Summer’s in full swing, and for most of us, that means ice cream season. But what about vegans, who swear off anything and everything animal-based? No worries–vegan ice cream options abound, perhaps now more than ever. And unlike in its early years, when compromises had to be made between flavor and nutritional value, vegan desserts are just as good as their dairy counterparts, if not better.
Vegan alternatives to common treats first cropped up in the 1980s, when brands such as Rice Dream and Tofutti first gained popularity. Their quality has improved significantly since then, and they remain staples of vegan and organic groceries today. Like most brands, they are completely dairy-free and eco-friendly, and often safe for a wide range of food allergies.
Besides rice and tofu, nuts are also a widely used base for vegan dairy imitations. Almond Dream is one of the best-known brands of nut-based milk desserts, and comes in a good selection of flavors. Dairy replacements can also be made from peanuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, and pecans. Among white nuts and seeds, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, cashews, and pumpkin seeds tend to work well.
Soy milk has always been, and still is, a staple of vegan cooking, and desserts are no exception. Although it has given way to several other alternatives, most people still stick to soy for its added nutritional value and hypoallergenic quality. Soy ice cream tends to come in the widest range of flavors, and many vegans find it more natural-tasting than other plant-based dairy. Many also say it’s more filling.
If you like your ice cream with generous toppings, your best bet would be to find a vegan ice cream place in your area. These can be found in most major cities today. While some places sell vegan options alongside non-vegan ones, they usually do not make the distinction when it comes to toppings and garnishes, so it’s important to ask questions. In an all-vegan shop, although the prices are higher, you can be sure everything that goes into your cup is plant-based.
Another alternative, especially for those who have time on their hands, is to make your own vegan ice cream. Most ice cream maker models will work with plant-based ingredients without any significant difference in quality. As mentioned above, you can use soy, rice, or nut-based milk, and add your own flavors. Try experimenting with different mixes before making a big batch.