Think sauces, dressings, pancake mix, and even ice cream created easily and quickly in this versatile countertop favorite. The best blender can do a whole lot more than deliver a tasty fruit-packed drink. And if you have less space in your kitchen, you needn’t miss out. Both immersion blenders and portable blenders are versatile, too, producing a whole lot of tasty recipes you may not have suspected they can. We’ve put together some great suggestions for expanding your blender repertoire here with advice on how to get top results.

Things to make in a blender

We agree that creating smoothies is a brilliant way to use your blender, and so, too, is mixing up a milkshake, and concocting fresh juice drinks. But a blender can also make producing meals easy and speedy, deliver soups that are vastly superior to canned versions, allow you to treat yourself to a pancake breakfast with minimum fuss, and even make your own non-dairy milks. Take a look at some of the (sometimes surprising) things to make in a blender.

1. Fresh pesto

You can of course make pesto in a food processor but as much bigger machines than blenders, they’re often stowed away rather than out on your countertop. Blenders are far more likely to be close-to-hand, plugged in and ready-to-go. Arguably, cleaning a blender is also a whole lot easier. Featuring soft and liquid ingredients, pesto doesn’t need a particularly powerful blender to produce fabulous results. To make a herb pesto, simply add all the ingredients in step one to your blender, starting with the liquids, then the herbs (roughly chopped), and finally the pine nuts. Use the pulse button a few times to get things going, then blend to your preferred consistency. ‘This is my go-to for making an evening meal that’s tasty as well as quick,’ says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens. ‘I combine it with spaghetti or another pasta I have in the pantry, and the food’s on the table in no time at all.’ 

2. Delicious soups

An immersion or hand blender that goes directly into the saucepan will reduce washing up but if you only have a jug blender to hand, soup is absolutely doable.  The key is to allow a little time for the cooked soup to cool as most blenders are not designed to work with liquids above 80°C. Pop in a couple of ice cubes before you decant from saucepan to blender and your soup will be safe to blend in a jiffy. 

3. Cool cocktails

You don’t need cocktail waiter skills to shake up some Tom Cruise-worthy blends! Blitzing cocktails in your blender is particularly useful when entertaining a crowd, as you can produce bulk orders with speed, ensuring nobody is left empty-handed.  Recipes that feature crushed ice, like daiquiris, margaritas and mojitos, are perfect thirst-quenchers in the summer months, but make sure you add at least a cup of liquid to the ice cubes to ensure a smooth, non-lumpy adult slushy! 

4. Pizza sauce

The ingredients in our pizza recipes by Alice Hart can be blended first to achieve a smooth base for pizza toppings. Blending pizza sauce is also a good way to sneak if a few ‘hidden veg’ like chopped onions and cooked carrots to boost your family’s five-a-day without alerting fussy eaters.

5. Pancake mix

A simple and quick way to ensure silky smooth, lump-free pancake batter is to harness the help of your blender. This indulgent pancake recipe uses an immersion blender, aka stick blender, to ensure perfectly combined liquids but you could also use a traditional jug-style blender.  It’s not necessary to blend all the ingredients in this recipe but if you’d like to, do it in two batches to avoid seepage at the lid – depending on the size of your jug.  Recipes aimed at eight pancakes or fewer is ideal for a speedy breakfast or brunch pancake hit.

6. Speedy ice-cream

With no laborious custard base or cooking required, ice cream recipes made in the blender really couldn’t be easier. All you need is an equal amount of any frozen fruit and double cream, adding sugar to taste.  For example, try 150g frozen raspberries with, 150g double cream (fresh from the fridge) and a tablespoon or two of caster sugar. Blend until smooth and then freeze for an hour or so, if necessary. Use a medium speed and be careful not to blend for too long or the cream can separate, and you’ll end up with butter.  Switch cream for water or fruit juice to make a refreshing sorbet. 

7. Salad dressings

Any salad dressing that’s best served super smooth is prime fodder for your blender. A quick vinaigrette can be whipped up in about 30 seconds and will taste far fresher than any shop-bought dressing.  The secret to success is all in the ratios – three parts extra virgin olive oil to one part vinegar (we like cider vinegar but go for balsamic for more robust flavor).  Blitz. Season. Serve!  If you prefer a little more zing in your vinaigrette just add a splash of lemon juice or a teaspoon of mustard. More classic blender-friendly dressings include honey and mustard, Caesar and ranch.

8. Almond milk

You don’t need to be dairy intolerant to appreciate the velvety creaminess of almond milk, which tastes amazing in your morning coffee, on cereal or just on its own.  Once you’ve tasted homemade almond milk, you’ll never look back. It can be made in both a blender or food processor but we think the blender wins in terms of silky smoothness. A food processor produces grainier results, which is okay on granola but not so great in tea.  The process is pretty straightforward: soak raw almonds in water for at least 24hrs (48hrs is preferable), drain and rinse, then pop in the blender, just covered with fresh water. Hit pulse a few times, then ramp up to full power for at least two minutes. Finally, strain the results through a sieve lined with cheesecloth and sweeten the resultant liquid with honey or maple syrup, if desired. Store in the fridge for up to three days.

9. Breadcrumbs

If you’ve been throwing out bread that’s gone dry up to now, and you own a blender, you’re missing a trick. A blender is ideal for making breadcrumbs that can be used to top mac and cheese, for fish and other seafood, in gratins, and to bread cutlets of chicken, for example. Cut the bread into chunks, add to the blender and pulse until it reaches the consistency you require.  ‘To boost flavor add spices or herbs to the mix when you blend to complement the dish in which the breadcrumbs are going to be used,’ advises Lucy Searle.

10. Salsa

Chips and salsa is a classic combo, but salsa is the perfect addition to a whole host of other foods from hamburgers to grilled fish, salads, and scrambled eggs. And salsa is easy to make in a blender by chopping ingredients into chunks then blending to a smooth texture. A word of caution here though. Many salsa recipes call for garlic. There is the possibility that strong flavors like garlic can linger even after the blender is cleaned, so our advice is to use recipes that don’t include it to avoid any possibility of flavor taint.

What can I use my blender for?

The top ways to use a blender include making smoothies along with other drinks such as milkshakes and fresh juices. But a blender can also make dressings for salads, dips and sauces. It’s excellent for making soups, too, and it’s an invaluable addition to the kitchen for making baby food. It’s ideal for your next cocktail party, too, and will whip up mocktails for designated drivers and non-drinkers.  

Is it worth buying a blender?

It is worth buying a blender in most households. Owning a blender makes it easy to prepare fresh ingredients, allowing you to swap shop-bought cans and jars for homemade foods, and to boost your consumption of veggies and fresh fruits. ‘If your kitchen is small you might be loath to give up the counter space to a blender,’ says global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens Lucy Searle. ‘But you could instead opt for an immersion blender, which is a compact handheld appliance. Even a portable blender may well do more than you think, but do check its features as the motor might not be powerful enough for all the tasks you have in mind.’