While it certainly looks like a piece of toast covered in candy and sweet spreads, mermaid toast is, in fact, the complete opposite. (I know—we were shocked too.) This magical food sensation is actually a very beautiful superfood snack that swaps your typical peanut butter or jam with almond milk cream cheese, spirulina, and chlorophyll. Say what now? Yes, green plant power on toast is a thing. It's definitely not what you think it's made of at first glance, and we're not the only ones surprised at the online hype surrounding it.
"I really have no idea (why it took off)," said Adeline Waugh, founder of Vibrant & Pure and creator of mermaid toast. "Maybe mermaid and unicorn foods are a form of escapism. I think sometimes people just want to look at something colorful and fantastical." Turns out pairing superfoods with aesthetics is a great way to make adults eat their greens. "My goal has always been to show that 'health food' doesn't have to be boring; in fact, in can be quite the opposite," she explained. "If nothing else, this trend could simply help open someone's eyes to healthy ingredients they would have never used otherwise." Ahead, Waugh shares more insights behind her trend-setting work along with a recipe to make it yourself at home.
MYDOMAINE: What is mermaid toast? How did you come up with the concept, and why?
ADELINE WAUGH: Mermaid toast is simply a piece of toast with spirulina- and/or chlorophyll-infused cream cheese spread on it. It was sort of one of those happy accidents. I was in the process of preparing some unicorn toast, and I decided I liked the idea of only using the blues and greens on the toast. Then, I spread them on in an ocean wave–like formation and dubbed it mermaid toast (to keep up the tradition of toast named after mythical creatures). There was no particular reason other than to create something different and beautiful with food using only natural ingredients.
MD: A lot of people think that mermaid toast is unhealthy, but it's the complete opposite. Can you explain why?
AW: This happens often, and it's quite frustrating. The same thing happened with unicorn toast. The entire point (and the challenge) of these toasts was to create bright, beautiful colors using only natural pigments. Once it became a trend, it was distorted into something I never intended it to be: a sugary/artificial, dye-filled piece of toast.
I think when people see these fantastic colors, they assume it's fake or unhealthy. It's funny—I'll get comments from people who haven't taken the time to see what I'm all about, saying Don't let your children eat this. Dye is toxic. The color of mermaid toast is actually made using beautifully colored blue-green algae powder called spirulina.
MD: What does it taste like? How do you make spirulina on toast taste delicious?
AW: It doesn't really taste any different from cream cheese on toast, because I use such a small amount to make the light blue color (if you used a lot, it would be more dark green). So I'll often photograph the toast for aesthetic purposes, and then I'll sprinkle on some everything bagel seasoning (good on everything), avocado, radishes, and sprouts.
MD: How many other variations of mermaid toast are there now? Mermaid milkshakes and even ice creams have come out since.
AW: Wow, I don't even know. I feel like everywhere I look now, I see something else mermaid. It's crazy how much it's taken off.
MD: What is the next big health/wellness craze you're working on?
AW: I'm always trying to evolve and think outside the box creatively, so I'm definitely working on some new ideas. I never want to be stagnant or making the same food over and over. I love trying new things, so we will see.
Vibrant & Pure's Mermaid Toast Recipe
Cream cheese (regular or almond milk cream cheese will work fine)
A piece of toasted bread
A butter knife
"The method is where it gets a bit tricky. It's all somewhat of an experiment. I add very small amounts of chlorophyll and spirulina to the cream cheese, mix it together, and see what the color ends up looking like.
"If I want a deeper or more pigmented color, I add a little more, bit by bit, until I have the color I desire. I add a base of plain white cream cheese first, and then I start swiping the different blues and greens on in a motion mimicking waves. You don't have to do it exactly like I do—just have fun with it!
"It really doesn't taste like anything except cream cheese and spirulina/chlorophyll, so you might want to add some toppings when you eat it, for more of a satisfying experience. I'd go for some cucumbers, everything-bagel seasoning, avocado, etc. When I take photos of the toast by itself or with gold leaf, I'm simply doing this for aesthetic reasons and to create a beautiful photo. If I'm about to eat it, I jazz it up a bit."
To see more of Waugh's work, visit Vibrant & Pure.
Have you tried the mermaid toast trend at home? Would you be game to give it a go?