Vegan ice cream and frozen desserts

I spent a lot of last winter devising vegan ice cream recipes: mostly to put together a recipe book for our niece for Christmas, but also for our own use.  Why?  Although we're not vegan, we've cut back a fair bit on dairy consumption in recent years for the sake of our neighbours who are most at risk from climate change.  Dairy products are nothing like as bad for the climate as meat, but they're a lot worse than eggs or plant-based protein so we try to restrict them a bit.  Also, I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable about all I'm hearing about the treatment of bobby calves in the dairy industry, and do wonder from time to time about giving up dairy entirely.

The internet is full of vegan ice cream recipes - however, I wasn't that satisfied with them.  Most are based on either bananas, coconut milk or cashew nuts.  Both bananas and coconut milk have quite strong flavours - that's fine if those are the flavours you're after, but they do limit your options.  And cashew nuts, as well as being quite expensive, are hard to work with.  If you want a smooth product, you have to soak the nuts, blend them to a paste, then force that paste through a cloth.  I've never actually tried it so I could be wrong, but that sounds like very hard work!

So I wondered, could you make ice cream using relatively-flavour-neutral soy milk?  It turns out you can, although I haven't found anyone on the internet publishing such recipes.  The trick is to add neutrally flavoured oils to bump up the fat content, then add soy lecithin (a natural emulsifier) to get the milk and oil to mix.  Turns out it works a charm!

rose geranium ice cream, chocolate ice cream and vanilla soy gelato - neapolitan ;-)

I based my recipes on dairy ice cream recipes I'd already developed, converting them using this formula.  Along the way I discovered an excellent free ebook on the science of ice cream.  I learned two main things from it:
  1. ice cream fluffs the best if the mix is about 4% protein: my recipes all include a bit of pea protein powder to bring them up to this level.  I since learned that's what Ben and Jerry's do for their stunning fair trade vegan ice cream, too :-)  If you want to make the soy recipes with other non-dairy milks you'll need to add even more pea-protein powder as oat, rice and almond milks are much lower-protein than soy.
  2. a 3:1 mix of coconut oil:olive oil mimics the fat profile of dairy well and gives a much better mouth-feel than either of those oils on their own.

My recipes are below.  They were designed for use in an ice cream maker that makes about 1 litre of ice cream from about 3 1/2 cups of mix.  You'll find recipes for soy-based ice creams and gelati and coconut-based ice creams as well as for a range of sorbets plus a delicious maple banana ice cream.  Finally there are recipes for cookies and cream ice cream and 'Christmas' ice cream (both of which start with a vanilla soy base) and two delicious toppings. Enjoy!

Click on the links to jump to the recipe you'd like or just read through :-)
Notes on ingredients
Soy ice cream (with vanilla, chocolate, mint, choc mint and lavender variations)
Soy fruit ice cream (with strawberry, apricot, rhubarb, feijoa and fig variations)
Soy gelato (with vanilla, chocolate, kawakawa and lavender variations)
Coconut ice cream (with chocolate, choc mint, chai, coffee and strawberry variations)
Mango sorbet
Berry sorbet
Grapefruit sorbet
Drinking cordial sorbet
Maple banana ice cream
Cookies and cream ice cream
Christmas ice cream
Chocolate crackle topping
Raspberry coulis

Notes on ingredients

These recipes call for a few special items:

Fractionated coconut oil
This is coconut oil that has been distilled to give it a neutral flavor.  You can buy this from most supermarkets: it will be labelled as either fractionated, refined or RBD coconut oil.  The dominant brand in New Zealand is Blue Coconut.

Soy lecithin powder
In recipes using soy milk, this makes the oil and soy milk mix. You can buy soy lecithin as granules in the bulk bin section of supermarkets or at health food shops. These easily crush to powder – it’s best to do this before using them in the recipes.

Soy lecithin is also sold as a liquid. If you buy this, use half the volume called for in the recipes (e.g. if the recipe calls for 1 tsp crushed granules, use 1/2 tsp liquid lecithin).

Sunflower lecithin can be substituted 1:1 for soy lecithin.

Pea protein isolate
This increases the protein content of the recipes, which makes the resulting ice cream or gelato fluffier and creamier.  It brings a bit of its own flavour: if you don’t like the pea protein taste, try soy milk powder instead. With soy milk powder you need to use three times the volume (so you need to use 3 T when the recipe calls for 1 T).

You can buy pea protein isolate from health food shops, pharmacies or shops that sell body building supplements.  I got mine from here.  Some supermarkets stock soy milk powder, as do some health food shops.


Soy ice cream

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups soy milk
2 T cornflour*
2 T pea protein isolate (optional)
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
2/3 cup fractionated coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup lite olive oil (or further 2T fractionated coconut oil)
2 tsp soy lecithin granules, crushed
1 tsp vanilla essence

* Use anywhere between 3.5 tsp and 3 T cornflour.  More will make the ice cream silkier, less will make it foamier – try it a few different ways and see what you like!

Method
1. Measure soy milk into a jug or bowl.
2. Place cornflour (and soy milk powder if using) in a saucepan; pour in a little of the soy milk and make a paste.  Continue to add the soy milk, stirring well, until all is combined.
3. Add sugar and salt then heat until thickened and just starting to steam and form little bubbles.
4. Turn heat to low; stir in the oils and soy lecithin.
5. Stir until the oil is fully combined into the custard (takes a minute or two).
6. Stir in vanilla.
7. Pass through a seive to remove any lumps.
8. Chill in fridge overnight, churn in ice cream maker next day then freeze overnight till fully set.

Variations
Vanilla soy ice cream
Increase vanilla essence to 2 tsp.

Chocolate soy ice cream
Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder along with the cornflour - see here for fairly traded brands.

Mint soy ice cream
Place one cup (packed) chopped mint leaves in a small saucepan with the soy milk.  Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and leave at least 30 minutes to infuse the mint into the milk.  Pass through a seive to remove the leaves.  Use the flavoured soy milk in the recipe, adding a few drops green food colouring if desired.

Mint ice cream is fantastic with tinned mango puree :-)

To make choc mint, add 1/3 cup chocolate chips after the mint ice cream is churned but before freezing - see here for fairly traded brands.

Lavender soy ice cream
Place 1/4 cup lavender buds in a small saucepan with the soy milk.  Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and leave at least 30 minutes to infuse the lavender into the milk.  Pass through a sieve to remove the buds.  Use the flavoured soy milk in the recipe.


Soy fruit ice cream

Ingredients
approx 400g fruit, finely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups soy milk
4 tsp cornflour
1 T pea protein isolate (optional)
1 tsp soy lecithin granules, crushed
1/3 cup fractionated coconut oil
2 T lite olive oil (or further 2 T fractionated coconut oil)

Method
1. In a saucepan, combine fruit and sugar. Cover and cook over low heat with stirring until fruit releases its juices, about 5 minutes.
2. Increase heat to medium and cook with occasional stirring until most of water evaporates and fruit has a soft jam like consistency, about 10-15 minutes.  Set aside.
3. Measure soy milk into a jug or bowl.
4. Place cornflour (and soy milk powder if using) in a saucepan; pour in a little of the soy milk and make a paste.  Continue to add the soy milk, stirring well, until all is combined.
5. Heat until thickened and just starting to steam and form little bubbles.
6. Turn heat to low; stir in the oils and soy lecithin.
7. Stir until the oil is fully combined into the custard (takes a minute or two).
8. Pass through a seive to remove any lumps.
9. Stir the cooked fruit into the custard, chill in fridge overnight, churn in ice cream maker next day then freeze overnight till fully set.

Variations
Strawberry soy ice cream
Use recipe without modification.

Apricot soy ice cream
With fresh apricots, use recipe without modification.

With dried apricots, use 1 scant cup (120g) dried apricots.  Leave to stand approx 15 min in 1 cup + 2T boiling water then puree.  Do not cook further (i.e. make the puree instead of doing steps 1 and 2) and add the sugar to the soy milk at the end of step 4 rather than to the puree.

Rhubarb soy ice cream
Use recipe without modification.

Feijoa ice cream
Add 1 – 2 T lemon juice when stewing the fruit.

Fig soy ice cream
With fresh figs, add 1 – 2 T lemon juice when stewing the fruit.  May also need to add a little water – figs can be quite dry.

With dried figs, use 1 scant cup (120g) dried figs.  Leave to stand approx 15 min in 1 cup + 2T boiling water then puree with 1 – 2 T lemon juice.  Do not cook further (i.e. make the puree instead of doing steps 1 and 2) and add the sugar to the soy milk at the end of step 4 rather than to the puree.

Soy gelato

Ingredients
2 3/4 cups soy milk
2 T cornflour*
4 t pea protein isolate (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
3 T fractionated coconut oil
1 T lite olive oil (or a further tablespoon fractionated coconut oil)
1/2 tsp soy lecithin granules, crushed
1tsp vanilla essence

* Use anywhere between 1 T and 3 T cornflour.  More will make the gelato silkier, less will make it foamier – try it a few different ways and see what you like!

Method
1. Measure soy milk into a jug or bowl.
2. Place cornflour (and soy milk powder if using) in a saucepan; pour in a little of the soy milk and make a paste.  Continue to add the soy milk, stirring well, until all is combined.
3. Add sugar then heat until thickened and just starting to steam and form little bubbles.
4. Turn heat to low; stir in the oils and soy lecithin.
5. Stir until the oil is fully combined into the custard (takes a minute or two).
6. Stir in vanilla.
7. Pass through a seive to remove any lumps.
8. Chill in fridge overnight, churn in ice cream maker next day then freeze overnight till fully set.

Variations
Vanilla soy gelato
Increase vanilla essence to 2 tsp.

Chocolate soy gelato
Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder along with the cornflour and increase sugar to 3/4 cup.  See here for fairly traded brands.

Kawakawa soy gelato
Place 1/4 cup crumbled dry kawakawa leaves or 12 whole leaves in a small saucepan with the soy milk.  Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and leave at least 30 minutes to infuse the kawakawa into the milk.  Pass through a seive to remove the leaves.  Use the flavoured soy milk in the recipe.
Reduce the vanilla to 1/4 tsp.

Lavender soy gelato
Place 1/4 cup lavender buds in a small saucepan with the soy milk.  Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and leave at least 30 minutes to infuse the lavender into the milk.  Pass through a seive to remove the buds.  Use the flavoured soy milk in the recipe.


Coconut ice cream

Ingredients
1 T pea protein isolate (optional)
2 x 400gmL tins coconut milk (choose a high fat, high protein brand like Kara)
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
4 tsp vanilla essence

Method
1. Put pea protein isolate in a saucepan.  Add a little of the coconut milk and stir to make a paste.  Gradually add remaining coconut milk with stirring.  Don’t worry if it’s a bit lumpy – these should smooth out while the ice cream is churning.
2. Add sugar and heat with stirring until it’s dissolved.
3. Take off the heat and add the remaining ingredients.
4. Chill in fridge overnight, churn in ice cream maker next day then freeze overnight till fully set.

(modified from this)

Variations
Chocolate coconut ice cream
Reduce vanilla to 2 tsp and add 1/2 cup cocoa powder along with the pea protein isolate.  See here for fairly traded cocoa brands.

Choc mint coconut ice cream
Replace 2 tsp of the vanilla essence with peppermint essence and add a few drops green food colouring.
Stir in 100g chopped chocolate after the ice cream is churned but before freezing.  See here for fairly traded chocolate blocks.  (credit)

Coconut chai ice cream 
Reduce vanilla essence to 2 tsp.
After the sugar is dissolved, stir in 1 tsp cinnamon and ⅛ teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom.  (credit)

Coffee coconut ice cream
Reduce vanilla essence to 2 tsp.
Add 2 tsp instant coffee after the sugar is dissolved. (credit)

Strawberry coconut ice cream
Reduce vanilla essence to 2 tsp.
Use only one tin coconut milk instead of two.
Whizz around 4 cups of chopped strawberries in a blender.  Measure out two cups of puree.  After the sugar is dissolved, stir this into the coconut milk. (credit)


Mango sorbet

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups tinned mango puree (buy a 1kg tin from an Indian or Asian grocers; we find ‘kesar’ mangoes are the best)

Method
Chill the puree in the fridge, churn in the ice cream maker then freeze till fully set (will always be a bit sloppy).


Berry sorbet

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
3 cups berries (all one kind or a mixture – if using strawberries measure the volume after they’ve been chopped)
1 T lemon juice (optional)

Method
1. Mix sugar and water in a blender.
2. Add the fruit and lemon juice.
3. Blend to a puree.
4. Chill in the fridge, churn in the ice cream maker then freeze until fully set.

from my friend Marion Burglin in Switzerland


Grapefruit sorbet

Ingredients
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups grapefruit juice (other citrus would probably also work)
2 t chopped fresh mint (optional)

Method
1. Heat sugar and water together in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved then boil 1 minute.
2. Stir in the grapefruit juice and mint.
3. Chill in the fridge, churn in the ice cream maker then freeze till fully set.


Drinking cordial sorbet

Ingredients
2 cups water
1 1/3 cups cordial (our favourite is elderflower cordial, but any cordial should work)

Method
1. Mix the water and cordial together then chill in the fridge.
2. Churn in the ice cream maker then freeze until fully set.

Elderflower sorbet is especially delicious with strawberries :-)


Maple banana ice cream

Ingredients
6 ripe bananas
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 T lite olive oil
2 T brown sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla essence

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
2. Peel and slice the bananas then put them in a baking pan (something with sides). Pour the maple syrup and olive oil over the bananas and sprinkle with brown sugar.  Stir to coat.
3. Bake in the center of the oven till soft, stirring once during roasting. They should be ready in roughly 35 to 40 minutes.
4. Scrape the roasted bananas and syrup off the tray and put into a blender or food processor.  Add the coconut milk, xanthan gum (if using – makes it creamier), salt and vanilla.
5. Blend till smooth.
6. Chill in the fridge, churn in the ice cream maker then freeze overnight till set.

(credit)

Especially good with chocolate crackle topping!


Cookies and cream ice cream

Ingredients
1/4 cup vegan margarine (we use Gold n Canola 'lite' - their full-fat version isn't vegan)
1/4 cup sugar
2 T besan/chickpea flour + 2 T water OR 1/4 cup aquafaba
1/2 cup flour
3 – 4 T cocoa powder (see here for fair trade brands available in NZ)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 T margarine
1 tsp water
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
pinch salt
1 cup icing sugar
1 recipe vanilla version of soy ice cream mix, chilled but not churned/frozen

Method
1. To make the cookies, combine the first seven ingredients to form a dough.  Press onto a greased baking tray to give a layer about 2-3mm thick.  Bake approx 10 minutes at 170ºC.  Cool on a rack then crumble into small pieces in a bowl.
2. For the cookie filling, beat the margarine, water, vanilla and salt with 1/4 cup icing sugar.  Gradually add the remaining sugar with beating to form a thick paste.  Spread thinly on a tray and chill in freezer.
3. Churn vanilla soy ice cream mix in the ice cream maker.
4. Cut filling into small squares with a sharp knife then transfer to a bowl with the cookie pieces.  Rub with your hands to distribute the filling evenly over the cookie pieces.  Mix into the freshly churned ice cream then chill in freezer before serving.

(overall method based on this recipe, cookies on this.  You could use oreo cookies in place of making cookies and filling, but making your own enables you to use fair trade cocoa).

Especially good with chocolate crackle topping!


Christmas ice cream

Ingredients
3/4 cup raisins or sultanas
1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup prunes
1/4 cup dried apricots
1/2 tsp mixed spice OR cinnamon
1/4 cup sherry, spirits, ginger ale
2 T orange juice (or extra sherry, spirits or ginger ale)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted and finely chopped
25g dark chocolate, grated (e.g. 5 pieces Whittakers Dark Ghana - or see here for other fairly traded brands)
1 recipe vanilla version of soy ice cream mix, chilled but not churned/frozen
1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tin coconut milk (a thick variety like Kara), optional

Method
1. On the day you make the ice cream mix, chop the dried fruit finely and tip into a plastic zip-loc bag*.  Add the spice and liquid.  Mostly close the bag, leaving 2cm unsealed, then microwave flat on a teatowel for two or three one-minute bursts, turning bag over after each.  Stop when fruit is hot then chill in the fridge.
2. The next day, chill the fruit mix, chopped almonds, grated chocolate and coconut milk in the freezer till cold but not frozen (approx 30 min).
3. Whilst this is chilling, churn the ice cream mix.
4. Toss the fruit, nuts and chocolate with the icing sugar in a large bowl.  Stir in the coconut milk then fold in the churned ice cream.
5. Chill overnight before serving.

* can also microwave the fruit in a bowl then freeze on a shallow tray.
Serve with raspberry coulis or with fresh berries and icing sugar.
Original (non-vegan) recipe from Alison Holst.



Chocolate crackle topping

Ingredients
160g dark chocolate (e.g. 28 pieces Whittakers Dark Ghana - or see here for other fairly traded brands)
1/2 cup fractionated coconut oil

Method
1. Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in the microwave, stopping every minute to stir (should take 2-3 minutes).
2. Pour over ice cream :-)  It will set as a crackle topping.
3. Store any leftover topping in a microwave-safe container, ready to re-melt and re-use.

Chocolate crackle topping keeps fine for a few weeks at room temperature but should be kept in the fridge for long-term storage.


Raspberry coulis

Ingredients
4 cups frozen or fresh raspberries
1 cup sugar
2 T lemon juice
Method
1. Bring the raspberries and sugar to the boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes until it thickens slightly.
2. Strain and press through a sieve or mouli.
3. Stir in the lemon juice.

Keeps in fridge for up to a week, freezes well.

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