I dedicate this recipe to the wonderful city of Santa Barbara, CA, where I discovered Backyard Bowls (the inspiration for this recipe). Over the years, I had heard of acai bowls now and then, but I didn’t give them much thought and they weren’t prominent on my radar. I had never eaten one, had never even seen one in any local healthfood places, and the idea didn’t appeal to me enough to make my own.
Well all that changed with our recent trip to Santa Barbara this past spring! As I often do before vacations, I searched online for vegan food options near our hotel and Backyard Bowls came up as very popular. After reading a few of the rave reviews, acai bowls seemed like a great option for breakfast while on our trip.
I was expecting a mere healthy, convenient food option. What I didn’t expect was to have my mind blown away! OMG — they are so good! And it turned out, acai bowls were EVERYWHERE. Not just offered as options at places like juice and yogurt shops… acai bowls are a much bigger deal. A phenomenon. A “thing.” There were actually couple of dedicated “acai bowl places” where they specialize in just one thing: serving up acai bowls of many different varieties. These places reminded me of Jamba Juices – popular, fun, variety within its specialty, and satisfying. The more we looked, the more we started seeing acai bowls on many menus of all kinds of restaurants that serve healthy fare, even if they didn’t specialize in bowls.
Much to my surprise, a quick bit of searching on Yelp revealed that the acai bowl phenomenon is spreading across the country. (Unfortunately, they’re not common in Arizona, but then neither are healthy eating options in general, so this comes as no surprise. But hey, we have pretty sunsets.) The trend definitely appears to be catching on nationally, and I suspect that acai bowls may become a very big deal over time, like smoothie places are now. I mean, acai bowls are delicious, fun, mega-healthy, great for the whole family, and something desert-like you can eat every day without guilt!
(Perhaps a larger reason for the phenomenon’s rapid spread is that the specialty acai bowl places we saw appear to have the lowest startup and operational cost of almost any restaurant you could imagine, similar to that of a smoothie joint. All you need is a store front, a freezer, a couple of Vitamix blenders, a few basic ingredients, and you’re good to go. So if you’ve ever dreamed of opening a restaurant, this may be your time to leap!)
Sadly, We Had to Come Home…
Once we got back from our trip, suffice it to say, I knew I’d have to recreate the wonderful acai bowl experience and make them a part of my lifestyle. Enter: Santa Barbara Acai Bowl
This dish is like having ice cream for breakfast (or any meal), so I totally feel like a kid, bursting with excitement, when I’m chowing down on it (this recipe serves two but I’m often eating the whole thing myself). I love it for more reasons than thinking I’m eating ice cream for breakfast though. It has quality nutrition (omegas, protein, and antioxidants galore), texture ecstasy (crunchy, smooth, cool), and pleasureful flavors (fruity, nutty, slightly sweet).
I would consider this a raw recipe although I don’t believe the acai is technically raw. Or, perhaps it’s considered a High Raw Recipe.
Santa Barbara Acai Bowl
- 3/4 cup unsweetened raw nut or seed milk (quick recipe here)
- 1 serving (scoop) vegan protein powder (I prefer Sun Warrior’s chocolate or hemp)
- 1 serving frozen unsweetened acai (get in the freezer dept of health food store)
- 2 tablespoons raw nut or seed butter
- 1 (10 oz) bag frozen fruit (tropical blend)
- 1/2 cup raw granola
- 1 banana, peeled and sliced
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs
Blend the nut milk, protein powder, acai, nut butter, and frozen fruit together in a high-powered blender until smooth. (Yes, I’m afraid for the true experience you need a high-powered blender, but if you don’t have one, add a little more nut milk to help the blending, which means it won’t be the same ice cream-y texture, but you’ll still get yummy flavor.)
Next, is plating (or “bowling” since you’re going to serve this in a bowl). The trick here is getting a variety of textures and flavors in each bite so layering them is essential for the ultimate acai bowl experience. Put some granola and a few slices of banana on the bottom, add the frozen acai mixture, and top with remaining granola, banana, and cacao nibs.