Our Top 10 Non-Dairy Ice Cream Alternatives
I scream, you scream, we all scream for… you guessed it, ice cream! For some, ice cream invokes fond memories of summer family outings; for others, the timeless sound of the ice cream truck rolling down the street. While these sweet and icy cold treats are keen on making our hearts melt, we know it can be challenging to find a dairy-free alternative that’s just as tasty and refreshing as the real thing! We believe a perfect ice cream substitute should be able to capture that same sort of rich, creamy goodness we all know and love… but not to worry. We have the inside scoop on some of the best ice cream substitutes YOU should try this summer! Some of these “twists” may surprise you… others may WOW you. As for us? We think they’ll give even the most passionate ice cream devotees in your life something new to “scream” about!
Very Berry Coconut Ice Cream
Image: Not Enough Cinnamon
It’s vegan. It’s free of added sugars. It’s cold, creamy, refreshing… and no ice cream maker is necessary! This wholesome ice cream alternative combines heaps of lush berries and non-dairy milk with a natural sweetener like stevia. It’s hard to believe something so satisfying takes less than five minutes to make and requires only three ingredients. Between big berry flavors, colorful fruit blends and the bliss of a guilt-free conscience, this is sure to be an instant favorite!
Skip the refined sweeteners and try a more nutritious option like honey or rice syrup!
- 4 cups fresh mixed berries
- 1 cup coconut milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
- 1/2 tbsp powdered stevia, or more to taste (you can also use honey or maple syrup)
- First, add your choice of berries, non-dairy or lactose-free milk and stevia to the bowl of your food processor.
- Process the combination until the end result has a fine, smooth texture. It should resemble soft-serve!
- Next, sample the mixture and adjust the amount of sweetener to taste, if necessary.
- Finally, serve and enjoy! You can eat this ice cream straight away if you prefer it as a soft-serve treat, or simply transfer it to a metal tin or loaf pan and place it in the freezer for two hours for a more traditional “ice cream” texture.
Summer Fruit Sorbet
Image: The Kitchn
Are you suddenly expecting guests and don’t know what to make? Do the kids need an energy boost while playing outside? If you ever find yourself in need of a quick summer refreshment that’s perfect for entertaining, sorbet is definitely the solution! For our version, we use freshly picked, local summer fruits (instead of fruit juice) with a natural sweetener. It’s lighter than ice cream but still smoother and creamier than Italian Ice! Every two pounds of fresh fruit yields about a quart or so of sorbet. Although this treat does require an ice cream maker, it can be easily prepared ahead of time so that entertaining is as easy as taking a short walk to the freezer. Homemade varieties like ours will generally keep for about a month in the freezer before starting to become overly icy. Sorbets are also very forgiving, so exact measurements aren’t necessary—add as much or little sweetener or as many or few fruits as you want!
Being lighter than ice cream, sorbet is often served to clear the palate before a heavy meal or main course. A nutritious dessert anytime? Works for me J
For the Non-Dairy Custard Base:
- 3 cups non-dairy milk (almond milk, coconut milk, etc.)
- 1 cup unrefined sweetener
- 8 egg yolks
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp. Vanilla extract (optional)
For the Sorbet:
- 2 pounds of fresh fruit (4 to 5 cups after prepping and slicing)
- ½ cup agave nectar or another unrefined sweetener
- 1 cup water (approx.)
- 1 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Non-Dairy Custard Base:
- First, prepare your non-dairy ice cream base by placing a strainer in a bowl over an ice bath. Bring the non-dairy milk to a simmer in a medium pot over medium-high heat for about five minutes. Remove the pot from heat as soon as you begin to see small bubbles forming, then let it sit for 10 minutes or until it cools to room temperature.
- Next, beat the eggs, sweetener and salt until you have a thick paste. Stir in the cooled milk slowly while continuing to whisk the egg mixture.
- Once combined, return everything to the pot and cook over medium-low heat while gently stirring in an “S” shape. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan!
- Once thickened and at a temperature of about 170 degrees, strain the mixture into a bowl over an ice bath and stir in the vanilla extract. Then place it in the freezer.
- Begin by washing and drying your fruits and berries. Cut away or remove any rinds, peels, pits, seeds, stems, or other non-edible parts of the fruit, then slice the fruit into bite-sized pieces. This should yield around five cups of chopped fruit, though a little more or less here is fine!
- Next, freeze your chopped fruit for about two to three hours or until solid.
- Once frozen, add the fruit and agave syrup to the bottom of your food processor (or mixing bowl, if using an immersion blender) and blend until liquefied.
- If the consistency is too hard, add a small amount of warm water to help it along, then mix it again.
- Stir in one tablespoon of lemon juice, then sample the sorbet base. Only add more lemon juice if you feel it tastes too sweet!
- Cover the sorbet base and chill for at least one hour (but preferably more).
- Add the ice cream and sorbet base to your ice cream maker and churn until the mixture has the consistency of a thick smoothie. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes in most machines.
- Transfer the sorbet to pint containers or other freezable containers, then cover and freeze them for around 3 hours until the sorbet has hardened.
Fruit and Yogurt Cones
Who says non-dairy desserts need to resemble ice cream at all? That’s why we love this unique twist on classic fruit yogurt, combining the best of both and stuffing them inside waffle cones! That’s right—your family, friends and house guests are sure to appreciate you even more with this summery dessert. Not only is it a more nutritious and fitness-focused dessert, but it makes a satisfying and beneficial switch-up to a traditional ice cream cone. Healthy and luxurious snacking at its finest!
Want the benefits of a healthier waffle cone you can make at home? Click here to give it a go with these 100% vegan cones!
- 1 vegan waffle cone (click above for the recipe)
- ½ cup of cashew or coconut-based yogurt
- ¼ cup of your favorite fruits (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, kiwi, etc.)
- 1 tbsp. dark chocolate chips (at least 60% cacao)
- Add your choice of non-dairy yogurt to the bottom of the waffle cone and fill it about halfway.
- Add your combination of fruits (we choose local, in-season berries for a classic New England summer taste!)
- Sprinkle one tablespoon of dark chocolate chips on top... and voila! You now have a nutritious dessert that can be enjoyed at any time of day (or year, really).
Blueberry Watermelon Shaved Ice
Image: 80 Twenty Nutrition
Shaved ice is always a blast to make (especially with the kids!)... so why use artificial sweeteners and fruit syrups when you can stick with wholesome, raw ingredients instead? Our vegan, gluten-free spin on shaved ice is simple, healthy and delicious! We love making it with all kinds of in-season fruits, but we recommend blueberries and watermelon—two local favorites, combined with a freshly squeezed lime for an added kick of tartness. This shaved ice is by far one of our favorite healthy summer treats of all time. With zero added sugars and numerous antioxidants, it's the perfect ‘cheat’ meal companion!
Shaved ice is the perfect way to chill out on a hot day! Try scooping some into vegan waffle cones (see above) to create fun and healthy "snow cones!"
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/2 watermelon large, seedless, cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp Lime juice
- In a food processor, combine all ingredients until blended.
- Pour into a shallow glass container and put in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
- When you take it out, it should be partially frozen (like a slushie).
- Use a fork to break it up a bit. If you want it more frozen, pop it back in the freezer for another 30 minutes or so. "Shave" with a fork, serve and enjoy!
Healthy Ice Cream Sandwich
Image: Darn Good Veggies
A truly healthy ice cream sandwich may sound like an impossible anomaly… but trust us, it’s not! The cookie layers are made using just four wholesome ingredients, including heart-healthy nuts and seeds, while the ice cream is made from coconut cream, dates and vanilla bean powder. You also will not need an ice cream machine, nor will you even need to bake anything… so easy! This delicious and decadent healthy ice cream alternative only requires about 20 minutes to assemble, and we think you’ll agree the end result is worth every second.
These raw, vegan and gluten-free dessert sandwiches are so healthy you can even enjoy them as a guilt-free breakfast!
For The Ice Cream:
- 2 15oz cans coconut cream
- 1/2 cup packed pitted medjool dates
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder OR vanilla extract
For The Cookie:
- 3 cups packed pitted medjool dates
- 3 cups walnuts
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 3/4 cup cacao nibs
- Add all the ice cream ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth.
- Scoop the ice cream substitute into a glass or metal baking dish and place it in the freezer overnight (or until completely set).
- The next day, remove the ice cream from the freezer and allow it to soften while you are making the cookies.
- Add all the cookie ingredients into a food processor and blend them until the dough comes together. It should hold onto its shape when pinched.
- Press half of the cookie mixture into a 9" x 9" baking dish lined with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over on two sides. This creates a place for your hands to grab and lift the sandwiches out of the tray later.
- Scoop the ice cream and smooth it over the cookie layer. Place in the freezer until set, or about two hours.
- Remove and press on the remaining cookie layer to even it out, then return the pan to the freezer for one hour.
- Remove and slide a knife around the two edges that aren’t lined with parchment paper.
- Grab the two exposed sides or parchment paper and carefully lift the ice cream sandwiches out of the baking dish.
- Finally, divide and cut out 16 ice cream sandwiches and serve. Be sure to store the uneaten sandwiches in the freezer!
Classic Banana Froyo
Timing when to eat your bananas can be tricky… we all know that feeling after seeing a bushel in the kitchen or dining room with only a good day or two left! Next time you have a bunch of bananas about to go, try placing them in the freezer instead and get ready to treat yourself to a classic froyo! Bananas have a creamy texture and thick consistency that makes them a perfect base for mixing in other ingredients. When chilled and blended with ice, this homemade delight proves to be a rich and yummy alternative to traditional dairy ice creams and frozen yogurts. Even better, this classic recipe is flexible enough where you can add other ingredients and truly make it your own!
Need that perfect add-in ingredient? The sky's the limit with this one! Try adding some non-dairy yogurt, granola and in-season berries for an even healthier mid-summer snack!
- 2 medium ripe bananas, peeled and cut into chunks
- ½ cup of plain, non-dairy yogurt (cashew or coconut)
- 1 ½ tbsp. natural peanut butter
- First, peel the bananas and cut them into chunks. Place them in a bowl and chill them in the freezer until solid.
- Puree all the ingredients using a food processor—scraping down the sides occasionally and ensuring no banana chunks are left. A smooth and fluffy mixture should form after about one to two minutes.
- For a harder froyo, freeze the banana cream for 15 minutes before serving. Don't forget to store it in the freezer if you have extra!
Blueberry Nice Cream in Cantaloupe
Image: This Healthy Table
Here’s a “nice” way to serve up those fresh local blueberries! This 100% vegan “nice cream” calls for almond milk instead of dairy milk and uses bananas as the base to hold the ingredients together. There are lots of lactose-free ice creams out there, but we think this one takes the gold thanks to its plentiful helpings of fruit and nuts. Best of all, it’s served not in a traditional cone but rather a cantaloupe bowl, making it a delicious and healthy snack or dessert.
Do you prefer the "sweeter" things in life? Try drizzling a little honey or agave syrup over the top... you can find both in our bulk section!
- 3 very ripe bananas
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 cups blueberries
- 1 cantaloupe
- Blend the bananas, almond milk, and blueberries together in a food processor or blender until fully combined.
- Spread the blueberry mixture evenly in a freezer-safe container.
- Chill for at least 3 hours, or longer if you want a firmer consistency.
- Half the cantaloupe and scoop out the seeds, then simply scoop the ice cream into the cantaloupe bowls to serve!
Vegan Blueberry Swirl Popsicles
Image: Occasionally Eggs
Yogurt pops are known for being healthier than your average popsicle, and they’re every bit as refreshing during the summer months… especially when homemade! But what if you’re looking for a vegan version that’s still just as good for you? This easy variation simply swaps out the dairy for canned coconut milk, combining it with maple syrup, squeezed lime, vanilla and a blueberry compote. If you prefer a tangier, sharper taste (or just want to try something different), try exchanging the coconut milk for a high-quality coconut milk yogurt or vegan labneh. Lemon bergamot yogurt also makes a great substitute for the entire base and tastes excellent alongside the swirled blueberries!
I love a variety of flavors... and it's even better when the options are all equally healthy! Try making these yogurt pops in separate batches using raspberries, blackberries or other seasonal fruits!
For the Blueberry Swirl:
- 1 ½ cups of fresh, local blueberries
- 1 tbsp. of maple syrup or honey
For the Coconut Milk Popsicle Base:
- 400 ml (13.5 oz.) can of full-fat coconut milk (cream only)
- 2 tbsp. of maple syrup or honey, to taste
- Zest and juice of 2 limes
- ½ tsp. of pure vanilla extract
- A tiny pinch of sea salt
- Put the blueberries into a saucepan over low-medium heat.
- Cover the pan for about five minutes or until the berries burst.
- Stir in the maple syrup and mash the mixture slightly. Set it aside to cool.
Coconut Milk Popsicle Base:
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the coconut cream, maple syrup or honey, lime juice and zest, vanilla extract and salt.
- Spoon about two tablespoons of the cooked blueberries into each mold. Doing this first will allow the berry mixture to be at the top of the popsicle, whereas adding it last would make it more difficult to swirl correctly.
- Top the blueberry swirl with the coconut milk base, then use a small spoon or popsicle stick to lift and swirl some of the blueberry mixture into the base.
- Once the pops are swirled to your heart's content, place the popsicle sticks into the mold and freeze until solid (or about two hours).
Avocado Ice Cream
Image: Feel Good Foodie
Were you expecting the unexpected? If you never thought avocados could work as ice cream, we think this recipe certainly proves otherwise! Try whipping up this tasty treat for an easy, homemade vegan dessert that’s sure to surprise and awe the whole family. Avocados have a smooth and naturally creamy texture, making them a perfect candidate to throw into smoothies, mousses, and of course, dairy-free ice cream! Bananas are also a key ingredient here, since they give it that necessary touch of sweetness we crave. If you love avocados as much as we do and are struggling to find a healthier, vegan dessert option, it doesn’t really get any better (or greener) than this!
There are so many yummy ways to mix up this recipe! Love nuts? Try adding pistachios or almonds just before freezing! Or, if you prefer a more citrusy bite, simply blend in lemon or orange zest!
- 1 14- ounce can full-fat coconut milk refrigerated overnight
- 2 ripe avocados halved, pitted and peeled
- 1 ripe banana cut, and frozen
- 3 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 4-5 large mint leaves
- Chill a loaf pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- In a high-speed blender, add the peeled and pitted avocados. Scoop out the solid part of the coconut milk into a blender and save the liquid part to use in another recipe (like a smoothie).
- Add the banana, maple syrup, lemon juice and mint leaves. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Pour the mixture into the chilled loaf pan and use the back of a spoon to distribute evenly. Place in the freezer for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- For best results, let soften for 10-15 minutes at room temperature before serving.
Vegan Lemon Sherbert
Image: The Vegan 8
Lemons are known to boost the immune and digestive systems, helping to ward off viruses and other infections. Not only do lemons have great health benefits, but when combined with vegan ice cream they give a burst of fresh tart flavor that balances perfectly with sweet notes. It is so refreshing, especially during spring and summer when it’s hot outside, and it only requires a handful of ingredients to make! It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, oil-free and nut-free too… we love to keep things simple!
It's like lemonade but as ice cream! Serve this tangy, delicious treat as a perfect finish to your next feast!
- Fresh Lemons (lots of them)
- Unsweetened Apple Juice
- 1 Can of Low-Fat Coconut Milk
- 1 Can of Full-Fat Coconut Milk
- White Granulated Sugar
- Maple Syrup
- Combine the freshly squeezed lemon juice and apple juice in a bowl and place it in the refrigerator.
- Add the coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch and salt to a small pot and turn the heat to medium. As soon as the liquid starts to simmer, whisk it continuously for a few minutes until the cornstarch and sugar have dissolved.
- Turn off the heat, then pour the liquid into a bowl and place it in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours.
- Once chilled, add the lemon juice mixture and maple syrup to a blender. Pulse it for about a minute, or until well-combined.
- Pour the combination into your ice cream maker and let it run for 20-25 minutes until a soft-serve consistency is reached.
- Eat now or let firm up in the freezer for around three hours for a perfectly ice cream-like texture. If left in the freezer overnight, give it about 15 minutes or so to thaw to reach that same consistency!