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- Ice cream is the perfect summer treat, and vegan options are more abundant than ever.
- Sure, you may have heard of Oatly and So Delicious, but the world of artisan vegan ice cream is vast.
- Here are 6 vegan ice cream brands you probably haven’t heard of but need to try this summer.
- My picks include an olive oil ice cream, macadamia nut milk ice cream, and coconut meat ice cream.
I am a full-time food journalist and eat more ice cream than anyone I know. Over the years, I’ve published stories about the best ice cream parlors in the United States, gourmet soft serve, ice cream sandwiches and artisan ice cream makers that began shipping their ice cream nationally during the pandemic. I’ve even been invited to judge gelato festivals and weighed in on new flavors by cult favorite ice cream makers at company headquarters. Last summer, I received 60 pints of ice cream from nearly a dozen different brands delivered on the same day and all the liquid nitrogen fog permeated my entire house.
Recently, I’ve discovered more and more great plant-based ice creams popping up. I’ve tasted through flavors from more than 20 different vegan ice cream brands and have learned that vegan ice cream can be just as delightful and delicious as dairy ice cream. Even if you’re not vegan, trying plant-based ice creams offer unique flavor combinations you won’t find in dairy ice cream.
Sure, I’ve tried the usual vegan ice cream suspects you find in grocery stores, but I’ve been truly delighted by the small-batch artisanal brands, many of which are charting new territory in the world of plant-based ice cream. Below you’ll find six bespoke vegan ice cream brands that I love; many you probably haven’t heard of before.
Here are 6 vegan ice cream brands worth trying this summer:
Mauna Loa Macadamia Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, $9.99 per pint, available on Instacart and Mauna Loa
Most vegan ice creams are made with coconut, cashew, soy or almond milk bases, but Hawaii’s most famous producer of macadamia nuts, Mauna Loa, has upped the ante, debuting the first and only macadamia milk-based frozen dessert this summer.
Higher in monounsaturated fat and lower in carbs than other popular nuts, macadamia makes for an ultra creamy base that’s also keto-diet friendly. Flavors like Kona coffee, vanilla orchid and mango liliko’i showcase more of Hawaii’s natural bounty and there’s even the cheeky Rocky Road to Hana, named for the famous winding drive on Maui. This is the most decadent flavor of all — a fudgy chocolate base studded with soft marshmallows and crunchy macadamias instead of almonds.
While you can purchase pints online, they’re also available at Sprouts in 23 states and Albertsons and Safeway locations in California, Texas, New Mexico, Hawaii and Seattle.
A small batch oat milk ice cream with inventive mix-ins
Oat milk is the plant-based milk alternative of choice among baristas for its thick, creamy texture in lattes and cappuccinos, so it’s no surprise that it also makes a rich ice cream base. Sisters Courtney Blagrove and Zan B.R. make their own oat milk for their new line of oat milk “ice crème” at Whipped Urban Dessert Lab. This stuff is better than Oatly and chock full of mix-ins like strawberry shortcake crumbles, chocolate cookie chunks, and cinnamon apple crisp.
This is the first ice cream brand that I’ve seen where the pint packaging is labeled upside down too. Apparently, storing ice cream (or ice crème!) upside down in the freezer helps prevent freezer burn because any partially melted bits will collect on the lid, which keeps ice crystals from forming.
Next time I’m in New York, my first stop will be Whipped Urban Dessert Lab’s Lower East Side storefront to try a swirl of sweet creme and chocolate twist at the world’s first oat milk soft serve shop.
A modern Mediterranean plant-based gelato
Olive oil has been a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet for millennia, but could it also be the secret to rich, creamy vegan ice cream that’s low in saturated fat? Rather than using nut milk, Wildgood relies on a blend of extra virgin olive oil, pea protein and chicory root fiber, sweetened with fructose, to achieve a soft and creamy consistency straight out of the freezer. All of the olive oil comes from Greek ice cream maker Sotiris Tsichlopoulos’ family’s ancient groves in Corfu.
For an ice cream so low in saturated fat and calories, Wildgood is surprisingly rich and you can really taste the olive oil in each flavor, adding a sophisticated savory undertone. Chocolate hazelnut is a favorite, reminiscent of the best gianduja chocolate spread I’ve ever tried in Piedmont.
With such a short ingredient list, the quality of each ingredient is paramount. Simple flavors without many mix-ins allow ingredients like Alphonso mango, California pistachios and Oregon hazelnuts to shine.
Wildgood is available in eight flavors so far, and you can find it on Instacart or order online to ship anywhere in the continental United States.
A boozy vegan ice cream
Scoops on Tap was created by two friends who love craft beer and ice cream and wanted to blend them together for a line of beer- and spirit-infused ice creams. Up until recently, their product was only available at farmers market and specialty retailers in Southern California, but now they’re shipping pints nationally with Goldbelly.
After Hours vanilla bourbon is a year-round favorite that I most enjoy with a shot of espresso poured over top and sprinkled liberally with toasted cacao nibs. The sumptuously smooth texture is a combination of a coconut cream and oat milk and don’t worry — it’s less than 5% ABV.
Seasonally, many more plant-based boozy ice creams are available, like Cocosaurus Rex, a toasted coconut ice cream with a fair trade dark chocolate fudge swirl infused with a coconut stout, and Madeline, a lemon and grape sorbet steeped on toasted oak chips infused with a grape sour ale. The latter is perfect as a refreshing float with prosecco if you wish to add more booze to the equation.
A plant-based option with superfood boosts
Hand harvested certified organic and fair-trade young coconut meat, plus coconut sugar and raw coconut oil forms the holy coconut trinity that is the base of all Sacred Serve gelato flavors. Superfoods like matcha green tea, Afghan saffron, chaga mushrooms and raw cacao are blended in for an ingredient list that’s so nutritious you’re almost suspicious that these could possibly taste good — until you take the first bite. This gelato is subtly sweet with a super creamy texture.
Sacred Serve’s newest flavor is a reinvention of childhood favorite cookies and cream with tigernut cookies instead of typical Oreos. The cookie crumble is darkened with activated charcoal and made with prebiotic-rich tigernut flour and adaptogenic mucuna.
The gelato is rock hard when you first pull it from the freezer, so you need to let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so to melt to a creamy consistency. You can find Sacred Serve in more than 150 stores across the country including Whole Foods, Foxtrot, Plum Market and Erewhon.
Really good vegan ice cream sandwiches
Green Girl Bakeshop Dairy Free Gluten Free Cookie Sandwiches, $96 for a pack of 12 ice cream sandwiches, available at Green Girl Bakeshop
Lisa Stoy’s plant-based gelatos all have four ingredients or less, starting with a coconut milk base sweetened with maple syrup, plus fresh mint, vanilla beans, cardamom, turmeric or cacao depending on the flavor. The ice cream sandwiches at Green Girl Bakeshop have just the right ratio of cookie to ice cream, keeping the focus squarely on the ice cream with the cookies playing a supporting role.
Depending on the flavor, the ice cream is sandwiched between gluten-free chocolate chip, dark chocolate, or ginger cookies, made with cassava flour and applesauce. It almost sounds too healthy to be a cookie, but they freeze nicely, remaining soft enough to bite into without the ice cream squishing out the sides. The golden turmeric ice cream with ginger cookies and the classic vanilla bean ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies are the best of the bunch.
Our testing methodology
I’m a food journalist with a predilection for ice cream and I’ve been known to regularly finish a pint in one sitting. Recently, I have been eating a predominantly plant-based diet and made it my mission to find the best plant-based ice creams that are just as satisfying as the dairy ice cream I’ve known and loved.
Flavor: Favorite flavors vary widely among ice cream lovers, so I included ice creams that recreated classic flavors impeccably as well as innovating new flavors. Most of all, I should be able to easily discern the flavor in a blind taste test and the ice cream shouldn’t taste muddied or cloyingly sweet. You should be able to eat a full scoop without feeling like you’ve developed a cavity.
Texture: A great plant-based ice cream should mimic the decadently smooth and satisfying mouthfeel of premium dairy ice cream. I chose ice creams that didn’t taste watery or gummy and didn’t develop too many ice crystals.
Ingredients: The best plant-based ice creams use high-quality ingredients, and I looked for shorter ingredient lists made with real foods rather than ice creams filled with emulsifiers and sweetened with corn syrup or glucose syrup. For example, Oatly’s frozen dessert, which includes dextrose, dried glucose syrup and rapeseed oil, did not make the cut.
Check out our other vegan and vegetarian food guides