Originally published 6/28/16
In the last 20 years, I’ve eaten a lot of vegan ice cream — some of it good but much of it bad.
However, I knew great vegan ice cream was possible based on the small miracle that is Trader Joe’s brand vegan ice cream. So I set out to find the best recipe for homemade vegan ice cream.
Problem is: I don’t cook. I started following a vegan diet (no meat or dairy products) as a teenager. I ate a lot of vegan junk food in college. I would mainly survive on hummus and toast if not for the Triangle’s great chefs and my boyfriend, who is a skilled home cook.
So, one might think taking on this vegan ice cream quest was a tad ambitious for someone like me. But I have my lovely cook. I imagined we (OK, he) would make these ice creams and I would photograph them. I bragged: We just need three recipes!
He pored over the books, purchased an ice cream maker and a high-powered blender, and shopped for ingredients. I brought my taste buds (and my camera) to the table.
Along the way, we discovered a few truths about making good homemade vegan ice cream.
First, the foundation has to be a good creamy base, which can be a challenge without dairy products. It can be made with full-fat coconut milk, homemade cashew cream or even frozen bananas.
Second, vegan ice cream can be incredibly expensive to make; vanilla beans and guar gum, a natural thickening agent derived from guar beans to aid in structure and binding, are not cheap.
Third, that Trader Joe’s vegan ice cream is a small miracle in both taste and price. It starts at $3.29 for the soy-based ice creams and $3.49 for the coconut-based ice creams.
Based on our trials and errors involving seven batches and five recipes, we came up with three that range from cheap and easy to expensive and challenging — but all three taste great.