Human adults aren't supposed to drink milk. You'd never know it by the amount of yogurt, milk, coffee creamers, and other dairy-filled treats that fill our fridges, but scientists are pretty certain we should avoid it. It has something to do with enzymes and being old and not being able to digest it and other buzzkills like that. We could probably give up plain-old milk and yogurt, but ice cream? Haven't we suffered enough?
Luckily, there are some alternatives. You've probably seen non-dairy ice cream thanks to brands like Halo Top and Ben & Jerry's that have cashed in on the alternative milk trend. But between chalky or icy textures and too much nutty flavor from the base, there's a lot that can go wrong when trying to make cream-less ice cream.
So in the interest of helping our dairy-free friends, we cracked open dozens of pints to fill you in on the non-dairy ice cream that still actually tastes like ice cream. With most of them, we couldn’t even tell that we weren’t eating the real thing.
There isn’t a better non-dairy flavor on the market. This vanilla "ice cream" with chocolate sandwich cookies and swirls of creamy peanut butter has everything fans love about Ben & Jerry’s (bold flavor, lots of mix-ins, ampersands) without any of the dairy. Serve this to us in a blind taste test and we’d never know it was dairy-free. “What?” you say. “One thousand one hundred and sixty calories in a pint of vegan ice cream? Surely this is some mistake?” But it’s not. This almond-milk-based frozen dessert comes from the same company that will sell you 20 scoops of ice cream, four bananas, hot fudge, and something like 74 toppings in a plastic bucket under a trademarked name (the Vermonster). So it kinda makes sense.
This brand is known for its wild flavor combinations. But the non-dairy ice creams they're able to pull off are even wilder than french fries or churro dough swirled into scoops. One bite of this chocolate ice cream with cookie swirl, and you'll understand. The folks at Coolhaus use pea and brown rice proteins to create a base for their non-dairy ice creams, so they don't have to fight the coconut, nut, or soy flavors that typically permeate through other alternatives.
This ice cream purveyor employs coconut milk to replace cream and milk in it's base, but you'd never know. The scoops are intensely smooth and creamy with enough thick chunks of sweet chocolate cookie to satisfy even the most devoted dairy lover.
This cult favorite milk alternative just got a whole lot creamier. You have probably had Oatly in a latte or two at this point, but the brand's oat milk-based ice cream is next level. Keep it simple with a vanilla pint, and you'll taste the creamy oat milk flavor you love with a little extra body and sweetness.
Lactose-intolerant British grandmothers everywhere, rejoice! Now you can get your daily ration of toffee in a delicious non-dairy frozen dessert. Even if you're not a British grandmother, you'll love Almond Dream's non-dairy take on toffee ice cream. The almond milk flavor from the base naturally pairs well with nutty toffee and the hint of fudge in this version is a welcome addition.
Gooey non-dairy caramel sauce. Chocolate-coated cashew. Real bits of sea salt. This flavor's got everything. And if you're a dairy avoider, chances are you already know and love So Delicious. This brand is perhaps the most well known in the non-dairy world, and you'll see why when you taste their expertly crafted cashew milk base.
Brooklyn-based Steve’s Ice Cream makes a variety of Brooklyn-sounding, dairy-rich flavors (Small Batch Bourbon Vanilla, Wildflower Honey Pistachio, Thai Peanut Butter Pretzel) but it also shows some love to the dairy-less -- again, with flavors that could only come from Brooklyn. We got our hands on Burnt Sugar Vanilla, which features rich, gooey veins of caramel-colored liquid sugar and tastes a lot like a mix between the caramel of a Twix and the vanilla ice cream inside an ice cream bar.
This sweet treat is weirdly... water-based. Don't ask me how that works, but just know that it does. This pint has a hint of mint herbaceousness on a nice chocolate-flavored base. Sure, it's not as creamy as some of the other options that use milk alternatives, but it's vast availability at regular supermarkets and low calorie count make it a worthy pick.
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Kenny Gould is a Pittsburgh-based writer and journalist currently on his sixth day of brain freeze. Follow him on Twitter at @kb_gould and on his website at KennyGould.com.