1 tbsp of cocoa powder in warm water (I shut off the flame when it reaches 110F), then mix in 2 tbsp of whey protein and plenty of heavy cream. This works great with coconut oil instead of the cream, but then you need the blender to make a nice emulsion (in which case I might throw in 1/8 tsp cinnamon and a bit of hazelnut butter).

    Libby, I love eggs, but the bulk whey protein isolate I’m using is cheaper for a given amount of protein (it’s about $7.50/lb). I can’t get decent eggs for less than $3.50 a dozen, and the good ones cost $6+ at the farm market.

  26. If your goal is fat loss, is it ok to start using coconut milk in smoothies instead of water?

    1. If you don’t get a kind filled with sugar.

      Unsweetened coconut milk is low-cal, has almost zero carbs, and good fats (MCTs).

      1. I was thinking…

        165ml of lite coconut milk (thats the size of the small can here in Aus)
        100grams of berries
        25grams of whey protein isolate
        ice?

        its about 10grams of carbs, 30 grams protein and 15grams of fat…thats not to much fat to have in one meal?

  27. Man, I tried the coconut milk/avocado shake yesterday and was pretty disappointed. In my pre-paleo days, I used to make avocado shakes with vanilla ice cream and they were quite tasty. Apparently all the flavor was coming from the ice cream because this version didn’t get me off at all.

    1. I tried the coconut avocado one too and was disappointed. I might mess around with a few spices first to see if I can change the taste. It’s a very nice base.

      Onto chocolate almond tomorrow.

  28. Do you use rice or hemp protein? I keep seeing whey protein and am curious about the loyalty to whey.
    Thanks!

  29. surprisingly good in the spicy tomato smoothie instead of the avocado- 1 oz frozen liver. I use a vitamix and it comes out creamy- almost like cool spicy bisque.

  30. Hello, could any body tell me about the biofed back interface machine.. Is it a good thing or just another hoax.. I went to a Naturopathic doctor, he put a band around my forehead and i placed my feet on what looked like bathroom scales, it had numbers on it, he proceeded with the test which lasted for about an hour, i could feel electric like impulses in my feet, he told me that i had a lot of lead in my system and that my arteres had as lot of plaque.. He wanted me to take collidoial silver, b2, b6, b12 and largentine also cystein for the lead.. Does this machine really tell all of this abut your health? thanks for any help with this.. kathy

    1. Please do NOT ingest collidoial silver – it’s a heavy metal and toxic. Naturopaths are good (though you have to be careful because most states don’t regulate them) but this guy sounds like a quack.

  31. Mark, Would you recommend any of these shakes as a post-workout drink following some strength training? I was thinking of trying the avocado/coconut? Do you have any other post workout shake suggestions? Thanks

  32. We make Kefir shakes, I have a couple I rotate, one is 2 cups Milk Kefir, 1 Tbs Coconut Oil, 1 Tbs Almond Butter, 1/2 Banana, 1 tsp Vanilla. Very good!

    Another is 2 cups Milk Kefir, 1 Tbs Coconut oil, 1 cup Blueberries, 1/8 cup apple juice. Also very good!

  33. I made the vanilla berry the other day and I have trouble finding the right consistency. Quick suggestion: Maybe instead of regular coconut water you could try Vita Coco, the coconut water beverage. Since it has a bunch of different flavors you could mix and match with the drink you’re making. The discount word is 2BUCKVIT at http://bit.ly/c78qe7

    Anyway I love the pictures, I look forward to checking out future posts.

  34. I went to the store the other day and I couldn’t find any coconut milk. However, I did buy a box of hemp milk. In regards to taste and texture do you guys think that hemp milk would be an acceptable substitute to coconut milk?

  35. For the chocolate almond shake, is there something else i can use instead of cocoa powder? Like cinnamon?

  36. Thanks for the recipes, I love shakes! Just made a big yummy one for two or more people

    1 cup strawberries
    ½ cup blueberries
    1/4 cup lingonberries
    ½-1 avocado
    1 raw egg (organic free range)
    1 scoop whey powder
    Enough water to blend
    Opt. ½ frozen banana

    Kind of over the top but very gooood 🙂

  37. Hey are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  38. I’m drinking a smoothie for dinner as we speak – half an avocado, an egg, greek yogurt, banana, cherries, and spinach. delicious!

    1. Hahah I was wondering the same thing! Was expecting a plug for the toadally primal smoothies for sure.

    1. These damn WordPress spammers have been relentless lately. Looks like this one slipped through.

  39. This looks divine! I would have tried one of these right now except that I already had my own (and not as delicious) smoothie: 1/2 cup coconut milk, 2 raw eggs, 1 tablespoon of raw cocoa powder dissolved in a bit of water, 1 packet of stevita.

  40. Question: what does ‘vanilla’ mean? Vanilla extract? Raw vanilla?

    Thanks!

  41. The avocado shake is..eh. But I added some taco bell HOT packets and its palatable.

  42. I started having smoothies for breakfast about 2 months ago (about 5 days a week). I can’t believe how good they make me feel throughout the day. I almost have to force myself to eat lunch, and even by dinner time, I still don’t get hungry! This is my typical smoothie, though I rotate ingredients.
    I try and use all organic when possible.
    1 small carrot, 1 or 2 stalk celery, 1/4 fennel bulb (anise bulb and stem-adds a licorice/anise/sweet flavor)1 cup frozen kale, 8 cabbage leaves(vary the type), a few Romaine leaves, fistful of parsley, 1/4 cucumber, 1/2 teaspoon powder each of the following-Turmeric, Ginger, Cummin, Cinnamon, cocoa, occasionaly kelp powder,black pepper, a bit of Himalayan salt. 1/2 Lemon or Lime juice.
    2 raw eggs, 2 tablespoons cream, 1 tablespoon virgin Coconut oil, 2 tablesoons lemon flavored cod liver oil,
    1 tablespoon olive oil, plus (on occasion) 1 heaping tablespoon sour cream and/or full fat greek yogurt,
    Add or 2 cups water ’til desired texture. Occasionally add a few frozen bluberries, plus 2 frozen pineabble cubes. FInally, 2 scoops portein powder.
    Unbelievable!

      1. When you add cocoa and/or bluberries,
        the color is a light brown (not as appealing as the light green color when you omit them), but the flavor is more “full-bodied”, or richer. The cream, yogurt, and sour cream tends to lighten the color.

  43. Try adding a spoonful of coconut butter (or coconut cream concentrate, whatever you like to call it) to the coconut-avocado one. Its HEAVEN.

  44. Do you use canned coconut milk or So Delicious coconut milk? There’s a big difference in fat and calorie content, seem like very different products.

  45. I use So Delicious unsweetened (50 cal per cup) coconut milk – what kind do these recipes refer to? The nutritional value is quite different.

  46. Does anyone know what kind of coconut milk these recipes call for? I use So Delicious original unsweetened (50 cal.) Do the above recipes call for canned, full-fat coconut milk?

  47. I make a protein shake most mornings. I use a hemp protien, which I really like and read that it is better than whey or egg. I add a banana, some blueberries, ice and water. Any concerns out there with using a protein powder?

  48. I use carrots a lot in my smoothies cause they sweeten things up.

  49. I learned the ago and coconut thing a few years ago and use it as base for many different smoothies. One of my have ways is to add a grapefruit to it. Delicious!
    I also add cucumber and lemon juice, spinach
    Sometimes i make it without as much liquid and then add some toasted coconut flakes and it’s like a dessert.

  50. I would like to send you a sample of our protein blend, it is a combination of whey hydrosolate, whey isolate, and soy protein. This tri-sorb blend is best for slow, medium, and quick absorption of protein. It will give you the best absorption with no added fat and no sugar, only 7 carbs, 5 of it is patented fiber.

  51. Having started Primal today, I decided to give my brand new blender a go…

    1/2 cup blueberries and strawberries (frozen)
    1/2 cup coconut milk
    5 macadamia nuts
    about a tablespoon of caocao nibs (raw)

    Blended together and the result was very yummy…I like bits in my smoothie so the texture of the nuts and caocao nibs worked well for me as well as making it a chocolate berry shake!

  52. First post here. I tried the coconut-avocado smoothie today. Surprisingly very good, though the whey left a bit of an artificial sugar aftertaste (at least I think it was the whey). Keep the ideas coming. I like this place.

  53. I made this recipe as is, except that I doubled the recipe so as to use a whole avocado up at once, and I included some of the lemon zest too. I used some black pepper, and nixed the hot sauce. The resulting taste of the shake seemed too heavy to me, perhaps because of the avocado or spinach. So I added more tomato and cucumber. It still needed lightening up, so I added maybe a teaspoon of (homemade) horse radish. OK, now it’s brighter! Sadly, all those raw primal ingredients hurt my newby primal stomach, so I’ll have to go easy on this stuff. I’m looking forward to trying the chocolate almond shake next!

  54. I like avocado, berries, coconut milk and afew macadaemia nuts. It goes really thick.(I use a cup of frozen berries and half an avocado)

  55. I just wanted to add that I use the raw home-grown eggs from our own chickens and heat some organic beef or chicken broth till steaming and add the egg and stir quickly -then add some tobasco-( or our home-made pepper blend) Makes a good pick me up between meals and no carbs.

  56. Here is one of my favorites when I’m in the mood for a tropical Primal Smoothie.

    I call it a Pina Colada Kale Smoothie:

    1 cup Coconut Milk

    1/2 cup Frozen Pineapple Chunks

    1/2 cup Frozen Kale

    Handful of Ice

  57. I’m going to try some tomatoes in my shake now. Had a crazy idea, searched it, and found this page, so I’m giving you credit if it’s a success!

  58. *Can anyone recommend a good paleo smoothie/ shake book? I love the generosity of people sharing their paleo smoothies here, but I would love a book with lots of recipes in one place. After researching “healthy smoothie” books online, I found them to be too high in carbs, low in protein, lacking nutrition info or lacking ingredient quantities or which flavors tend to go well together. I understand that a paleo purist may ask “Why even make smoothies”? But, I have a Son w/ Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, & sometimes a liquid diet is all he can keep down. (Such as Ensure, which is full of so much crap it scares me. 1st 4 ingred. are corn syrup, maltodextrin, sugar & corn oil- Akkk!)! The science & my newbie experience with Paleo convince me that this is how humans are meant to eat. I appreciate any help ya’ll can offer!

  59. Nice post. Thanks for sharing it with me. I was looking for information related to this topic. This entry was very useful to me. I will definitely stay here again looked.

  60. Do I have to be concerned about drinking smoothies too quickly and spiking my blood sugar? How long should it take to drink a smoothie?
    thanks!

  61. Maybe I’m missing something here, but how is there so much protein in that chocolate almond shake? I don’t see whey protein included as an ingredient.