Blenders and immersion blenders both have fast spinning blades that combine ingredients together, but are they the same? And do you really need both of them?
It turns out that blenders and immersion blenders have key design differences that ultimately make each one better suited for specific kitchen tasks. For blenders, ingredients are loaded into a pitcher with a blade at the bottom, and everything gets blended together in a closed container with the push of a button. Immersion blenders, on the other hand, are essentially a stick with a spinning blade at the bottom that you submerge directly into a cooking pot or small container.
In some cases, blenders and immersion blenders can be used interchangeably, but they’re different enough that you can justify owning both. In this article, we go over the main differences between blenders and immersion blenders, highlight top-rated options that we’ve actually tested, and give a rundown of how they perform head-to-head on common kitchen tasks, all in an effort to help you decide which one to buy—or if you should buy both.
The Main Takeaways
A countertop appliance
Blends together ingredients in a pitcher
Good for making smoothies and crushing ice
A handheld appliance
Blends ingredients in their cooking vessels or a small container
Good for pureeing soups
Is one better than the other? Let's discuss.
While blenders and immersion blenders can both be used to quickly combine ingredients, the main difference between the two lies in their design. Recipe Developer Lidey Heuck explains that an immersion blender is essentially a stick that goes directly into a pot or bowl (not unlike a hand mixer). “You’re holding the blender and moving it around the bowl manually,” she said.
A blender, on the other hand, is a countertop kitchen appliance in which ingredients are loaded into a pitcher before being blended together. The pitcher-shaped container and blades at the bottom are designed to create a vortex, which helps to circulate the food and ensure everything is thoroughly combined. “A regular blender is more hands off and generally has a greater range of speeds, allowing for more control over texture of the final product,” Heuck said.
Beverly Kim, chef and owner of Chicago restaurants Parachute and wherewithall, added that blenders are able to circulate liquids and solids better and yield smoother purees and emulsions.
Immersion blenders are more portable and easier to store, and when you’re blending directly in your cooking vessel it can save on the number of dishes you need to do. Immersion blenders often come with a narrow plastic beaker, which can be used to blend smaller amounts of liquid. If you’re blending ice or mixtures that may splatter, the closed pitcher of a blender is ideal.
It probably comes as no surprise that a blender is the best option for your morning smoothies or weekend piña coladas. The closed container of a blender pitcher is a must when blending ice and frozen ingredients, and the vortex design of a good blender will bring ingredients down into the blades to be chopped up with just a push of a button. “A regular blender works better when working with frozen ingredients, so it’s definitely my preferred choice when making smoothies,” Heuck said.
Winner: Immersion blender
We love cooking, but doing dishes? Not so much. When you’re making soup from scratch––adding ingredients, building flavor, and simmering away––and need to blend everything together at the end to achieve a creamy texture, an immersion blender makes it easy. Simply stick it into the pot and blend away. Sure, you can puree away in a blender, but you’ll probably have to do it in batches and ensure there is some way for the steam to escape so that you don’t end up with a messy (and potentially dangerous) explosion.
“A regular blender makes more sense if you’re making something in a smaller quantity or when you really want a super smooth, creamy texture,” Heuck said. She added that while it can take a little bit more effort with an immersion blender to get everything evenly pureed, it’s still more convenient than carefully transferring hot soup from a pot to a blender. Kim added that in some cases, like tomato soup, a little texture is a good thing.
Making Salad Dressing
Winner: It’s a tie!
If you’re whipping up a vinaigrette or creamy ranch, you have your pick when it comes to which appliance to use. For smaller quantities, an immersion blender can take on the task, but a blender can emulsify ingredients just as well.
Vitamix Professional Series 750 Blender
What It’s Best For: Smoothies, slushies, soups, nut butters
Named the top blender in our testing, the Vitamix Professional Series 750 Blender does it all, thanks to a whopping 2,400 watts of power. It has five pre-programmed settings (self-cleaning, smoothies, hot soups, frozen desserts, purees) and 10 different manual speeds, with simple dial and switch controls. It comes with a tamper to help you move the food towards the blades and ensure everything is evenly blended.
There’s no denying that a Vitamix blender is an investment, but if you’re someone who makes daily smoothies with fibrous green veggies or are interested in making your own flour or nut butter, the versatility and power of this model makes it well worth the splurge. Even when we tested an array of Vitamix models against each other, the 750 stood out as our top choice. In addition to acing basic blender tasks like smoothies and slushies, it turned fibrous celery into smooth juice, churned fresh cream into butter, and simultaneously pureed and heated soup.
If you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, we recommend the Ninja Nutri Pro Compact Personal Blender.
Cuisinart Smart Stick Variable Speed Hand Blender
What It’s Best For: Soups, salsas, salad dressings, applesauce
Immersion blenders tend to be relatively simple, but this particular option has added features that make it worth the storage space in your kitchen. It has a button for continuous or pulse blending, plus an adjustable knob at the top that controls the speed. The Cuisinart Smart Stick Variable Speed Hand Blender comes with a mixing cup (perfect for blending drinks and salad dressings), a whisk (for whipping eggs and cream), and a chopper that acts like a mini food processor.
In testing, we found the whisk to be useful, but the chopper was a little bit of a letdown. The main blender, on the other hand, gave homemade salsa a nice texture, made creamy salad dressing in a snap, and held up to the heat of the stove when making applesauce. Given the affordable price, Cuisinart’s brand reputation, and three-year warranty, this immersion blender is a winner in our book.
For a more budget-friendly option, we recommend the Mueller Austria Ultra-Stick 500 Watt 9-Speed Immersion Hand Blender.
Should you buy a blender or an immersion blender?
As always, it really depends on what you’re planning on using it for. “If your goal is to make smoothies or milkshakes at home, a blender is a must,” Kim said. “For the home, a good blender can do most tasks an immersion blender can, so if you wanted to go without an immersion blender, you would be fine.” She added that a blender can also be used as a spice grinder, which further demonstrates the versatility of this kitchen appliance. Heuck also recommends a blender if you’re only buying one, noting that “it can do virtually everything an immersion blender can, albeit with a bit more work in some cases.”
There’s something to be said about the portability of an immersion blender, though. “If you don’t have much space at home to store a blender and your purpose is to do basic blending, an immersion blender is also a good choice,” Kim said. She added that if you’re making sauces, emulsions, or fancy foams in small pots, an immersion blender is a great tool to have on hand. If you like to make pureed soups or even homemade baby food, Heuck recommends investing in an immersion blender. “It will save you a lot of time and cleanup in the long run,” she said.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Abigail Abesamis Demarest is a freelance journalist who specializes in food and drink content. She’s interviewed cooking experts to learn more about blenders and immersion blenders, and she’s always keen to share this knowledge with readers. Her Ninja blender is great and all, but she’s hoping to upgrade to a Vitamix one day.