Adventures in Vegan Ice Cream

There are many reasons why I love the summertime. While I won’t list them all out here, I will elaborate on my absolute favorite aspect of this time of year: Rules cease to exist! Well, I mean they kind of still exist. But not really. Let me explain.


With summer comes a sort of splendid anarchy – kids stay up past their bedtimes playing in the yard; adults flee the workday earlier thanks to lax summer hours. Generally you can get away with wearing no shoes many places. Eating three hot dogs per weekend is socially accepted, if not embraced. See? Rules as we know them don’t exist in the summertime.


So keeping in tradition, a rule I traditionally break in the summertime is that of “no ice cream.” Now, this crazy mandate isn’t a dieting dictate: Sadly, I’m lactose intolerant and I erupt into a diarrheic mess after hanging with Ben & Jerry. It’s not pretty, hence my “no ice cream” rule. But, come the 90-degree heat, my stomach woes seem insignificant and my old health rules fall away. The lure of the icy cold and creamy sweet goodness of She-Devil Ice Cream is too strong, and I succumb to her powers. I’m left writhing in pain, wishing I had just eaten another hot dog.


Because I hate stomachaches, I love weird assignments, and I know many of our readers opt for a dairy-free lifestyle, I recently decided to embark on a very tricky, potentially treacherous objective: Test out vegan ice creams for the S.W. Basics blog.


"I'll have the vegan." - New Yorker Cartoon By: Charles Barsotti

New Yorker Cartoon by Charles Barsotti via Conde Nast Collection

Gonna shoot straight here: I tried a bunch, many of which were kind of sad. This is because *good* ice cream relies on the buttery texture and deep, nuanced flavor that only cow milk can facilitate. The vegan versions just felt contrived at best (“Look, I’m trying to be ice cream but I’m not really ice cream!) and horrible, plastic-y lab experiments at worst. It’s not all gloom and doom though: I did encounter three really delicious vegan versions that are 100% worth trading up for. Here they are!


THIRD PLACE: Steve’s Cold-Brewed Cinnamon Coffee




ANALYSIS: Purely on taste, this ice cream rules: The coffee and cinnamon work really well together. (It’s basically like a consuming cup of stellar cold brew gloriously doused in cinnamon.) The texture, on the other hand, needs some work. It lacks that signature creaminess I crave in ice cream, feeling almost mealy at times. I still finished the entire pint, though.


SECOND PLACE: D.F. Mavens Mocha Almond Chip



ANALYSIS: After striking out with other vegan brands (who shall go unnamed) from our local supermarket, I didn’t think I’d be that into D.F. Mavens. I was. This ice cream succeeds at achieving the buttery texture most vegan ice creams fail at, plus the chunks of almonds are a nice touch to change up the consistency. The chocolate flavor is pretty tasty, too, although I occasionally got a weird aftertaste that I smothered with a bite of some other dessert. (I’m resourceful.)


FIRST PLACE ULTIMATE WINNER: Morgenstern’s Dark Chocolate



ANALYSIS: I quite literally could not believe how good this ice cream was. When I tasted it, I actually stopped in my tracks and said an expletive out loud, upsetting a nearby mom and her toddler. Whatever. This sh*t is amazing – it’s deeply flavorful, for one. I mean that it doesn’t taste like dairy but doesn’t taste like an impostor dairy either – it’s chocolate, kind of nutty, and just GOOD. More importantly, perhaps: I found no vegan ice cream that melted and behaved like real ice cream until this one. It has this amazing, lush texture. Cue: Pavlovian dog watery mouth just thinking about it.

Downside: It’s only available in New York. Upside: If you don’t live here, you won’t have to debate buying a $5+ cup of ice cream every single day. We all win!


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