People have been asking me how to make Frappuccinos at home. They tried, but got disappointingly separated ice and liquid, even using a Vitamix. I looked up the Starbucks list of ingredients, and found the secret ingredient: xanthan gum. In this post I will cover how to use xanthan, and also give a whole-food alternative for making satisfying frappes.
If you are a frequent drinker of Frappuccinos, you can save a lot of money by making them at home, plus you can customize them to be exactly how you like. They’re super easy too: a Vitamix will blend one in about 20 seconds.
Xanthan is made by fermentation, and it is used in a variety of foods, including sauces, dressings, and ice cream. Xanthan thickens without affecting flavor, and its liquid mixtures have the interesting property of being shear-thinning. In addition to stabilizing the ice-liquid mixture, xanthan also gives a Frappuccino a more satisfying mouthfeel.
Xanthan is available as a powder, and you may be able to find it in your grocery store in the baking section, as it is a common ingredient for gluten-free baking. Or you can get it online. A little goes a long way, so a jar will last a long time (that ~$9 linked jar is enough for ~340 Frappuccinos).
A small percentage of people report intestinal distress with xanthan, and I’ve read that some people prefer konjac glucomannan instead. However, xanthan has been used in foods for decades without any serious problems, and you’ve probably eaten plenty of it already (for sure if you’ve had Starbucks Frappuccinos). If you’d prefer not to use any isolated powders, I also have a whole-food recipe, which you can find below.
I made a side-by-side comparison, blending identical Frappuccinos with and without xanthan. Here they are: with xanthan on the left, without on the right: The difference is striking, both in terms of separation of liquid and ice, and mouthfeel.
The Starbucks ingredients also have another slightly unexpected ingredient, which is salt. A little salt helps balance flavors, even in sweet things.
Here’s the recipe that approximates the standard Starbucks Blended Coffee Frappuccino:
Traditional Frappuccino Ingredients
½ cup milk
½ cup strongly brewed coffee (double-strength), chilled
⅛ tsp xanthan gum
2.5 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt (¹⁄₁₆ tsp)
1 cup ice
Makes just over 12 oz, equivalent to the Starbucks ‘Tall’ size. (You can easily scale it up if you prefer. I’ve made a double batch, and you could go up to a quadruple batch with a Vitamix.)
Blend on high for about 20 seconds, and use the tamper if it stops circulating.
Be careful when pouring, because the ice-liquid mixture can slide out in a big clump, spilling outside your glass. (Ask me how I know.) You can avoid such a mess by using a spatula to ease it into your glass, or by shaking the container side-to-side immediately before pouring.
Flavorings and Toppings
You can of course also add your favorite flavorings and toppings. Vanilla, chocolate, caramel, whipped cream . . . The sky’s the limit!
You can adjust the recipe as much as you like. All it requires is a balance of liquid and frozen ingredients (roughly 1:1 by volume, exact ratio will depend on preference, temperatures of ingredients, size/shape of ice cubes, etc.).
You can obviously use your choice of milk. One of the times I made Frappuccinos I didn’t have any milk around, but I had some raw cashews. Cashews plus water blend up to a smooth milk, even without filtering. To make 1 cup of cashew milk I put 1/4 cup of cashews in the blender, then fill water to the 1 cup mark and blend on high for ~1 minute.
I’ve been using normal hot-brewed coffee that I let cool. I’ve always used it within the first day, but I’ve read that some people keep coffee in the fridge for a week or longer.
You could also use cold-brewed or instant coffee. Or you could use a latte/cappuccino powder, which would take care of all the ingredients except the ice. (Those powders tend to have cellulose gum, which plays a similar role to xanthan.)
The recipe uses xanthan, but as I mentioned above you can use glucomannan. Other alternatives include pectin and guar gum. If you want to read more about xanthan, glucomannan, and related ingredients, check out this extensive compilation of hydrocolloid information and recipes. For the whole-food recipe I used a slice of avocado.
To my taste, the Starbucks version is excessively sweet, so I prefer 1 Tbsp of sugar. You can also use your choice of other sweetener, including non-calorie sweeteners. (The sugar in Frappuccinos is not important for texture the way it is in things like sorbet.) In the whole-food version I used dates.
If you want your drink more frozen, add ice; less frozen, blend longer (use the tamper if it’s not circulating). If you want a more concentrated drink, you can freeze your milk or coffee into ice cubes so that you don’t use any water ice cubes.
Blend everything but ice first, ~30 seconds. Then add ice and blend another 15-20 seconds.
The avocado is slightly under ripe to minimize avocado flavor. It may seem weird to have avocado with coffee, but you don’t taste the avocado. You can peel and slice the rest of the avocado and freeze it in a bag for future blended drinks.
The avocado stabilizes the mixture well: the Frappuccino in the photo at the top of this post was made with avocado. Not surprisingly, the flavor of this one is a bit different than the standard version; I’d describe it as more full. It is still totally satisfying though.
Make it Mocha!
You can add some cocoa powder plus a bit more sweetener or chocolate syrup to make a Mocha Frappe. I’d recommend starting with the above recipes plus 1 Tbsp cocoa & 1 Tbsp sugar or 1.5 Tbsp chocolate syrup.