Believe it or not, non-dairy is now the fastest-growing segment of the frozen dessert category. If you haven’t already, it’s probably time to start paying attention to non-dairy desserts. With summer right around the corner, who knows – maybe there’s a non-dairy delight so delicious, cool, and creamy, you’ll wish you hopped on the bandwagon sooner.
Plant-based products and non-dairy alternatives used to be few and far between, but fast forward a few years, and it’s a whole new playing ground. Times are changing, and it’s time to rethink dairy.
Saying goodbye to dairy doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to dessert. And of course, we aren’t suggesting a replacement of just any boring or questionable “non-dairy dessert.” Oh no – we’re talking about non-dairy dessert that actually tastes good. We know not all dairy-free desserts are created equal, and we also know a lot of them, well, kind of suck.
Plentiful brands are racing to market with their take on dairy-free dessert, but so many of them aren’t quite the same or have something slightly off about them. Plant-based alternatives in any category can come pretty darn close to the real deal, and we’ve seen it with the Beyond and Impossible burgers. The thing is, even slight nuances in flavor and texture can make all the difference, and unfortunately, many products land in the “so close, yet so far” category.
Where Non-Dairy Goes Wrong
Creating any type of plant-based alternative is tricky, but vegan ice cream is particularly complicated.
Something about dairy and its molecular composition is difficult to replicate or mimic. Plant-based “milks” are an obvious choice for any dairy-like creations, but these nut milks are highly susceptible to freezer burn and experience natural separation when thawed.
Another prevailing problem with anything non-dairy is the creaminess factor…or lack thereof. Plant-based milks are mostly water, and while this makes them attractive options for those looking to control calories, this also means they lack thick, rich creaminess. There’s something so unsatisfying about watery, bland ice cream.
And we can’t forget about texture, either. Many dairy-free ice creams have a chalky consistency to them; something about a soft-sandpaper aftertaste isn’t exactly ideal when you’re craving a cool, creamy bowl of ice cream after dinner.
The non-dairy segment hands-down wins most improved, but the formula hasn’t entirely been perfected, and there’s definitely room for delicious improvement.
See Ya Later, Lactose
In recent years, Americans have been ditching dairy for a few different reasons, including lactose intolerance or sensitivity.
Did you know humans are the only species able to digest milk in adulthood? We aren’t designed to consume milk, which is reflected in upwards of 75% of the world’s population being lactose-intolerant to some degree.
BTW, lactose-free is not the same as dairy-free. Dairy-free products do not come from animals, i.e., cow or other animal’s milk. Lactose-free products can be dairy-free, but most often are just animal milk products that have been engineered during production to remove the lactose component.
To be clear, dairy-free = lactose-free, but lactose-free ≠ dairy-free.
Today, dark chocolate, popsicles, and cookies are getting their time to shine in the non-dairy dessert spotlight.
It’s a common misconception that all chocolate has dairy in it. Let us break the good news; no, not all chocolate has dairy in it. Most dark chocolate bars with a cocoa component of at least 70% will be free of dairy. Dark chocolate sometimes gets a bad rep, but it doesn’t have to be boring! Variations with almond, crispy rice, coconut, and orange are some fan favorites that never fail to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Dark chocolate is also great for fruit dipping. Try melting a half cup of chocolate along with a spoonful of coconut oil; combine ingredients in a bowl and microwave for 15 seconds, stirring and repeating as needed until a smooth, silky consistency is achieved. From here, try dipping fruits like banana and strawberries or other snacks like pretzels, crackers, or even russet potato chips.
Popsicles need a special shout out because 1) they’re underrated and 2) because summer is right around the corner. Sweet, fruity, and refreshing, a colorful flavor pop on a hot summer day just hits different. As long as it’s specifically a popsicle and not an ice cream bar, these sweet treats are deliciously dairy-free. Look out for the fine print indicating “ice pop” or “non-dairy frozen dessert,” and you’re in the clear.
A dessert list without cookies isn’t much of a dessert list at all. There are many tasty non-dairy cookie companies out there; it usually comes down to trial and error to find your favorite brand. Do you know how some people prefer thin and crispy cookies while others won’t touch it unless it’s thick and chewy? Exactly. The swaps and substitutes that make a cookie dairy-free inevitably alters the final taste and texture. Still, it’s like being a kid again and reliving the journey to find your favorite cookie.
For the cookie connoisseurs, we have an upgrade for you: an ice cream cookie sandwich. Yup. Next step: finding your filling, AKA the best dairy-free ice cream.
The Best Dairy-Free Ice Cream
Clearly, “delicious non-dairy” is easier said than done, but it’s not impossible.
Speaking of impossible, there is, in fact, a truly delicious non-dairy ice cream; some are even calling it the impossible burger of ice cream. We’ve known for years that consumers have increasingly been swapping their animal products for plant-based alternatives. In fact, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, new consumer research reflects that upward of 60% of Americans have consciously been trying to follow a more plant-based diet. No surprise there, though – plant-based alternatives have been popular for years. The caveat, however, is that without a delicious plant-based ice cream option for dessert, this shift in lifestyle won’t be sustainable.
As of 2019, the global dairy-free ice cream market was valued at almost $456 million and is expected to reach $1.2 billion by 2025. The scene is on fire, and as expected, brands are itching to get on board and take their swing at frozen non-dairy dessert.
The brand to know when it comes to non-dairy ice cream is Eclipse. Eclipse launched in late 2019 and has been making serious waves ever since. Eclipse walked onto the scene with a revolutionary approach to dairy-free ice cream: looking at the molecular structure of milk proteins and redesigning it from the ground up, using nothing but plants. This way, Eclipse was able to achieve texture and functionality indistinguishable from dairy.
Eclipse ice cream is made in a kitchen, not a laboratory, and you can taste the extra TLC in every bite. Sound too good to be true? In a blind taste-test conducted at Berkeley University, 77% of people said Eclipse is creamier than the top-selling dairy ice cream in the United States.
When it comes to flavors, Eclipse has options; there are the classic must-haves like chocolate, vanilla, cookie butter, strawberry, and mango passion fruit. And yes, they all taste just as they’re supposed; chocolate is chocolatey, vanilla is vanilla bean-y, strawberry is simply strawberry, etc., no freezer burn, chalkiness, or weird aftertaste. Rich and creamy, without compromise. Eclipse isn’t a dairy alternative; it’s a dairy sequel.
Non-dairy desserts can absolutely be delicious. You just have to find the right ones.