I was in a serious relationship once. We were happy together for years and years. Our favorite pastime was snuggling in front of the TV and watching The Bachelorette together. But sadly, all good things must come to an end.
What drove us apart was a very painful stomach infection called gastritis. My relationship with dairy came to a screeching halt when the doctor suspected that my consumption of dairy products (and also wheat) was only increasing the inflammation in my stomach. Yes, my love affair was with ice cream.
The next time I went grocery shopping with my mom, we wandered into the freezer section and I was painfully reminded of my dietary restrictions as we passed cartons of Häagen-Dazs and Edy’s. In the last freezer case, reserved for health foods, were pint-sized containers of dairy-free ice cream. I’m not talking about boring sherbet here, I mean creamy ice cream minus the dairy component. Here are a few of my non-dairy favorites that are definitely worth the hype.
I really only have one word to describe the experience of eating cashew milk ice cream: creamy. Much creamier than soy or coconut milk varieties. Also, as you would expect, there is an overarching nutty flavor, which may overwhelm some tasters. Similar to cow’s milk, cashew milk is packed full of calcium and is really fricken’ tasty.
My go-to flavor: So Delicious Snickerdoodle. Swirls of cinnamon and chunks of gluten free snickerdoodle cookie dough make you forget you’re eating something healthy.
I’m going be honest, I am not a fan of soy milk in general. This made eating a pint of soy milk ice cream unpleasant, but doable for me. All I’m going to say is that if you like your dessert super sweet, this is the ice cream for you.
The consistency is somewhere between icy and creamy. The soupier it got, the more it started to taste like ice cream. Overall, though, nothing to write home about.
My go-to flavor: So Delicious Mocha Fudge, merely because the chocolate swirls are pretty decedent.
Almond milk is increasing in popularity and once people try the ice cream version of it, I think major chains like Ben & Jerry’s will follow with a line of flavors. It has a creamy texture that melts in your mouth like cow’s milk ice cream and leaves no unpleasant aftertaste.
Almond milk is naturally a little sweet so the manufacturers only need to add a small amount of sweetener. There are only 6 or 7 grams of sugar per serving, which is incredible. Almond milk novelties like ice cream bars covered in pecans and ice cream sandwiches are now available at local supermarkets.
My go-to flavor: So Delicious Butter Pecan. It’s a trifecta of rich, buttery and crunchy goodness.
I am giving coconut ice cream my personal seal of approval. It’s light, but doesn’t taste like you’re eating ice, and it’s sweet without setting your teeth on edge. Also, the coconut gives a hint of tropical flavor that deepens the flavor profile. The texture and sweetness are a unique combination that is so completely separate from traditional ice cream.
My go-to flavor: Luna and Larry’s Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge – powerful chocolatey flavor with a surprise of chopped hazelnuts inside.
If you are looking for a close swap for cow’s milk ice cream, don’t look here. Rice milk ice cream has a unique taste and texture, comparable to a Laffy Taffy that has been sitting in the sun. The vanilla flavor was depressing to eat – it tasted like a watered-down vanilla protein shake.
Although rice milk is a legitimate replacement for those who are avoiding dairy, it is important to note that some doctors do not recommend that diabetics drink rice milk. Rice is very high in starch, and drinking rice milk may cause a sudden “overload” of sugar that can be potentially dangerous to a diabetic.
My “go-to” flavor: Rice Dream Strawberry. The shavings of real strawberry are seriously the best part.
If consuming goat’s milk doesn’t sit well with you, just think of a goat as a tiny cow. The taste, especially with sugar added, is remarkably similar to cow’s milk.
As a bonus, goat’s milk is higher in protein and is found to have more digestible fats, than cow’s milk. This is probably my favorite non-dairy ice cream because I don’t feel like I am substituting health for deliciousness.
My go-to flavor: Laloo’s Deep Chocolate. It’s an intense and rich cocoa taste that is dangerously good.
Until my stomach heals, I think I have found some legitimate replacements to traditional ice cream. For me, the real winners are the goat and coconut milk ice cream. I like having the two options to switch back and forth between. The goat’s milk is creamy and rich while the coconut is light and tropical.
So don’t be afraid to wander a little farther down the freezer aisle and pick up a non-dairy alternative; you might be surprised by you how much you like it.