A Complete Guide To Vegan Ice Cream In Austin, Texas

Having written two cookbooks on the subject, my love of ice cream is no secret. No flavors are off limits, no combinations too wild. That’s a large part of the appeal; there’s something for everyone. You can find everything under the summer sun, from classic vanilla that’s a scoop of simple elegance in a cone, to bold chocolate that’s as dark and decadent as pure frozen ganache. After a sizable dinner or for a standalone snack, there’s always room for ice cream.

While ice cream makers have become remarkably more accessible and inexpensive over the years, it’s impossible to compete with the instant gratification of grabbing a scoop whenever cravings strike, while on the road, or as an excuse to meetup with friends. As a deeply entrenched part of any community, it’s no coincidence that ice cream socials were originally created as a way to make political gatherings more palatable. Here in Austin, TX, we certainly have a surfeit of frozen treats to chose from, despite many recent crushing losses.

Focusing in on shops that off genuinely custard-like treats without eggs or dairy uncovered a wealth of new options. While you can certainly find suitable sorbet, Italian ice, snow cones, and popsicles elsewhere, this list is dedicated only to frozen desserts with a creamy non-dairy base.

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Good Luck Potluck

Potlucks, both big and small, have the power to bring people together like nothing else. These communal feasts allow a true fusion of cultures, uniting culinary traditions to create a symphony of flavor on every plate. Unlike your average hosted dinner party or brunch gathering, it’s not just about the individual’s dining experience, but celebrating the full collective of flavors found within the community at large.

Beyond the food itself, potlucks allow an intangible magic to develop, fostering bonds and deepening relationships. These gatherings are not confined to rigid social structures or the formality of restaurant dining. Rather, they offer an intimate setting where the boundaries between host and guest blur into insignificance. It is within this egalitarian ambiance that strangers become friends, and acquaintances transform into confidants, all while savoring the fruits of their collective labor.

With that in mind, there are no wrong answers for the perennial question: What should I bring to a potluck? From the zesty chili that sets the palate ablaze to the velvety chocolate cake that seduces the sweet tooth, each dish tells a story, far more personal and revealing than a casual conversation. If you’re stumped, though, I do have a few foolproof suggestions.

What Makes a Good Potluck Dish?

To narrow down the options, my criteria for what goes on this list is more pragmatic than visionary. It’s always best to select a dish that:

  • Serves many, ideally 8 – 10 at minimum, or can be scaled up accordingly
  • Travels well, no matter the distance
  • Can sit at room temperature or is easy to reheat with minimal fuss
  • Quick and easy to prepare, because no one wants to spend any party stuck in the kitchen
  • Isn’t terribly messy to serve or eat

From snacks to desserts, here’s my cheat sheet for serving any group with style.

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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!

Fall Back Plan

Wet leaves slap the windshield, leaving teardrops in their wake, smearing across the glass before spreading their wings and fluttering away. Driving through a light autumnal drizzle is strikingly more depressing than a gentle summer rain. Fog obscures the road, blurring signs and stoplights into hazy, shapeless colors. I feel like my whole head is full of damp cotton balls by the time I finally shift gears to park.

Fall is not my favorite season, but by no fault of its own. Signaling the end of summer, it’s merely the messenger, doomed to be shot every year. I shiver as I watch temperatures slowly fall, regardless of how warm it really feels. I storm angrily through piles of leaves, even if there’s only one small mound pushed together on an entire block. The truth is, there’s still a lot to love about fall, and almost all of if it is food.

Do you welcome the arrival of the autumnal equinox with open arms, or reluctant acceptance? One thing we can all appreciate is a return of cozy comfort foods with all their warming spices, hearty starches, and nostalgic aromas. There’s a handful of recipes that always set me in the right mood and remind me, in spite of my irrepressible pessimism: Hey, it turns out that autumn isn’t all bad.

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Dreaming of a White Chocolate Christmas

Gleaming in the early morning light, bright and luminous as freshly fallen snow, white chocolate is an irreplaceable staple for the holiday baker. Generous pans of fudge, slabs of peppermint bark, and boxes of cookies all shimmer with these sweet morsels, unrivaled in their versatility for ornamentation and flavor enhancement. The trouble, as every careful shopper knows, is that mainstream options contain far more dairy than cacao. White chocolate gets a bad rap for precisely this reason, to say nothing of the waxy hydrogenated oils that often bind the whole sugary messes together. While relatively limited vegan options exist on the market, the tides are slowly changing.

Homemade options are always a treat, and you’ll find boutique bars aplenty online, but what I’m talking about today are genuine chips, capable of holding their own in any dessert rather than functioning simply as a treat to eat out of hand. Right now, there are two types of vegan chocolate chips: Those that are good for melting, dipping, and drizzling, and those that maintain their shape, more resistant to the heat of the oven.

The newest chip off the block is somewhat revolutionary; 100% organic, no hydrogenated oils or questionable fillers in sight. Cocoa butter, rice milk powder, sugar, and vanilla are the only things that go into Pascha Chocolate‘s new rice milk white chocolate chips. For the obsessive label-readers or highly allergic eaters, this stuff is heaven-sent. Flatter than the traditional snowy peaks of conventional chocolate chips, they’re more like crisp white disks, ideal for melting down into creamy cacao creations.

Mildly flavored, they don’t beat you over the head with sweetness, but whisper gently of vanilla with a subtle buttery undertone. This nuanced approach is perfect for crowning more aggressively flavored baked goods, like these gingerbread bars pictured above, cutting their intensity without detracting from the overall experience. Although their more delicate composition means they’re more likely to pool and puddle when faced with a trip through the oven, they’re perfect for turning into white ganache or icing once your treats are fully baked. For your highest quality option with the cleanest label, Pascha Chocolate is your one and only choice.

If you’re craving a smattering of white chocolate freckles throughout your cookies or cakes, however, you still have one great option! While there are a few white chips out there designed for the kosher crowd, most of those taste of little more than wax and sugar, entirely eschewing cocoa butter and thus losing the essence of this simple sweet addition. Not so with the White Chocolate Chips offered by Chocolate Emporium. These are the little morsels of pale cacao goodness that I’ve been buying (and hoarding) in bulk for years.

Although they’re stubbornly resistant to melting down smoothly, that quality serves them perfectly for baked applications. They have a slightly softer chew right out of hand, but somehow manage to hold their own in the face of a 350 degree inferno. Their flavor would be described as subtle at best, but their main function should be to add sweetness, creaminess, and color contrast anyway.

When the chips are down, these two are your very best bets, and both should have a place of honor in your kitchen year round. Vegan white chocolate is still something of a rarity, so these sweet treats will undoubtedly elicit astonishment, wonder, and awe- Not to mention hunger.

The Ultimate Sushi Burrito Roll-Out

Wide-eyed, mouth agape, and stomach rumbling, I remember the very first time I heard of the concept. Sushi always had a special place in my heart and on my table, from a weekly after school maki roll habit to special birthday dinner requests, often cited as my last meal selection when asked. Despite my youth, I thought that such relentless passion had already exposed me to all the category had to offer. New vegetable, legume, or fruit combinations could shake things up from time to time, but there was nothing earth-shattering to be found in this time-honored edible art form.

That was until I came across sushi burritos. Hulking bundles rivaling the size of a newborn, these babies were instead swaddled in oversized sheets of slick, glistening nori, overstuffed with a rainbow of fresh and widely varied ingredients. Just one order would satisfy the average eater, if not push them right over the edge into a contented food coma. Back in the early days, there was only one: The Sushirrito, the granddaddy of them all. Scrolling through blogs that featured mouth-watering photos of the beast, I vowed that one day, I would venture out west, if only to taste this legendary creation for myself.

Almost a decade later, it’s safe to say that this is no longer a passing trend, but a hot ticket item that’s here to stay. Sushirrito has expanded its empire all the way out east to New York, with plans to unveil its 8th and 9th outposts soon. More tellingly, however, is the number of rivals now on the scene that offer up their own perspective on the giant sushi wrap. What might surprise you is the fact that all of these fish-centric establishments offer wholly vegan options, and the greatest variety is actually found across the bay, in Berkeley and Oakland. So who makes the one veggie sushi burrito to rule them all? It took me over a year of eating and countless packets of soy sauce, but what follows is my official* ruling on the very best of the bay area.

*Completely unofficial.

Pulling off the greatest upset in sushi burrito history, the young upstart Sushinista gets the gold star in this competition. Less than a year on the scene and still flying well below the radar, their offerings are some of the least traditional, but accordingly most inventive and exciting. Portobello mushrooms slathered in a mild green curry sauce are the shining stars of this menu, complimented by a range of seasonal vegetables and crunchy toppings that have previously included such unsung delights as persimmon and Asian pear.

Giving credit where credit is due, Sushirrito still carries the torch in San Francisco proper. Quite frankly, it’s hard to beat the obscenely rich mushroom fries found in the “Buddha Belly,” ringing with umami and wholly satisfying on their own. I’m tempted to call it a tie with my top pick, but points ultimately had to be deducted for sloppy construction. Kudos for providing a roasted garlic tofu aioli, but that added sauce frequently created soggy nori, leading to catastrophic blowouts while eating. You’ll eventually need to attack it with a fork in the end.

Big bonus point and serious kudos go to Sumo Roll for being the ONLY establishment offering not one, but two veganizable options. Although both the veggie-forward “Kabuki” and curried tofu “Midori” automatically come with egg-based aioli and one with slaw, just let your sushi burrito artist know about your dietary needs and they’re more than happy to customize. Ask for the tangy miso-ginger sauce instead, and you’ll be in business. Hat tip to Sumo Roll for providing what is quite possibly the best value around, serving up truly sumo-sized servings that don’t hold back on the flavorful fillings.

Placing Torpedo Sushi so far down the list feels downright heretical, considering the consistently luscious slabs of avocado and chunks of baked tofu wrapped up in every bundle. They simply got edged out for offering smaller portions, and occasionally bulking up their rolls with more rice than fillings. Burritos can be somewhat hit-or-miss based on these proportions, so I’d be more inclined to order the “Veganator” in rice bowl format instead.

Traveling back to downtown Berkeley, Sushi Secrets certainly doesn’t skimp on the goodies wrapped up in their “Denemon,” throwing unexpected ingredients like purple potatoes and corn into the mix. Unfortunately, their wraps also suffer from issues with structural integrity, and the sweet and sour dressing dominates the entire composition, drowning out any nuances that the unique vegetables might provide. Once unwrapped, the whole thing is liable to explode into your lap, and sadly, it’s not even worth the effort of picking up all the shrapnel.

Ordering sushi from a truck might seem sketchy, even when opting for a fish-free meal, but We Sushi has proven itself as a reliable source for sushi satisfaction. The “Vegan” burrito is solid, a fine fix if you’re craving vinegared rice and veggies, featuring sweet potato tempura most prominently, but nothing to rave about. It’s the beige cardigan of sushi burritos; reliable, comfortable, but nothing you’d want to show off in public. Go ahead and order up if you spot the truck parked in your neighborhood, but don’t go out of your way to hunt it down.

Pulling up the tail end of this edible parade, the “Tofu Teriyaki” burrito at Sushi Taka seems more like an afterthought than a feature. Ordered without spicy mayo, the wrap tastes only of seaweed salad. Soft tofu squares dissolve without any notable texture, and the promise of teriyaki flavor goes unfulfilled. In a word: Pass.

Honorable mention goes to Nombe, for taking the fusion concept to the next level and actually wrapping their sushi burritos in flour tortillas. These are a rotating item on the menu, but I don’t think you’re missing much if you don’t see them during your visit; the combination of carb-on-carb is just a total starch-fest, especially considering the fact that rice takes up more than half the bundle to begin with.

It’s safe to say that sushi burritos are officially having their moment out west, but time will tell if that enthusiasm of oversized maki rolls will continue their spread across the country. There are highlights and low lights to be found, with wide variations all over the board, but overall, there’s a lot to love about the concept.

Have you had sushi burritos? Have you made sushi burritos? Tell me about it, and let’s craft a better burrito, together!