This isn’t just another orange smoothie recipe…this is a homemade Orange Julius! Creamy, frosty and just a wee bit zippy, this healthy vegan Orange Julius is one of my favourite summertime treats.
What mall-roaming kid didn’t want to use their pocket money at Orange Julius? It was either that or New York Fries for me.
I can’t honestly tell you how many Orange Julius I drank as a kid, well, until I couldn’t handle how sweet they were any longer. And they are super sweet. A medium has 57 grams of added sugars – about 14 teaspoons – which is more than double the recommended daily limit for women.
Now, let’s be clear, I’m not a fan of making any foods off limits. Sometimes, you just want what you want…and that’s 100% okay in the context of a healthy, whole foods diet. But if you’re big on sweets, it’s worthwhile getting to know the difference between whole food forms of sugars and added sugars and trying to keep it whole as often as possible.
What’s the difference between added sugars and sugars?
Sugar is the new fat, as far as internet dietary scourges go. However, it’s super important not to get caught up in nutritionism and start freaking out about eating strawberries. Where the gram of sugar comes from matters. For example, if you eat an apple, the tough cell walls of the apple sequester the sugars and it takes time and digestive effort to get at them. That apple also contains beneficial fibres, vitamins and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that support healthy gut and optimal metabolism.
However, if you get that same gram of sugar from actual sugar – or even commercial apple juice – it is rapidly digested and absorbed. This makes a difference for how sharply your blood sugars spike (and crash!) and whether inflammation is stoked post-meal. There isn’t a lot of actual nourishment from that sugar either. It’s pretty much just sugar. So you’re getting calories but not nutrition…and your body doesn’t like to play that game too often.
What is an added sugar?
Added sugars are as they sound: sugars that are added to foods, and not naturally occurring like in fruit or vegetables. These include natural sweeteners and even concentrated sources of naturally occurring sugars like:
- All forms of sugar, like date sugar, white sugar, coconut sugar
- Any word ending in -ose, like sucrose (table sugar) or dextrose
- Honey, Maple Syrup, Corn Syrup, Agave Syrup, Molasses
- Fruit juice concentrates, Fruit purees
Label reading? In the US, you now see an added sugars category on the nutrition facts panel which makes me SO happy. I wish that Canada had followed suit but instead, you’ll want to peruse the ingredients label to see if added sugars occur in the first 3-5 ingredients, plus how often sugars occur, to get a sense of whether the sugars on the nutrition facts panel come from added sugars or real food (like actual fruit).
Is Orange Julius Vegan?
My homemade Orange Julius definitely has healthier forms of sugar, and less sugar overall (about 18g or 4-ish teaspoons per serving) but it also rectifies another potential issue: Orange Julius isn’t vegan either. The ingredients list is actually kind of weird…like sodium carboxymethylcellulose…but it also contains egg whites and dairy ingredients so if you eat a vegan diet, it won’t work for you.
Using cashew mylk – or oat mylk if you want an even creamier texture – will keep it dairy free and if you really want to go after that froth, consider adding a tablespoon of aquafaba to replace egg white but I don’t bother.
Vegan Orange Julius Ingredients
Here is what you’ll need to make your own frosty treat…you probably already have them on hand!
- Navel oranges: Rich in vitamin C and tummy soothing soluble fibre. Look for a thin, smooth skinned orange to minimize bitter pith because I want you to throw it in unpeeled! This adds a zippy, zesty flavour while boosting all the beneficial bioflavonoids and other phytochemicals found only in the peel. If the peel is really thick, zest it and then cut away the pith before throwing in the orange.
- Banana: Banana is rich in potassium and fermentable fibres than help boost the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut. If you want, add the whole banana and skip the maple syrup for a no-added sugars version.
- Orange juice: Instead of higher sugar orange juice concentrates in other recipes, I use straight OJ and then freeze it so you don’t have to dilute your drink with ice cubes. More flavour!
- Unsweetened cashew mylk: any non-dairy milk will do here, but I like cashew for it’s neutral flavour and light texture. Want it creamier? Go for unsweetened oat mylk!
- Vanilla: seems odd, but it smooths out the flavour and adds to that creamy sensation.
- Orange flavoured flax oil: not essential, but it boosts the orange flavour and gives you a hit of omega 3 fatty acids….I like the Omega Nutrition Brand (not sponsored!).
- Maple Syrup: I use pure maple syrup a lot because it’s totally plant based and flavourful. Add to taste…and if you like, you can swap pure cane sugar (start with 1-2 teaspoons).
Looking for more yummy orange drinks?
Healthy Homemade Vegan Orange Julius
Creamy, frosty and just a wee bit zippy, this healthy vegan Orange Julius is one of my favourite summertime treats. Made with fruit and juice and just a touch of maple syrup, it has about a third of the sugar of the original drink and WAY more nutrition!
Servings: 2 people
- ½ large banana frozen
- 6 cubes not-from concentrate orange juice frozen in an ice cube tray for at least 8 hours
- 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk
- ½ navel orange skin on, cut into quarters
- 1-2 tablespoons pure maple syrup to taste, optional
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons orange-flavoured flax oil optional, for flavour and omega 3s
- tiny pinch of salt
Add the frozen banana, orange juice cubes, cashew mylk, orange, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and flax oil if using to a high speed blender and blend until frothy.
Divide into two glasses and enjoy!
I highly recommend freezing an ice cube tray or two of orange juice and transferring the cubes to a freezer bag so you have them on hand! Ditto frozen bananas. That way you are ready whenever a healthy craving strikes.