We All Scream for
Vegan Ice Cream

This dairy-free treat has gone mainstream—and many are clamoring for a taste.

July / August 2016

By Jodi Helmer

After noticing that milk upset his stomach, Jeff Rogers took a break from dairy products. He eliminated milk, cheese and yogurt. But it took longer for Rogers to give up his favorite
milky indulgence—ice cream.

“My last pint of Ben and Jerry’s was in December of 1997,” he recalls.

Cutting dairy helped Rogers improve digestion, reduce gas, diminish headaches and catch fewer colds and flus. He felt better but couldn’t shake a craving for ice cream. The solution: Vegan versions of his favorite frozen food.

“This was back in the 90s and there weren’t too many options for purchase,” Rogers says. “They weren’t terrible but I recognized plenty of room for improvement.”

Rogers, an entrepreneur and blogger, started experimenting and came up with new recipes for homemade vegan ice cream that tasted great but had none of the unpleasant side effects he experienced from dairy ice creams. The DIY versions were so successful, Rogers published a book of recipes, Vegan Ice Cream: Over 90 Sinfully Delicious Dairy-Free Delights (Ten Speed Press).

“I focused on the flavor,” he says. “My recipes may not scoop the same as commercial varieties but they’re delicious and satisfying.”

For the 1 million vegans in the US, finding delicious dairy-free versions of favorite foods like ice cream has been a challenge. Most of the commercial options or DIY versions lack the rich, creamy flavor of traditional ice cream and leave an odd aftertaste.

Aubrey Mast, holistic health coach and extension associate for nutrition at North Carolina State University, believes that vegan ice cream had a bad reputation because it was being compared to traditional ice cream.

“We are looking for the same flavor, texture and profile,” she explains.

Now it is appreciated on its own merits. And thanks to a growing interest in vegan foods and nondairy alternatives, vegan ice cream has undergone a renaissance.

Dishing Up Great Taste

It’s not uncommon to find vegan ice cream being scooped up at artisanal ice cream shops and sold in supermarkets alongside traditional ice cream. Even ice cream icons Ben & Jerry’s introduced four vegan flavors—Chunky Monkey, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Coffee Fudge Caramel and PB & Cookies—this spring.

The flavor has come a long way since vegan ice cream first hit the market. Some flavors taste so good, vegans are not the only ones digging into a pint—or learning to make their own nondairy ice cream.

Virpi Mikkonen, journalist, recipe developer and co-author of N’ice Cream: 80+ Recipes for Healthy Homemade Vegan Ice Creams (Avery), experimented with countless ingredients to come up with creamy, flavorful recipes that would satisfy an ice cream craving and a vegan diet. Her favorite ingredients include full-fat coconut milk, frozen bananas, nut butters and fruit.

Nondairy milks like soy, almond and rice milk will work but the result is ice cream that, while vegan, is often watery or grainy because they lack the fat needed to make rich, creamy ice cream.

The other ingredient Mikkonen never uses in vegan ice cream? Water. “It makes the ice cream grainy,” she says.

For added sweetness, natural liquid sweeteners like maple syrup and coconut palm syrup are healthier than processed sugar. They also help prevent ice crystals from forming; ice granules make the final product taste freezer-burned.

Tuulia Talvio, food blogger and co-author of N’ice Cream, recommends regular taste tests while making ice cream at home.

“We all have our own preferences on how sweet we like our treats,” she says. “It’s good to taste the ice cream mixture while making it and add more sweetener or spices if needed.”

Rogers also uses full-fat coconut or cashew milk in most of his recipes but he has also made vegan ice cream with hemp milk and even avocado as the base. “It is rich and a wonderful alternative,” he says.

Talvio, who points to a recipe using avocados and almond milk as her favorite DIY vegan ice cream recipe because of its taste and textures, suggests the simplest way to enjoy homemade vegan ice cream is scooping it while it’s fresh.

“Vegan ice creams will become very hard in the freezer because they don’t include any additives or, in our case, massive amounts of sugar, which keeps the ice cream softer,” she says. “Homemade ice cream is always best savored as soon as it is made or within a short time after it has been prepared.”

A Scoop of Health

Ice cream will never be a health food. But Mast, the North Carolina State health coach, believes the interest in vegan diets, including a hunger for vegan ice cream, results from health concerns.

“Dairy has gotten a bad rap for containing artificial hormones and antibiotics,” she explains. “Vegan ice cream is fruit- and vegetable-based, and you are less likely to consume hormones or antibiotics in those crops.”

While there are health advantages to eating a vegan diet, ice cream—even if it’s made without milk—should still be considered a sweet treat, not a daily indulgence.

Consider this: The vegan version of Chunky Monkey contains 260 calories, 14 grams of fat and 8 grams of saturated fat in a half-cup serving compared with the conventional (dairy) version of the Ben and Jerry’s classic, which contains 290 calories, 17 grams of fat and 9 grams of saturated fat. From a nutritional perspective, there is little difference.

But there are some health benefits to vegan ice cream. A lot of the ingredients used in store-bought or DIY versions of vegan ice cream are plant-based, not processed dairy products and refined sugars, according to Mast.

“Since they come from plants and aren’t formulated [in a lab], they are the most packed with nutrients,” she says.

Embracing vegan foods, including ice cream, is also good for the planet. Rogers cites the health and environmental benefits and improved animal welfare as added benefits of switching to a dairy-free diet. But flavor remains the biggest reason he continues scooping up vegan ice cream.

He says, “Amazing ice creams can be made from plant-based sources and they can be more satisfying to the palate.”

 

ET RECIPE

Choco-Vanilla Bomb

4 frozen bananas
1/3 cup unsweetened almond
milk or other plant-based milk
2 fresh dates, pitted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp raw cacao powder or
unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp peanut butter or other
nut butter, plus extra for serving
Pinch sea salt
Splash unsweetened almond milk, optional
Fresh berries, for serving

1. Combine the bananas, almond milk, dates and vanilla in a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary, until a smooth texture forms. Transfer half of the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

2. Add the cacao or cocoa powder, peanut butter and salt to the remaining mixture and blend until smooth, adding a splash of almond milk, if needed, to create a smooth texture.

3. Pour the vanilla and chocolate mixtures alternately into bowls and serve with some extra peanut butter and fresh berries.

Serves 2
Reprinted from N’Ice Cream by arrangement with Avery Books,
members of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,
A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2016,
Virpi Mikkonen and Tuulia Talvio (penguinrandomhouse.com)

 

ET RECIPE

Pineapple Mango Ice Cream

2 large organic mangoes, peeled and pitted
1 organic pineapple, skinned and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup fresh coconut milk
1⁄2 cup raw organic agave nectar

1. Run the mangoes through a juicer to make 1 1/4 cups juice.
Run the pineapple through a juicer to make 1 1/4 cups juice.

2. Combine the juices, coconut milk and agave nectar in a blender. Blend on high until
silky smooth, at least 1 minute.

3. Place the blender jar in the freezer for 40 minutes to 1 hour or in the refrigerator for at least
1 hour or up to overnight, until well-chilled. Or pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately or transfer to airtight containers and store in the freezer until ready to serve.

Makes about 1 quart
Reprinted from Vegan Ice Cream, Copyright © 2004, 2014
by Jeff Rogers.
Photographs copyright © 2014 by Clare Barboza.
Published by Ten Speed Press,
an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC (penguinrandomhouse.com)

 

 

 

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