Ice cold, creamy, soft, and sweet — what is there not to like about ice cream? The heat has finally caught up to us here in Oregon, and we are reaching for cooling foods and drinks everyday. None of us complain when we have ice cream on a hot day!


But when my daughter and I, through some testing, realized that we don’t tolerate dairy very well, I wondered if my ice cream loving days were over. Thankfully, I’ve found that delicious and creamy dairy-free ice cream is within reach.


The hardest part of dairy-free ice cream is getting a rich enough base to make it with, as many dairy-free “milks” are thin. If you don’t have enough fat in ice cream, it will become hard and ice-y. You want your base to be rich and creamy.


For our uses, we have found that full-fat coconut milk is the best. This does mean canned. I know that there are a lot of coconut milks available in milk cartons now, but these are much too thin for making ice cream. I am a big fan of making your own coconut milk (either from a whole coconut or from coconut flakes), but these too tend to be less rich and will make a hard ice cream. The only problem with canned coconut milk is that canned foods tend to have BPA, and even brands that don’t can contain small amounts of other toxins. Coconut milk is one of the only foods we use canned.


However, if you want to avoid that concern completely, you can certainly use a homemade version. The trick is to either serve it right away — straight from the ice cream machine — or to add certain ingredients that help keep it soft.


In the "Ice Dream Cookbook," the author shares a tip for using gelatin or agar agar in ice cream recipes. These ingredients help stabilize the dessert as it freezes, add loft, improve the whipping quality, and yield a smooth texture after freezing. Adding gelatin helps make up for using nondairy milks that aren’t as creamy as real cream. For an example of how this works, check out the Roasted Banana Ice Cream recipe below.


Adding arrowroot powder, marshmallow root powder, egg yolks, or some type of alcohol can also help keep your ice cream creamy and soft. These types of additions help give a dairy-free ice cream the right texture.


Being all about simplicity, I tend towards just using full-fat coconut milk, and letting the high fat content keep it creamy. That has worked well for me!


I personally use the Cuisinart ice cream and sorbet maker and have loved it! It is definitely worth the purchase. However, you can also make homemade ice cream without one. Follow these instructions.


Here are some recipe suggestions, all using coconut milk with the exception of the last recipe.


Dairy-free ice cream recipes


1. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream: My daughter and I love this flavor combination.


2. Roasted Banana Ice Cream: This is from the "Ice Cream Cookbook", and it is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.


3. Vanilla Ice Cream: This coconut milk-based ice cream is delicious and perfect to serve with a chocolate sauce or chocolate cake. I use a lot of vanilla extract in it, since coconut has a more assertive flavor.


4. Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream – This lightly sweetened ice cream is always a favorite.


5. Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream: This is a personal favorite!


6. Raspberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream: Tangy, flavorful, yet rich, this is also a favorite. Because this recipe has so many berries in it (and I didn’t bother to add gelatin), I serve it right away, or allow to ripen in the freezer for just an hour or two, so that it doesn’t become too hard.


7. Yellow Plum Sorbet: This recipe doesn’t use any type of milk or cream, but is a very simple sorbet. Allow to ripen just an hour or two in the freezer, otherwise it will become too hard.

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