Surely you heard about the Unicorn Frappuccino from Starbucks, which was released in April to much fanfare. It created quite a bit of chatter online, largely for its bold, bright colors. But Starbucks did not invent the unicorn food. Far from it, in fact. The trend has been percolating online for some time. We dive into the details.
What is unicorn food?
The name can be applied to any brightly colored food that features lots of pinks, blues, violets, and pastel shades often swirled together. According to Vogue, the trend was launched by a Miami-based food stylist named Adeline Waugh, who created what she called unicorn toast. She added beet juice to cream cheese to create vibrant pink-hued topping which she spread on toast. She continued to experiment and created mermaid toast next, which added new colors to the mix.
How do I do it?
While the vibrant colours might imply sickly sweetness, unicorn food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. In fact, Waugh has said her objective was to make healthy food fun. She uses natural dyes to make any non-unicorn food more fun and totally mythical. In addition to beet juice, you can use chlorophyll drops for green, blueberry powder for purple, turmeric for yellow and orange, and spirulina powder for blue.
There are many ways you can achieve the rainbow look, I’ll give you a few ideas to make your own colours – all done with natural ingredients – that will surely look magical. The ingredients provided are pretty affordable too, so you don’t have to spend $100 making one single smoothie. There are a ton of ingredients out there you could try, but I’ll stick to the ones you can find at most super markets and health food stores, don’t worry, I won’t send you on a wild goose chase to find that blue spirulina powder which honestly tastes like crap.
- Pink: you can use dehydrated berries like strawberries or raspberries. You can find this powder at baking shops (they are used to dye buttercream). You can also simply puree the fresh fruit in a food processor and add it to thick yogurt or coconut cream to add colour.
- Red: for a deep ruby red use beets. I also used beet powder which is pretty common on baking/cooking shops, a little bit goes a long way! The cool thing about beet powder is that it adds tons of colour without altering the flavour, so you won’t have a beet tasting mango smoothie.
- Yellow: use frozen mangoes. Frozen mangoes have a beautiful bright yellow hue, if you puree them as is you’ll end up with a thick and delicious yellow paste, if you mix them with a bit of yogurt they’ll turn into a soft warm tone.
- Deep green: use regular spirulina. I mentioned blue spirulina is super expensive, regular spirulina is way more affordable and you can find it at any health food store, they even come in small packs so you don’t have to buy a whole container. Keep in mind spirulina does have a strong taste, so use a little bit or you’ll drink will end up tasting fishy.
- Light/bright green: chlorophyll powder. This powder is plant-based and has a more pleasing taste than spirulina.
- Deep purple: use frozen açai berry. You can find frozen açai at most health food stores (and I’m pretty sure at regular stores too). Make sure you combine it with something like frozen bananas or a bit of coconut milk, otherwise the consistency will be too chalky.
- Light purple: use blackberries. Puree a bunch of blackberries until completely smooth, then add them little by little until you get the right colour.
- Light blue: frozen blueberries. Same as with the blackberries, puree them and add a touch to tint your smoothie.
For the smoothie featured on this post we pretty much used everything above, except the chlorophyll powder.
Once you have all of your colours ready, simply start layering them up. Gently swirl in between layers to create the unicorn/rainbow effect, you can use a spoon or a skewer to create patterns too. Once you’re done, top with fresh fruit and some sprinkles and you’re done!
The sprinkles we added on top are naturally dyed with beets and we found them at Whole Foods in their baking section (they taste pretty good too!). Have fun drinking this magical smoothie!
What else can you do with it?
Unicorn foods can go beyond colors. You can add textural elements that also provide fun pops of color. Examples include fruit such as watermelon, oranges and cantaloupe, or small pieces of sweeter fare such as pastel marshmallows and sprinkles.
In Brooklyn, a bakery has been creating rainbow bagels, which are, as you would suspect, brightly colored bagels in manic swirls of color. The Bagel Store, in Williamsburg, has been making them this way for years, the Washington Post has noted, but with the unicorn craze taking hold they have gained an incredible amount of popularity recently. Lineups out the door.
Meanwhile, Starbucks is experiencing a bit of controversy related to their Unicorn Frapp. They are being sued by another coffee shop, The End Brooklyn, which is claiming infringement based on their Unicorn Latte, which they say was introduced well before Starbucks’ version. It’s interesting to note that neither coffee shop’s beverage contains any coffee. As reported by US Weekly, the End Brooklyn’s version contains cold-pressed ginger, lemon juice, dates, cashews, maca root, blue-green algae and vanilla bean. Sounds like food a unicorn would eat.
Have you ever had unicorn food? Would you recommend it? Let us know in the comments below!
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