Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream
Few desserts are as satisfyingly simple as Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream. Over the years I've had dozens of different styles and I’ve developed a preference for what I believe to be optimal qualities in ice cream. I believe it should be rich, smooth, delicately melt into a creamy base in your mouth but not linger for too long and not have off flavors. I don’t prefer ice creams that are frozen into a block of ice, nor do I approve of ice creams that have the texture and taste of ice milk. So how do you develop a soft, creamy, flavorful vegan vanilla ice cream recipe without using eggs or dairy? While we're on the subject of ice cream, how do you develop an assertive vanilla flavor while not being over-the-top and making it taste artificial?
Dissecting Traditional Ice CreamTo understand our objectives in vegan ice cream making we need to go down to the microscopic level and find out what makes up traditional ice cream. Traditional ice cream consists of tiny ice crystals and air bubbles suspended in sugar, fat and milk protein, among other minor ingredients. The two most important factors in proper ice cream mouthfeel are:
- The ice crystals need to be as small as possible in order for the ice cream to be as smooth as possible. The larger the ice crystals, the harder the ice cream becomes. The harder it gets, the less you’re going to taste it and the less it's going to melt in your mouth, coating your tastebuds with flavor. Think of how smooth gravel is compared to fine sand. This is ice cream ice crystals on a molecular level.
- Air bubbles need to be incorporated into ice cream to further enhance smoothness and promote lightness. The incorporation of air into ice cream is known as overrun in the ice cream industry. The percentage of overrun will cause your ice cream to yield more or less in quantity depending on how much air you incorporate. It’s actually a bad thing to have too much overrun because air doesn’t have any flavor. Incorporate too little air and your ice cream becomes too dense. Some low quality ice creams take advantage of high overruns to save money. Luckily, it’s nearly impossible to have a high overrun on a homemade vegan ice cream due to the difficulty that vegan ingredients have in holding air bubbles.
Designing Vegan Ice Cream with Smoothness and CreaminessSo keeping ice crystals to a minimum and holding some air bubbles are paramount in ice cream texture. In order to discourage ice crystal formation we can do the following:
- Use fats because they act as a barrier to prevent ice crystals from joining together. Fat will also increase the perception of creaminess and fullness on your palate.
- Use corn syrup as part of the sweetener base. I know what you’re thinking: high-fructose corn syrup is a health hazard! But corn syrup is mainly glucose; it doesn’t have the same fructose level as high-fructose corn syrup. Glucose doesn't have as bad as a health rap as fructose. Besides, even if it did, you’re still eating ice cream which isn't healthy in the first place! Remember to enjoy everything in moderation (including moderation). You can also use agave syrup instead of corn syrup in this recipe but it does contain high levels of fructose. Corn syrup contains high levels of glucose. Agave syrup contains high levels of fructose. These are both long-chain monosaccharides. Long chain monosaccharides are long assemblies of single sugar molecules (either fructose or glucose depending on what you’re using). These long chains bump and tangle into each other, increasing the viscosity of the syrup they’re contained in. This is why these syrups are thick. These same monosaccharides significantly decrease ice and sugar crystallization because they act like barriers to crystal formation. Commercial ice cream manufacturers use things like glucose and invert sugar syrup in their ice creams that have the same purpose. You can do the same thing by using a small amount of corn or agave syrup available at your local grocery store. I’m not a huge fan of the sweetness profile of these types of sugar syrups; I find them to be a little too tart and brief on the palate. I opted to use only the amount of syrup necessary for the optimum ice cream texture and use regular sugar for the rest of the sweetness.
- Xanthan gum is a miracle ingredient that was discovered when someone decided to analyze why the vegetables in their refrigerator were getting slimy after a prolonged period of time. It turns out this perfectly natural bacteria vegetable gum had outstanding properties that were just made for ice creams. After it’s fully hydrated in an ice cream mixture it works to reduce ice crystal formation as well.
Building Flavor in Vegan Ice CreamNow that I had my ice cream texture dialed into my vegan vanilla ice cream, I wanted to focus on building a flavor depth that could stand up to traditional vanilla ice cream. I’m a huge fan of curdling high protein non-dairy milks such as soy or almond milk for more flavor dimension so I took this approach by adding a small amount of apple cider vinegar. This helps to add the subtle notes of sweet cream. I also divided the ratio of fats so a very small amount of it was unrefined coconut oil and cocoa butter. This is just enough coconut oil to not be detected outright as coconut and just enough cocoa butter to not be perceived as white chocolate in the ice cream, but just enough to add a more complex rich dairy ice cream flavor. The result is a vegan ice cream recipe that I’m proud to share and one that will become the base for all of my future ice cream recipes, not to mention, integrated into my old ones.
I understand that many people prefer to avoid soy or have nut allergies. This recipe gives you the option of using either a soy base or a cashew base with equally decadent results.
Find more Summer recipes on Veganbaking.net
Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe
If using tofu as a base
If using cashews as a base
1) Prepare your ice cream base
2) Blend the ice cream ingredients
3) Process the vegan ice cream in an ice cream maker then transfer to the freezer to harden
Get a price on the Unrefined Cocoa Butter I Recommend at Amazon.
Refused to freeze
I came across this and decided to dig out my old ice cream maker and give it a go. I chose the cashew base and followed the ingredients, substituting agave nectar for the corn syrup as the latter is very hard to come by here in the UK. I soaked the cashews overnight and then blended everything as per the instructions and was fairly confident that I had a nice smooth but thick liquid to make into ice cream (not far off the consistency of the dairy ice cream I made when I used to eat dairy). Unfortunately like another reviewer the liquid got colder and a bit thicker but didn't set. I worried that perhaps the ice cream bowl was not cold enough so put it back in the freezer in what I thought might be a colder part and put the mixture back in the fridge ready to try again 24 hours later. This time I watched more closer and within the first few minutes the mix showed signs of solidifying round the edges but after another five minutes this stopped happening and the result was same as before. I'm guessing that something in the mixture is setting the freezing point of the liquid just a touch too low. The one thing that I can think of is the vanilla essence as I'm effectively putting 1 tablespoon of vodka in the mix but with a dairy ice cream you can put in 2 or 3 tablespoons of a spirit without this happening. Perhaps I shall try again and this time use a vanilla pod or vanilla paste. If the author is still reading reviews perhaps he could suggest what else might have this effect.
Didn't Work Out Unfortunately
Trying to figure out what I did wrong. I chose to simmer the cashews and then added them and their water to the blender along with the rest of the ingredients. I blended it and then tasted it and at that point it was thick like a pudding and super sweet and syrupy. I then chilled it like it says. Then at that point it was the consistency of a cake/muffin batter. I poured it into my ice cream maker (it was my first time using my Cuisinart ice cream maker by the way so I didn't know what to expect and my first time making ice cream.) and it got thicker and colder but didn't really get much like ice cream. I froze it after that and when I had some it was not very ice cream like. It was like it was missing liquid and/or had way too much corn syrup. I still ate it because I didn't want the ingredients to go to waste, lol but it was really weird.. Can't figure out what the heck I did wrong.... Was it because I chose the option of simmering the cashews?
I'm interested in trying this but am vexed at the idea of having to buy yet another ingredient. I've only been vegan for 5 months and have purchased everything under the sun (feels like it anyway) to make most anything I desire. However, vegetable oil is something I've probably never had in my cupboard. I don't even know if I could find organic vegetable oil (I eat 100% organic at home). Is there something else I could use? With coconut oil already being in the recipe. . . .I wasn't sure I should just increase it?
This. Is. PERFECT.
I have tried several Vegan ice creams, and even made my own recipes (early on in the learning process). They were edible - which is fairly impressive - but NOT good. When we discovered my daughters food allergies a few years ago, she took the news with grace and style. She had just turned 13 at the time, and to be told that you suddenly can't have chocolate, enjoy quiche and cheeses... I don't know if I could have handled it so well. But I'm not afraid, so I jumped right in and started cooking "vegan" dishes (that was the easiest way to search). I can add meat to anything, but the best way to find the allergy requirements is to go to Vegan sites. This ice cream - EVERYONE LOVES IT! It is creamy, tasty, it freezes nicely, melts with the same speed and texture as dairy ice cream... It really is perfect! I did the cashew base, and it was a vanilla ice cream; but my two older kids - who didn't watch me make it - did not know the base. When they tasted it, they immediately named the flavor I couldn't quite put my finger on: COOKIE DOUGH. Yep, for us - going the cashew route - the final product had a distinct Cookie-Dough Ice Cream flavor. And BTW, I used it the first time as the special dessert for my daughter's birthday, and served it with Grilled Carmelized Pears (I posted the directions on my blog). It was soooooo delicious. My husband, who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, had seconds! So thanks for this recipe - if you want Vegan ice cream that is fabulous, and hate the exorbitant prices for a little container that will NOT be as good, make this recipe. Follow it, and life will be sweet!
I am not sure how I came to this recipe but I am so glad that I did. I made this earlier today and snuck a taste after several hours in the freezer. I split the ice cream leaving one half as the original recipe and then I added puréed frozen strawberries to the other half. Both are delicious but the strawberry is heavenly!! Thank you so much, I am so happy to have a base recipe to add my favorite fruit and mixins to. The only thing I plan to change is to use refined coconut oil instead of the unrefined to avoid the coconut smell and taste and to make it more of a true vanilla. I look forward to trying the variations you come up with.
Cashew butter and apple syrup
Hi Mattie, greetings from France!
I just invested in a Kenwood Chef with an ice cream maker attachment, and am looking forward to trying this recipe. Here in France we have cashew butter, which consists of only puréed cashews, and is nice and smooth. Have you ever tried anything like this, or do you have any idea of the quantity of cashew butter I should use to replace the nuts? If not, I'll try it with say 1/2 cup, adjust the liquid, and let you know my results.
Also, I have some apple concentrate syrup on hand. Have you ever used this? It is nice and sweet, but may give a little acidity, so I might reduce or omit the vinegar. What do you think?
I just discovered your wonderful site, and am looking forward to looking around it! Many thanks!
any chance I can use agar-agar instead of the Xanthan gum? I can't wait to try this!
I made this for our Memorial Day cookout, and served it with my veganized peach cobbler. i was so excited about how good i already knew it was, that i kept bringing my friends to the freezer for a sneak peek taste while it was ripening. they were all shocked and in love. i substituted the canola oil for the cocoa butter and used refined coconut oil as it was what i had on hand with no worries. since i only had psyllium husk powder and no xanthan gum, i went by the substitution guideline you listed for the vegan butter recipe and it worked perfectly. i don't know if you've ever had Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream, but down here in Texas it is king, and something i know my husband has missed since becoming vegan. store bought vegan ice creams are shall we just say, unsatisfying. this is so much better than either of those options. thank you!!!
Just wondering why you didn't dump the water after the cashews have been soaked? In other recipes that I've soaked cashews I've emptied the water and then poured in fresh water to blend the cashews.
Also, what do you think about taking the soaked cashews and blending them with some soy creamer instead of water? My thinking is that I want to get the most creamiest taste out of vegan ice cream and wondering if this would help?
Can I use raw coconut in place of coconut oil?
Help! Whole Foods gave me whole raw coconut and I didn't realize it wasn't the oil until I got home and was in the middle of making this. I am already substituting additional vegetable oil for the coco butter (because it costs $25.00) so I don't know if this will ruin the batch. I am using a tofu base (boiled for 3 minutes to get rid of bean flavor, as suggested by one of the commenters) and unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
Im following this recipe but the ice cream isn't seem to be going anywhere in the ice cream maker. Its staying a thick liquid.
Delicious thanks for such a great recipe!
This recipe is great such a smooth creamy consistency - the best vegan home made ice-cream I have tasted or made. And thanks for the detailed description of what makes this ice-cream great I can see now why some of the other recipes I have made have failed!
I use the cashew base as I like the flavour more. I don't have a Vita mix so I soak the cashews for a few hours and also boil them for 15mins before blending them.
Other flavour variations I have done with this recipe - White Chocolate and Raspberry - use 3tsp of cacao butter instead of the coconut oil half a cup of raspberries and half a cup of white choc chips.
Maple Walnut - use maple flavoured syrup instead of the corn syrup and add 1/2 cup of very finely chopped walnuts and one teaspoon of vanilla powder along with the vanilla essence
Raved About on Big Fat Vegan Radio
I heard about this ice cream on Episode 42 of Big Fat Vegan Radio. Ben said it's delicious with the cashews, cannot wait to try it.
Question about scoopability
This icecream is delicious!! I've had many failed attempts at making vegan icecream but this one was great. A little sweet for me, but I can adjust that :)
I was wondering about how long this icecream will last in the freezer and still be scoopable? It was perfect the first time I had it, but 24 hours later when I got it out to have it again it was frozen pretty hard, and had to wait for it to defrost a little :(
Will you marry me?
This is so delicious! I have been using Miyoko Schinner's book about Artisan Vegan Cheese, and so I knew the power of the cashew. Finally tried this today, and it is divine.
I do have a question - do you think you taste sweetness more when it's not frozen in the ice cream maker? When I had blended all the ingredients, I gave the cream a taste, and I could have sworn I added too much sugar. I actually got worried, and had some of Miyoko's macadamia ricotta on hand, so I just tossed some in because I thought it might balance out the sweetness. Now that I've tried it after freezing completely, I think it would have been fine as it was. (The ricotta is not a bad addition - I now have cheesecake ice cream!)
Just wondering if sweetness and temperature is "a thing."
Thank you so much! I had it with crumbled almond chocolate toffee (vegan also).
Question re oils
This looks so incredibly well considered - thank you! I haven't tried it yet because I had a couple of questions.
I'm wondering why the use of unrefined coconut oil as opposed to refined (if the coconut taste is not desired)? Presumably refined will work the same? Also, I assume the coconut oil needs to be liquid before adding to blender?
Also, I can't seem to get cocoa butter in Australia, could I just use coconut oil instead or should it be a 'liquid' oil like canola?
Finally with the xanthum gum the stuff I have is in 1g sachets and is a fine dry granule - do i need to reconstitute it or anything or just add it to the mix?
Thanks in advance - I'm wanting to make this for Christmas and blow the minds of my omnivore guests! Cheers.
The Science of Delicious!
First, I want to thank you for a very detailed break down of why we love ice cream. Your method of explaining why ice cream with dairy is such a joy to make and eat is very helpful in setting the right mental approach to why making vegan ice cream should be joyful!
Second, I've used this recipe twice...once to make a vanilla ice cream and then as a base for a mango ice cream! I prefer using full fat coconut milk and arrow root as substitutes for your original and the texture has been rich and creamy.
Would you agree that using this basic recipe as a base for several flavors of ice cream would work?
Fantastic with one little change
I've been experimenting a lot, trying to come up with a good ice cream dairy free for my hubby. We haven't been thrilled with any of the commercial brands. Oh my gosh, thanks to you, I've just found it! The first batch I made was okay but we just didn't care for the coconut flavor soooo rather than adding coconut oil I instead added 12 grams (3 t.) of the cocoa butter. Perfect! We can't believe it! I used the silken tofu as there is less fat in the tofu rather than the cashews. However, I would bet this ice cream made with cashews would be wonderful also! Thank you so much! Next, the pumpkin--I plan to use this recipe and simply add some pureed butternut squash and spice!
Not Missing The "Real" Thing!
Ok - if I could truly rate this recipe on a scale of 1 - 5, I'd have to give it a 12. It is the best homemade vegan ice cream I've ever tasted and it gives some of the best soy and non-soy based vegan store brands an honest run for their money! I doubled this recipe to make two quarts. I also followed another poster's advice to boil the tofu about 3 min to reduce its nutty flavor (I boiled the silken tofu inside of a nut milk bag). The texture, color, flavor, and mouth feel were simply superb! I tried it on my family and they LOVED it! I got comments like "I can't believe how real this tastes!", "I can eat this without stomach issue worries, yet this is sooo good!" and "Bye-Bye Soy Delicious!" I will DEFINITELY be making this again and again! This will be my base for
butter pecan, maple and black walnut, turtle tracks, and many other "vanilla family" based ice creams.
Now my questions. Do you, or will you have a catalog or book of homemade non-dairy ice cream, sherbert, sorbet, and frozen yogurt recipes? If so, where when can I find it/them? Lastly, if I change out the cocoa butter for a "tasteless" oil and remove the vanilla, is this an excellent base for endless fruit and non fruit ice creams? I want to understand how to build many flavors. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and recipe.
thank you :-)
Thank you so much for this detailed recipe. It's a great formula base.
Golden vs corn syrup
Forgot to add: For any UK-ers, I used Golden Syrup in place of the Corn Syrup the recipe calls for, with no issues at all (save the slight flavour change). All I've gathered is that it works, but I'm not sure how! Is this because both glucose (in CS) and inverted sucrose (in GS) inhibit sugar crystallization in the same way? I'm very curious to find out :)
Pretty good, needs more experimentation!
I used the cashew version of the recipe, and since I used vanilla paste (sugar-based), I added a teaspoon of alcohol (white rum, it's what I had to hand), to keep things from getting solid. And it worked, it came out perfectly soft and not icy. My only issue is that I still have some mouth-feely issues with using soaked cashews as the base, there's definitely a grainy feel in there. I'm putting that down to my blender more then anything, and may experiment with putting the mixture through a cheesecloth next time, though I don't know what size particles I'm dealing with here! Maybe blend cashews in advance after a 1st soak, and then continue to soak and reblend before using? I think I might prefer to use the cashew base with a stronger flavour then vanilla (chocolate or coffee?) as I found the nuttiness overpowered the vanilla, but it's definitely a base I'll be trying again :) Thank you!!
No ice cream maker
Could you offer me any advice on how to make this ice cream without the use of an ice cream maker? With regular stirring do you think I could still achieve a good consistency? I've recently come across some praline spread that I am really eager to incorporate into an ice cream recipe. It will be my first try since becoming vegan sometime ago so I would really like it to stand a good chance of turning out ok!
Thanks for all the great recipes!
I paused over the corn syrup, but this is really the best vegan ice cream I have had (homemade or store bought). I used the cashew base - flavor was great, but also AMAZING texture right out of ice cream maker and the next day. So good paired with the Ultimate Brownie recipe! Thank you for perfecting this and sharing!!!!
Best Homemade Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream
I don't give it 5* because I've had better store-bought vegan vanilla ice cream, but do give 4* because it's the best homemade version. I've tried many other recipes, none of them worth making again, but this one is a keeper. I used Silk Coconut milk. Next time, I'll try the cocoa butter and vanilla beans, hopefully to have a richer vanilla flavor. Since most tofu packages are 12 oz, I made 1.5 times the recipe. I following the recipe exactly. The hardness came out the same level as those in the supermarket (not rock-solid). I think that the key is to blend the xanthan gum enough, up to 3 min as the author says. I have a high quality blender (Vita-Mix), and could still tell that the thickness wasn't allowing it to mix well by itself, so I manually mixed it too while the blender was going. This is my first time using xanthan gum in ice-cream, and also my first time where my ice-cream didn't come out rock-solid, or decent hardness but with the nasty alcohol flavor. I'm looking forward to trying out the cashew version someday and experimenting with other flavors (cocoa and coffee).
Enhance Tofu Flavor
If you use tofu for the base, boil it gently for 2-3 minutes and then use in recipe. it removes the "beany" taste.
How to keep it soft
I tried this recipe and yes, it did freeze rock solid, albeit soo delicious! So I tried it again, this time adding 2 tbs of Alcohol (any type will do), I used chambord with chocolate, and it kept the ice cream soft enough to scoop freely. Mix it in just before freezing. The alcohol doesn't allow the ice cream to freeze solid. Not sure how to do this for those who do not partake in alcohol, but I hope this helps anyone who's willing to try it.
Ice Cream softness
Made your ice cream - it was perfect when finished in the Ice cream maker but went rock hard after putting in the freezer. Pls can you advise...?
I tried the tofu variation just now and I'm rather disappointed. Mine definitely has a very noticeable raw tofu taste to it. I'm hoping maybe the flavors will come together a bit more once it's been in the freezer for a while, but for now it's not very yummy to me. I'm going to hold off on rating it though, because I would still like to give the cashew version a shot. The texture of the final result was lovely, so if I could just get it to taste better and not like plain tofu it would be perfect.