What's the Best Vegan Ice Cream?
There is no reason why cruelty-free desserts shouldn’t be as rich, decadent, and artery-clogging as non-vegan ones.
I’m a vegan that loves his desserts, and I demand a lot of them. It is my humble opinion that there is no reason why cruelty-free desserts shouldn’t be as rich, decadent, and artery-clogging as non-vegan ones.
My favorite dessert has always been ice cream. I can eat it non-stop. When I was little and went out for ice cream with my family, I would often get a large-sized cone, and my parents would not believe I was going to eat the entire thing. I would always prove them wrong.
So naturally, when I went vegan, ice cream was one of the hardest things for me to give up. Fortunately, in the last few years there has been an explosion in the number of dairy-free ice creams available in grocery stores. Now, even brands like Ben and Jerry’s and Breyers have vegan options.
But for a very long time, the only option for vegans was Tofutti, a brand that has been around since the 80s and was the first vegan ice cream to be sold in grocery stores. For years I was afraid to try it. The name just sounded so off-putting to me. To be honest, I don’t really like tofu that much, and I was a little afraid this frozen dessert might actually taste like that blandest of vegetarian foods. I did not want to think of ice cream as having anything remotely to do with tofu.
But when I decided to write this article I knew I had to try it, so I finally mustered the courage. I could only find two flavors at the grocery store; chocolate and vanilla. I went for the vanilla.
The verdict: as with many things, it isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. For a simple, soy-based ice cream that has been around forever, it’s not half bad. It surely isn’t anything to write home about, but, fairly creamy and sufficiently sweet with a nice, smooth texture, it gets the job done. And don’t worry, it doesn’t taste anything like tofu.
Because ice cream is so important to me as a vegan (as you can probably tell), I thought I would write about the best brands and flavors I have tried so far (there are brands I haven’t tried yet, and I want to get to them eventually).
Here are the best vegan ice creams you can find in grocery stores.
Larry and Luna’s Coconut Bliss
For more healthy-minded folks, Larry and Luna’s coconut-based ice creams are organic and sweetened with agave nectar. My favorite is their Cherry Amaretto. It’s a very simple flavor: a vanilla coconut-milk base with generous chunks of cherries in it. It’s very light and creamy and the faint coconut taste really adds to it. Also, thanks to the agave nectar, it isn’t overly sweet, just sweet enough. This refreshing ice cream is perfect for when you want something that’s creamy and sweet, but not overly rich and full of sugar.
This brand’s Salted Caramel and Chocolate flavor is just as creamy and a little more sweet. The only thing I would change: I wanted the bits of chocolate to be bigger. They are very small and melt as soon as they are in your mouth. I’m not a fan of ridiculously huge chunks, but I like my chocolate pieces to have a little bite to them.
In my experience, Larry and Luna’s is not as widely available as the other brands listed here. You can usually find it at specialty vegan stores, Whole Foods, or the Organic section of Big Y for about $6 per pint.
This brand offers coconut milk, cashew milk, and almondmilk-based ice creams. The coconut-milk is OK, but it doesn’t exactly have the greatest texture for ice cream, and is not as creamy as ice cream should be.
The best by far is the cashew milk, as it is a lot creamier than the other two. Cashew-milk by itself I am not crazy about, but its rich flavor is absolutely perfect for ice cream. I highly recommend the Salted Caramel Cluster. It has the perfect amount of crunch, filled with chocolate-covered cashews and vegan caramel.
Pints of So Delicious are generally about $4.50.
This main-stream brand mainly sells dairy ice cream but recently began offering almondmilk-based frozen desserts. They currently sell two flavors: Cookies and Cream and Peanut-butter swirl. They are both delicious, and in texture and taste impressively similar to dairy ice cream. The Cookies and Cream is very generous with large chunks of Oreo cookies, as the Peanut-butter swirl is with its peanut-butter.
Another plus to this brand is that it comes in 48 ounce containers, while most vegan ice creams are sold in pints. It can usually be found for about $7.
And finally, the brand which in my opinion is the very best:
Ben and Jerry’s
How could I not choose this as my favorite? In my opinion, Ben and Jerry’s almost always beats all. You will completely forget the ice cream you’re eating is vegan.
They offer almondmilk-based ice cream, of which I have tried their Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Coconut Seven Layer Bar, P.B. & Cookies, and Cherry Garcia. Before becoming vegan, Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia was my favorite ice cream flavor of all time (so I guess I can’t claim to be objective here). When I found out they created its dairy-free equivalent, I was ecstatic. It did not disappoint. In my opinion, the dairy and vegan versions are barely discernible.
In terms of creaminess, flavor, and generosity and quality of add-ins, Ben and Jerry’s blows the others out of the water. The P.B. & Cookies contains practically whole Oreo-type cookies. The Cherry Garcia features liberal amounts of chocolate and cherry chunks in a creamy vanilla base. The Coconut Seven Layer Bar is chock full of coconut, fudge chunks, walnuts, graham cracker, and caramel. And the Chocolate Fudge Brownie is just – well, you get the picture.
Ben and Jerry’s Dairy-Free is some kind of vegan miracle. I greatly look forward to trying the Caramel Almond Brittle, Chunky Monkey, and Coffee Caramel Fudge.
Pints of Ben and Jerry’s Dairy-Free Ice Cream are generally $6.
Some other brands I would like to try next are Haagen-Dazs, Almond Dream, NadaMoo, and (most intriguing) Cado, a brand of ice cream made from avocados.