If you’re tired of watery protein shakes and looking for ways to make your shake thicker and creamier, you’ve come to the right place. As a dietitian who prefers thicker protein shakes, I’ll share my top 14 tips to make a thicker and creamier shake.
- Thicker protein shakes enhance taste, satiety, and nutrient intake (vitamins & minerals), as they are more concentrated than thinner protein shakes.
- Casein protein offers the thickest and creamiest consistency, whereas whey protein hydrolysate offers the thinnest consistency. Vegan protein powders and whey concentrate fall somewhere in the middle.
- You can make a shake thicker without calories by adding ice cubes or xanthan gum, using less liquid, switching liquid bases, or freezing briefly.
- You can boost shake thickness with calories by blending in foods (e.g., oats), using thicker liquid alternatives, or adding yogurt-like products.
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Understanding Protein Shake Consistency
My clients agree that one of the common issues when making protein shakes is ending up with a shake that’s either too watery, thick, or clumpy.
If you add too much water or milk, your shake will be thin, less flavorful, and less filling. On the other hand, if you don’t use enough liquid, your shake will be a thick, sludgy mess that’s hard to drink.
If your shake is clumping, your protein powder is not dissolving, likely because you’re not mixing it correctly.
The consistency of your protein shake will depend on the amount of liquid used, the type of protein powder chosen, the mixing technique, and the added ingredients. As such, it might be tricky to get the consistency the way you want it at first.
Finding the right consistency makes your shake more enjoyable and allows you to control the protein concentration in it based on whether you want it to keep you more satiated.
Why Make a Protein Shake Thicker?
A thick protein shake is more enjoyable because it can enhance taste. It also increases satiety and nutrient diversity. You should make a thicker protein shake if you have to go long periods without eating.
The potential benefits of a thicker protein shake include:
- Higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants, which are key for overall health.
- Higher fiber content promoting satiety, stable blood sugars, and digestive health.
- A balance of macronutrients, assisting with recovery and muscle building (protein) and providing energy to fuel your body (carbs).
- More probiotics (if adding yogurt or other fermented foods or supplements) that improve gut and immune health and improve protein absorption during recovery phases.
*The exact benefits of your thick protein shake depend on the ingredients used.
Ultimately, a thicker protein shake allows you to customize your shake to your needs by adding or swapping ingredients.
The First Step To Thicker Shakes: Choosing the Right Protein Powder
The type of protein powder you use for your shake will affect its thickness and texture, so it’s important to know what to look for in a protein powder to get the right thickness.
Read the nutrition label and look for the following ingredients:
- Additives. Look for thickeners like xanthan gum and emulsifiers like lecithin or fibers, which give your shake a thicker, creamier texture.
- Type Of Protein Used. Casein protein is the thickest, followed by whey concentrate and vegan protein powders, with whey hydrolysate being the thinnest. Some protein powders also come with one or more types, so looking at the ingredients panel is important.
Types of Protein Powders
Let’s dive into the most popular types of protein powder so you can decide which type suits your needs and preferences.
Dairy Based Protein (Whey & Casein)
While whey and casein come from cows’ milk, they have different properties and thus digest and mix differently.
Casein is thicker and digests much more slowly than whey protein, so it will keep you full for longer, release a steady stream of amino acids over time, and make a creamier shake.
For this reason, you need 10 to 12 ounces of liquid to mix a casein scoop, while with a whey scoop, you need 6 to 8 ounces.
Whey protein powder types include hydrolysate, isolate, and concentrate. All powders undergo different processing methods, resulting in slightly different nutrient profiles.
- Whey concentrate is the least filtered one, containing more fat and carbs, giving it a thicker, creamier consistency. However, it only has 80% protein per serving, slightly less than its other counterparts.
- Whey isolate goes through more filtering to reduce the fat and carb content, so it becomes a low-carb, low-fat protein with over 90% protein per serving. Removing the carbs and fats makes it less creamy and more thin when mixed only with water.
- Whey hydrolysate (hydrolyzed whey) is the most processed form, so it digests more quickly than other whey protein powders. Hydrolyzed whey reaches the muscles faster than other whey protein powders, is more expensive, and is used mainly by athletes or those with digestive conditions.
Pea, rice, and soy protein are vegan protein powder options that contain a good amount of protein (rice up to 75%, pea and soy up to 90% per serving) and are low in fat.
Pea and rice protein have slightly more carbs and fiber than soy protein, making them thicker in a shake. Soy protein tends to be thinner but still offers a silky texture rather than watery.
Pea and rice proteins are typically combined to create a more balanced amino acid profile, making a complete protein (a protein containing all nine essential amino acids the body cannot produce on its own).
These proteins on their own are incomplete as they contain only some of the essential amino acids your body needs.
Protein Powder Recommendations
My top recommendations for protein powder that mixes up thick include:
- Dairy-Based: PEScience Select Protein (a blend of whey isolate and casein protein)
- Plant-Based: Gold Standard 100% plant Optimum Nutrition (a blend of pea and rice protein)
Related Article: The 5 Thickest Protein Powders You Can Buy
Making A Protein Shake Thicker WITHOUT Calories
Use the following strategies to make your protein shake thicker without adding additional calories:
1. Use Ice
Blending your protein shake with ice makes it thicker without adding calories. You can compare the consistency to a Wendy’s Frosty, especially if you use casein protein powder.
2. Add Xanthan Gum
Protein powder manufacturers often use xanthan gum to thicken products, but you can also find it in the baking aisle.
Add ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum to your shake, and you should see immediate results in the texture. If you want it a little thicker, add another ¼ teaspoon.
3. Use Less Liquid
Less liquid means less dilution, creating a thicker texture without extra calories. For example, if you add 10-12 ounces of liquid, try going down to 8-10 ounces next time.
I highly recommend using a shaker ball or a blender when choosing this method to avoid clumps.
4. Put It In The Freezer
A short freeze doesn’t add calories but makes the shake frosty and thicker. This method won’t be as thick as blending with ice, but it can be helpful if you don’t have access to a blender.
I recommend keeping your shake in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to allow it time to thicken.
5. Experiment With Liquid Base Alternatives
If you use the same base with each shake, try substituting your regular liquid base with another base with equal caloric value. Some options include cow’s milk, almond, coconut, hazelnut, soy, or oat milk.
You could also try different brands because each brand differs slightly in how the liquid is formulated. For example, one oat milk brand might be creamier than another.
Making A Protein Shake Thicker WITH Calories
Use the following strategies for making your protein shake thicker while increasing the calorie content:
1. Add Oats
Oats add thickness by increasing calories, carbs, and fiber, making your shake heartier, more satisfying, and more energizing. Add one spoonful of oats to your shake first and blend this to get a creamy shake.
If you don’t have a high-powered blender (like Vitamix), I suggest soaking your oats before blending them with your shake.
2. Add Fruit
Fruits, like bananas or frozen berries, add thickness, more nutrients (vitamins and minerals), and enhance flavor without too many extra calories.
Add half a banana or a handful of frozen berries to your shake, blend the mixture, and then put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to make it like an ice cream.
3. Add Yogurt
Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, adds creaminess and calories, making the shake thicker, almost like indulgent ice cream. It also adds additional protein, making it ideal for those struggling to hit their daily protein target.
Use 1 tablespoon – ¼ cup of yogurt and test the thickness. If you want it thicker, add more to the mix or choose a higher milkfat (e.g., whole milk).
4. Use A Thicker Liquid Base
One of the easier ways to increase the thickness of your protein shake is to choose a thicker base. Opt for whole milk, kefir, canned coconut milk, or oat milk instead of water for a more decadent, creamier shake.
Generally, 6-8 ounces of liquid base per scoop of protein powder is ideal, but if this comes out too thick, you could add up to 12 ounces.
5. Add Avocado
Avocado adds creaminess and thickness, making it like a silky protein smoothie. Combine a quarter of a ripe avocado with your protein powder and liquid base in a blender.
If you prefer a thicker, frostier version, freeze your avocado before adding it to your shake.
6. Add Nut Butter
Nut butter is perfect for thickening your shake if you like indulgent ingredients. Add a tablespoon of nut butter, like almond or peanut (without added sugars), for a nutty flavor and a thicker, calorie-rich shake.
7. Add Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a great thickening agent for your protein shake because they absorb liquid and expand. Try adding 1-2 teaspoons for a boost in thickness.
I recommend soaking them in water so they become soft and have a gel-like texture before adding them to the mixture.
8. Add Coconut Cream
Boost the thickness of your protein shake by adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of coconut cream, giving your shake a tropical and ice-cream-like richness and texture.
Remember that coconut cream can be high in saturated fats, so if you’ve been told to reduce your saturated fat intake, be mindful of your serving size or opt for a reduced-fat cream.
9. Add Cottage Cheese
Adding cottage cheese to a protein shake provides a milkshake-like texture and additional protein. I love pairing cottage cheese with fruit, as the saltiness of the cottage cheese balances out the sweetness of the fruit and protein powder.
I recommend adding a cup of cottage cheese (with some fruit) to a blender with your protein powder and base for a thicker shake.
My 3 Favorite Thick Protein Smoothie Recipes
Some of my favorite recipes include:
1. Peanut Butter, Vanilla and Banana
This thick protein smoothie combines vanilla protein powder, frozen banana for sweetness, almond milk for a light liquid base, a tablespoon of peanut butter for a nutty flavor, vanilla extract, and ice.
Here is the recipe.
2. Coffee, Banana, and Chia
You’ll love this protein shake if you’re a coffee fanatic like I am. The recipe calls for brewed coffee, a banana, ice, chia seeds, almond butter, protein powder, and cocoa powder for chocolatey goodness.
Check out the recipe.
3. Peanut Butter, Oats, Yogurt, and Cinnamon
Another one of my top protein smoothie recipes is a blend of oats, soy yogurt, soy milk, peanut butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla protein powder. Use a soy protein powder to make this protein shake vegan.
You can find the recipe here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some plant-based options to make a protein shake thicker?
Multiple plant-based options are available to make a protein shake thicker, including foods like fruits, chia seeds, avocado, nut butters, and oats, but also plant-based milk and yogurt alternatives like soy, almond, coconut, and oat-based products.
Can you prepare a thicker protein shake in advance, or will it lose its consistency?
You can make a thicker protein shake in advance, but its consistency might change with time. Foods like chia seeds and oats can absorb liquid, making it thicker the longer you leave it. Putting it in the fridge might settle or separate, so it is important to shake it before consuming it.
How Can You Thicken A Protein Shake With Just Water?
You can thicken a protein with just water shake by reducing the amount of water used. Begin with half your usual amount, then slowly add more until you reach the desired thickness. Also, consider using a protein powder that naturally produces a thicker consistency, like casein.
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Beck, E.J., Tosh, S.M., Batterham, M.J., Tapsell, L.C. and Huang, X.-F. (2009), Oat β-glucan increases postprandial cholecystokinin levels, decreases insulin response and extends subjective satiety in overweight subjects. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 53: 1343-1351. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.200800343
About The Author
Giulia Rossetto is a qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist. She holds a Masters in Human Nutrition (University of Sheffield, UK) and more recently graduated as a Dietitian (University of Malta). Giulia aims to translate evidence-based science to the public through teaching and writing content. She has worked 4+ years in clinical settings and has also published articles in academic journals. She is into running, swimming and weight lifting, and enjoys spending time in the mountains (she has a soft spot for hiking and skiing in the Italian Dolomites).
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