Cacao Adaptogen Smoothie (Recipe)

colorful cacao pods
Cacao pods by Penn State

When I started my new job in the beginning of September, I also started working on an adaptogen drink that could help with a few goals: increase resilience to stress and anxiety, bolster immunity, and help with memory and cognition. The days are also starting to get much shorter here, and I’d like to get a jump on SAD1, which I have to some extent or another every year.

My new job is a similar role to the last job I had in Colorado, but this one is a bit more complicated and advanced. Last time I was in this role, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and I got stuck in a rut of deep anxiety, overwhelming stress, and a ragged immune system. By the time I realized I needed to pay special attention to keeping myself sane/healthy, I was already so burnt out and anxious that it was hard to come back from – especially while I was still at that job! I ended up getting bronchitis in March (second year in a row), and managing my anxiety became my second full-time job.

Luckily, I had several months off between jobs (you know, moving) to recover and rest, and I knew what I was getting myself into this time (and this company has much more reasonable expectations and work-life balance). As I started this role, I wanted to take extra care, especially as I was changing sleep schedules and jumping into the new position just as the seasons were starting to change. Plus, the job also requires a good memory and a lot of analyzing and processing information at a pretty quick speed.

So! Cacao adaptogen smoothie was born.

I’ve made a few variations on this recipe, but the main ingredients of it are: cacao powder, grass-fed collagen, maca root, lion’s mane mushroom, and ashwagandha. Here is a quick look at each ingredient2:

I picked cacao mostly for flavor, but it also has great healing properties. Its high in vitamins and minerals (including magnesium!), is gently stimulating, and has some anti-depressant qualities. Grass-fed collagen is essential to me for helping increase gut health, skin elasticity, and healthy joints – which are just a few of the benefits of taking it. Collagen peptides dissolve in both hot and cold liquids, so it is easy to add to your diet. Its also a good source of protein (and the amino acids that come along with that).

Maca root is known to increase vitality and energy, balance hormones, and is considered an adaptogen for it’s wide-ranging positive effects on the body. Ashwagandha is another adaptogen, best known for its unique calming effect3; it helps with anxiety and nervousness, as well as boosts the endocrine system.4

Lion’s mane mushroom powder was one of the last ingredients I added; it is known for increasing cognitive function, reducing inflammation, and boosting immune system function (among many other things). Due to its ability to reduce inflammation, it also is tied to having an anti-depressant effect.

Cacao Adaptogen Smoothie

  • 12-16 oz almond milk (other non-dairy milk would work too)
  • 1 Tbsp cacao (not cocoa powder – make sure you are using raw cacao)
  • 1 Tbsp grass-fed collagen (I prefer this brand)
  • 1 tsp maca root powder
  • 1 tsp ashwagandha powder
  • 1 tsp lion’s mane mushroom powder (I use this one)
  • 1-2 tsp maple syrup
  1. Pour the almond milk into your blender first, then add the rest of the ingredients on top (this sounds silly, but the collagen becomes a clumpy sludge on the bottom of the blender if you add it before the liquid).
  2. Blend until combined.


  • If you are using all the powders, you may want to err on the side of 16 oz of liquid – it can get a bit gritty with only 12 oz. I use a Nutribullet blender, which only holds about 12-14 oz of liquid. Sometimes I will take ashwagandha in capsule form instead (I take this one), so I don’t include it in the smoothie, which cuts back on the gritty texture that can happen with less liquid.
  • I’ve also experimented lately with using 1 tbsp coconut creamer with cacao + 1 tsp cacao powder instead of 1 Tbsp cacao powder – it makes it creamer and very delicious. It requires a little extra blending, but it seems to cut back on the overall grittiness. I’d recommend it, if you’re up for buying it! You can also use a bit of coconut milk (instead of the powder) mixed with almond milk to make it extra creamy.
  • I purchased about half of these ingredients from Thrive Market (an affiliate link, but I really love this site and use it all the time) – their prices are typically the cheapest anywhere, even Amazon. I’ve tried their brand of cacao powder, which I find delicious. The collagen and coconut creamer with cacao are also cheaper there than on Amazon.

Since I’ve started drinking this smoothie, I have truly noticed an increase in energy – particularly on the days that I don’t get a full 8 hours of sleep, which has been most days. I used to be literally non-functional on less than 7 hours of sleep, but I can now pull it off relatively normally (though I definitely still try to get 8 hours). I also have noticed I have a better memory and can think on my feet much more quickly – but that could be because of the increased energy!

Let me know what you think!


(Amazon and Thrive Market links are affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if you use these links to purchase items. However, I only recommend products I use personally and love!)


  1. Seasonal Affective Disorder
  2. This is the high-level description as each ingredient relates to this recipe – please make sure to research each ingredient to make sure it is suitable for your needs!
  3. Many adaptogens have a stimulating effect, unlike ashwagandha
  4. Be cautious using this if you take barbiturates or have hyperthyroidism.

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