Americans have been making ice cream at home for centuries now. Ask your grandma, and she probably won’t believe that ice cream can be made without milk and heavy cream. But it can, deliciously so.
An increasing number of Americans are looking at non-dairy options to churn out these frozen treats. The year 2014 saw one in four consumers purchasing dairy-free milk alternatives. The demand is likely to increase this year, with 7.5 million Americans having diets that do not include any animal product, and a staggering 40 million being lactose-intolerant. If you’re one of them, you need not give up on your favorite dessert; use these milk substitutes.
1. Coconut Milk
Full-fat, creamy, nutty coconut milk is a tasty and satisfying substitute to milk. It’s as close as you can get to the consistency of regular ice cream. Moreover, other vegan milk substitutes like almond milk, rice milk or soy milk are sorely lacking, when it comes to creating the desired texture of ice cream. All you need is a little starch (either cornstarch or arrowroot), and some sweetener added to the coconut milk, before you cook it on the stove top until it becomes thick and pudding-like. Coconut cream raises the fat quotient of coconut milk (not to be confused with cream of coconut, a heavily sweetened coconut product or creamed coconut, a thick coconut paste). Coconut milk also contains lauric acid, which is great for the immune system.
2. Frozen Bananas
Use perfectly ripe bananas that are just about ready for the freezer, because that is when they are the sweetest. Bananas work well as a dairy substitute in ice cream, because they provide a good, creamy texture and they sweeten the mix enough (so you don’t have to rely on added sugar). You could freeze whole, unpeeled bananas for six to eight months.
Tofu, or soy bean curd, comes in many different varieties but there are two main types: firm and soft (silken tofu). Use silken tofu for smoother ice cream. The texture will not be as creamy, and the flavor will be slightly ‘beany’—but tofu provides protein, which is good for lowering total cholesterol. Use tofu without draining, and freeze it with fruit. Later, blend it in a food processor. This makes the ice cream light and airy like a soft serve.
Sweeten It Naturally:
While you’re making your ice cream healthy, be sure to cut out the sugar and artificial sweeteners. Instead, you can choose agave, especially since its syrupy texture prevents the formation of ice crystals, keeping the final product very smooth. You could also use honey, maple syrup, organic cane sugar or turbinado, which is a pure cane sugar extract that tastes a bit like molasses.
Although there are many health advantages to using non-dairy alternatives for making ice cream at home, you should know that it takes more technique and knowledge than if you used dairy products. Experiment with nuts and fruit swirls, mint or basil, dark chocolate, and tropical fruits like mango and pineapple for added flavor. Finally, be prepared to eat your ice cream quickly, since it will melt faster than regular ice cream—but that’s good news, right?