What non dairy milk is for ice cream?

Quick Answer

The most common non-dairy milks used for ice cream are coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, and cashew milk. Coconut milk produces the creamiest and richest non-dairy ice cream. Almond and oat milk have mild flavors that work well in ice cream. Soy milk and cashew milk also produce smooth ice creams. The high fat content in these non-dairy milks gives ice cream a creamy texture without dairy.

Non-Dairy Ice Cream Options

For those avoiding dairy due to lactose intolerance, allergies, or lifestyle choices, non-dairy ice creams provide a tasty alternative. There are many plant-based milk options that can be used to create creamy and delicious non-dairy frozen desserts. Here are some of the most popular non-dairy milks for making ice cream:

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk produces extremely creamy non-dairy ice cream. The high fat content of coconut milk gives it a rich, silky texture when frozen. Full fat canned coconut milk works best to achieve an ice cream-like consistency. Light coconut milk or coconut milk beverages may not contain enough fat. Coconut milk ice cream has a subtle coconut flavor that works well in fruit or chocolate based ice creams. Its versatility makes coconut milk a top choice for non-dairy ice cream.

Almond Milk

Almond milk has a mild nutty flavor and creamy consistency that works wonderfully in ice cream. It produces a smooth texture without overpowering other ingredients. Almond milk ice cream goes well with fruit purees like strawberry or raspberry swirl. Unflavored and unsweetened almond milk blends allow other ingredients to shine. Be sure to choose an almond milk with added gums or emulsifiers to improve consistency when frozen.

Oat Milk

The neutral taste and velvety texture of oat milk is ideal for ice cream. Oat milk has enough body to make ice cream rich without an oat-y aftertaste. It pairs nicely with vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and nutty flavors. Oat milk ice cream can be just as creamy as dairy varieties. Finding an oat milk that’s higher in fat will help mimic the smooth, creamy results of dairy milk ice cream.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is a staple non-dairy milk that also works wonderfully for ice cream. It has a mild bean-like flavor and can lend a custard-style creaminess to ice cream. Soy milk has more protein than other non-dairy milks which contributes to a dense, rich frozen texture. Flavors like chocolate, coffee, and vanilla complement the natural sweetness of soy milk. Make sure to use plain, unsweetened soy milk without added flavors.

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk makes decadently creamy ice cream thanks to its high fat content. It has a subtly sweet and nutty taste that is mild enough for ice cream. The richness of cashew milk gives it a sweet, custard-like flavor when frozen. Fun mix-ins like chopped nuts or chocolate chips go nicely with cashew milk ice cream. Finding a high fat cashew milk ensures the creamiest non-dairy ice cream texture.

How to Choose the Best Non-Dairy Milk for Ice Cream

When selecting a non-dairy milk for homemade ice cream, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Fat Content

Higher fat non-dairy milks make the richest and creamiest ice creams. Aim for a non-dairy milk with at least 4-5g of fat per serving. Full fat coconut milk and cashew milk are excellent choices. Oat and almond milks should also contain added fats or oils for best results. The more fat in your non-dairy milk, the silkier your ice cream will be.

Emulsifiers or Stabilizers

Non-dairy milks often contain gums, lecithin, or vegetable glycerin which help improve consistency in frozen applications. These emulsifiers and stabilizers give non-dairy ice cream a smooth texture that resists iciness. Check labels and select a non-dairy milk containing these types of ingredients.

Flavor Profile

Consider the natural flavor of whichever non-dairy milk you choose and how it will complement other ice cream ingredients. Subtle flavors like oat, almond, and coconut work well with mix-ins and let other flavors shine. Soy and cashew milk have more pronounced flavors to enhance the ice cream.

Unsweetened and Unflavored

For the most control over sweetness and flavor, choose unsweetened plain non-dairy milks. Vanilla or sweetened varieties can overwhelm other ingredients. An unflavored, unsweetened non-dairy milk provides a neutral base for homemade ice cream.

Protein and Fiber Content

Non-dairy milks higher in protein and fiber, like soy milk, result in a dense, creamy texture. Protein and fiber help to stabilize the ice cream structure without excessive iciness. If using a lower protein milk, add a pinch of guar gum to improve texture.

Tips for Making Non-Dairy Ice Cream

Creating your own non-dairy ice cream at home takes some technique but yields delicious results. Here are tips for making the creamiest non-dairy ice cream:

Full Fat Canned Coconut Milk Works Best

The thick consistency and high fat content of regular full fat coconut milk makes it ideal for ice cream. Lite coconut milk and beverages are too thin. Chill cans of full fat coconut milk overnight before using.

Use More Non-Dairy Milk Than Dairy Recipes

Most non-dairy milks contain less fat than dairy milk. Compensate by using about 1 1/4 times the amount of non-dairy milk called for in ice cream recipes. The extra volume helps churn up a creamy texture.

Allow Time to Chill Thoroughly

Chilling the ice cream base thoroughly, preferably overnight, allows flavors to develop fully. Quick chilling in an ice bath helps too. Taking time for chilling creates a smoother end result.

Stir Often While Churning

Frequent scraping and stirring while churning helps prevent iciness. Non-dairy milks are prone to freezing into ice chunks without constant stirring and smoothing.

Let Soften Before Serving

Scooping directly from the freezer leads to a frozen solid, icy consistency. Let non-dairy ice cream sit at room temperature 10-15 minutes before serving for creamy, scoopable results.

Delicious Non-Dairy Ice Cream Recipes

Here are some tasty flavor ideas for making your own non-dairy ice cream at home:

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

– Thai Iced Tea – Black tea, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, white sugar
– Piña Colada – Pineapple, coconut flakes, rum extract
– Mexican Chocolate – Cinnamon, cayenne, cocoa powder, vanilla
– Strawberry Cheesecake – Strawberry puree, vanilla, graham cracker crumbs

Almond Milk Ice Cream

– Blueberry Cobbler – Blueberry puree, vanilla, cinnamon, flaky pie crust
– Peaches and Cream – Peach puree, vanilla, honey
– Chocolate Cherry – Dark chocolate, cherry puree, almond extract
– Bananas Foster – Caramelized bananas, brown sugar, rum extract

Oat Milk Ice Cream

– Chocolate Chip – Semi-sweet chocolate chips, vanilla, sea salt
– Coffee Toffee – Espresso powder, toffee pieces
– Mint Chocolate Chip – Mint extract, chocolate chunks
– Brown Sugar Cinnamon – Cinnamon spice, brown sugar

Soy Milk Ice Cream

– Black Sesame – Black sesame paste, vanilla, honey
– Matcha – Powdered green tea, vanilla
– Coffee – Espresso powder, chocolate-covered coffee beans
– Caramel Swirl – Vanilla base, salted caramel ripple

Cashew Milk Ice Cream

– Butter Pecan – Toasted pecans, brown sugar, maple syrup
– Rocky Road – Mini marshmallows, chocolate chunks, walnuts
– Pistachio – Pistachio paste, honey, chopped pistachios
– Cookie Dough – Vanilla dough, chocolate chip cookie dough chunks

Nutritional Benefits of Non-Dairy Ice Cream

In addition to catering to food preferences and allergies, non-dairy ice creams can provide nutritional advantages:

Lower in Saturated Fat

Dairy milk is high in saturated fat while plant-based milks contain mostly heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Their lower saturated fat content makes non-dairy ice creams a bit healthier.

Fewer Calories

Some non-dairy milks like almond and oat milk tend to be lower in calories than whole dairy milk. Choosing an unsweetened variety keeps calories in check. Non-dairy ice creams can be a lighter option.

More Fiber

Milks made from almonds, oats, soy, and cashews contain fiber not found in dairy milk. The added fiber fills you up and aids digestion.

Vitamins and Minerals

Non-dairy milks provide varying amounts of potassium, vitamin E, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients. Varieties fortified with vitamins and minerals can provide nutritional perks.


For those with lactose intolerance, non-dairy ice creams eliminate lactose completely for digestive comfort. Dairy-free treats provide a tasty way to avoid discomfort.

No Cholesterol

Non-dairy milks do not contain cholesterol like whole dairy milk does. Making your ice cream with plant-based milk keeps cholesterol levels low.

Are There Any Drawbacks to Non-Dairy Ice Cream?

While non-dairy ice creams provide new flavors and nutritional benefits, a few drawbacks exist:

Higher in Sugar

To mimic dairy’s sweetness and creamy texture, some non-dairy milks contain added sugars. Be sure to select unsweetened varieties to limit sugar content.

Can Be More Processed

Highly processed non-dairy milks may contain preservatives, flavorings, and stabilizers. Opt for simpler, less processed versions when possible.

Ice Crystals

Non-dairy options tend to freeze harder with more large ice crystals without the natural emulsifiers in dairy milk. Extra stirring while churning helps minimize iciness.

Higher Environmental Impact

Some non-dairy milks like almond and coconut require more water to produce than dairy milk. Consider environmental sustainability when choosing non-dairy varieties.

Lower Protein

Compared to dairy milk, most non-dairy milks contain less protein per serving. Adding nuts, seeds, or protein powders can boost protein levels in non-dairy ice cream.

Can Be More Expensive

Specialty non-dairy milks sometimes cost more than regular dairy milk. Opting for more affordable varieties like soy milk helps reduce the price. Making your own non-dairy milk can also lower costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What gives non-dairy ice cream a creamy texture?

The fat in non-dairy milks like coconut, cashew, soy, and almond contribute creaminess and richness. Added gums and emulsifiers also improve mouthfeel. Extra air whipped during churning helps achieve a light, creamy texture.

Do you need an ice cream maker for non-dairy ice cream?

An ice cream maker is recommended for the smoothest, creamiest results. But in a pinch you can freeze non-dairy ice cream base in a freezer safe dish, stirring periodically as it sets. The texture may be icier without churning.

What is the best non-dairy milk for low carb or keto ice cream?

For lower carb ice cream, nut milks like cashew, almond, and coconut are great options. Their higher fat content accommodates low carb diets well. You can also make keto ice cream with heavy cream and sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit.

Which non-dairy milk tastes most like real dairy milk in ice cream?

Coconut milk likely resembles the taste and texture of dairy milk most closely. Its naturally sweet flavor and fatty richness mimic real cream quite well. Soy milk and nut milks like cashew also come close to dairy’s qualities.

Can you use any non-dairy milk to make ice cream?

You can experiment with any plant-based milk, but some work better than others. Stick with higher fat varieties like coconut, cashew, soy, and nut milks for the most ice cream-like results. Grain milks like rice or oat milk may freeze icier.


Non-dairy ice creams open up a whole new world of frozen dessert possibilities. Coconut, almond, cashew, oat, and soy milks all provide their own unique nutritional benefits, flavors, and textures in ice cream. Choosing an unsweetened base with higher fat content and added gums will provide the richest, creamiest results. Non-dairy ice creams require a bit more technique to avoid iciness during freezing but churn up plenty of delicious, dairy-free options. With an abundance of nutritious plant-based milks at your disposal, you can create amazing ice creams without the dairy.

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