Dairy-free ice cream is kind of the underdog of frozen desserts; people don’t know much about it, but if we pay attention, it’s clear to see it has so much goodness to offer.
Ice cream has been a dearly loved staple dessert for longer than any of us have been alive. Heck, ice cream is even older than our other old pal, pizza. That’s right—people have been enjoying this cold, creamy, delicious frozen treat far before even the Middle Ages! With everything that has come and gone in the last several hundred years, we have to give some credit to this wonderful little treat that has managed to make it to today’s age (and through 2020—phew!).
Except, times were different back then (duh). “Dietary restrictions” were likely simplified down to something along the lines of “safe to eat” or “poisonous.” Fast forward to today, half the population has “dietary restriction” (no offense—we all have something). Veganism, vegetarianism, lactose-intolerance, raw diet, the list goes on. As utterly delicious as this sweet treat is, unfortunately, it isn’t diet-friendly to all.
But we refuse to accept the fate of no ice-cream allowed. For anyone and everyone out there with an allergy or sensitivity—lactose-intolerance or dairy sensitivity in particular—fear not! There are several types of dairy-free ice cream out there. Woohoo! Say goodbye to the upset stomachs, skin flare-ups, bloating, cramping, and any other negative dairy consequences.
Why not dairy-free? Times are changing. Everything we thought we knew is basically out the window (thanks, 2020). It’s time to re-imagine ice cream. There’s a whole wide world of dairy-free frozen desserts out there just waiting to be discovered. (Psst, fun fact—the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines ice cream as containing dairy ingredients. Does this make “dairy-free ice cream” a paradox? #Foodforthought.)
But seriously, why dairy-free? Choosing a dairy-free product usually boils down to one of three reasons: catering to allergies and sensitivities, for the environment, or to optimize overall health.
Allergies and sensitives are self-explanatory; everyone loves ice cream, but (probably) not enough to outweigh the uncomfortable and painful consequences—we get it. In terms of the environment, dairy-free ice cream uses substantially less water, less land, and emits fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than leading traditional dairy products. Further, a 2018 study revealed that one in five Americans say they are consuming less dairy for health reasons.
Maybe you don’t fall into one of these categories. Perhaps you’re just an average-Joe living your best life and going with the flow. Honestly, we still whole-heartedly recommend trying some dairy-free ice cream. It’s the underdog, remember? Give it a shot. We’re sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Different Types of Dairy-Free Ice Cream
No matter the reasons you’re looking to steer clear of dairy, you have options. If there are meat-less meatballs, cream-less cream cheeses, and nut-less nut butters, don’t you worry—there are plenty of ice cream-less ice cream options.
Just for fun, we’re going to start with the least ice-cream-like dairy-free ice creams and work our way up to the most ice-cream-like dairy-free ice creams. By the end of this, you’ll be an ice-cream expert for sure.
Fruit-based dairy-free ice creams just barely make the cut for this list. Maybe “fruity frozen desserts” would be a more appropriate title, but we get it—everyone wants to be a part of the ice cream craze. We all scream for ice cream, right?
Banana ice cream and fruit bars make up the competitors in this category.
Banana ice cream (nice cream) is just what it sounds like: blended frozen bananas that resemble creamy ice cream. “Nice cream” (as the young people call it) is one of the healthiest, most natural frozen dessert options, and it’s tasty too! Bananas have proven to be the perfect fruit for giving us the creamy consistency that we crave when we reach for a tub of dessert. Blended bananas also provide a base for adding in other flavors too. Cacao powder, frozen berries, honey, coconut flakes, and so much more can be added to create an assortment of mouthwatering treats.
Fruit bars are the slightly less cool but still eligible competitor for fruit-based desserts. For those following a strict plant-based diet or raw food diet, fruit bars are there for you.
Sorbet vs. Sherbert
These colorful, refreshing, and tasty treats are not the same! Despite often being used interchangeably, these three desserts do have slight differences.
Sorbet is a frozen dessert made from either fruit juice or fruit-flavored water, typically with the addition of some sugar or other sweetener. Fruit juice is the traditional ingredient (and most natural), but fruit purees, wines, liquors, and honey are sometimes used too. Sorbets do not contain any dairy. Or at least, they’re not supposed to!
Sherbert is another fruit-based frozen dessert, except sherbert also usually contains milk (dairy). Sherbert is the middle ground between sorbet and ice cream; it’s basically sorbet with a splash of milk added. (The milk component is actually very small, typically only about 1-2%). It’s this little addition of milk that reduces the acidity; this creates the most significant difference compared to sorbet, which is usually fruit and tart flavors.
Do you feel like an ice cream expert yet? Just wait, there’s more!
Lactose-Free Dairy Ice Creams
Let’s start by clarifying that dairy-free and lactose-free are not the same things.
Something labeled as “lactose-free” is usually a dairy product that has had the lactose component removed. Lactose is a sugar that naturally occurs in (dairy) milk. For the body to digest lactose, enzymes called “lactase” are required, which break down the lactose. Some bodies don’t produce enough of this enzyme to complete this process sufficiently; this is what’s called having lactose intolerance. So, “lactose-free” typically indicates a dairy product with the lactose removed, not a dairy-free product.
Some ice cream brands—like us—offer lactose-free ice cream that doesn’t come from animal milk. Check out Eclipse’s classic flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, and cookie butter for all of the goodness with none of the lactose!
Basically, it comes back to the question of why you’re interested in dairy-free. Are you trying to avoid dairy itself, or do you have a lactose-intolerance? If you’re looking to avoid dairy altogether, stick to vegan, dairy-free ice cream.
Dairy-free ice cream
Finally, and last but not least, dairy-free ice cream. This is just what it sounds like, dairy-free ice cream.
Dairy-free ice cream is made from any kind of milk except cow’s milk. Plant-based milks take the lead in this frozen treat. Almond, soy, cashew, and oat milk are just a few of the dairy-free milks that step up to the plate to take on traditional ice cream—and they serve us well!
Some dairy-free brands take it one step further and make ice cream from a blend of plants, including oat, corn, and potato, to make their taste indistinguishable from dairy. Oh wait, that’s us, we do that. At Eclipse foods, we pride ourselves on making all of our products in our very own kitchen with nothing but 100% plants.
Dairy-free ice cream should be everything “normal” ice cream is, just minus the dairy. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve perfected our craft and found a way to make dairy-free ice cream that has no sacrifice to taste, texture, nor functionality. With six base ingredients (all plant-based, of course) and a counter full of delicious toppings (also all plant-based, of course), we have the perfect set up to bring so many new and dairy-free ice creams to life—and we can’t wait to share them with you!
Dairy-Free Ice Cream: The Underdog
There are more types of dairy-free ice cream than you thought, aren’t there? Who knew!? The important part is that now you do. Which are you most excited to try? Which will you try first?
Maybe we’re biased, but Eclipse ice cream is simply the best. It’s dairy-free ice cream, simple as that. No ifs, ands, or buts, just dairy-free ice cream. Plant-based, chef-crafted, and ready to be enjoyed. The only question left is which flavor to try first.