Acai bowl recipe for someone with a lot of allergies?
April 4, 2016 8:15 AM   Subscribe

I'd really like to try making an acai bowl, since I'm curious to know what the big deal is about them. Also, they look pretty. I can't use the recipes that I'm finding online, since they all seem to include bananas, and some also include nuts. Any good ideas?

I'm allergic to raw bananas and all tree nuts. All the ones I can find in local restaurants share the same problem. I'm happy to substitute something for the banana, but since I've never had one, I'm not sure what role it's playing in the recipe. Flavor, texture, sweetness? If it's purely flavor, I could microwave a banana and refreeze it, but that will impact the texture a good deal. I have milder allergies to other fruits when raw, but am generally OK with berries, apples, grapes, and pineapple. Peaches and cherries are NG, though. Immediate hives.

I did find one recipe that substituted spinach, which seems unappealing, and a suggestion to try chia seeds, which I'd rather not go out and buy unless it's just the best way. Would yogurt work?
posted by chocotaco to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Here is a recipe that might be safe for you.
The banana is primarily to make it be thick, so it's a smoothie you eat with a spoon not drink from a glass. Instead of banana, substitute a half avocado. It sounds like you can really just make a smoothie that includes frozen acai puree and any other healthy fruity things that you like to eat, along with something to help it thicken (banana, avocado, flax seed, frozen fruit or ice) and top it with something healthy and pretty, and call it good. Nuts are often included to add a bit of fat and protein for nutritional balance, so in your case consider pumpkin or sunflower seeds?
posted by aimedwander at 8:23 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am assuming you mean something similar to a thick smoothie in a bowl, topped with various fun toppings? You can definitely make smoothies without bananas, although I think a microwaved and cooled banana would also work just fine. Avocado or yogurt can do a good job of adding the creamy element from banana, and dates (or even just a little honey) can add sweetness. I also wouldn't turn my nose up at spinach in smoothies, although I don't consider it a sub for bananas -- but adding a handful or so of baby spinach adds lots of nutrients and doesn't seem to affect the flavor too much (at least for me) - but that's definitely skippable if you don't like the idea.

I would start my experiment with the basics and add on until you get what you want. So, start with just acai and maybe one other fruit (strawberries are a good choice), blended up with ice until thick. Then give it a taste and add some of the following to get the effect you want:
--coconut or dairy milk or yogurt for creaminess
--avocado and/or sunflower seed butter for richness
--dates or honey for sweetness

Once you get the flavor and texture where you like it, add on whichever of the toppings appeal to you from various recipes and are things you can eat (these are totally mix and match).

Good luck!
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:26 AM on April 4, 2016

Are you allergic to mangoes? I've read that they're a good substitution for bananas in smoothies (though I haven't tested this myself), because they're similar in density and sweetness.
posted by whoiam at 9:54 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about tofu and then a bit of honey/syrup if you need more sweetness? I'm not picky about the type/firmness but others have Opinions, so you may wish to experiment.
posted by teremala at 10:03 AM on April 4, 2016

I always get it with avocado. I have an extreme aversion to bananas and it's an almost imperceptible difference, plus I love avocados. My ideal acai bowl :

- acai base
- avocado
- almond butter
- peach or strawberries
- honey to taste

Favorite toppings include granola, coconut, pineapple, strawberries, and honey.
posted by Marinara at 1:57 PM on April 4, 2016

These are great ideas! One quick update: I'm also allergic to sunflower seeds, argh.
posted by chocotaco at 2:04 PM on April 4, 2016

Nthing avocado. A few other choices: pasteurized egg whites add a nice texture (plus protein!) to smoothies and basically no discernible flavor; I used to add them to protein shakes, though they get a little spendy. You could also try adding some psyllium husk, which is also a very good source of fiber. Adding soaked chia seeds (they expand and form a kind of gel) is another trendy/healthy way to make smoothies thicker. You could also try adding pectin, xanthan gum, pumpkin or squash puree, or silken tofu.

(This site recommends psyllium husk and xanthan gum together in a blender. I suspect the main important point is blending as opposed to stirring the psyllium husk; a lot of protein powders are completely clumpy and disgusting if you stir and don't at least shake in a shake flask. But I haven't tried it personally.)
posted by en forme de poire at 2:55 PM on April 4, 2016

I haven't tried all of the ideas, so am not marking a best answer, but am updating to note that I tried the unsweetened acai with avocado and no sweetener and.....boy, is that tart. So, a sweeter fruit or honey is probably a good idea. Thanks, all!
posted by chocotaco at 10:45 AM on April 7, 2016

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