Banana and chocolate smoothies milk put a glass on a wooden background.

Better Than Ice Cream: Frozen Cocoa Banana Smoothie Recipe

Once upon a time, I had a pretty serious relationship with all things ice cream. As a young child, my dad and I bonded over our love for our two favorite flavors: maple nut and butter brickle. In high school, I spent my daily lunch money on a chocolate shake. Before I could drive, I would run several miles to a local Dairy Queen to get my favorite treat of all - a chocolate soft serve crunch cone.

As the years went by, I realized that I had an addiction to not just ice cream, but sugar. I knew I had to eat better, but it wasn't until I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue in my 30's that I began eating better to feel better. It took some time, but I learned to enjoy raw and unprocessed versions of sweet foods as much, if not more, than the standard fare. Dates became my candy, kombucha my replacement for soda, and this frozen cocoa banana smoothie became my new ice cream.

The recipe here isn't raw or green like it was back then, but it is just as delicious and uses easier-to-find ingredients. Since my myeloma diagnosis, it has become my go-to food when I'm too fatigued to make an entire meal. Not only does it satisfy my cravings for sweets and ice cream, but it is also one of the few foods I can tolerate with a low appetite or nausea. Unlike its DQ counterpart, it is high in protein, fiber, minerals, and antioxidants - all with no added sugar!

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A few notes about the ingredients and equipment


I think nothing of forking over $500 or more for a good blender, so I own a Vitamix. Regular blenders, however, will work just fine for this recipe, and even a food processor would do the job.


Although you can buy frozen banana slices, it's much more economical to buy these raw potassium and fiber powerhouses and freeze them yourself. Just peel, cut into chunks, and freeze on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Once thoroughly frozen, store them in a plastic Ziploc bag in the freezer.

Hemp hearts

Yes, hemp hearts are born of a hemp plant but contain no psychoactive ingredients. Also called hemp seeds, they are high in protein, iron, magnesium, manganese, and both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Hemp seeds make a delicious and nutritious non-dairy milk on their own when blended with water (no straining needed!), so they add a dairy-like creaminess to this recipe. Hemp hearts are easy to find in the health food section of a grocery store or online.

Cocoa/cacao powder and nibs

I used organic unsweetened cocoa powder in this recipe, but raw cacao powder works as well, it can just be a little harder to find. What's the difference? Cocoa is heated to higher temperatures and more processed than cacao. Raw cacao is the most minimally processed (and most nutrient-dense) form of chocolate goodness. Try both and see which one you prefer.

Cacao nibs are crumbled bits of cacao beans. These little guys provide the crunch along with a wide range of antioxidants, fiber, and minerals like iron and magnesium. Cacao nibs are also delicious as a topping on yogurt and overnight oats, and I know a few people who eat them straight from the bag.

Flax milk

I use Good Karma flax milk for its omega-3 fatty acids, but you can use any type of dairy or non-dairy milk. My hands-down favorite milk for this recipe is raw almond milk that I make from soaking, blending, and straining raw almonds. Although packaged non-dairy milks are more processed, they are also more convenient and often include extra calcium, vitamin D, and protein.


Optional, but delightful. Sometimes I throw it in. Other times I prefer to just keep it simple. But a small amount of pure vanilla extract or an inch of raw vanilla bean can turn a great cacao banana smoothie into an extraordinary one.


The best thing about this kind of smoothie is its adaptability. No hemp seeds? Just leave them out. Want more protein? Add protein powder, peanut butter, or almond butter. Need some greens? Throw in some green powder or some raw spinach leaves. Not sweet enough? Add a Medjool date, fresh maple syrup, or local raw honey.

No matter how you make it, be prepared for some surprising cocoa banana deliciousness that you may enjoy even more than ice cream. Tell us about it in the comments!

Servings: Makes 1 16 oz. smoothie
Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients for frozen cocoa banana smoothie

  • 2 small frozen bananas (in chunks)
  • 1.5 cups flax milk (or any milk of your choice) to get desired consistency
  • 2 tsp cocoa (or cacao) powder
  • 1 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao nibs (for crunchy topping)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or 1-inch raw vanilla bean (optional)

Directions for frozen cocoa banana smoothie

Add all ingredients except cacao nibs to the blender. Process until well pureed (may need to add more milk to get desired consistency). Pour into a large cup or bowl. Sprinkle with cacao nibs and serve immediately.

Nutrition facts

per serving

  • calories: 312
  • protein: 7.5g
  • sodium: 83mg
  • sugars: 24.8g
  • total carbohydrates: 55.7g
  • total fat: 9.9g
Photograph by Ramae Hamrin. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Disclaimer: does not provide any express or implied warrant toward the content or outcome of any recipe.

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