Guac The Next Happy Hour With Avocado Margaritas

When avocados and tequila meet, something magical happens. This could be the start of a spiked salad or salsa, but the fusion I’m thinking of manifests as a frozen margarita, perfect for taking the edge off on a hot summer day. We’ve already seen that avocados can do amazing things with iced coffee, so why not take it to the bar and give it a shot?

A Brief History of Avocado Margaritas

Legend has it that Curra’s Grill in Austin, TX was the first to blend the savory green fruit into a sweet and sour margarita mix. As the story goes, it came about as a dare, but the results were no joke. Many customers undoubtedly order it for similar reasons, only to become hooked on the uniquely refreshing experience. Accented with a pinch of cilantro, tequila cuts through the buttery richness of the avocado with a fresh finish.

Not one to miss a trend, Epcot’s own avocado margarita has been incredibly popular since it hit the menu at La Cava del Tequila. The “happiest place on earth” takes a sweeter approach to appeal to the masses, adding melon liqueur to boost the bright green hue and ripe, fruity flavor all at once. The glass is rimmed with lurid pink hibiscus salt, amplifying the floral notes and of course, adding an eye-catching color contrast that you can’t miss from across the bar.

Key Differences in My Avocado Margarita Recipe

While I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel here, I do think there are a few tweaks that could make the modern classic even better.

  • Swap the polarizing cilantro addition for spicy jalapeño. While strictly optional, it’s highly recommended for a little kick at the end of each sip, balancing out the creamy richness of the avocado.
  • Use fresh citrus juices instead of prepared margarita mix or more flavored liqueurs. Prepared blends are never particularly fresh or natural tasting, and almost always cloyingly sweet. Personally, I’d rather taste the tequila than cover it up, especially if I’m paying for a top shelf bottle.
  • Use flaky sea salt rather than kosher salt for the rim. It dissolves more easily for a gentler saline hit, rather than a blast of salt from chunky granules.
  • Forgo the added sugar or agave. I’d much prefer to lean in on the savory flavors of the avocado here rather than turn the mix into a boozy milkshake.

The Best Tequila For Making an Avocado Margarita

Any type of tequila will make a fine margarita. For the best blend though, I would recommend:

  1. Reposado, for its subtle sweetness, is my top pick to round out this blend with a smooth finish.
  2. Blanco, with more vegetal notes, would be great with a spicier take using the optional jalapeno.

Avocados simply make everything better. From breakfast toast to a happy hour toast, these alligator pears will always serve you well.

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Ballad for Balaleet

Equal parts sweet and salty, balaleet (بلاليط) is the greatest breakfast you’ve never heard of. Toasted vermicelli is enriched with butter and perfumed by aromatic rosewater, saffron, and cardamom, creating an indescribable taste sensation. It’s both delicate and bold, hearty but decadent, deceptively simple on paper with wildly complex flavor harmonies. Top that all off with a tender omelette and you can start to understand why it’s a signature dish of Emirati cuisine.

As it’s sweetened with sugar, sometimes with a heavy hand, balaleet can be served cold for dessert, too. Think of it like rice porridge / rice pudding; versatile and endlessly adaptable based on personal preferences. My take leans more savory than most, balanced out by my not-so-secret ingredient: Sugimoto shiitake powder.

Key Ingredients and Substitutions

There are no rules for making excellent balaleet, only recommendations. Experiment to create the version you enjoy best.

  • Spaghetti: I used regular spaghetti for the sake of convenience, but you could swap in any long noodle, like angel hair or linguine, and make it gluten-free if needed.
  • Vegan butter and olive oil: Let’s not kid ourselves: The generous measure of plant-based fats are a large factor in making this dish so crave-worthy. If you need to eat oil-free, though, you can try going without. Toast the noodles in a dry skillet before proceeding with the recipe, and make sure you use a non-stick skillet for the omelette.
  • Rosewater: Try orange flower water instead if that’s more readily available. In a pinch, a tiny splash of vanilla extract and lemon juice can fit the bill.
  • Saffron: Real saffron is a splurge, no doubt about it. Save your money by using a pinch of ground turmeric instead.
  • Sugar: Some recipes can have upwards of 1/2 cup of granulated sugar per serving! I prefer much less, but you can always add more to taste. To make this recipe sugar-free, add a few drops of liquid stevia, as needed.
  • Sugimoto shiitake powder: While there’s no replicating that deep umami flavor, absent of any overtly mushroom-y taste, you can make do by swapping the plain water with shiitake mushroom soaking water instead.
  • Chickpea flour: The key to making a tender, fluffy plant-based omelette, chickpea flour is an essential staple that should always be on hand. That said, if you’d prefer a simpler approach, you could skip the homemade omelette altogether and heat up a JUST folded egg.

Another Note About Noodles

Skip right to the good stuff and start with fideos to make this recipe even easier. I like the more random lengths created by breaking up full strands, plus it’s just fun to break things.

  1. Place your long noodles in a strong zip-top bag. Don’t use a flimsy plastic shopping bag because it will surely tear and make a mess in the process.
  2. Press the air out of the bag and make sure it’s sealed.
  3. Either use your hands to pick up and crack the noodles at random, or smack it gently with a rolling pin, until the pieces are all roughly 1 – 2 inches in length.

Traditionally, the noodles aren’t toasted, but I love the color, extra nutty flavor, and toothsome texture this creates. You’re welcome to skip this step if you’re in a rush.

How To Serve Balaleet

Forget cold cereal flakes; given the balance of fiber and protein, balaleet is the true breakfast of champions. As such, it’s a complete meal on its own. My only suggestions would be for drink pairings, such as:

  • Chai tea
  • Strong coffee
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice

For added heft, you could also incorporate or serve on the side:

  • Whole chickpeas
  • Sauteed or caramelized onions
  • Hash browns or home fries

If you haven’t yet tried balaleet, you’re missing out. If you have, I’d implore you to give it another go with shiitake powder as an all-purpose flavor booster. Seamlessly amplifying both sweet and savory notes, you may be surprised by what a big difference this small addition can make.

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The Ultimate List Of Vegan Birthday Freebies

No matter how old I get, I’ll never stop celebrating by collecting the wealth of birthday freebies available near and far. From full meals to sweet treats, you could easily live off of these generous handouts for a least a week.

My original birthday freebie roundups have been some of my most popular posts, so I know I’m not alone in that revelry! Given how many things have changed in our post-COVID world, it seemed high time to update these lists with the most current offerings. First, a quick refresher course on maximizing your birthday haul.

Tips For Collecting Birthday Freebies

To play the game, you’ve gotta know the rules. Unfortunately, the rules are different for each establishment and subject to change at any time. Keep in mind these quick tips for the best results.

  • Sign up for loyalty programs at least one month before your birthday. Some won’t grant you that big b-day bonus if you subscribe right before the event.
  • Download the apps. Even if you only have it on your phone long enough to redeem, it’s necessary in some cases (to scan a barcode, special token, or for proof of ID) and simply a whole lot easier in most others.
  • Read the fine print. What was free last year might now require a purchase this year or only grant you a certain percentage off your bill.
  • Go during off-peak hours. If possible, make it easier on the staff, who may or may not be trained to know how to handle special requests properly.
  • Be kind to staff. It should go without saying, but this is a gift; accept it graciously. Be patient, wait in line like everyone else, and tip whenever possible.

What Does Not Qualify As A Birthday Freebie

For the sake of clarity, let’s go over what doesn’t make the list. You may wonder where some of your favorite deals are, but if they’re not included here, it’s a good chance they’re:

  • Not vegan (contains meat, dairy, eggs, or honey)
  • BOGO deals
  • Free only with a purchase
  • Percentage off your total bill
  • Part of a paid membership program
  • Not available at all locations
  • Unofficial or off the books (maybe that server was just flirting with you)

Nationwide Birthday Freebies

Large franchises with outposts all across the US often have the most robust rewards programs to encourage brand loyalty. Use that to your advantage and start racking in the free food, drinks, cosmetics, and more!


Sign up for Starbucks Rewards and get a free drink or prepared food item on exactly the date of your birthday. Almost any of the drinks can be veganized thanks to the option to substitute oat milk, soymilk, almond milk, or coconut milk. Just avoid the pumpkin spice, white mocha, caramel brûlée syrups, caramel sauce, java chips, and of course, whipped cream. Many stores now offer a highly serviceable Chickpea Bites & Avocado Protein Box if you’re hungry for something more substantial.


Register for Real Rewards and let the froyo flow! You have classic fruity soft serve sorbet options along with richer, creamier, oat milk based frozen desserts. That means you can spoon into luscious brown sugar vanilla, blueberry pancake, cinnamon oatmeal cookie, and chocolate souffle froyo without a drop of dairy. Get your first free 3-ounce swirl as soon as you sign up, and another on your birthday.

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Welcome to Moe’s! If you’re familiar with this ubiquitous rally cry, you already know that there’s plenty of tofu, beans, rice, and plant-based goodness to go around at this quick service establishment. What you might not know is that by signing up for the Moe’s Rockin’ Rewards, you can walk out with a completely free burrito on your birthday. Load it up with all the good stuff, including guacamole, and come hungry because these are some behemoth tortilla torpedoes.

Veggie Grill

Download the Veggie Grill Rewards app to your phone to cash in on $5 off your purchase, both when you sign up and when your birthday rolls around! That’ll net you a free soup, mac and cheese, mini wrap, black bean and quinoa mini bowl, side of fries, cauli-mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh little salad, multiple veggie sides, or a dessert. With so many tempting choices, you can easily stretch that fun money into a satisfying snack or light meal.


Go froyo! Join the Pinkberry loyalty program through the mobile phone app for free and you’ll instantly earn a generous swirl of the frozen creamy confection with four toppings from the array of fresh fruits, nuts, crushed Oreos, mochi, and popping boba. Non-dairy froyo flavors will vary by store, but you can always count on finding at least one creamy treat to cool down with. Coconut and salted caramel coconut provide a more ice cream-like soft serve indulgence, while simply fruit peach passion and tropical mango offer a lighter, more refreshing experience. Take a peek at all the ingredient information here.

Snooze, An AM Eatery

Tempting as it may be to sleep in, resist hitting the snooze button to catch a free birthday pancake from Snooze. Join MySnooze Bennyfits to cash in on your fluffy flapjacks, and use the app to join the virtual waiting list while you’re at it. These early morning haunts are packed at daybreak, for good reason. The Vegan Bliss Pancakes with real maple syrup are worth setting an alarm for.

Sprinkles Cupcakes

What’s a birthday without cake? Sprinkles understands that we’re not all up to the task of baking amidst all the festivities, which is why they’re kindly gifting all the lucky birthday girls and guys who join Sprinkles Perks with one cupcake on their big day. I hope you like red velvet because that’s the only vegan flavor, but hey, who could really complain about free cake?


I like Ike, and you will too once he treats you to a generous full meal for your special day. That includes any sandwich, along with a bag of chips and a drink. Almost anything on the extensive menu can be veganized, and some of the best combinations aren’t even listed in store so don’t be afraid to ask. One of my favorites is the Tom Brady; breaded meatless chicken, mushrooms, avocado, and non-dairy cheese. Sign up for the e-club to get this offer along with other discounts and bonuses throughout the year.


Rounding out the list with some non-edible pampering, this one is for all you glamorous makeup enthusiasts out there. Become a Beauty Insider to earn rewards for your cosmetic purchases all year round and cash in on free luxury minis on your birthday. Those deluxe samples change every year and there’s always two or three options to chose from, but bear in mind that not all brands are cruelty-free, so do your research before showing up at the counter to cash in.

Ulta Beauty

When you setup your Ultamate Rewards account and provide your email address, Ulta Beauty will send you a voucher for a free beauty product to celebrate. This offering changes every month and may or may not be vegan, so always double-check the ingredients before heading out to claim yours. The gift is only available over the counter, so take your barcode straight to the checkout line to redeem.


Believe it or not, this old school ice cream parlor is churning out some vegan treats these days. Flavors vary depending on the store and time of year, but your best bets are Non-Dairy Mint Chocochunk or Lime Daiquiri Ice. Sign up for the Birthday Club and you’ll get to chill out with a free small scoop (4 oz) of any flavor your heart desires.

Habit Grill Burger

The Habit Burger Grill

The Habit Burger Grill has been offering free birthday Charburgers for years now, but only recently started offering veggie burgers as a regular menu staple. Now that’s something to celebrate all by itself! Join the CharClub and when your special day rolls around, order the veggie burger on a French roll, wheat or seeded bun, or wrapped in lettuce. The sourdough is grilled in butter, but there are so many other choices, you’ll have yourself a hearty meatless meal no matter what.

Curry Up Now

Spice things up with a free meal on the actual day of your birthday only when you sign up for the rewards program, in the form of either a bowl or a burrito. Make the most of your day and head straight for the Hella Vegan, stuffed with smashed samosas and chutney. There’s also the Hungry Planet featuring meatless chicken for us plant-based eaters that want more protein, but given the opportunity to have potatoes wrapped in pastry wrapped in rice wrapped in a tortilla, how could one resist all those comforting carbs?


The acronym may stand for The Country’s Best Yogurt, but a more modern definition should also include almond milk frozen desserts. In collaboration with Silk, TCBY now offers this chocolatey, refreshing treat for those who can’t get down with regular froyo. It also pairs beautifully with their fruit-based flavors, such as strawberry kiwi or mango. Sign up for the loyalty program to cash in on 4 ounces of the sweet stuff for free on your birthday, and don’t forget to swing by on National Froyo Day, February 6th, for a second round, pro bono.

Austin, Texas Birthday Freebies

Keep it weird and support standalone Austin stores and homegrown mini chains. The following shops will treat you generously on your special day, so don’t forget to return the favor and shop local on your unbirthday, too.

Amy’s Ice Creams

Amy’s Ice Creams is a treasured Austin establishment that got its start in 1984 and is still scooping strong. The menu at large is still firmly dairy- and egg-based, but you can always find at least one vegan specialty that will make you melt. Depending on the day, you might find chocolate, vanilla, coffee, or snickerdoodle ice cream, or a range of fruity sorbets. Snag a free scoop with one free “crush-in,” such as oreos, nuts, fresh fruits, or sprinkles on your birthday when you sign up for the Sundae News email list.


If you’re starting to feel the squeeze after so much celebratory indulgence, head over to Juiceland for a fresh start. Sign up on Juiceland Rewards and you’ll get a coupon for $5 off, valid for one week before and one week after your big day. That’s plenty to cover a wide range of smoothies, juices, shots, coffee, and even some snacks or light meals. It’s hard to resist the Jackfruit Carnitas Supreme, a meaty Tex-Mex bowl-in-one, but on a hot day, nothing hits the spot quite like the protein-packed Strawberry Mylkshake. Don’t forget, you can add in black pepper, cinnamon, cayenne, sea salt, or habanero to your blend at no charge, any day of the year!

Snarf’s Sandwiches

Anyone would be delighted to snarf down a 7-inch Vegetarian Sandwich at Snarf’s, free of charge, so make sure you sign up for the Insider’s eclub to log your birthday! You’ll get a voucher to use to place your order online or in the app, whenever the craving strikes during your birth month. Don’t forget to leave out the cheese and mayo to make this one vegan. Jazz it up with artichoke hearts or extra mushrooms for that meaty, umami bite.

RA Sushi

RA Sushi really pulls out all the stops when you join The Hook Up. On your birthday AND half birthday, you’ll get a full $20 gift certificate to make it rain maki rolls. Don’t miss the lavishly adorned Vegetarian Roll, vibrant and verdant with cucumber, avocado, arugula, asparagus, and romaine hearts, all wrapped in green soy paper. Go to town with garlic edamame, shishito peppers, or spicy cucumber salad to complete the meal. If you dine in, you’ll even get your choice of flavored mochi for dessert, on the house! That’s a  truly sweet AND savory gift!

Mr. Natural

It’s only natural to treat yourself for your birthday; of course, Mr. Natural would have you covered! Once you make your first purchase online or in store and sign up for emails, you’ll be a be poised to receive a gift of $5 credit, available through your entire birthday month, so you have time to carefully plan out your present. You may just need it too, since there are a TON of options. It may not be much in this economy, but $5 can get you a muffin (like the amazing banana chocolate chip muffins seen above), concha, empanada, scone, Bavarian cream cone, brownie, a wide variety of cookies, doughnut, chips and queso, guacamole, or salsa, TWO tamales… It’s a tough choice, but no matter what you go with, you’ll never be disappointed.

Bao’d Up

Bow down to Bao’d Up. These fluffy steamed buns are made fresh daily in each of four central locations. Plump, pillow-y soft, and stuffed with your choice of sweet or savory fillings, you have two vegan options to chose from: Creamy veggie for a healthy snack or red bean for a light dessert. Download the app, create an account (use my referral code 8770, please!), and snag 500 points on your birthday! That shakes out to 1 free bao, side of fries, or Thai tea (made with almond milk) depending on what you’re craving. While you’re there, you might as well treat yourself to a side of pickled veggies or slaw, because the mayo is all eggless, too.


Sign up for Chi’lantro Rewards to earn points for every purchase plus a $5 off coupon on your birthday. In terms of food value, that means you can get a free Small Ssäm with tofu, which you can lavish with tons of toppings. It’s basically an overstuffed taco with Korean flavors; what’s not to love? Happily, the kimchi (both cold and caramelized) is vegan, but skip the esquites, queso, fried egg, shredded cheese, magic sauce, and ranch to avoid dairy and eggs.

Soup Peddler

Put the pedal to the metal and cash in on $5 off for your birthday. As far as I understand, you just need to have an account through their online ordering system, though I’m sure it doesn’t hurt if you make a couple of reasonable purchases throughout the year. That discount translates to a free small entry level smoothie or 8 ounces of soup. I can’t tell you what to do, but it seems criminal to pass up the opportunity to spoon into a hot bowl of mulligatawny or tomato basil soup, free of charge. Plus, you can add bread or crackers at no extra cost!

Frozen Rolls Creamery

If your birthday happens to fall anytime between February and November, you’ll need this cool antidote to Austin heat. Sign up for the Frozen Friends program to not only get a Thai-style frozen rolled ice cream with two toppings on your birthday, but also right away, as soon as you register! They have dairy free alternatives to all of the flavors and a number of vegan toppings to lavish on your custom creation. Personally, I can never resist the call of green tea treats and almost always go for “matcha heaven”, but you can also start with a base of cookies and cream, butter pecan, or mud pie, just to name a few.

More Freebies Coming Soon

Do you know about more vegan birthday freebies to add to the list? Let me know and I’ll keep this post updated!

Get To Know Natto

Slimy usually isn’t a selling point when you’re talking about food, but if it’s natto we’re talking about, that’s a large part of the appeal. In fact, “slimy” is one of the more appealing descriptors, followed by gluey, stringy, and mucilaginous, and that’s before we even get to the flavor.

What Is Natto?

Either you love it or you hate it; there’s no middle ground for this polarizing food. These fermented soybeans have been a staple of Japanese cuisine for hundreds of years, serving as a method of preservation and added nutrition as early as the Yayoi period (300 BCE – 300 CE.) It became a staple of shojin-ryori, providing meatless protein to Buddhist monks, and even fed samurai while traveling towards battle.

Natto requires only two ingredients: whole, cooked soybeans and Bacillus subtilis cultures. The process shares many similarities with miso and soy sauce, but is much faster, taking 24 hours or less to mature.

Natto Nutrition

Despite being an acquired taste for many, natto endures as a powerful superfood. Some companies have gone so far as to powder and capsulize it for those who can’t stomach the full experience. That said, nothing can compare to the genuine article, packing in more iron, manganese, copper, and fiber than an equal amount of any meat. Let’s not forget about all that cholesterol-free plant protein, and more probiotics than the average yogurt cup. Studies have shown it can help improve bone density, lower blood pressure, and aid in digestion, just for starters.

Natto’s real claim to nutritional fame is Nattokinase, an enzyme unique to the fermented beans, that many studies have found to be beneficial in combating heart disease. It’s also very high in Vitamin K2, which contributes to skin and bone health, metabolism, and brain function, and can be difficult to find from plant-based sources otherwise.

What Does Natto Taste Like?

Natto is not for everyone. Polls have shown that even self-described fans of the stuff are split on their actual enjoyment of it, admitting that it’s a regular part of their diet for the health benefits, not the flavor.

The soybeans themselves are subtly nutty, earthy, and tender. Once fermented, they take on a funky character somewhat like Brie cheese that can vary in intensity. It’s salty, richly umami, and can sometimes have a slightly bitter finish. Some prepared natto is seasoned with dashi, giving it a fishy aroma.

Neba-neba is the Japanese term that describes its unmistakable texture; stretchy, slimy, and sticky. This quality is exaggerated when stirred, which incorporates air and thickens the natto.

Buying Or Making Natto

Typically sold in 3-packs, ready-to-eat natto is found in most Asian specialty stores either in the freezer aisle nearby the vegetables and edamame, or in the refrigerated produce section not far from the miso pastes. It’s important to read labels carefully, because many contain non-vegan ingredients, namely fish in many forms. This could appear on labels as:

  • Bonito
  • Dashi
  • Tuna
  • Tuna extract
  • Dried fish
  • Fish sauce

You can bypass all of those possible pitfalls by making your own natto at home. If you’ve ever made kimchi, sauerkraut, or yogurt, you can make natto! The key is buying the right cultures and then just letting it do its thing.

Natto Serving Suggestions

Managing the texture and finding complementary flavor pairings is the key to enjoying natto. There’s nothing else quite like it, so your best bet is to just try it for yourself!

  • Breakfast is when natto truly shines. The simplest, most traditional approach is to add karashi (hot mustard), soy sauce, and thinly sliced scallions before serving over hot cooked rice. This is, of course, fairly intense and not the best way to win over natto newbies.
  • To that end, I’d recommend starting out with natto maki sushi rolls. Being able to cut it into distinct bites cuts down on the stringy, slimy texture considerably, so you can focus on whether or not the flavor is to your liking.
  • Similarly, it’s a great filling for onigiri, which can then be grilled to give you much needed crunchy contrast on the outside.
  • For a more western take, you can use natto to top buttered toast or avocado toast. Lightly mash it first if you’d like more of a subtle spread.

Have you tried natto before? Don’t let any naysayers scare you off; it really can be a delicious addition to a healthy diet!