Is there dairy free soft serve?

The Quick Answer

Yes, there are several dairy free soft serve options available. Dairy free soft serve is typically made with plant-based milks like coconut, almond, oat, or soy. There are also dairy free soft serve mixes that use gums and starches to mimic the texture of traditional soft serve. Many ice cream shops now offer dairy free soft serve options. At home, dairy free soft serve can be made in an ice cream maker using full fat coconut milk and other dairy free ingredients. With the rise of plant-based diets, dairy alternatives have improved greatly allowing for creamy, delicious soft serve without dairy.

What is Soft Serve Ice Cream?

Soft serve ice cream has a characteristic light, smooth, creamy texture and is dispensed from a soft serve machine which aerates the ice cream base. This incorporation of air results in the soft, billowy, melt-in-your-mouth consistency that makes soft serve so appealing. Traditional soft serve is made with dairy ingredients like milk, cream, milk powder, and whey powder. These ingredients provide the fat, milk solids, and emulsifying properties needed to achieve the distinctive soft serve texture. Soft serve is served at a slightly warmer temperature than regular ice cream, usually around 15°F verses standard scooped ice cream which is stored at 0°F to -10°F. The warmer temperature contributes to the soft, silky mouthfeel. Soft serve machines whip air into the ice cream mixture as it exits the machine at the time of serving, resulting in an ice cream with a fresher, lighter texture.

Why Choose Dairy Free Soft Serve?

There are several reasons why someone may choose dairy free soft serve over regular soft serve:

Dairy Allergies

Some people are allergic to the proteins in dairy and must avoid milk-based products. Soft serve is traditionally high in milk ingredients. Choosing a dairy free option allows those with dairy allergies to still enjoy the fun soft serve experience.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose is the natural sugar found in dairy products. Many people lack the enzyme lactase needed to properly digest lactose. Consuming lactose can cause gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea in lactose intolerant individuals. Dairy free soft serve removes lactose, allowing those with lactose intolerance to enjoy soft serve without gastrointestinal upset.

Vegan Diet

Vegans avoid all animal products, including dairy. Dairy free soft serve allows vegans to indulge in the creamy sweetness of soft serve as part of a cruelty-free, plant-based lifestyle.

Preference for Plant-Based Options

Some consumers simply prefer the taste and nutrition of plant-based dairy alternatives. Dairy free soft serve allows enjoyment of a cool treat without the use of animal products for those who favor plant-based options.

Nutritional Differences

Dairy free soft serve is often lower in saturated fat and cholesterol compared to dairy-based soft serve. It may also contain nutrients not found in cow’s milk, like essential fatty acids from coconut or the protein in soy. People looking for a healthier treat may opt for dairy free soft serve.

Common Dairy Free Soft Serve Ingredients

There are several plant-based milk options that can be used to make dairy free soft serve with the proper texture and mouthfeel. Common dairy free soft serve ingredients include:

Full Fat Coconut Milk

The high fat content of coconut milk allows it to whip up into a luscious, creamy soft serve. Full fat coconut milk contains about 17-20 grams of saturated fat per cup. The fat provides a smooth, rich texture, similar to dairy. Be sure to use full fat and not “light” coconut milk.

Coconut Cream

Coconut cream, the thick layer that rises to the top of a can of full fat coconut milk, can thicken up soft serve even further. Since coconut cream contains up to 45 grams of fat per cup, using a small amount adds great creamy texture.

Almond Milk

Almond milk on its own is too thin for soft serve but works nicely when blended about half and half with coconut milk. Choose a creamy, full fat almond milk, not the watery skim milk varieties.

Cashew Milk

Like almond milk, cashew milk is creamy yet thinner than full fat coconut milk. Combining cashew milk with coconut creates great dairy free soft serve. Soak raw cashews overnight then blend into milk for extra creaminess.

Oat Milk

Oat milk provides a mild, pleasant flavor to soft serve. Seek out extra creamy oat milks or blend some rolled oats with water to extract the oat milk naturally for thick soft serve texture.

Soy Milk

Soy milk can successfully be whipped into soft serve, though its naturally bean-y, cereal-like flavor is detectable. Opt for whole fat, barista style soy milk for best results.


Banana adds creaminess, body, and flavor to dairy free soft serve. Use very ripe bananas for smoothness and sweetness.


Avocado provides a fatty, thick texture along with its signature creaminess. Use about 1 small or 1/2 large avocado in soft serve.

Vegetable Oil

Small amounts of mild flavored oils like sunflower, grapeseed, or refined coconut oil help enrich the fat content for smooth soft serve. 1 to 2 tablespoons oil per batch is usually sufficient.

Nut Butters

Nut butters like almond, cashew, and coconut butter provide fat for richness and flavor for dairy free soft serve bases. Use sparingly, starting with 1-2 tablespoons per batch.


Finely blended ice gives soft serve its signature chill and thick, billowy texture by partially freezing the mixture before churning. Use about 2 cups ice per batch.

Dairy Free Soft Serve Mixes

For convenience, there are ready-made soft serve mixes that simply require mixing with water. These are made with natural starches, gums, and oils to mimic the texture of dairy soft serve.

NadaMoo Creamy Coconut Soft Serve Mix

This allergy-friendly mix uses a base of coconut cream then adds guar gum and tapioca starch to attain ideal soft serve texture. It’s organic, vegan, gluten-free, and contains no artificial ingredients.

Intentional Foods Organic Soft Serve Mix

A blend of organic tapioca flour, sunflower oil, and gums makes this mix rich and creamy. It’s certified organic, soy-free, non-GMO, and carrageenan-free.

So Delicious Dairy Free Cocowhip

Cocowhip is made from coconut cream and whips up just like heavy dairy cream. It can be used as the primary base for coconut soft serve or lightened with coconut milk.

Frozen Dessert Mixes

Many store-bought non-dairy ice cream mixes also work for soft serve style texture. Look for creamy, gourmet formulations without a lot of iciness.

Tips for Making Dairy Free Soft Serve

Use Very Cold Ingredients

Chilling all ingredients like the plant-based milk, sweeteners, and any add-ins ensures the smoothest soft serve texture. Blend in a couple cups of ice as well.

Pick Creamy Dairy Free Milks

Milks that naturally contain higher fat like coconut and cashew work best. Or blend lower fat milks with creamy bananas, avocados, or nut butters.

Mix Milks for Richness

Combining coconut milk and almond milk, or cashew milk and oat milk results in a richer base for soft serve. The blend of two dairy free milks improves the mouthfeel.

Use a Soft Serve Machine

While not strictly required, using a counter-top soft serve maker that churns and aerates the base produces the true soft serve texture. Or fill ice pop molds only halfway, insert sticks, then freeze to make fudgsicles with similar billowy texture. For no special equipment, simply blend vigorously.

Sweeten, But Not Too Much

Too much sugar inhibits the soft fluffiness, while too little leaves icy chunks. Add just enough to lightly sweeten the mix, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup sweetener per 3-4 cups liquid.

Work Swiftly Once Churned

To retain the airiness, serve soft serve directly after churning before it starts to melt and deflate. Working quickly helps maintain the light, pillowy texture.

Enjoy Immediately

The signature melt-in-your-mouth quality of freshly made soft serve is best enjoyed right away. The texture deteriorates during extended freezing. Soft serve is definitely meant to be consumed immediately after making.

Troubleshooting Dairy Free Soft Serve

Ice Crystals

Small icy chunks throughout the soft serve likely mean it was churned at too cold of a temperature. Try chilling just below freezing, around 20°F verses deep freezing ingredients. Another cause can be adding too much sweetener which lowers the freezing point.

Not Creamy Enough

For creamier texture, try blending in an extra frozen banana, a spoonful of nut butter, or more coconut cream. Or experiment with a fattier dairy free milk like cashew or coconut. Including some oat milk can also help creaminess. Just avoid watery milks.

Flavor Too Mild

Stir in extracts like vanilla, almond, lemon, or coconut to brighten flavor. You can also blend in a little dairy free yogurt for tanginess or add a swirl of fruit jam or nut butter. Trail mix add-ins also provide crunchy flavor and texture contrast.

Too Soft, Melts Quickly

If your soft serve turns to liquid fast, try adding more air by churning longer. Or mix in more coconut cream or a spoonful of starch to firm it up. Serve in chilled bowls and work swiftly to maximize enjoyment of the signature soft texture before it melts.

Separation During Freezing

To prevent the base separating into liquid and solid parts during freezing, be sure to blend aggressively while churning to fully incorporate air. You can also add a touch more fat, like an extra spoonful of coconut cream or oil. Using gums as stabilizers also helps prevent separation.

Not Whipping Up Smooth

Check that plant-based milks are well shaken or blended to disperse proteins and starches. Soaking nuts to make nut milk also improves smooth blending. Try adding a small amount of gum or even aquafaba to stabilize the emulsion for a smoothly whippable mixture.

Health Benefits of Dairy Free Soft Serve

Dairy free soft serve offers several benefits over dairy-based:

Lower in Saturated Fat

The saturated fat that makes dairy creamy can increase cholesterol levels. Plant-based soft serve options are lower in artery-clogging saturated fat.

Fewer Calories

Dairy free soft serve is often lower in calories than full-fat dairy versions. Portion control is still important, but options like coconut or almond milk are less calorie dense.


Lactose in dairy can cause digestive distress in lactose intolerant individuals. Going dairy free eliminates this issue for increased comfort.

No Dairy Allergens

Those with dairy allergies can safely enjoy soft serve by opting for plant-based versions, avoiding health risks.

Nutrient Rich Options

Ingredients like coconut, nuts, avocado, and oats boost the mineral, vitamin, antioxidant, and healthy fat content compared to dairy soft serve.


For vegans and those concerned about animal welfare, dairy free soft serve provides a treat free from animal products and cruelty.

More Environmentally Sustainable

Dairy production has massive environmental impacts. Choosing plant-based soft serve supports more eco-friendly options.

Popular Dairy Free Soft Serve Brands

Many brands now offer delicious dairy free soft serve products. Here are some top options:

So Delicious Dairy Free

So Delicious makes dairy free soft serve from cashew and coconut milks. They offer chocolate, vanilla, and twist flavors. You can find their soft serve at Whole Foods and specialty grocers.


CocoWhip is 100% coconut-based, made from coconut cream. It’s sold online and in natural food stores, available in soft serve mixes and ready-to-eat cups.


NadaMoo has a dairy free coconut milk-based soft serve sold at many mainstream grocery stores in flavors like cookie dough, mint chip, strawberry, and chocolate.

Cool Haus

Cool Haus makes dairy free soft serve from a blend of coconut and cashew milks, offered in fun flavors like matcha green tea and black sesame. They sell at retailers nationwide.

Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy

Ben & Jerry’s launched a line of almond milk-based frozen desserts, including soft serve options like chocolate and caramel non-dairy soft serve.


SmithFoods focuses on dairy free soft serve for food service. They offer soft serve mixes and machines to restaurants looking for plant-based options.

Nutritional Info: Coconut Milk Versus Cow’s Milk in Soft Serve

Nutrition Facts Per 1/2 Cup Serving Coconut Milk Soft Serve Cow’s Milk Soft Serve
Calories 115 137
Fat 10g 8g
Saturated Fat 9g 5g
Carbohydrates 5g 14g
Sugar 2g 12g
Protein 1g 4g
Calcium 10mg 119mg

While coconut milk soft serve has higher saturated fat, it packs less sugar than dairy and about 1/3rd the calories from sugar. Dairy soft serve contains more protein. Overall both can fit into a balanced diet when portion sizes are controlled.

The Future of Dairy Free Soft Serve

The market for dairy free frozen desserts is rapidly expanding. As plant-based diets trend upward, demand increases for creamy soft serve without the dairy. Companies are investing in better dairy-free bases and natural stabilizers to improve mouthfeel. Flavor options continue to diversify beyond basics like chocolate and vanilla into spaces like swirls, mix-ins, and seasonal offerings. Soft serve machines designed specifically for lower-fat dairy free bases may enter the residential market. Restaurant availability of dairy free soft serve is rising to meet consumer interest in plant-based fare. The future looks bright for more accessible, innovative dairy free soft serves, elevating the experience beyond what was once just a sorbet or fruit smoothie option for non-dairy eaters. With today’s dairy free choices rivaling the taste and texture of regular soft serve, the frozen treat can be enjoyed by more people than ever before.


Dairy free soft serve options have expanded tremendously, allowing soft serve lovers with dairy allergies, lactose intolerance, or diet preferences to partake in the classic treat. Using plant-based milks and fats like coconut, nuts, and avocado provides a rich, creamy alternative to traditional dairy soft serve. Retail brands offer tasty dairy free soft serve pints, while restaurants are increasingly accommodating dietary needs with coconut or almond milk soft serve choices. Making your own diary free soft serve at home is also easy and customizable. With a little trial and error using the right full fat milks and stabilized bases, even non-dairy types can whip up smooth, delectable soft serve. Dairy free soft serve provides a cool, sweet indulgence without compromise for those avoiding animal products.

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