My Dairy-Free Ice Cream Recipe

My wife can’t eat dairy, so I simply had to find a way for her to enjoy ice cream. My dad had already created a batch of coconut milk-based ice cream for her before we were married, and I’ve been taking the concept further. A couple people asked for the recipe when I mentioned on Facebook that I was making a new batch, so here it is.

This is my blog, so I get to talk food science for a minute. I use coconut milk to replace milk/cream/half-and-half. It has enough fat to decently replicate the creamy side of traditional dairy ice cream. I also like to add up to half a cup of almond milk, which helps to tone down the coconut flavor.

And then the big key to my success: You have to use egg yolks, and a lot of ’em. I have tried dairy-free ice cream recipes that attempt to be healthy by cutting back on egg yolks, but that’s the worst decision you could make here. Egg yolk emulsifies the custard, bringing a smooth, creamy texture. If you leave them out or cut back, you’ll end up with ice crystals in your final product, which doesn’t make for especially tasty ice cream. Remove the egg yolks at your own risk!

Okay, enough science. Here’s the recipe. This makes a little bit more than five cups of ice cream, depending on where you fall in the variable amount and how many add-ins you throw in.

Dairy-Free Ice Cream Base

  • Two 13.5 oz cans of coconut milk
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
  • At least 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt

In a saucepan, combine everything and whisk until smooth. Over medium-low heat, bring the custard up to temperature while stirring. You’re looking for steam to start escaping, but you don’t want this to boil.

Once you see steam (or can feel it when you hold a hand over the pan), set a timer for ten minutes. Keep stirring. After ten minutes, the mix should coat the back of a spoon (or your whisk tines if you don’t want to wash another dish). If it doesn’t, let it go another 2-5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a little bit. You’ll want to come back and stir it so a skin doesn’t form on the top of the custard. After about twenty minutes, cover the top of the pan and chill in the fridge. You can also throw it in the freezer if you don’t want to wait as long. Just make sure it doesn’t freeze solid.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then transfer the ice cream to a container and let it set up. Or if you’re like me, make a little too much custard so you’re forced to try some immediately while it’s still soft-serve consistency. 😉

Some Flavors I’ve Made

Mint Chocolate chip

Adding about 1 tsp of mint extract to the base. Taste the custard and see if it’s minty enough for you. Adjust with more mint extract until you get what you want. (I ended up using about 2 tsp ’cause I like mint.) Add 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chunks during the final five minutes of processing in the ice cream maker. (Make sure the chocolate is dairy-free!)

Cherry Vanilla

Up the vanilla extract to 1 Tbsp, or get fancy and substitute a vanilla bean. Then add a 1/2 cup of quartered frozen cherries during the final five minutes of processing.

Chocolate

Add between 2 Tbps and 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (Dutch process is best) to the custard mix. You’ll also want to increase the salt to at least 1/4 tsp.

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2 thoughts on “My Dairy-Free Ice Cream Recipe

  1. I had the privilege of trying the cherry vanilla and can confirm that it was quite delicious!

    A few other tips:
    1. Save the vanilla until the end after you remove the heat. You’ll get a more intense flavor because less will evaporate.
    2. You might try heating the milk separately. Then beat the egg yolks and sugar and temper the milk into it and finish heating. It’s more work but it may make the texture even better.
    3. If the mixture is good and cool (below 40˚F) before churning you’ll be less likely to get ice crystals (thank you Alton Brown).

    • Following up on the suggestion to temper the milk into the egg yolks/sugar: I tried this on a couple of batches and probably did it too quickly, because my egg yolks scrambled a little bit. For my latest batch, I tried a new idea. I started by whisking the egg yolks and sugar in the saucepan, then whisked the milk into that before turning on the heat. That seemed to help the texture, so I think I’m going to do that on future batches.

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