As part of my journey to eat better, I decided to remove dairy almost completely out of my diet. This was a personal choice based on what I think is best for my body and it has made a huge difference in how I feel every day. Occasionally I will have some butter or hard cheese. Unfortunately, since removing dairy, I now suffer some negative symptoms if I indulge in dairy products such as heavy cream, milk, cream cheese, and ice cream. My symptoms usually include a stomachache and acne breakout. This is a very common reaction for many who give up dairy products. Some may read this and think, maybe I shouldn’t have given up the dairy since I seemingly tolerated it well before. However, my interpretation is much different. I think, wow, my body really didn’t like all that dairy I was eating for so long.
A secondary goal I made for my family after I gave up dairy was to drastically reduce dairy in my kid’s diets as well. They eat butter, some cheese (mostly via pizza) and yogurt in their smoothies. However, they don’t drink cow’s milk (we opt for almond milk instead) and they eat coconut milk ice cream at home.
Coconut milk ice cream is becoming very popular and you can find it in most grocery stores next to the other traditional ice cream. It has a very creamy smooth texture and you can find it in a variety of flavors. It has a subtle coconutty taste, but it is very light and usually unnoticeable. My kids don’t even flinch when they eat a bowl of coconut milk ice cream or popsicle. Whether you eat dairy or not, it is a great frozen treat and, many consider, a healthier alternative.
Coconut milk ice cream found at the supermarket is great, but it is usually full of additives. Also, flavor options are more limited versus traditional cows milk ice cream. However, it is really easy to make at home using a regular ice cream maker. Unfortunately, you will need an ice cream maker to create the smooth consistency of ice cream, by forming small ice crystals rotating against an ice-cold surface. I have the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid® mixer, which works great and you don’t need a separate unit to store.
I use canned coconut milk because it is usually free of additives, except for guar gum. I prefer the brand Native Forest because it is organic, non-GMO, and the cans are BPA-free. The trick with coconut milk is avoiding separation while keeping it cool. Even at room temperature, full fat coconut milk will form a thick layer of fat on top. Although heating the coconut milk will make an even solution, it will eventually have to be cooled to freeze in the ice cream maker. My trick is to utilize a blender to prepare the coconut milk solution for the ice cream maker quickly. Also, instead of using granulated sugar, I prefer honey (not raw, minimally processed, but liquid) or maple syrup. These sweeteners are already liquid, so they don’t need heat to be incorporated into the coconut milk mixture. All you need to do is combine the coconut milk, honey/maple syrup, vanilla extract and a few ice cubes and blend until smooth. The blender will take care of any separation of the coconut milk and incorporate the sweetener. The final solution is cool and ready to go directly into the ice cream maker.
Once the coconut milk ice cream starts to solidify and is soft in the ice cream maker (about 10 minutes for the model I use), add whatever flavors you want (nuts, fruit, chocolate, nut butters, etc.). For this recipe I like salted cashews and chocolate chips. Vegan chocolate chips give a nice crunch similar to a dark chocolate and the cashews complement nicely with the vanilla/honey flavored coconut milk ice cream. However, feel free to add whatever you want.
One final trick I’ve used is storing homemade ice cream in metal loaf pans lined with wax paper. The loaf pans are the perfect size and the wax paper protects the ice cream from forming ice crystals.
Get creative and try coconut milk ice cream. It is so quick and easy to make at home and I promise you won’t miss the cow’s milk. Enjoy!
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk (I prefer Native Forest brand because the cans are BPA-free)
- ⅓ cup honey (liquefied, but minimally processed. I like Nature Nate’s brand)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 ice cubes
- ¼ cup vegan mini chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand which is dairy and soy-free)
- ½ cup chopped roasted salted cashews
- In a blender combine coconut milk, honey, vanilla extract, and ice cubes.
- Blend until smooth.
- Add mixture to pre-chilled ice cream maker and operate per product directions.
- When coconut milk ice cream is solidified but soft, add the chocolate chips and cashews.
- Allow mixing for 1 minute so chocolate chips and cashews are evenly incorporated.
- Scoop ice cream out of ice cream maker into storage container, such as a wax paper lined metal loaf pan.
- Freeze for at least 2 hours, so the ice cream is hardened.