How to Make Dairy-Free Ice Cream with a Creamy Coconut Base

Cool and creamy, light yet rich, ice cream has the ability to satisfy your cravings without filling you up. It’s these qualities that make frozen treats the perfect ending to just about any meal.

Making dairy-free versions of traditional desserts often involves a few extra steps, from making a nut-based milk or cream to replacing an egg by mixing ground flax seeds with water. These additional steps can put home cooks off, as they take extra time and ingredients, and create more dirty dishes, too. This recipe for vegan ice cream is the exception — it’s actually easier and faster than ones with traditional dairy and egg ice cream bases. It can easily be done by beginners and experienced ice cream churners alike. There’s no extended time spent over the stove awaiting the moment the custard thickens and no reason to worry that you’ll scramble the eggs if your mixture cooks too long. All you need to do for this ice cream is warm coconut milk and thicken it with a little dissolved arrowroot powder before cooling and churning — it’s that easy! Infusing the milk with vanilla bean adds great flavor but can be skipped in a pinch. This ice cream is the perfect base for a variety of mix-ins, and some of my favorites are included below.

Dairy-Free Vanilla Ice Cream

*When freshly churned, this ice cream is the perfect consistency, and, if you time it right, that’s the best way to serve it. Any leftovers can be stored in the freezer; just be sure to allow enough time for it to soften before serving.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups

2 cans full-fat coconut milk

6 tablespoons maple syrup

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed

4 teaspoons arrowroot powder

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Add coconut milk, maple syrup and vanilla bean pod and seeds to a medium pot. Whisk to combine, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Dissolve arrowroot in 1 tablespoon water. Remove lid from pot and slowly drizzle in arrowroot mixture, whisking constantly. As soon as mixture returns to a simmer, remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract. Transfer to a shallow bowl, remove vanilla bean pod and set the mixture aside until it stops steaming, then place in the fridge until completely cool.

Churn ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions (this will take about 20 to 30 minutes). Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Mix-ins:

Mint Chocolate Chip

As ice cream churns, add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract (or more, to taste). Once the mixture is ready, add 1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate and continue churning until combined.

Strawberry

Chop 2 cups fresh strawberries, place in a bowl and add 2 teaspoons coconut sugar and 2 teaspoons maple syrup, then stir to combine. Set aside to macerate while ice cream churns. You can also crush strawberries slightly with a fork to create a chunky sauce. Once ice cream is churned, pour in strawberry mixture and continue churning until combined.

Almond Butter Swirl

As soon as ice cream is churned, drizzle in 1/3 cup almond butter and continue churning for a few seconds more to distribute.

Amy Chaplin is a chef and recipe developer based in New York City. She is the author of the award winning cookbook At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. See more of Amy’s recipes at amychaplin.com.

Photo: Stephen Johnson

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