What Is Vegan Ice Cream?

I live in Los Angeles. It is pretty much a vegan paradise. There are at least two plant-based pizza places within walking distance of me, and there are several plant-based burger joints as well. Beyond that, most every restaurant has an extensive vegetarian and vegan section. Looking for plant-based eggs? No problem. Plant-based chorizo? Easy.

L.A. is particularly vegan-friendly, but really, the rest of the country is increasingly moving towards plant-based options. And as we become more friendly to veganism, we still don’t want to give up our indulgences. Enter vegan ice cream, a delicious dessert treat without the animal products. But what is vegan ice cream, exactly? How is it made? Let’s scoop up some answers. 

What is vegan ice cream?

This is a reasonable query since “cream” and “vegan” seem like oxymorons. However, as with other plant-based dairy alternatives to cheese and butter, vegan ice cream is made with the “milk” of some sort of nut or legume. There are a number of vegan ice creams on the market, and they often use coconut, oat milk, cashew milk, or similar. 

What is in vegan ice cream?

Typically speaking, if you want that fatty creaminess that we associate with ice cream, you’re probably going to want vegan ice cream that uses coconut to some extent at least. This is what most vegan ice cream brands use for the simple reason that it yields a consistency and taste most similar to classic ice cream. You’ll also probably need some sort of starch or other binding agent. 

Van Leeuwen vegan chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream contains the following: “oat milk (water, oats), coconut cream, cane sugar, tapioca syrup, wheat flour, cocoa beans, cocoa butter, coconut oil, water, canola oil, molasses, tapioca flour, vanilla extract, sea salt, sunflower lecithin, soy lecithin, carob bean gum, guar gum, vanilla bean.”

As a counterpoint, Craig’s vegan Killa Vanilla contains “Cashewmilk (Filtered Water, Cashews), Invert Sugar Coconut Oil, Chicory Root Fiber, Tapioca Syrup Solids, Cane Sugar Dextrose, Natural Flavors, Mono- and Diglycerides, Himalayan Sea Salt, Sunflower Lecithin, Carob Gum, Pea Protein, Vanilla Beans, Guar Gum.”

How is vegan ice cream made?

The Kitchn has a great breakdown of how you can make vegan ice cream in your very own home kitchen (assuming you have an ice cream maker of some kind). All you need is coconut milk, some sort of sweetener, salt, starch, and vanilla extract, plus any add-ins you might want. For me, you can’t go wrong with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or just about any chip variety. 

The process is similar to making classic ice cream—you start by making a creamy base. You then warm it on the stove until it achieves a pudding-like consistency. You could eat this pudding at this point and it would probably be delicious, but it wouldn’t quite be ice cream. From there, you let it cool, churn it, freeze it, and enjoy your delicious ice cream without the dairy! 

Is vegan ice cream vegan, really? 

Okay, okay, you probably know the answer to this one already. Yes, vegan ice cream is vegan. If you find animal products in your vegan ice cream, buddy, you’ve got a lawsuit on your hands!

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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