If you are dairy-intolerant or vegan, you’ve likely had to give up on this delicious treat due to all the milk ingredients contained in the traditional ice cream recipe.
But this is too good a treat for us not to enjoy all together. Thanks to the growing need for more plant-based foods, it’s now possible to include a lot of foods that you loved before into your current vegan diet.
- Can you eat ice cream when you’re vegan?
- The status of vegan ice cream
- Difference between dairy-free and vegan ice cream
- Is vegan ice cream as good as milk-based ice cream?
- Vegan ice cream brands
- Benefits of eating vegan ice cream
- How to make your own non-dairy ice cream
- Vegan ice cream recipe
Can you eat ice cream when you’re vegan?
Yes! Today’s market is filled with tons of dairy-free ice cream that are just as creamy, decadent, and delicious as their regular counterparts and obviously, without animal exploitation, stomachaches, and high environmental impact. Plus, you can also make your own excellent vegan versions at home.
While some people have chosen to go vegan, others struggle to enjoy the dairy in traditional ice cream due to dietary complications. This has left ice cream companies no choice but to create dairy-free alternatives. It’s exciting to see so many new vegan options that are also high on taste and in an abundance of flavors coming to local scoop shops and grocery stores.
By choosing these options you can help reduce the animal cruelty that goes on in the dairy industry.
Here’s the ultimate guide to vegan and non-vegan ice creams so you can make an informed decision about what to include in your diet.
The status of vegan ice cream
The traditional ice cream is definitely not vegan-friendly as it contains several animal-based ingredients such as:
- A variety of milk products (cream, whole milk, condensed milk, and instant skim-milk powder): Dairy cows spend their entire lives in a permanent state of pregnancy as they are repeatedly forcibly impregnated to keep producing milk. Their babies are taken away from them almost immediately after birth, causing grief and anguish to both the mother and the calf. Factory farming has been exposed for forcing animals to live in filthy, crowded, unfavorable conditions never to see the light of day. By continuing to purchase traditional ice cream, you are increasing the demand for animal-based products and sort of contributing to the suffering that animals go through in factory farming.
- Eggs: These are derived from chicken and non-vegan
- Gelatine: This is a flavorless food ingredient that is derived from boiling hides, bones, and other animal body parts.
- Sugar: While this is technically vegan, its production process might raise eyebrows among stricter vegans. That’s because bone char, which is derived from charring animal bones, is often used to bleach sugar and make it white. The good news is some sugar manufacturers are now using plant-based filtering agents to purify sugar.
Then there’s vegan ice cream. This is made from virtually any kind of plant-based milk (like coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, oat milk, etc), frozen fruits and berries, as well as natural sweeteners and nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, etc).
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The possible combinations for making vegan ice cream are endless, just ensure the all the ingredients are plant-based to make the ice cream 100% vegan. Every base offers a unique flavor and texture but you can expect them to taste just as great as traditional ice cream.
Is there a difference between dairy-free and vegan ice cream?
The terms dairy-free/non-dairy and vegan are often used interchangeably when describing ice creams, but they mean two different things. The former means a product is free of dairy but not necessarily free of other animal products while the latter means a product is free of all animal products, including dairy. Many dairy-free ice creams contain honey, which is considered non-vegan as it’s an animal by-product.
I just thought you should know so you don’t accidentally consume non-vegan ice cream. Always read the ingredients list carefully before consuming any store-bought food to ensure it is 100% vegan.
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As I had mentioned earlier, people go for vegan ice cream for ethical reasons while others for dietary concerns. Lactose is the naturally occurring sugars in most animals’ milk, meaning vegan milk is free of lactose and safe for those with dairy allergies or who are lactose intolerant.
However, ice creams that are labeled lactose-free don’t necessarily mean they are dairy-free. Lactose-free ice creams can still contain milk and other dairies. But with the lactose enzyme broken down to an, they cannot cause a reaction in your body. If you’re looking to avoid animal-based products and by-products altogether, stick to ice creams that are strictly labeled vegan.
Is vegan ice cream as good as milk-based ice cream?
The dairy substitute market seems to be growing with each passing day and they come in just as many flavors as traditional ice cream. The toppings are also unlimited with options including fresh or frozen berries, vegan candy sprinkles, and a variety of vegan syrup, all of which give your vegan ice cream an extra splash of taste and fun.
However, getting good vegan ice cream can be surprisingly difficult. For starters, plant milk, fruits, and other natural ingredients that go into making vegan ice cream don’t come cheap.
Secondly, some vegan ice-creams never really match up to the dairy ice cream you were used to. They are a bit flat as they lack a creamy, fluffy texture. That’s because plant-based milk generally has low-fat content and high water content. Luckily, coconut milk has a naturally creamy texture that can make the perfect vegan ice cream. Thick cashew or almond milk has also been found to offer the best texture and consistency once they have been turned into ice cream.
Last, but not least, plant milk comes with distinct flavors that are quite subtle but still hard to nullify. For this reason, manufacturers add too much sugar and flavoring agents to enhance the taste. Too much sugar is, obviously, not healthy and some of the natural flavors can be derived from animals.
Therefore, when choosing vegan ice creams, you need to keep in mind that they are not all created equal. But with limitless choices, you are bound to find your perfect fit.
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Vegan ice cream brands
Several mainstream ice cream brands have created vegan-friendly flavors to cater to the growing vegan community. While so many options ensure something for everyone, it can make the selection process a bit daunting. Here are some of the top ice cream brands that sell vegan ice cream to help you get started:
Ben & Jerry’s
Their vegan ice creams are usually made using almond milk bases and are available in multiple flavors. Some of the most classic Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors, including peanut butter half-baked, coffee caramel fudge, chocolate chip cookie dough, and chocolate fudge brownie, come in vegan versions. Best of all, all these non-dairy ice creams are certified vegan, meaning they don’t include any animal-based ingredients.
From scoops to bars and even sorbets, this brand offers a flavor of vegan ice cream for everyone.
This popular ice cream chain has over 30 vegan flavors and is constantly rolling out more non-dairy options.
This list isn’t exhaustive as there are a ton of great options out there for you to try. But as with most foods, it’s best to make vegan ice cream at home. This gives you total control over the ingredients and guarantees that they are 100% vegan and healthy.
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Benefits of eating vegan ice cream
It’s a healthy alternative
Despite many people’s love for dairy products, health experts agree that they are some of the top sources of saturated fat. Too much consumption has been linked to breakouts, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and an increased risk of certain cancers as well as autoimmune diseases. By switching to vegan alternatives, you will avoid all these possible health problems.
It prevents allergic reactions
As I had said earlier, a good number of people are allergic to dairy products with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Vegan ice cream is a great way to enjoy the taste and texture of your favorite frozen treats without worrying about any adverse side effects. This makes it suitable for people with dairy allergies or who are lactose intolerant.
It’s environmentally friendly
Factory farming requires large amounts of land and water and creates a lot of waste that is damaging to the environment. It has also been linked to large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Switching to vegan ice cream reduces the demand for dairy products, which is ultimately better for the environment.
It reduces animal cruelty
The life of a dairy animal is difficult but thanks to plant-based products like vegan ice cream, the need for exploiting these beautiful animals is slowly reducing.
How to make your own non-dairy ice cream
You can make fantastic vegan ice cream at home with minimal effort. All you need is a great recipe, and an ice cream maker.
However, there is one important point you must understand about homemade ice cream. Unlike the equipment used by commercial brands, consumer models do not inject air into the mix. As a result, your homemade ice cream will turn rock hard if kept in the freezer for more than a few hours, so you should eat it right away.
Vegan ice cream recipe
This vegan ice cream is creamy and incredibly easy to make with only 5 ingredients!
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked in water overnight drained
- 2 cans of full-fat coconut milk (two 13.4 ounce cans)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or extract or 1 vanilla bean
- 2/3 cup cane sugar or other granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Ensure your cashews are completely soaked from before. Also, ensure your ice cream maker freezer base is in the freezer for at least 7 to 24 hours before (preferably 24 hours). If you just keep it in your freezer, then it’s always ready!
- In a high-speed blender, blend the soaked cashews, coconut milk, vanilla bean paste, cane sugar, and sea salt until completely smooth, about 2-4 minutes on high speed depending on your blender. You want to ensure it’s 100% smooth, so feel free to blend longer until you’re sure all the cashews are blended out. If that means you need to blend longer, definitely blend until fully smooth.
- Pour mixture into a bowl, container, or leave in the blender and cover. Sometimes the mixture can get hot while blending. Place it in the fridge for 4 hours in the coldest spot, up to 2 days if you don’t plan to make the ice cream immediately.
- Remove from the fridge. Set up your ice cream machine and place the ice cream maker freezer base into the machine and pour the ice cream mixture in. Prepare according to manufacturer settings, for about 20-25 minutes of churning. The mixture should be thick and smooth.
- Scoop the ice cream into a container, and smooth down. Place plastic wrap or a reusable wrap or parchment or wax paper flat against the ice cream, then wrap the outside of the pan too. You want to ensure it’s all protected from ice crystals. Place in the freezer for at least 4 hours to set up, even overnight if you desire. You can also enjoy it immediately like soft serve!
- After at least 4 hours in the freezer, remove the container from the freezer and allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes on the counter.
Ice cream making tips
- Use an ice cream maker to make this recipe. Ensure your ice cream maker freezer base is ready! It can be tempting to shorten this time but it’s necessary to get the mixture cold enough to turn it into ice cream. I just leave my base in the freezer, which means it’s always ready!
- It’s important to use full-fat coconut milk. Also, remember we are using the full can of coconut milk. Also, do not substitute coconut milk powder. It isn’t creamy enough and will result in icy ice cream.
- Don’t rush your ice cream base chilling time. I made it after 10 minutes in the freezer, and after a few hours in the fridge, and after a whole night in the fridge. The last two were far more creamy, set much faster in the ice cream maker, and were much easier to scoop. I highly recommend chilling the cashew cream for the right length of time.
- If you live in a hot climate, I recommend doing this in the coolest part of your house or turning on your AC if you have one. This ensures the mixture solidifies properly.
- Always cover your finished ice cream as per the recipe, otherwise ice particles will form in it and result in some small ice chunks.
Suggested read: 37 foods and ingredients to avoid on a vegan dietLast updated on November 6, 2021, and last reviewed by an expert on August 25, 2021.