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What is Vegan Ice Cream Made From?

What is vegan ice cream made from, you ask? Though vegan ice cream might seem like a far cry from traditional dairy ice cream, it’s really quite similar. Instead of using dairy milk, this plant-based treat is simply free of animal products.

Vegan ice creams have come a long way since their early days as simple frozen fruit purees. As people turn to plant-based diets or require dairy-free options because of sensitivities and lactose insensitivity, the need for dairy-free ice creams has surged. These frozen desserts have gone from niche finds, to highly-coveted pints. So grab your spoons (and curiosity) as we embark on a journey through the world of vegan frozen treats!

Table of Contents:

  • Does Vegan Ice Cream Have Dairy?
  • What are Plant-Based Ice Creams Made From?
  • What is the Difference Between Vegan Ice Creams and Regular Ice Creams?
  • Leading Brands and Innovations in Vegan Ice Cream
  • So Can You Call Vegan Ice Cream, “Ice Cream”?
  • Are Vegan Ice Creams Healthy?
  • Is Vegan Ice Cream Better for the Environment?
  • Anyone Can Enjoy Vegan Ice Cream!


Does Vegan Ice Cream Have Dairy?

A bowl of dark chocolate ice cream

Nope! Vegan ice cream is, by default, dairy-free ice cream. Plant-based milks and creams are usually the replacements used to create vegan ice cream that’s just as creamy and luxurious as dairy ice cream. Oftentimes, vegan ice creams will even have vegan add-ins like peanut butter, vegan cookie dough, and more! Making your own non-dairy ice cream at home can also be a great way to use your favorite vegan products, and ensure the milk alternatives are exactly what you’d like.


What Are Plant-Based Ice Creams Made From?

Lemon ice cream in a cone with flower on top

Vegan ice cream is typically made from plant-based milk alternatives such as almond, soy, coconut, cashew, or oat milk. These milks replace traditional dairy ingredients and provide a creamy texture. Additional ingredients like sweeteners, stabilizers, and flavorings are also used to create various flavors. Each ingredient has its own flavor and nutritional benefits and drawbacks, so its useful to explore your options.

Almond Milk - The Most Popular Choice

Almond milk, a fan favorite, is made from ground almonds and water. This versatile option has a mild flavor that complements various ingredients in your homemade ice cream recipes.

Soy Milk - Contains Protein

Soy milk, derived from soybeans, packs a protein punch compared to other plant-based milks. It has been a popular choice since the early days of vegan ice cream history, offering both creamy texture and nutritional value.

Coconut Milk - High Saturated Fat Content

If you're craving something rich and indulgent, look no further than coconut milk. Made from grated coconut flesh, this tropical treat provides an unmistakable flavor profile but comes with higher saturated fat content - so enjoy responsibly.

Cashew Milk - Higher Fat Content & Neutral Flavor

Cashew milk, made from blended cashews and water, boasts a higher fat content than almond or soy milk. This results in an ultra-creamy texture while maintaining a neutral flavor that won't overpower your ice cream concoctions.

Oat-Based Milks Gaining Popularity

Oatly, a Swedish company, has taken the dairy-free market by storm with their creamy oat milk which works wonders in vegan ice cream recipes. Their success is due to its neutral flavor profile and environmental sustainability compared to other plant-based options like almond or soy milk.

Pea Protein-Infused Options on The Rise

Moving on to pea protein-infused milks - these bad boys are gaining traction as they pack a punch when it comes to protein content while maintaining an allergy-friendly status unlike some nut or soy-based alternatives.

Functional Ingredients Boosting Nutritional Value

Vegan ice cream gets even more exciting with functional ingredients such as soy extract and dehydrated jaboticaba peel, both providing higher antioxidant capacity than traditional counterparts. This means you can enjoy your frozen treat guilt-free knowing it's packed full of nutritional goodness.

  • Bonus Tip: For an extra boost of nutrition, try incorporating superfoods like spirulina, maca powder, or chia seeds into your vegan ice cream base when concocting dairy-free ice cream at home.

Making homemade dairy-free ice cream is an excellent way to control exactly which plant-based ingredients go into your ice cream. Whether you use an ice cream maker or an even easier no-churn vegan ice cream recipe, homemade vegan ice cream can be a fun and customizable treat.


What is the Difference Between Vegan Ice Cream and Regular Ice Cream?

When looking at dairy-based and vegan ice creams, there are some noticeable variations, both in nutrition and ingredients. While neither frozen dessert is the “right” or “wrong” choice, it’s important to understand the differences so you can make educated vegan ice cream purchases.

Saturated Fat & Cholesterol:

Vegan ice creams often have lower levels of saturated fat and zero cholesterol, thanks to plant-based ingredients like almond milk or soy milk.

This can be a healthier choice for those watching their heart health or looking to reduce overall calorie intake.

Sugar Content:

However, it's important to note that not all vegan ice creams are automatically healthy. Commercial brands may still contain high amounts of sugar or other additives.

Making your own homemade version allows you more control over the ingredients used, ensuring a healthier treat without sacrificing taste.

  • Friendly tip: For a healthier option, try substituting refined sugars with natural sweeteners like maple syrup or agave nectar when making vegan ice cream at home.

If you have an ice cream maker, you can choose all of your ingredients from scratch. A faster an easier method is to use a vegan ice cream mix that you simply blend and freeze with your favorite vegan ingredients with an ice cream mix. This removes some of the stress and chemistry needed for ice cream making.


Leading Brands and Innovations in Vegan Ice Cream

A bowl of haagen dazs ice cream

Hold onto your spoons as we explore the delicious world of vegan ice cream brands—from favorites like Haagen Dazs to new brands like Brave Robot—that are conquering the market. From mainstream giants to innovative startups, there's an ice cream flavor for everyone, and that can likely be found in local grocery stores.

Mainstream brands embracing plant-based alternatives:
  • Ben & Jerry's - That’s right! This long-time favorite brand now offers a delectable range of non-dairy ice cream made with almond milk or sunflower butter. And with add-ins like chocolate chips and vegan fudge, Ben & Jerry’s is a pro at making vegan, luxurious.
  • Haagen-Dazs - Indulge guilt-free with their luxurious lineup of coconut cream and soy-based frozen desserts.


Innovative startups pushing boundaries:
  • Oatly - This oat milk pioneer has ventured into non-dairy ice creams too. Get ready for some creamy goodness without any dairy.
  • Brave Robot - With their proprietary animal-free whey protein, they've created an eerily authentic dairy-like experience in every scoop...while still remaining entirely lactose-free!
  • Eclipse Foods - Their mission is simple: make plant-based products that are indistinguishable from their dairy counterparts. Mission accomplished.
  • Pink Albatross - This Spanish brand crafts artisanal vegan ice creams using only natural ingredients, making them a favorite among conscious consumers.
  • Wonderlab's Doozy Pots - Their small-batch, dairy-free ice cream creations combine the creaminess of cashew milk with unique flavor combinations like Earl Grey & Lemon or Rhubarb & Rosehip.


So Can You Call Vegan Ice Cream...Ice Cream?

A bowl of chocolate ice cream with wafer stick

Some brands might call vegan ice cream a “frozen dessert”, for example, to avoid confusion. However, non-dairy ice cream is not that different from dairy ice cream. The formulation of vegan ice cream involves using plant-based milk alternatives combined with sweeteners (e.g., sugar or agave syrup), emulsifiers (e.g., lecithin), and stabilizers (e.g., guar gum). The mixture is then churned to incorporate air and achieve a smooth consistency before being frozen. So, it’s not exactly “cream”, but yes! Vegan ice cream follows a similar recipe and process to dairy ice cream—with just a few alternatives. Plus, some plant-based alternatives even contain the word—like cashew cream!


Are Vegan Ice Creams Healthy?

Vegan ice creams can be healthier than traditional dairy-based versions due to lower saturated fat content and no cholesterol. However, some commercial products may contain high amounts of sugar or artificial additives. It's essential to check ingredient labels for nutritional information when selecting your dairy-free ice cream option, simply to ensure you’re getting what you want out of your purchase.

Something else to note: “vegan ice cream” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gluten-free or free of other allergens, like peanuts or soy. Gluten-free vegan ice cream does exist though—you just need to know how to find it.


Is Vegan Ice Cream Better for the Environment?

Yes, producing vegan ice cream generally has a lower environmental impact compared to conventional dairy-based options because it requires less water usage and land resources for growing plants instead of raising livestock. Additionally, choosing plant-based options helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal agriculture.


Anyone Can Enjoy Vegan Ice Cream!

Vegan ice cream isn’t just for vegans, and its not just for lactose intolerant individuals. Anyone can enjoy dairy-free ice cream—and it doesn’t all need to be boring!

Dairy-free ice cream can be a delicious and versatile option to add to your repertoire. As a home baker, at-home chef, or DIYer, you may be interested in learning more about this frozen dessert. It's worth noting that vegan ice cream can be a healthier alternative to traditional ice cream. Without the saturated fat and cholesterol found in dairy products, vegan ice cream can be a guilt-free treat. However, it's important to read the labels and choose brands that use high-quality natural ingredients.



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