We all know there are quite a few ways to make yummy non-dairy ice cream.
Oftentimes, dairy-free blender ice cream recipes feature frozen bananas as their main ingredient due to how well they blend.
Otherwise, traditional ice cream recipes call for whole milk, evaporated milk, Greek yogurt, half and half, or most commonly, heavy cream.
That’s a lot of dairy for someone who should avoid it.
Instead, here is an examination of the best healthy cream options for heavy cream and other dairy products when making homemade ice cream.
Also included are 11 dairy-free and healthy ice cream recipes, so keep reading until the end!
What is the Best Substitute for Heavy Cream When Making Ice Cream?
The best substitute for heavy cream when making dairy-free ice cream varies from taste to taste.
Some will say coconut milk is the best, but then some people do not like coconut flavor.
Others will say soy milk is the best substitute, but not all diets can accommodate soy.
There are so many options when it comes to dairy-free alternatives, it will all depend on your personal tastes and diet restrictions.
What Are Some Other Substitutes for Heavy Cream?
Use any of the following creamy ingredients on their own or in combination for amazing non-dairy ice cream:
- Silken tofu
- Coconut milk
- Coconut cream
- Plant-based yogurt
- Vegan butter
- Soy milk
- Almond milk
- Oat milk
- Soaked cashews
- Nut Butter
- Vegan cream cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Egg yolks
Summary: Full-fat coconut milk is the closest plant-based product to heavy cream, but a mixture of many non-dairy ingredients is also a great alternative to heavy cream.
Are Non-Dairy Cream Options High in Saturated Fat?
While coconut milk and coconut cream is a calorie-rich food, it is also high in saturated fat.
The nutritional content of coconut products varies, so be sure to pay attention to the nutritional content of the coconut option in your recipe.
Eating foods high in saturated fat can elevate harmful cholesterol levels, so like everything else, enjoy in moderation.
Other alternatives are not as high in saturated fat, such as silken tofu and almond milk, especially the unsweetened varieties.
Summary: Plant-based cream options are often high in saturated fat, so be mindful of labels when shopping.
What is the Difference in Nutritional Content Between Dairy and Non-Dairy Cream?
According to Harvard Health Publishing, one serving of cow’s milk contains micronutrients, protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D.
If your body can process milk, there is no need to cut it out of your diet.
That said, there is also no nutritional need for a fixed amount of dairy servings per day.
Varieties of plant milk are all made differently with different nutritional content.
It is very important to read the nutritional label when buying your plant milk to make sure it has all the nutrients you want.
Picking plant milk that contains more than 7 grams of protein is recommended.
Also look for varieties with vitamin D, vitamin A, and calcium so that you know you are getting a product that is good for you.
All milk has sugar in it, it just depends on the source of the sugar.
Your plant milk should also be low in added sugar, as many sweetened varieties of plant milk have multiple grams of sugar per serving.
Even cow’s milk has sugar, and sometimes lower-fat varieties have even more sugar to make up for the taste.
When milk shopping, pick up an unsweetened variety such as almond milk or coconut milk to avoid unwanted sugar content.
Summary: The differences in cow’s milk and plant milk depend on the variety of each, with much importance placed on the amount of added sugar in the drink.
Do Non-Dairy Cream Options Have a Similar Texture to Heavy Cream?
Heavy whipping cream is so thick that it can be used as a sauce thickener.
It is hard to replicate that full fat texture, but it is not impossible.
Full fat coconut cream is the most similar in texture as a singular ingredient, but you can mix a few ingredients to also make a consistency similar to heavy whipping cream.
By blending silken tofu, vegetable oil, or plant-based yogurt in any combination, the result is very creamy and luxurious.
Non-Dairy Whipped Cream
If you want a vegan whipped cream to top your non-dairy ice cream, coconut cream is the best to use here.
Here is how to make coconut whipped cream using a can of coconut cream instead of heavy cream:
- Thoroughly chill your coconut cream for 12 hours, then carefully open the can.
- Spoon the top layer of cream into a bowl leaving the watery liquid behind.
- Whip the cold cream with a hand mixer until it is light and fluffy, just like whipped cream.
Summary: Thick ingredients such as coconut cream are so similar to heavy cream that it whips the same as whipped cream.
Can You Add Non-Dairy Cream Options to Other Dishes?
Substitutes for heavy cream are not just for ice cream recipes.
Instead of whole milk or heavy cream, try adding soy milk or coconut milk to soups and stews.
Vegan soups are often very creamy and delicious like this Detox Roasted Pumpkin Soup made with unsweetened almond milk.
You may find recipes for soups that you want to try but call for dairy ingredients.
Chilled full-fat coconut milk is the go-to substitute for heavy cream in soups.
Of course, tailor each cream alternative to the individual recipe you are following, but a 1:1 ratio of coconut cream to heavy cream a good general rule of thumb.
Summary: Creamy soups and stews lend well to the use of non-dairy products with little texture or flavor difference.
Can You Make Vegan Frozen Yogurt?
Frozen yogurt and ice cream may seem the same but are actually very different.
Frozen yogurt is quite literally what it sounds like; yogurt that is then frozen and eaten like ice cream.
Ice cream, on the other hand, is just simply frozen milk or cream.
Another distinction is frozen custard, which is frozen milk or cream and egg yolks.
By using vegan yogurt and adding your own toppings and mix-ins, you can freeze the mixture to create a satisfying vegan frozen yogurt from scratch.
Summary: Vegan frozen yogurt, ice cream, and custard are all possibilities with a little planning and innovation.
What Other Healthy Ingredients Are in Dairy-Free Ice Cream?
To keep healthy ice cream free of not only heavy cream but also excess refined sugars, you’ll need a few creative sweetener options to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Those on a sugar-free diet will tell you that the less sugar you consume, the more sensitive your taste buds are to sweetness.
These plant-based ice cream recipes below use a multitude of natural sweeteners, including:
- Pitted dates
- Vanilla bean paste/extract
- Nut Butter
- Muscovado sugar
- Maple Syrup
Summary: If you are already watching your health by cutting out dairy, you’ll want to pay attention to other ingredients found in healthy ice cream recipes.
Making Your Perfect Non-Dairy Ice Cream
Now that we have explored all healthy cream options for ice cream, we must choose which ingredients we want in our perfect ice cream.
Unfortunately, we cannot throw every single aforementioned ingredient into a blender and it immediately becomes ice cream.
You could, but it may not have the correct consistency.
Instead, follow these simple steps when picking ingredients for your personalized non-dairy ice cream.
Step 1 – Choose a Base
The base of the ice cream should be creamy and blendable with the fats and flavors of your choice.
Some common healthy ice cream bases include:
- Silken tofu
- Plant milk
- Pureed tofu
- Vegan cream cheese
Step 2 – Choose a Fat
The fat in vegan ice cream is what replaces heavy cream in dairy ice cream.
Fat is important for flavor, texture, and the freezing process.
Without fat, your ice cream base might freeze solid.
Some awesome healthy fats for ice cream are:
- Full-fat coconut milk
- Cashew cream
- Coconut cream
- Olive oil
- Nut butter
The base and fat ratios should be around 30% fat to 70% base, generally speaking.
Step 3 – Choose Your Flavor
Once you have your ice cream base ready to go, it’s time for the fun part – adding flavor!
Choose any flavor combinations that you like from the aforementioned list.
Chocolate lovers can make a simple chocolate ice cream by adding cocoa powder to their taste.
Add dates for additional sweetness without added sugar.
The sky is the limit when creating ice cream flavors.
Too busy to experiment? No worries.
Keeping reading below for our favorite ice cream bases, plus 11 non-dairy ice cream recipes that we developed for you!
Adding a Stabilizer
While making vegan ice cream, a base, fat, and flavor are great on their own, but you can also add a stabilizer to the mix.
A stabilizer will add a small amount of elasticity to the ice cream, giving a more traditional ice cream texture.
Common additions to vegan ice cream include xanthan gum and guar gum.
Proceed with caution if you plan on using one of these ingredients in your ice cream.
A small amount of stabilizer will go a long way; you should need a very small amount for your entire ice cream recipe.
Before experimenting with your own vegan ice cream recipe, it is best that you first get comfortable with these stabilizer quantities by trying one of our favorite ice cream recipes below.
If you use too much of either xanthan or guar gum, your ice cream could result in a gummy, unpleasant texture.
A good rule of thumb is to use less than 1 tablespoon of xanthan gum per recipe to avoid a chewy mouthfeel.
How to Control Softness
Sugar is not only a sweetening agent in ice cream recipes.
- Adds body to the ice cream
- Keeps the ice cream nice and soft
You don’t want to freeze your ice cream only to find that it has frozen solid hours later.
Sugar will add body by creating a firmness that resists the spoon or scooper when serving yourself.
Sugars also bond to ice crystals which also adds body and texture to your homemade ice cream.
For optimal texture and softness, sugar is essential because it will stop the ice cream base from freezing solid.
It does this by actually lowering the liquid’s freezing temperature; the freezing temperature will be based on the amount of sugar you add!
Summary: One major way to control the softness of your ice cream is by adding sugar. The amount of sugar you add will determine the ice cream’s texture.
Importance of Emulsifiers
An emulsifier is an item that combines two liquids that would otherwise not mix.
For example, oil and vinegar are two liquids that always separate.
When making salad dressing, an emulsifier is often added to combine oil and vinegar, such as mustard, garlic, or egg yolks.
Once all three ingredients are combined, the oil and vinegar no longer separate.
The principle is the same for ice cream recipes.
You will often see egg yolks used in ice cream recipes as an emulsifier; sometimes the eggs are incorporated using a tempering technique commonly seen in making custard.
The emulsifier stops the ice cream base from separating and leads to a better texture and mouthfeel than without it.
For vegan ice cream, you can use these emulsifiers aside from egg yolks:
- Soy lecithin
- Polysorbate 80
- Mono and diglycerides (vegetable-based)
Summary: An emulsifier will bond with your base and fat to ensure the ice cream mixture does not separate and stays creamy with a delicate mouthfeel.
Favorite Dairy-Free Ice Cream Samples
These creamy concoctions include both the base and fat you’ll need to make the perfect non-dairy ice cream.
Often, bases and fats need to be mixed for optimal flavor and texture in a dairy-free ice cream recipe.
- Silken tofu blended with coconut cream
- Soy milk blended with olive oil
- Almond milk blended with olive oil
- Oat milk blended with nut butter
- Coconut milk blended with cashew cream
Summary: To make homemade vegan ice cream, you need a base, fat, and flavors for basic ice cream. Adding a stabilizer will add to the texture, but be careful of how much is added to your recipe.
The Healthy Ice Cream Recipes
And, finally, the moment you have all been waiting for.
These healthy ice cream recipes have been taste-tested and approved by us and have also been evaluated by our wonderful THT nutritionist.
Experience the joys of milk-free ice cream recipes using cream substitutes!
Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream
Think chocolate ice cream can’t be made without whole milk or heavy cream?
This chocolate delight is super flavorful and creamy thanks to coconut milk and non-dairy chocolate chips.
Perhaps you more of a nut butter fan than a chocoholic. In that case, you’ll love this next recipe.
Vegan Almond Butter Ice Cream
This vegan ice cream is sweetened with dates and has almond milk, almond butter, and almond extract.
A very nutty combination!
If nuts are not your thing, you’ll love this spicy, coconutty sweet treat.
Spiced Vegan Ice Cream
This healthy ice cream uses thick coconut milk, nutmeg, and cardamom pods to make a refreshing, yet interesting flavor combination.
Sometimes, simpler is better. This next ice cream is a simple vanilla flavor.
Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream
Soaked cashews and full-fat coconut milk make up this creamy base, which is the perfect substitute for heavy cream.
Vanilla is great for when you’re feeling simple, but what about when you’re feeling more adventurous?
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
A classic fountain favorite, this recipe uses avocado for texture and color and full-fat coconut milk for creaminess.
Avocado works well as a substitute for heavy cream, but what else can we use?
Coffee Ice Cream
Aquafaba and cream of tartar whip to create a lovely ice cream texture, with notes of coffee and vanilla.
Coffee is a rich flavor, so let’s change it up to something more fresh and whole.
Strawberry Ice Cream
Fresh strawberries and coconut milk are the perfect base to freeze for a healthy, yet tart, delight.
Lets bring back the rich flavors for a moment, because chocolate and peanut butter are such a delectable combination.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Mini peanut butter balls are suspended in this rich, chocolatey ice cream swirled with even more PB!
A little texture goes a long wat in ice cream. That’s why we love this next one.
Mango Nut Ice Cream
Coconut milk, dates, and mangoes combine to make one of the best substitutes for heavy cream.
Keeping with the exotic fruit theme, this next ice cream is fruity and unique.
Coconut and Lychee Ice Cream
Lychees can be found in a can in most supermarkets or fresh in most larger Asian markets.
Lastly, a dairy-free custard ice cream without any dairy. Yum!
Almond Custard Ice Cream
This recipe uses egg yolks and almond milk to create a custard before freezing.
Helpful Related Information
For most of these ice cream recipes to succeed, a great high-powered blender is necessary.
If you are not sure where to start when looking to buy a blender, we can help.
To get a baseline, take a peek at our Ninja vs. Vitamix blender comparison, which examines the two most prominent blender brands.
If your blender can blend frozen drinks, it can also blend ice cream.
Read about our picks for the best blender for frozen drinks, and make yourself a frozen margarita while you’re at it!
Your blender also makes much more than just ice cream.
Check out these awesome soup recipes done in the blender, which are all healthy and delicious!
Salad dressing is a great condiment to make yourself, and it is as easy as pressing the “blend” button.
Try out these tasty salad dressing recipes to make at home using your blender.
It’s Cream, But It’s Not Heavy
Who knew that there were so many substitutes for heavy cream?
Non-dairy products are getting more and more innovative with their healthy cream substitutes, which is displayed in each our of dairy-free ice cream recipes.
Take medical advise from your doctor before changing up your diet.
If a dairy-free lifestyle aligns with your diet needs, give up heavy cream for good and try out our favorite ice cream recipes.
You won’t miss the heavy cream, guaranteed!