What Is Vegan Ice Cream?

How is vegan ice cream actually ice cream without, you know, milk? Well, you can replace the milk and cream with anything from almond (or other plant-based) milk and avocados to frozen fruit and coconuts. You are only limited by your own imagination (and availability of these items at your local grocery store).

Just because vegan ice cream is milk-free, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's guilt-free. While you might be getting rid of the milk and sugary creams that often give ice cream its addictive qualities, you are replacing it with plant-based options that might have just as much fat and sugar, if not more.

So, how do you decide which type of vegan ice cream to try out this summer? Which brands offer healthy options that still taste good? Look no further...

The 10 Best Dairy-Free Ice Cream Brands

With the craze behind plant-based diets proving to be anything but a phasing fad, more and more food companies are starting to cater to their vegetarian and vegan customers. Amazingly, this is also true for a number of the most popular ice cream brands currently on the market, which have been rolling out variations of frozen treats that can be enjoyed by just about anyone, no matter what kind of dietary restrictions that may have once kept them from enjoying ice cream.

Here are some of the most popular brands and their dairy-free offerings:

Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry's has always been a brand that isn't afraid to think outside the box and try a few new things, and the company stayed true to that philosophy in 2016 when it introduced a line of dairy-free pints at retailers across the county. The company makes each of its 12 dairy-free flavors with almond milk to ensure that each pint is certified 100% vegan.

Vegans and the lactose intolerant can enjoy some of the Ben & Jerry's classics like Cherry Garcia, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Chunky Monkey without having to worry about the consequences.

Halo Top

Not to be outdone by Ben & Jerry's, Halo Top has a roster of 14 vegan and dairy-free ice creams that are made with coconut milk. However, dairy isn't the only thing missing from Halo Top's options, as each of the pints don't contain soy either.

If an aversion to soy or dairy is holding you back from enjoying on the most the popular ice cream brands, you no longer have any excuse not to try Caramel Macchiato, Oatmeal Cookie, Sea Salt Caramel, or any of the other popular vegan flavors.

So Delicious

Unlike the previous two entries on the list, So Delicious exclusively offers dairy-free products. Known for their soy, almond, and coconut products, it should come as no surprise that So Delicious has nearly four dozen different variations of ice cream and other frozen treats. For more than 30 years now, So Delicious has offered chocolate and vanilla ice cream for all three types of plant-based milks as well as more adventurous flavors like chocolate drizzled banana, snickerdoodle, and blueberry cardamom. And those don't even include all of the ice cream sandwiches, ice cream bars, and other frozen items offered by the company.

Häagen-Dazs

It seems like just about every single one of the major ice cream brands is branching out and offering lines of vegan and dairy-free products recently. Häagen-Dazs, not wanting to be left out on the fun (and extra revenue), now offers six different flavors of ice cream: salted fudge truffle, coconut caramel, coconut cookies and creme, crunchy peanut butter, mocha chocolate cookie, and peanut butter fudge, as well as ice cream bars and dairy-free sorbets that offer a little something for every tastebud.

Coconut Bliss

Calling itself, "The Evolution of Ice Cream," Coconut Bliss is certified organic, dairy-free, creamy vegan ice cream made from... you guessed it...coconut. Boasting 13 different flavors of ice cream - chocolate chip cookie dough, Madagascan vanilla bean, and ginger cooker + caramel to name just a few - Coconut Bliss can be found at just about any mid-tier to high-end grocery store throughout the country.

Talenti

Talenti is an American-based gelato and sorbet company that, in addition to its traditional offerings, also produces a handful of vegan and dairy-free pints of ice cream to its customers throughout the states. With only four flavors - Alphonso Mango Sorbetto, Cold Brew Coffee Sorbetto, Peanut Butter Fudge Sorbetto, and Roman Raspberry Sorbetto - Talenti makes up for its limited menu with superb quality and flavoring.

Frankie and Jo’s

Frankie and Jo's is a plant-based ice cream shop offering vegan and gluten-free ice cream made from cashew and almond milk, which the company makes at each of its different shops. Customers can also order pints of Frankie and Jo's seasonal and everyday ice cream flavors, which include names like Mexico Morning, Fruta, and Salty Caramel ash, to name just a few. There are only two brick and mortar locations - both in Seattle - so unless you're from the Emerald City, you will have to settle for online orders.

Wink

Wink is another small-scale online-based ice cream company that offers a large selection of plant-based ice cream products to its customers. The company even offers what it calls the "Wink 100 Calorie Pint Lineup," which features a selection of 12 different pints with flavors ranging from vanilla bean to s'mores and even something called chocomint.

Nada Moo

Nada Moo has been offering coconut milk ice cream since 2004, and since then has introduced at least 18 different flavors, with a mystery flavor soon to be released. By using the finest organic, non-GMO ingredients, Nada Moo aims to create the most amazing combinations of flavors anyone could ever imagine. And they have some crazy flavors, including marshmallow stardust, banana caramel crunch, peach cobbler, and the rockiest road. There is a Nada Moo location in Austin, Texas, but all non-Austinites can make a special online order and have five pints of vegan ice cream delivered to your front door.

Cado

Cado is one of the newer brands getting in on the vegan ice cream marketshare and claims to be the first commercial ice cream to be made from avocados (hence the name). Made from avocado puree, Cado offers three different flavors: mint chocolate chip, simply lemon, and dark chocolate. You probably haven't heard of Cado before reading this piece (neither did I), but it shouldn't stop you from trying new things. I mean, you're already trying vegan ice cream, so why not try some avocado ice cream?

Which Brands Have The Healthiest Options?

So Delicious

  • 150-160 calories per serving
  • The healthiest option offered by So Delicious is the very vanilla cashew milk ice cream, which comes in at 150 calories per serving.
  • $3.97 per pint

Halo Top

  • 70-90 calories per serving
  • Halo Top offers five vegan flavors with 70 calories per serving: vanilla maple, chocolate maple crunch, birthday cake, chocolate, and oatmeal cookie.
  • $4.99 per pint

Wink

  • 25 calories per serving (average)
  • Every pint of Wink ice cream has the same nutritional value - 25 calories per serving (Madagascan Vanilla Bean tested for this comparison).
  • $8.00 per pint

Is Vegan Ice Cream Healthier Than Regular Ice Cream?

Even though vegan and dairy-free ice creams holds back on the milk and cream, just about every other ingredient remains the same when compared to traditional ice cream. Just because you might think it's healthier, keep in mind that vegan ice cream is pretty much the same as its more popular counterpart.

Take coconut for example. According to Health.com, "coconut is popular among manufacturers because its saturated fat makes for rich and creamy vegan frozen desserts–but it can pack in more saturated fat than a dairy version of your favorite frozen treat." Coconut's high levels of saturated fat might elevate harmful "bad" cholesterol levels.

Further down in the article, it's noted that some coconut-based brands can have "up to 250 calories, 15 grams of saturated fat, and 20+ grams of sugar per half-cup serving... For context, 'regular' dairy-based ice cream has on average up to 150 calories per serving, 2 to 5 grams of saturated fat, and 10+ grams of sugar."

Make sure to check the nutritional label of the vegan ice cream you're trying before eating the whole pint because, come on, we've all been there before.

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