Vegan Coconut Milk Ice Cream: Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk
Overripe frozen bananas and pure maple syrup provide the sweetness in this delicious banana walnut chocolate chunk ice cream recipe, while lightly glazed, toasted walnuts and chunks of decadent dark chocolate add crunch. A touch of cinnamon adds a warm flavor to this frozen dessert, while a combination of coconut milk and coconut cream makes it smooth, rich, and creamy. Unlike many other recipes that use coconut milk, the coconut flavor in this non-dairy, vegan ice cream recipe is barely noticeable.
Choose dairy-free, sugar-free, and/or gluten-free dark chocolate or cacao nibs or omit the maple syrup or walnuts to suit your dietary restrictions.
An Electric Ice Cream Maker Is the Key to a Creamy Consistency
While it's certainly possible to make ice cream without an ice cream maker, using the freeze-partially-then-beat-with-an-electric-mixer-refreeze-and-repeat method will never produce a frozen dessert with the smooth, creamy consistency of traditional dairy ice cream. This is especially true when making non-dairy ice cream, since the absence of full-fat cream usually produces a more grainy, icy consistency. So if you want your vegan frozen dessert recipes to turn out as smooth and creamy as possible, the key is to use an electric ice cream machine.
Use a 2-Quart Model for This Recipe
I developed this recipe during a weeklong visit with my husband's parents, using his mother's 1 1/2-quart Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. My own machine was decades old, had only a 1-quart capacity, took a long time to churn, and had been gathering dust in our basement for ages. So I was surprised and pleased to discover how far this type of kitchen appliance had come.
The see-through lid with the open ingredient spout on my mother-in-law's model made it very easy to add the candied toasted walnuts and the dark chocolate chunks while the machine was still running. And I was amazed that my test batch was ready to eat a mere 20 minutes after it began churning. The only downside was that the 1 1/2-quart capacity wasn't quite large enough for the recipe.
The speed and ease of use of my mother-in-law's machine, the enthusiastic feedback I received from my husband and his parents on this recipe, and the fact that my own decades-old ice cream machine had only a 1-quart capacity prompted me to replace it with a ). It was a great decision! My husband loves it when I make homemade frozen treats, and we use it year-round. 2-quart automatic ice cream maker (that also makes delicious frozen yogurt, sorbet and gelato
Note: The estimated "cook time" represents the approximate time to churn and freeze the ice cream in a 2-quart Cuisinart ICE-30 Pure Indulgence Ice Cream Maker. The actual time will depend on your machine.
- 3 bananas, large and overripe, preferably organic
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk, full fat (not light or lite), preferably organic
- 1 (5.4-ounce) can unsweetened coconut cream, preferably organic
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces (walnut halves broken into chunks with your fingers)
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil, plus extra for greasing parchment paper
- Kosher salt or sea salt
- 4 tablespoons (divided) pure maple syrup, preferably grade B and organic
- 4 ounces extra dark chocolate or unsweetened raw cacao nibs
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Penzeys Cinnamon
- At least one day ahead, peel the overripe bananas and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Place the freezer bowl of the electric ice cream maker and the wrapped bananas in the coldest part of your freezer. Also move the cans of full-fat unsweetened coconut milk and coconut cream to the coldest part your fridge to chill for a minimum of 6 hours.
- On the day you want to make the ice cream, grease a sheet of baking parchment and a sturdy silicone spatula with coconut oil and set it aside. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon coconut oil until it starts to bubble. Stir in the walnut chunks until they are coated with the oil, then sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Continue to heat the nuts, stirring frequently until they are fragrant and golden brown. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup and use the greased silicone spatula to stir the nuts constantly for a minute or two, taking care not to scorch them, until the nuts are glazed and dry. Immediately spread them out in a single layer on the prepared parchment paper, allow them to cool. Separate any pieces that have stuck together.
- Coarsely chop the dark chocolate (or raw cacao nibs, if they’re too large) into small chunks roughly the size of chocolate chips. Optional: Sift the chopped chocolate chunks or cacao nibs through a mesh sieve. Save the tiny chocolate bits to sprinkle over ice cream or another treat
- Remove the frozen bananas from the freezer and unwrap them. Slice each banana lengthwise into quarters and then into one-inch lengths, working as quickly as possible so they don’t defrost. If necessary, pop them (still on the cutting board) back into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to firm them up again.
- Scrape the frozen banana chunks a food processor bowl fitted with a stainless steel chopping blade. Remove the ice-cold cans of full-fat coconut milk and coconut cream from the refrigerator and quickly empty the contents into the food processor bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the ground cinnamon. Process just until the mixture is smooth.
- Remove the ice cream maker's freezer bowl from your freezer and place it on the machine's base. Follow the manufacturer's directions for assembling the machine, pour in the ice cold banana-coconut milk mixture, lock the lid in place and turn on the machine.
- About 5 minutes before the ice cream is ready, add the walnut pieces and chocolate chunks very slowly, following your ice cream maker’s instructions for adding mix-ins. Continue churning the mixture for another five minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Turn off and unplug the ice cream maker and use a sturdy silicone spatula to scrape the finished ice cream into a freezer container, working quickly so it doesn’t stick to the freezer bowl. Serve immediately or seal the container lid tightly and freeze until ready to serve.
Detailed Instructions With Step-by-Step Photos
The streamlined version of the recipe, above, is short and convenient. I recommend reviewing the following detailed instructions, with close-up photos and lots of helpful tips, before you make the recipe for the first time.
Step 1: Freeze Peeled Bananas and Freezer Bowl; Chill Coconut Milk
The day before you want to make this Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream with Coconut Milk recipe:
- Peel 3 large, very ripe bananas, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and put them next to the freezer bowl in the coldest part of your freezer.
- Place your ice cream maker's freezer bowl in the coldest part of your freezer (usually a back corner of the bottom freezer shelf) if it isn't there already.
- Place a 13.5-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk, preferably organic, and a 5.4-ounce can of unsweetened coconut cream, also preferably organic, into the coldest part of your refrigerator to chill.
Step 2: Pan-Toast Walnut Chunks and Glaze With Maple Syrup
- Place a large piece of parchment paper on your counter and grease it lightly with coconut oil.
- Melt one tablespoon of coconut oil in the bottom of a medium-large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the coconut oil starts to bubble, add half a cup of broken walnut pieces and stir to coat. Sprinkle the nuts generously with kosher salt or sea salt and pan toast them until they are golden brown and fragrant.
- Drizzle the nuts with two tablespoons of pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B or dark Grade A. Using a greased silicone spatula, stir to coat the walnut chunks evenly with the syrup. Continue stirring the nuts constantly until the moisture in the maple syrup has evaporated completely and the glazed nuts look dry, about 1 to 2 minutes. Be sure to keep a close eye on them to avoid scorching.
- Scrape the walnuts onto the greased parchment paper in a single layer and allow them to cool completely, which should take only a couple of minutes. If any of the chunks stick together just break them apart with your fingers. Leave the nuts on the parchment paper and set it aside.
Notes on the Nuts
- I usually buy walnut halves in bulk and store them in a freezer bag or airtight food storage container in the freezer. The nuts stay fresh for a very long time in the freezer, so I always have some on hand for cooking, baking and healthy snacking.
- Don't be tempted to chop the walnuts with a knife or food processor. You'll end up with uneven-sized chunks and a pile of wasted walnut "dust". Just use your fingers.
Notes on the Maple Syrup
- Don't even think about using "maple flavored syrup" or "pancake syrup" for this recipe!
- Choose a good-quality Grade B maple syrup, which provides better nutrition, or a dark Grade A syrup with a robust flavor. I like , which not only tastes great and is certified organic by Quality Assurance International (QAI), but also is made by seventh-generation, small family farmers using sustainable practices that protect the ancient maple trees and forests. Coombs Family Farms 100% Pure Organic Maple Syrup
- To make a Paleo-friendly version of this recipe, omit the maple glaze.
Step 3: Chop Dark Chocolate Into Small Chunks (or Use Unsweetened Organic Raw Cacao Nibs)
- Use a sharp chef's knife to chop about 4 oz. of good quality dark chocolate into small chunks. Choose a brand and type of dark chocolate that is at least 85% cacao for maximum health benefits and read the label carefully to make sure you purchase one that meets your dietary restrictions. Alternatively you can use 1/2 cup of unsweetened organic raw cacao nibs.
- Dump the dark chocolate chunks or the raw cacao nibs onto the same parchment paper as the nuts and set it aside.
- The manuals for both the 1.5- and 2-quart Cuisinart ice cream makers I've used recommend using mix-ins no larger than a chocolate chip. (I made my chocolate chunks a bit larger in the original batch and it did seem to interfere a bit with the churning toward the end of the cycle.)
- If you wish, you can scrape the chopped chocolate into a mesh sieve and sift out the powdered chocolate "dust". Of course, you wouldn't want to waste all those good dark chocolate bits, so save them to sprinkle on top of the churned ice cream or another dessert.
Step 4: Quarter Frozen Bananas Lengthwise and Slice into 1-Inch Chunks
- Halve one of the 3 over-ripe, frozen bananas lengthwise and place the halves side by side on a cutting board, flat sides down.
- Slice each half-banana in half lengthwise again into quarters, then slice them crosswise into thick 1-inch slices. Work quickly so the bananas remain frozen. If the banana chunks show signs of thawing after you've cut them, put them back in the freezer for 15 minutes before moving to the next step.
Step 5: Process Chilled Ice Cream Mixture
- Working quickly so that the frozen banana chunks don't have time to thaw, scrape them into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a stainless steel chopping blade.
- Immediately remove the thoroughly chilled cans of full-fat coconut milk and coconut cream from the refrigerator and pour and scrape the ice-cold contents of the cans into the food processor bowl with the frozen banana chunks.
- Add 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the processor bowl and process briefly, just until the mixture is fairly smooth.
Step 6: Start Churning the Mixture
- Immediately take the freezer bowl for the ice cream maker out of your freezer, place it on the base of the machine, and scrape the liquid ice cream base from the food processor into the freezer bowl. The ice cream maker bowl will start to defrost the moment you remove it from the freezer, so don't take it out until you're ready to start churning the base mixture. And the colder the mixture and the bowl are when you turn on the machine, the faster the ice cream will be ready and the smoother and creamier it will be.
- If you're using one of the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker models I mentioned, just lock the cover in place, plug in the machine and turn it on.
- If you're using another brand or model of ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer's instructions for starting the churning cycle.
Step 7: Add Walnuts and Chocolate Chunks or Raw Cacao Nibs
If you're using one of the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker models I mentioned:
- After about 15 to 20 minutes, the ice cream base will be the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. (You'll be able to tell just by looking into the ingredient spout's large opening.)
- At this point, with the machine still running, carefully lift up the parchment paper with the walnuts and chocolate chunks or raw cacao nibs. Angle the paper slightly over the ingredient spout opening, bring the edges together a bit so the paper acts like a wide funnel, and very slowly pour the walnut and chocolate mix-ins into the opening.
- Allow the ice cream to continue to churn for approximately 5 minutes longer until it reaches ready-to-eat consistency.
If you are using a different brand or model of ice cream maker:
Follow the manufacturer's instructions for adding mix-ins.
Step 8: Scrape Into a Freezer Container and Freeze or Serve
- As soon as the ice cream reaches the proper consistency, stop the machine and unplug it. With a sturdy silicone spatula, immediately scrape the ice cream out of the freezer bowl to prevent it from sticking and pack it lightly into a freezer container with a tight-fitting lid.
- Important: Don't use a metal spoon, spatula or other utensil that could damage your ice cream maker's freezer bowl!
- Serve some of the ice cream immediately, if desired, then seal the container and store it in the coldest part of the freezer until ready to serve. For a harder consistency, freeze or an hour or more in the coldest part of your freezer before serving.
Use any or all of the following ice cream toppings:
- Drizzle each portion of ice cream with a teaspoon of pure maple syrup.
- Top each portion with whipped cream (for non-vegans) or with a vegan whipped topping such as sweetened or unsweetened whipped coconut cream or whipped cashew cream.
- Sprinkle each portion with additional maple-glazed walnuts.
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|Serving size: rounded 1/2 cup|
|Calories from Fat||144|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 16 g||25%|
|Saturated fat 11 g||55%|
|Unsaturated fat 5 g|
|Carbohydrates 23 g||8%|
|Sugar 15 g|
|Fiber 2 g||8%|
|Protein 2 g||4%|
|Cholesterol 0 mg|
|Sodium 114 mg||5%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
*The nutrition data estimates were calculated by inputting the ingredients (including manually entered nutrition data taken from the manufacturer's label for selected ingredients and the number of servings into the SELFNutritionData recipe analysis tool. I have provided this information as a service to help you make informed decisions about this recipe.
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© 2014 Margaret Schindel