- A blender is an essential tool for most kitchens, whether for the occasional smoothie or daily use.
- We tested 11, and the user-friendly, high-powered Vitamix 5200 is our favorite.
- It blends everything from smoothies to nut butter faster and more consistently than the rest.
Whether you’re a daily smoothie drinker or you tend to use your blender for everything from soups and purees to nut flours and butters, the right blender makes the process of blending, preparing, and cleaning remarkably more seamless.
Your main considerations with a blender are power, functions, and size. Most blenders can handle making a basic smoothie well (and quickly) enough, but when it comes to pureeing, or preparing any number of ingredients for baking, or making nut butter, a little guidance in the way of programming can be an immense help. That’s not to say that you can’t make just about anything in a reasonably well-built and powerful blender – all of the blenders we tested did everything we asked them to with enough coaxing – but the right one for your needs will make it all the easier.
During our tests, we made everything from frozen berry smoothies and kale smoothies to nut flour and butter, and also timed how long it took for each blender to grind up eight ounces of ice cubes into a uniform shave-ice-like consistency.
We also consulted multiple experts, who told us not to overlook how easy a blender is to clean – a factor worth considering when it comes to any expensive, hard-to-wash kitchen appliance. You can read more about our methodology below.
Here are the best blenders in 2021
- Best blender overall: Vitamix 5200
- Best mid-priced blender: Cleanblend 3HP Commercial
- Best blender on a budget: Kitchenaid K150
We consulted Erika Wong, PureFish’s in-house registered dietitian and nutritionist, who also worked as a counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her biggest concerns when choosing a blender are power (her favorite blender carries 1,380 watts), speed (at least a handful of speed settings beyond “high” and “low”), and simplicity. Too many buttons or settings corresponding to specific foods can become confusing, especially when you vary ingredient amounts. “Simplicity is key, and the control panel needs to be easy to use.”
With all of that in mind, here’s how I evaluated each of the 11 blenders I tested:
Ice: The blenders we ended up recommending were all able to evenly reduce ice cubes into shaved ice in under 10 seconds. Along with the almond flour and almond butter tests (more on those below), the ice test really set the fast, powerful machines apart from their slower, slightly rougher competitors.
Frozen strawberries: We put six ounces of frozen strawberries in each blender and set them to high in order to see how fast they turned the fruit into mush. The more powerful blenders achieved the task within about 10 seconds. The weaker ones, as well as those with a wider jar design, struggled to finish the job, leaving stray larger pieces to the side or in many cases lacerating but not separating the frozen berries.
Strawberry-banana smoothies: We made strawberry-banana smoothies using frozen strawberries and fresh bananas because of the difference in texture (and also this particular flavor combo’s popularity). Across the board, we ran into almost no issues with all of the blenders we tested. The only real difference was the time it took, which corresponded almost perfectly with increments of price. Still, it came down to about 10 to 15 seconds.
Kale smoothies: Because kale is relatively light and airy (we used curly kale), it did prove a little trickier for blenders that didn’t make a narrow vortex like the Vitamix 5200 and the Cleanblend 3HP, and the blenders with wider pitchers almost invariably required the use of a tamper. This wasn’t a big deal, but it might be a consideration for some.
Almond flour: While our budget and smoothie-only recommendations didn’t quite manage an even flour (there were chunks of almond still left behind while the flour at the bottom was beginning to turn into butter), our top recommendation performed the task flawlessly.
Almond butter: Almond butter was by far the most demanding test of them all. While we’re confident that with practice and more intimate acquaintance with each blender we could pull it off with any of them, it was a real chore with most, and several didn’t make it past the flour stage on the way to almond butter. Again, the wider jars performed the most poorly, as did the lower-powered blenders. In every case save for the Vitamix 5200, we still had whole or nearly whole almonds lingering amongst the flour while at the bottom, the flour was turning to butter.
Settings: While we tried to work with presets on those machines that had them available, they’re only useful if the set portions make sense for your needs — most of us don’t really want to make 32 ounces of nut butter at once, for example.
Wattage: We found that at the lowest end of the blenders we tested, 600 watts was still plenty of power to achieve a uniform smoothie. Similarly, while our budget pick packs 1800 watts, our overall pick carries only 1,500 watts, but runs much more smoothly and processes much more quickly. Wattage doesn’t always dictate how a blender will perform.
Cleanup: We stated this above as well, but again: Don’t underestimate the value of an easy cleanup. Some blenders had a lot of hard-to-reach spots that even a dishwasher might not always effectively hit. Others were downright perilous to clean, and we have the scars to prove it. All of our recommendations above took these considerations into account.
The best blender overall
The Vitamix 5200 is an easy-to-use, easy-to-clean blender with the power and speed variation to handle any task.
Pros: Simple but sufficient controls, powerful enough for any task, the best pitcher shape of any blender we tried
Cons: Tall, doesn’t easily fit in or under many cabinets
The Vitamix 5200 is possibly Vitamix’s most popular blender, and we think it’s the best blender out there, period. It has the power to tackle any task within reason, it accelerates and decelerates as smoothly as a finely-tuned sports car, and the design of the jar minimizes splatter.
Out of all of the blenders we tested, none performed so quickly or consistently. Through every test we ran, the 5200 came out shining, and it was the only blender to produce both almond flour and butter without any assistance (we didn’t even need to use the included tamper).
Rather than getting stuck in the corners and sides of the blending jar — as we found to be the case with other blenders, — the pile of almonds automatically and neatly folded back onto itself as it was ground first into flour and eventually butter. While there are plenty of blenders out there with a dizzying list of presets, we found this simplistic design — with nothing more than a power dial, on/off switch, and a high-power switch (which functions like the 5200‘s overdrive mode) — the easiest to operate and adjust.
Cleaning this blender was relatively easy. There are no tough-to-reach grooves or gasket channels and the blade is simple enough to work around (though it’s best to remove it for proper cleaning).
As a further vote of confidence, we went around Brooklyn noting which blenders smoothie stands were using, and this one was by far the most popular.
Now, there’s no way of getting around that this blender costs half a grand, but it will likely last you well over a decade. If spending this kind of money on a blender is out of the question, we have perfectly capable recommendations below for less than half the price.
Best mid-priced blender
The Cleanblend 3HP Commercial Blender can handle most any task nearly as well as some blenders more than twice its price.
Pros: Powerful, easy-to-use design
Cons: Not as smooth as others, bottom can’t be unscrewed for cleaning (voids warranty)
The Cleanblend 3HP Commercial Blender is a surprisingly powerful machine for its size and price. It can take on any basic task with absolute ease, and while making nut butter and almond flour is a bit of chore, it will get the job done.
We found that we needed more than the included tamping tool to scrape the butter-in-the-making off the sides multiple times before we got anywhere near the final product, and ended up having to turn the machine off and use a spatula to do so.
I’ve been testing this blender for two years and while it doesn’t operate as smoothly as some pricier options, it has no trouble reducing ice cubes to uniform shave ice in almost as little time as the Vitamix 5200, and I’ve easily made 100 smoothies and blended drinks without any issues.
Cleaning, as with the Vitamix 5200, is about as easy as it gets for a blender. The shape of the jar and the positioning of the blades doesn’t leave much in the way of hard-to-reach spaces, there are no strangely-placed gaskets, and the lid and lid cap are easy enough to take apart and clean.
The only downside is that you can’t unscrew the bottom to give that region a thorough wash. Still, in two years of testing, we haven’t noticed any alarming signs (such as mold) that would suggest anything is getting trapped in the bottom.
If you want something close to the Vitamix 5200 but just can’t reason spending so much on a blender, the Cleanblend is a great alternative and almost identical in design. Nut butter and almond flour aside, it works and cleans almost every bit as well for less than half the price.
Best budget blender
If all you’re making is the odd smoothie, the Kitchenaid K150‘s timeless design will more than suffice.
Pros: Simple single dial, easy to clean and operate
Cons: Not very good for making almond flour or nut butter, relatively low power
If you’re the type of person who only makes smoothies or frozen cocktails from time to time, you probably don’t need a state-of-the-art blender. But you still want something that will last. We should note up top that the Kitchenaid K150 is half the price of our budget pick, but that’s because we didn’t find it particularly effective if you need something that can perform a wide array of tasks outside of smoothies, soups, and purees.
When it came to making nut butters and flour, we were unable to produce either. But that’s okay; if you’re not getting too ambitious with what you blend, the Kitchenaid K150 is all you need. It has a no-fuss design with one control knob and three settings, plus a pulse setting for crushing ice.
Speaking of ice, when we were comparing blenders, one of the most telling tests was how quickly and evenly they could reduce eight ounces of ice cubes into shaved ice. This one wasn’t the fastest, but we still got the results we were looking for within about 10 seconds. We then followed with strawberry-banana and kale smoothies using ice as well. Again, it wasn’t the fastest, but within 30 seconds every time, we had perfectly thick smoothies with no inconsistencies, chunks of fruit, stalks, or leaves. Frankly, we couldn’t differentiate smoothies that came from this blender from what came from our top pick (more than four times the price).
We also like that the K150 is extremely lightweight, easy to store, and doesn’t take up much counter space. And, if you’re after the classic Kitchenaid aesthetic but want a slightly beefed-up blender, look at the larger K400, which packs 1,200 watts, five dial settings, and four presets.
What else we tested
What else we recommend and why:
Breville Super Q: Despite being a large, heavy blender with lots of buttons, this is a truly powerful appliance that runs every bit as smoothly as our top pick, but it wasn’t as convenient to clean or store (or move). If you have your eyes set on stainless steel appliances, this is a great one.
Kitchenaid K400: This model worked only marginally better than the K150, and while it holds its aesthetic, we think spending just a bit more to get the Cleanblend 3HP, our budget pick, is the wiser move. That said, if you like the looks of it (it’s our favorite blender to look at) and only ever make smoothies or frozen drinks, it won’t do you wrong.
Ninja Chef: This is Ninja’s older model, which we like better than the Foodi. As far as electronics go, this one is highly intuitive, with a dial and recommended settings that light up. As was the problem with any of the more advanced blenders we tested, the recipe settings are calibrated to produce certain amounts, which may not fit with your needs.
Vitamix 750 Professional Series: This is similar to the Vitamix 5200 in almost every way, except it’s slightly less powerful, and the jar is shorter and wider. We found the jar shape of the 5200 to be the best, and highly recommend it over any other Vitamix, unless you are preparing for larger households or parties.
What we don’t recommend and why:
Cuisinart Hurricane Pro/CBT-2000: Perfectly sufficient for making smoothies, the jar for this model was too wide for other applications, and we found bits of food tended to clump together around the edges and evade the blades.
Ninja Foodi: While this machine is affordable and offers an impressive interface, we found the basin of the jar too large for the blades, and we also found out the hard way that the blades are not affixed to the jar, so when you pour something out, the blade comes with it. We think that by and large, this needs to be addressed by the manufacturer. That aside, it obliterated ice with the best of the blenders we tested.
Vitamix A3300: This is clearly a very powerful machine, but the electronics on it were puzzling, and while we’re aware of the initial error in our ways when first loading it (not enough liquid), we received a series of error messages with no option to resolve, even after turning it on and off again. This is far too complex for most people who just want to turn a blender on and get on with their food or drink preparation.
Oster Versa: This is a heavy-duty piece of machinery, and it’s priced competitively. We just found that it didn’t blend particularly well due to the shape of the jar. If you have short storage space either in or under your cabinets, though, this one is much squatter than most other models.
What we’re testing next
Calphalon Auto-Speed Blender ($159.99): We’ve recommended this blender in the past, but haven’t tried it side by side with our new top picks. We’ll look to retest it soon, as it’s competitively priced and powerful enough to contend for our budget recommendation.
Nutribullet Full Size Blender ($99.99): This is a powerful blender for the price, and also might contend for a budget pick. We’ll plan to try it as soon as we can and report back.
Oster Blend Active Portable Blender ($29.99): We’re looking to recommend a portable, personal-sized blender as soon as we’ve tested enough available options, and will update our guide accordingly. This is currently at the top of our list, and we have already used it for smoothies, which it blended perfectly well.
What’s the difference between a blender and a food processor?
Blenders and food processors have some overlap, but blenders are better for things like smoothies, thinner purees, and whipping fresh fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens into an even consistency.
Since a food processor isn’t designed to create a vortex to suck everything in toward the blades the way that a blender is, it’s better for thicker sauces and purees, like hummus. It’s also better for things that might require fine knifework, like chopping onions or grating parmesan.
In the end, if you spend a lot of time prepping in the kitchen, you may want both, but while a blender isn’t always the best option, a good one like our top recommendation can get the job done well enough, especially with a little practice.
What’s the best way to clean a blender?
If you have a dishwasher and your blender is dishwasher-safe, the best way to clean it with confidence is to disassemble the entire jar as much as possible, taking care to separate the bottom cap and blades, where a lot of bacteria can hide out. This is also true if you’re only washing by hand, although removing and cleaning those parts is a fussier process.
The best blenders allow for easy and safe removal of the blades, some. If your blender’s blades don’t come out, your best bet is to soak it in lots of hot, soapy water, and use a coarse brush with a long handle so that you can safely and efficiently scrub at and around the blades.
Check out our other small appliance buying guides