When I first started experimenting with plant-based eating in college, I immediately realized how many recipes called for a blender. I dreamt of being able to afford the undeniably pricey Vitamix Professional-Grade Blender ($403; amazon.com), which plenty of food bloggers have called the best blender. But as a broke college student, it was undeniably out of my budget.
The cheapest solution was to use my roommate’s Nutribullet Blender ($50, was $60; amazon.com)—another solid, moderately-priced option—but in an attempt to create healthy banana ice cream, I almost destroyed the blender’s motor (and our friendship). With the kitchen reeking of burnt plastic, I set off to find my own affordable, high-powered blender. Fate had similar ideas, and I stumbled across the Ninja Master Prep ($27, was $50; amazon.com), which quickly became my most beloved kitchen gadget.
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I was immediately drawn to the construction of this versatile blender, which also doubles as a food processor. Unlike other blenders, the blades are not fixed to the bottom of the pitcher. Instead, the blade rod can be removed from the pitcher completely, with options to use a single blade or stack a second at different heights.
This unique construction means I never have to rely on the vacuum vortex alone to pull food towards the bottom of the blender (even though the vacuum is super powerful). But instead, if I use the second blade, I can see food being sliced and diced at different heights throughout the pitcher. This is perfect for recipes that need minimal liquid, like hummus or sorbet.
Related: The 10 Best Blenders for Smoothies (And Beyond), According to Health Foodies
Not only can you customize the number of blades used at a time, but the gadget also comes with two different-sized blending containers—including a 16-ounce chopper bowl and a 48-ounce pitcher—that you can switch out depending on what your recipe calls for. The smaller bowl is great for whipping up dips, sauces, or spreads (like nut butters or pesto) because it provides a more compact blending space. Otherwise, I mainly stick to the larger pitcher for creating smoothies and juices.
To buy: Ninja Master Prep Blender/Food Processor ($27, marked down from $50); amazon.com
While some people may find it annoying to actively push the one-touch pulsing button to keep the motor going, I actually prefer this set-up because it helps me feel more in control of my final creation. I’m forced to really look at the pitcher to watch how my recipe is developing—whether it’s a homemade nut butter or chickpea bar batter. If I happen to have any leftovers, I simply remove the blades and seal my food directly inside the blending containers with the included airtight lids. This allows me to reduce the number of bowls or tupperware needed when cooking and storing—ideal for anyone without a dishwasher.
One of the best parts of this blender is the super easy clean-up and storage—especially for smaller kitchens. While all the removable parts are dishwasher-safe, the blender is also powerful enough to clean itself by simply blending hot water and soap (this is usually the method I use for cleaning). After letting the unassembled pieces dry on a dish rack, I store them in my cupboard, where they take up minimal space.
Related: The Best Kitchen Gadgets for Healthy Meal Prep, According to Chefs
I recently discovered that I’m not the only person who considers this blender a kitchen necessity for both healthy eating and easy cooking—it has over 5,000 positive reviews on Amazon from other happy owners. And I also wasn’t the only reviewer who noticed it was the perfect budget-friendly find for “nice cream” fiends.
“[The food] came out smooth and creamy and I don't smell a burning smell from the motor when I used it unlike the magic bullet which always had a burning smell,” wrote one reviewer. “I really don't know how else I would have gotten such a quality product for such a low price. I've used Vitamix blenders before daily at my job and this blender doesn't disappoint.”
But while I coughed up $50 for this ultra-versatile blender, this bargain find has actually become even more affordable with time. You can snag my all-time favorite kitchen appliance for just $27 on Amazon right now (lucky!). Just be sure to act fast before the sale price is gone—you’ll want to maximize your smoothie-making abilities before summer ends.
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