A close friend of mine had just figured out that dairy was no longer her friend. Pregnant and desperate, she texted me “I need a dairy free vanilla ice cream recipe and I need it now!” I responded “I’ve got the greatest dairy free chocolate ice cream recipe for you. I’ll email it to you!” Apparently I had missed the word “vanilla” in there, as her response went something along the lines of “V-A-N-I-L-L-A!” Knowing not to mess with a pregnant woman’s cravings, I started scouring the internet for a decent dairy free vanilla ice cream recipe. I tried many, but you know what? They all used coconut milk and they all tasted like, well….coconut.
Coconut milk makes a great replacement for cream because it’s naturally rich in fat, just like milk fat. Unfortunately, it has a distinct flavor. You can make chocolate or pumpkin custard ice cream very nicely with it, but vanilla is pretty much a compromise.
I’d tried Almond Dream ice cream with high hopes, but that terrible stuff is still sitting in the freezer, waiting for some poor unsuspecting late night ice cream binger to run into it. No luck yet!
Finally a Dairy Free Alternative That Actually Doesn’t Impart a Particular Flavor!
My kids and I are among the growing ranks of people who don’t tolerate dairy well. So when my daughter and I were shopping at our local PCC natural foods market and saw a sample for a new dairy free creamer, we tripped over each other to try some. I had mine in coffee and my daughter tried it straight. We both loved it immediately and put a Nutpod directly in the cart.
We got to talking and I learned that Madeline had come up with Nutpods in her home kitchen when she got fed up with dairy free alternatives being full of sugar, carrageenan, and imparting a certain flavor on her beloved recipes.
A kindred spirit who understood the challenges of a dairy free life. Hallelujah! Two Nutpods converts were born!
Nutpods are a mixture of coconut and almond milk (although you can’t taste either flavor) and are GMO-free, Paleo and vegan. There are two flavors- original and vanilla (hazelnut is in the works!). Neither of which contain sweeteners of any kind, yet both impart a slightly sweet flavor just like half and half does.
Madeline mentioned that she had used Nutpods in a 1:1 ratio in any recipe that called for half and half. It was technically a creamer, and quite frankly, amazing in coffee and tea. However, she went on to explain, that it was great for white sauces, ice cream, and more. The ideas started percolating.
Not long after, I received a case of Nutpods and got to work experimenting. Yes, it worked perfectly in my bechamel sauce! I could finally have coffee that wasn’t studded with a coconut flavor. And rice pudding was a dream! But what about my pregnant friend, who had long ago had the baby, but still had no vanilla ice cream? Could I come up with a dairy free vanilla ice cream recipe that would fulfill her long awaited desires?
How My Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe Was Developed
I tried the standard 2 egg yolks per cup of milk, with sugar, and that was quite good. However, after only a day in the freezer it was slightly crystallized and not as scoopable as I’d hoped. Plus, it was a bit eggy.
Hoping to minimize the crystallization, I decided to increase the amount of fat in the recipe. I experimented with added fat in the form of ghee. That was a hit, but too much and it changed the flavor and left a coating on your mouth (I’ll be using it for butterscotch ice cream at some point though!). However, taste testers preferred the inclusion of the ghee when used in small quantities. Hence you’ll find it in the recipe.
For those of you who say “But ghee is dairy and this recipe says Dairy Free!” Yes, technically it is a form of dairy. Just like avocado oil contains NO avocado, ghee contains no casein or lactose (the proteins and sugar which are often problematic for people). It is simply butter oil. That being said, as I mention in the recipe notes, it can easily be omitted altogether and you’ll still have a fabulous tasting ice cream.
Gelatin was next on the list, with other ice cream recipes touting it’s benefits. At first I added too much and ended up with vanilla jello. It was good, but not ice cream! So I added Hydrolysate Gelatin, which does not gel and can be added directly to cold foods and it was a hit!
I read Ample Hills Creamery: Secrets and Stories From Brooklyns Favorite Ice Cream Shop, and learned that the big guys don’t add more fat, they add nonfat milk powder to absorb the extra moisture. So I tried my trusty coconut milk powder. Which did indeed remove the crystallization issue, but brought back the coconut flavor.
Many trials later, I think I’ve come up with the perfect combination of vanilla flavor, texture, and scoopability. Buy a couple of Nutpods (They’re not in many stores, but you’ll find them, here, on Amazon), and give it a try!
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Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe [dairy free!]
Finally, a dairy free vanilla ice cream that doesn't compromise taste or texture!
3 cups Nutpods (this is equal to 2 Nutpods), original or vanilla flavor
⅔ cup organic sugar*
3 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. ghee/clarified butter (optional**)
1 Tbsp. gelatin (I recommend Collagen Hydrolysate Gelatin as it does not gel or need to be heated)
1½ tsp. organic vanilla extract
Cook stirring often with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking and burning, until the mixture reaches 110 degrees F, 5 to 10 minutes. Keep the heat low, as alternative milks burn at a lower temperature.
While the milk is heating, in a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, adding a little bit of sugar at a time. Whisk vigorously with a balloon whisk until yolks thicken and turn lighter in color.
Temper the cream mixture into the eggs and sugar by gradually adding small amounts, until about a third of the cream mixture has been added. Pour in the remainder and return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over low heat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 165 degrees F.
Remove from heat and sprinkle in gelatin, stirring until it is dissolved.
Using an immersion blender, mix in the ghee/clarified butter, stevia and vanilla extract.***
Transfer the pan to an ice bath to let cool for 15-20 minutes.
Transfer the cooled ice cream base to an ice cream maker and churn it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Or, keep in the fridge for up to 3 days before churning.
After churning serve immediately, or freeze.
* If you'd like to make it Paleo feel free to substitute coconut sugar for cane sugar. It may alter the color and flavor a bit, but it will still taste great. ** Although ghee/clarified butter is technically a dairy product, rest assured that it contains NO casein or lactose. It is simply the oil of the butter. That being said, if you are sensitive to it, simply omit. ***The immersion blender allows the ghee to emulsify into the ice cream base.