Vegan ice creams
We've all heard the saying, "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream." But what about those who are avoiding dairy and animal products?
In the past, your options for non-dairy ice cream were limited—and when you further narrowed it down to vegan-friendly choices, the list was very short indeed. You probably were left with a few different flavors of sorbet, if you were lucky. Thankfully, you have many more choices these days, as an ever-growing list of brands have expanded their ice cream lineups to include vegan options. In addition to pints, many are also offering vegan-free novelty products like ice cream sandwiches and frozen fruit pops.
To help you find the best vegan ice cream, we took a jog through the freezer section to find the brands that are worth checking out.
Non-Dairy vs. Dairy-Free vs. Vegan Ice Cream
While many non-dairy or dairy-free ice creams (and other food products) are also vegan, that’s not always the case because these products may contain eggs, honey, or other ingredients that aren't vegan-friendly. Also, in a twist that's uniquely American, the FDA doesn't regulate the term dairy-free and the term non-dairy is regulated but casein, or milk protein, is allowed in non-dairy products (see: non-dairy creamer).
The upshot? It’s always a good idea to study the ingredients list to be sure—even for products previously marketed as vegan-friendly—because the labeling rules are a little murky and manufacturers are also constantly tweaking ingredients and trying new formulas. Doing your homework before you buy will help you make sure you're actually getting vegan ice cream.
The 15 Best Vegan Ice Cream Ranked
We broke out our ice cream scoopers and tried a wide assortment of vegan frozen desserts that ran the gamut from disappointing to dreamy. To save you the trouble, we narrowed things down to our top 15 vegan ice creams and ranked them from good to great.
15. Trader Joe's
Trader Joe’s has a reputation for catering to vegans, offering a wide variety of vegan-friendly products and constantly adding new items to the mix. They currently have a large, diverse assortment of vegan-friendly desserts, including frozen dessert sandwiches, novelties and good ol' cartons. The non-dairy oat milk strawberry frozen dessert is a good option, but be sure to also check out the frozen bon bons and the black tea and boba frozen desserts.
14. Mauna Loa
The Mauna Loa dairy-free ice creams are made from a macadamia nut milk base —and if you’ve never had it before, we suspect you'll become an immediate fan. The line's options include some fun flavors with creative names like Rocky Road to Hana and Big Island Mac Nut. The macadamia nut milk adds some richness and creaminess, but it’s not quite as creamy as others on our list, and some diehard ice cream fans might find it a bit too watery.
Bubbies makes a variety of plant-based oat milk-based mochi ice cream and frozen treats. Mochi is a traditional Japanese dough made from rice that's known for its delightful chew. When wrapped around ice cream (diary or non-dairy), it's an extra delicious treat. All of Bubbies' varieties are made from simple ingredients, but some do contain egg whites, so definitely check the box before you buy. The vegan-friendly lineup includes flavors like Alphonso Mango and Red Ripe Strawberry, so there are options for every type of sweet seeker.
Baskin-Robbins, one of the most famous names in ice cream, has several vegan-friendly offerings, including Daiquiri Ice, Lemon Sorbet, but one flavor in particular might surprise you. Minty and creamy, the Non-Dairy Mint Chocochunk variety has a mint base studded with chocolate chunks and fudge swirls. You can get it in Baskin-Robbins stores or order online for delivery.
As you can probably guess from the name, Oatly makes their ice cream out of oat milk—and they seem to have a winning formula. Whereas some dairy-free ice creams can be thin and watery, Oatly's frozen desserts are thick and creamy. The pint-sized carton is available in 11 flavors and they also have novelty bars and mini cups.
The tagline for Craig’s ice cream products is “born in Hollywood” because the line is affiliated with the West Hollywood celebrity hot-spot Craig’s Restaurant. The frozen desserts were a hit with the A-list clientele—and luckily for us, these frozen treats are now available in grocery stores. (You can also find them as the base for some Johnny Rockets milkshakes.) This vegan option is made from cashews and other natural ingredients. Flavor options include Cold Brew with Chamberlain Coffee, Perfectly Chocolate, PB Krunch, Melrose Mint Chip, Sunset & Strawberry and Killa Vanilla. Also, keep an eye out for a limited-edition flavor that may be appearing soon.
If you love ice cream sandwiches—and who doesn’t?—these cute and tasty little mini frozen cookie sandwiches from Chloe’s are the perfect vegan treat. They’re delicious and just 80 calories each. The brand also has a variety of vegan-friendly frozen fruit pops if that's more your speed.
8. KIND Frozen Treat Bars
KIND is well known for its fruit and nut bars, but a few years ago they added frozen treats to their lineup. Within that line are four plant-based KIND Frozen Treat Bars: Dark Chocolate Almond, Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Almond and Chocolate Cherry Almond. These bars are almond-based, which gives them a toasty, nutty flavor. And much like the brand's bars, the frozen versions are studded with chopped nuts and dipped halfway in chocolate. In addition to being delicious, they’re also packed with fiber and have zero grams of trans fat.
7. Arctic Zero
Arctic Zero stands apart from the vegan frozen dessert crowd because its frozen desserts are made from faba beans (aka fava beans) instead of nuts. The beans are packed with nutrients and make a great option for people who want to go vegan and avoid nuts. (Two of the flavors—chocolate peanut butter and pistachio—do contain nuts.) Choose from ten tempting flavors, including Cookie Shake, Cake Batter, and Strawberry Shortcake. These delicious desserts are also low in calories—most of the varieties have just 160 calories in an entire pint.
Move over guac and avocado toast, it's avocado ice cream's time to shine! Cado makes its frozen desserts out of avocados, which makes it rich, smooth and creamy. Choose from ten tasty flavors—the company says the Deep Dark Chocolate is the dairy-free category's best-selling flavor, but Java Chip, Vanilla Bean, and Chocolate Peanut Butter are also popular picks. The brand also recently introduced two varieties of ice cream sandwiches, Double Chocolate and Mint Chip.
The folks at NadaMoo have been making coconut-milk ice cream for nearly 20 years, and they seem to have it down to a science. This is some of the creamiest dairy-free ice cream you will find, and it's lower in fat and calories than many typical ice cream products. Their permanent roster includes classic flavors like Organic Chocolate and Cookies & Creme, but they also frequently add limited-time flavors, like Pumpkin Pie, to the mix. It’s a little pricey, but we think it’s an indulgence worth splurging on.
4. Wicked Kitchen
Wicked Kitchen has only been around for six years but has made a big splash in a short time. They have dozens of animal-free food products ranging from mac & cheese to frozen pizzas available in major stores like Kroger and Sprouts, so be sure to keep an eye out for them if you haven’t tried them yet. Their ice cream is some of the tastiest ice cream (plant-based or not) we’ve tried—and while it’s terrific right out of the carton, it also makes for great milkshakes. They have pints in five flavors—we think the Birthday Cake is a must-try—and several types of frozen novelties.
Breyers is among the most recognizable names in the freezer section—and while it may not have the of flavors as some of the other brands, the quality of their ice cream delivers a rich and creamy flavor that puts it near the top of the pack. It's also a very affordable option, which is great for budget-seekers. They stick with just three classic flavors, all made from oat milk. The vanilla is great as a base for milkshakes (made with your choice of dairy-free milk) or sundaes.
2. So Delicious
So Delicious stands out for its broad assortment of vegan-friendly options— there’s something for everyone among the products in its frozen dessert lineup. They have cartons of ice cream made from cashew milk, oat milk, coconut milk, and more in flavors like peanut butter brownie, bananas foster and s’mores. Plus, there are novelties like dessert bars, ice cream sandwiches, and whipped toppings. All of them live up to the brand name—they truly are so delicious. Looking to broaden your vegan options? The brand also has an assortment of beverages, creamers and yogurts.
1. Ben & Jerry's
Our top pick may not come as much of a surprise. Ben & Jerry’s is a brand that embodies the spirit of trailblazers and trendsetters—and always delivers on taste, texture and flavor. Founded by a pair of self-proclaimed hippies who opened their first ice cream shop in Vermont in the 1970s, the company prides itself on its dedication to social causes, earth-friendly practices and quality ingredients.
After fans started an online petition requesting the brand offer non-dairy options, Ben & Jerry’s added four non-dairy varieties made from almond milk in 2016, and have been expanding their non-dairy and vegan offerings ever since. Vegans can enjoy versions of the brand’s most popular flavors, like Cherry Garcia and Phish Food, made with vegan-friendly ingredients. The company recently began switching the non-dairy formulation from almond and sunflower bases to an oat base, which makes for an even creamier—and dreamier—taste.
Keep an eye out for their newest addition to the non-dairy lineup, Strawberry Cheezecake, which is just making its way to store shelves now.