With June upon us and our quarter-system friends finally getting out of school, it’s safe to say summer is in full swing. During these weeks, it’s nice to catch up with friends (or catch up on your me-time) with a summer treat. Açaí bowls are refreshing and delicious, but when it comes to taste, cost and effort, are homemade versions better? Here’s a breakdown of three different bowls so you can make the best decision when you satisfy your summer craving for açaí.
For the homemade bowl, I loosely followed this recipe from Food Network and used these açaí packets from Sambazon. First, I removed 2 packets from the freezer, heated them under warm water, and put them in a blender. It’s hard to get the açaí texture exactly right – some of the packet melts while most of it remains frozen. Regardless, I added about ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk per Sambazon’s instructions, then blended that mixture with ½ cup of blueberries and 1 banana. Finally, I topped the bowl with another ½ banana, dark chocolate granola and honey.
In the end, this açaí bowl was all right. The smoothie-like texture left something to be desired, but that was likely due to my own error. With the ingredients I used, the bowl wasn’t as sweet as I expected, so beware of that when using açaí packets. Even though I didn’t go crazy with toppings, the ability to customize make-your-own açaí bowls is endless! And two packets is way more than enough for one açaí bowl. If you’re creative in the kitchen, spending $8 for four açaí packets could be great for you and your breakfasts. However, if you hate preparing food or don’t have a blender, maybe steer clear of this option.
Smoothie bar chain (Jamba Juice)
One of the most accessible places to grab an açaí bowl no matter what part of California you’re in is the one and only Jamba Juice. While this large-scale chain is known for its delicious smoothies, it also offers oatmeal, sandwiches and you guessed it — açaí! I purchased the Acai Primo Energy Bowl for $7.29 (including tax) and was pleasantly surprised with the presentation. Although not as aesthetically pleasing as other açaí bowls on the market, Jamba Juice’s offering was bright, diverse in toppings and large enough to fill me up for a meal.
If you’re looking for a super sweet açaí bowl, this is the place to go. The açaí mixture definitely packs a punch and the sweetness is only emphasized by the fruit on top. The texture didn’t quite resemble the classic açaí consistency, but it was thicker than the homemade version. What Jamba Juice lacks, though, is the ability to customize your açaí bowl. Sure, it provides a few different options of bowls, but where’s the fun in selecting a bowl that’s already been made? Regardless, Jamba Juice is a great on-the-go option if you’re looking for a larger bowl. If you’re a stickler on your toppings, however, maybe go for a different method for getting your açaí.
Local smoothie bar (Ubatuba Açaí)
In addition to considering a well-known chain, I wanted to try açaí bowls from a smaller and more local smoothie bar. Enter Ubatuba Açaí, which specializes in açaí bowls and empanadas in five locations throughout Southern California. I ordered what seemed to be the most classic option: the Brazilian açaí bowl (listed as the Ubatuba Açaí Bowl on its website). Because I’m cheap, I purchased the smallest size for $7 and quickly realized that small meant small. The bowl itself was only about one cup in total — maybe a little more.
In terms of presentation, Ubatuba’s bowl was very aesthetic — definitely worthy of an Instagram story. The bowl comes with açaí, strawberries, bananas, granola, honey and one extra topping (I chose coconut). The eating experience was sadly not as aesthetic. While the bowl tasted great, the granola and coconut were smaller than normal and easily got caught in my teeth. The açaí and fruit did provide great contrast, and Ubatuba has lots of interesting toppings such as kiwi, protein powder and vegan carob chips that allow customers to mix and match. Still, while the variety is appreciated, I would rather spend $7 on a bowl with a little more sustenance.
Ultimately, each of these bowls has its pros and cons, and my favorite bowl may be your least favorite because of different açaí priorities. In the end, I prefer the homemade açaí bowl, but only slightly. While I might save time by purchasing from Jamba Juice, I like that the homemade bowl is cheaper long-term. And although Ubatuba’s offering won on taste for me, it wasn’t enough to justify the small portion. Plus, I can continue to experiment with whatever toppings I want! Still, wherever you stand on the açaí bowl debate, I hope your summer is full of opportunities to enjoy this sweet treat.