Whether you’re lactose-intolerant, dairy-free, plant-based, vegan, or simply want an ice cream alternative, dairy-free ice cream is the answer to all your frozen dessert needs.
With the emergence of vegan diets and plant-focused eating, more people are veering onto the dairy-free route. And that means all your favorite dairy products—cheese, yogurt, and, yes, even ice cream—are now available milk-free.
That also means there are more dairy-free ice cream options than ever, and based on the fact that you’re here, you’re probably looking for help finding the best of the best. We’re here to do just that.
What is dairy-free ice cream?
As you know, dairy-free ice cream contains—you guessed it!—no dairy. That includes skim milk and cream as well as dairy-based protein powders like milk protein concentrate.
Instead, the best non-dairy ice creams use a variety of plant-based milk substitutes and fruit as the base for their frozen blends. These include:
- coconut cream or milk
- oat milk
- almond milk
- cashew milk
- pea protein
Is dairy-free ice cream healthy?
It’s important to remember that ice cream isn’t a health food—it’s still a treat—whether you’re enjoying a cup of almond milk-based birthday cake or a bar of mint chip coconut cream. That’s why it’s important to take the same nutritional considerations in mind when choosing a non-dairy pint as you do with a traditional pint (more on that below).
That being said, if you suffer from a dairy intolerance, opting for a dairy-free pint will be healthier for you than it would be to indulge in its cow-based counterpart. You’ll still be able to indulge in your favorite frozen dessert but without the bloat, digestive issues, and inflammation.
How to pick the best dairy-free ice cream
There are some general guidelines that registered dietitians recommend you follow when you’re shopping for dairy-free ice cream:
- Short ingredient list: “Ice cream is a simple product to make and really only requires four or five ingredients to produce,” Lisa Samuels, RD, founder of The Happie House, tells us. “If there are more than seven ingredients in your ice cream with names you can’t pronounce, it’s probably best to skip that brand and opt for something that is made with more natural, organic products.”
- Low sugar: “Dairy-free” is not synonymous with “healthy.” Many dairy-free ice cream brands contain just as much sugar as dairy ice cream. You’ll want to pick a pint with no more than 20 grams of sugar per serving.
- Avoid highly-processed oils: Samuels recommends avoiding dairy-free ice creams that use soy and corn oil. “While soy-based ice cream can be tasty, non-fermented soy is not the healthiest ingredient,” Samuels explains. Fermenting soy destroys the anti-nutrients such as lectins and phytic acid that can upset many people’s digestive processes. The corn oil you find in many food products is most likely genetically modified, so if avoiding GMOs is important to you, be on the lookout.
- Avoid carrageenan: Samuels also says that carrageenan, which is a seaweed-based emulsifier found in many nut milks, has been linked to IBS, insulin resistance, and inflammation. “However, other studies claim that if we don’t consume carrageenan more than five percent of our diet, there isn’t enough to cause any real damage,” she notes.
The best dairy-free ice cream brands.
To help you find the healthiest pints and scoop the smartest cones, we rounded up the best lactose-friendly and dairy-free ice creams out there.
All of these picks are low in sugar, so if you’re trying to swear off the sweet stuff, they’ll satisfy your cravings with a healthy indulgence.
Certified organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and vegan, Nada Moo’s family-run business is all about crafting the best scoops with quality ingredients. Their melt-in-your-mouth pistachio nut ice cream, in particular, features spirulina powder for a hint of green, instead of artificial dyes that many other ice cream brands use. The coconut milk enhances the sweetness and nuttiness of real pistachios so it just has a touch of agave nectar and tapioca syrup, which brings the sugar count to eight grams.
The famous Vermont-based creamery launched their dairy-free line of ice cream earlier this year, and it doesn’t disappoint. This vegan version of the Half Baked creation has decadent chunks of chocolate brownies and peanut butter cookie dough folded into the chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It uses almond milk for the creamy base and has pea protein to keep you satisfied after one serving. So you still get the same satisfying, mouthwatering flavor for fewer calories, fat, and sugar.
Sick of dairy-free ice creams that have the texture of frozen water? (And yes, we know that means ice, but you get what we’re saying.) Alden’s may have perfected the non-dairy ice cream with its perfect blend of oat flour, pea protein, coconut oil, and prebiotic fiber. The great news is that you don’t taste any of these ingredients independently and only taste the creamiest, most flavorful pint of chocolate brownie you can buy.
In addition to the high-protein content, which Halo Top’s pints are best known for, these dairy-free ice creams come with prebiotic fiber. Prebiotics are carbohydrates that help support the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Coconut milk takes the place of regular cow-milk, and cinnamon, sugar, coconut oil, and brown sugar lend this frozen dessert with the decadent flavor.
Your favorite oat milk now comes in ice cream form! Oatly pioneered oat milk—a nut-free milk substitute that skyrocketed to popularity due to its creamy texture. The Swedish company decided to use that famous milk as a base for this non-dairy frozen dessert that tastes like the mint chip you grew up eating.
This pint of dairy-free ice cream from Enlightened tastes so good, even if you aren’t following a dairy-free diet, you’d probably buy this over any milk-based product. Monkey Business is low in calories (just 100 calories per serving) and only serves up 6 grams of sugar—32 grams less than that monkey flavor from another popular brand.
Good news for dairy- and gluten-free caramel fans: You’ll want to dig into a pint of this cashew milk-based frozen treat. Tapioca, cassava, potato and rice flour keep the chocolate chips and caramel gluten-free.
If you love Oreo cookies, you’re in luck! Crumbles of Oreos are folded into an almond milk-based vanilla ice cream so you get a delicious crunch in every bite. Keep in mind that this frozen treat does have 18 grams of sugar per serving, so be sure to keep your indulging to a minimum.
When you’re hankering for a Mocha Frappuccino, indulge in a heavenly bar of this espresso ice cream instead. For each bar, you’ll get the mouthwatering coffee and chocolate flavor you love for fewer calories, fat, and sugar and zero regrets.
It’s cookies and cream—without the cream and with only 5 grams of net carbs. Arctic Zero’s non-dairy frozen dessert uses a surprising base: faba bean protein concentrate. The sweetness comes from a blend of cane sugar and monk fruit concentrate. This pint is also certified plant-based, vegan, and sugar alcohol-free.
A ribbon of roasty, toasty peanut butter is folded into a coconut cream and then cut with fruity strawberry jam. Jeni’s ice cream has risen to popularity due to their use of farm-fresh produce and decadent cream. That same attention to detail extends to their dairy-free pints, as well.
Whether you’re looking to wean sweet tooth or simply cut back, Reveri’s ice creams have no traces of white sugar. The purple mint chip flavor is sweetened with dates, wild blueberries, and bananas, and has crunchy chunks of organic cacao nibs and hemp seeds. Avocados lend a rich, creamy texture, while peppermint extract gives it mouthwatering flavor. If there was a superfood ice cream, this is it.
Made with smooth almond butter and raspberries plus a swirl of blackberry puree, you get the best of the berries. Choose from one of these Best Cookies for Weight Loss to turn your average cone into a delicious, guilt-free sandwich. Are you salivating yet?
Available at a location near you.
Beckon’s ice creams are perfect for people who love the rich and creaminess of cow’s milk ice cream but can’t tolerate the lactose in them. So while they aren’t dairy-free, they use rBST-free milk and other high-quality ingredients. rBGH, aka rBST, is a genetically engineered hormone that some farmers inject into their cows to boost milk production. In this decadent-tasting pint, sea salt chocolate chip ice cream, unsweetened chocolate, non-GMO chocolate chips, and rBST-free milk and cream come together beautifully to give you a sweet and salty treat.
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