The Best Dairy Free Ice Creams

Many of my favorite summer memories from childhood involve ice cream cones ending in sticky fingers and a full belly. In my 30s, I love ice cream as much as any little kid on summer vacation and eating an ice cream cone on a hot day with my daughter makes us both grin from ear to ear.

But 10 years ago I had to give up dairy completely, and my ice cream dreams were shattered. It was the first time I had sinus polyps and my stomach was constantly giving me issues. Dropping dairy from my diet changed my life. I felt healthy, less fatigued, and my stomach wasn’t bloated and in pain for the first time in my entire life. But back then, there weren’t a lot of dairy-free options so it was kind of a challenge.

A few years later I added sheep and goat dairy back into my life and had no problems with it. But cow dairy still made me ill both in my sinuses and stomach. When I got pregnant with Amalia, I was magically able to eat dairy without a problem and it was one of the few physically positive things about my tough pregnancy. Giving it up again after she was born was brutal, so I let myself eat cow dairy once in a while. I always feel sick and regret it so I really try to avoid it as much as possible.

It’s not that hard because I’m used to it and because there are so many great dairy-free options from yogurt to ice cream to coffee creamers. The amount of dairy-free ice cream brands has grown exponentially in 10 years and I don’t even really miss regular ice cream that much (except for soft serve) because there are so many great options.

The other cool thing I’m seeing is ice cream shops offering vegan options. In Nantucket last week, the famous Juice Bar ice cream shop had three vegan flavors including pistachio which is pictured in these photos. In Newport, we always go to Ben & Jerry’s for our after-dinner ‘cream fix because they have a bunch of their dairy-free flavors too. It makes me very very happy.

Today I’m ranking all of my favorite brands and flavors after years of very tough work testing the market. I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur in this department and I take my ice cream ratings quite seriously!

I should preface this list by telling you a very odd fact about me: I don’t like chocolate ice cream. I know, I’m a total weirdo, but I just don’t! So you’ll notice that all of my picks have a non-chocolate base. If you’re a chocolate ice cream kind of person, walk away now. Or don’t, because I promise these flavors are even better.

J.Crew Ice Cream Shirt / Old Zara Skirt (similar) / Native Shoes / Weldon Bag (gifted & on sale)

The Best Dairy-Free Ice Creams

Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia

Base: Almond
Rating: A
Notes: As a kid, I grew up going to Ben & Jerry’s regularly because it was the only ice cream shop in town. I will forever feel nostalgia towards the brand. Cherry Garcia was always a favorite of mine and when they came out with it in the dairy-free formula I literally screamed at the grocery store. Out of all the ice cream brands making dairy-free options, Ben & Jerry’s gets the texture and flavor the best, in my opinion. The Cherry Garcia is creamy and cherry-ish and delicious with big chunks of dark chocolate mixed in. Ok, my mouth is watering now. How am I supposed to finish this post?

Ben & Jerry’s Caramel Almond Brittle

Base: Almond
Rating: A-
Notes: For some reason, I have a hard time finding this flavor in stores, but whenever I do I stock up because it’s full of crunchy caramel almond brittle and really satisfies a sweet tooth. I don’t usually like things that are too sweet but this is an exception.

Nada Moo! That Snickerdoodle Dough

Base: Coconut
Rating: A-
Notes: People always recommend Nada Moo! to me, but this is the only flavor that I really love out of the ones I’ve tried. It’s cinnamon-y and has a good amount of cookie dough chunks. So Delicious makes an ok Snickerdoodle too but this one is better!

Steve’s Burnt Sugar Vanilla

Base: Coconut
Rating: A-
Notes: I’m not much of a plain old vanilla ice cream kind of gal but Steve’s Burnt Sugar Vanilla is the exception. It’s rich, perfectly sweet, and has the exact right amount of vanilla flavor. This is one of those pints that I could polish off in one sitting, no problem.

Ben & Jerry’s PB & Cookies

Base: Almond
Rating: B+
Notes: The only reason my rating for this isn’t an A or A- is because I OD’ed on it last summer. I love the big chunks of cookie and I’m a peanut butter girl through and through. But I definitely got sick of it. Ask me again after a little break and it will probably move back to the top of my list.

Van Leeuwen Sicilian Pistachio

Base: Cashew
Rating: B+
Notes: The Vean Leeuwen DF ice creams are beautifully packaged but most of them don’t do it for me texture-wise (unless I get them scooped from the shop in the city). Pistachio is one of my all-time favorite ice cream flavors and out of the few dairy-free versions I’ve tried, this is definitely the best one.

CoconutBliss Ginger Cookie & Caramel

Base: Coconut
Rating: B+
Notes: This is more of a wintertime ice cream because of the ginger cookie but I love it year-round.  It has been one of my go-to flavors for years and it really never gets old. The cookie dough chunks are soft and super ginger-y and the caramel swirls aren’t too heavy. It is also the softest and most ice-cream like of all the CoconutBliss flavors I’ve tried. And for anyone who avoids gluten, the ginger cookies are gluten-free which is a nice added bonus.

So Delicious Cashewmilk Salted Caramel Cluster

Base: Cashew
Rating: B
Notes: So Delicious was the first brand of dairy-free ice cream that I ever tried. They used to only have a few flavors but they’ve really expanded their product line in the last few years. They have cashew, coconut, almond, soy, and oat-based ice creams. I’m here to tell you that the only ones worth your while are the cashew and coconut. And the best of the bunch is Salted Caramel Cluster. It’s super caramel-y and rich. Very creamy and yummy!

Another random note about So Delicious is that they make the most insane “whipped cream” that they call Coco Whip, made with a coconut milk base. My friend brought a tub of it over for a BBQ last week with some berries and it was a perfect summer night dessert.

Nada Moo! Lotta Mint Chip

Base: Coconut
Rating: B
Notes: Mint chip was always my favorite ice cream flavor growing up. And I’ve searched far and wide for a good dairy-free alternative. They are few and far between, let me tell you. A bunch of you guys recommended the Nada Moo! Lotta Mint Chip to me so I tried it and while I definitely liked it, it doesn’t get as good of a rating as some of the others because there were too many chocolate chips and they were too dark and bitter for my taste. The minty base was great though! If they can perfect the chips, I’ll be sold. PS, Ben & Jerry’s if you make a dairy-free mint chip I will love you forever!

So Delicious Cashewmilk Cookies & Cream

Base: Cashew
Rating: B
Notes: I love me some cookies and cream.  There is something lacking in the flavor here, so to make this ice cream perfect, I always add in a swirl of peanut butter. That really hits the spot!

And on a total sidebar for you, Anel asked me to note his favorite regular ice cream flavors! They are, in this order:

Hagaan Daaz Caramel Cone
Talenti Sea Salt Caramel
Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked
Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake

What are your favorite dairy-free ice creams? What should I try next?

Photos by Julia Dags.

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  1. Laura said:

    I’m surprised Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t make a dairy free mint chip yet. Does Amalia also eat vegan ice cream or does she do ok with dairy ice cream?

    on an unrelated note, i saw on your stories the other day that you guys went for a family bike ride, which is such a fun summer activity, but none of you were wearing helmets. my sister ended up in the icu for riding without a helmet (fortunately she is fine) and two weeks ago, one of my best friends and her daughter fell over with the same bike contraption you were using with Amalia and the doctor said that thank goodness they were wearing helmets and fortunately just walked away with some scrapes and bruises. She was only a block from her house, going slowly, had done that ride a million times, but her shoe got caught in the pedal. i know that you use a carseat with Amalia and wear seat belts in the car, and i would encourage you to apply the same safety approach to bike riding. parents and children should really wear helmets. this is not meant to be judgmental, but you seem like a nice person and a wonderful mother and i would hate for something to happen to any of you that could have easily been avoided!

    6.10.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I know right? I need to start a campaign to get them to start. Amalia eats regular ice cream but sometimes she likes my DF ice cream better 🙂

      Thank you for your feedback on the bike ride. We always make her wear a helmet, but didn’t think to for that little seat. I definitely will going forward after hearing that story!!

      6.16.19 · Reply
  2. Libby said:

    My favorite ice cream shop in MN called Izzy’s Ice Cream has a non-dairy chocolate peanut butter that is soooo freaking good! Like I am home right now for a couple weeks, and have been stocking their flavor page until they have it out for a day. I have found this at some whole foods not just in MN, so maybe be on the look out! They also have a non-dairy blueberry that is amazing!

    xx Libby
    https://premedwearspearls.blogspot.com

    6.10.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Hahah you sound like a true fan! Blueberry sounds amazing.

      6.10.19 · Reply
  3. Jules said:

    I don’t care for chocolate ice creams ice either, I don’t feel like they’re chocolatey enough and it it’s just kind of a weird background flavor that takes away from the richness of the ice cream instead of adding to it. I could pass up any pastry any day of the week, but love ice cream. Even though I’m not dairy free I’m curious to try the Ben and Jerry’s dairy free flavors because I heard they are really good, and in some people’s opinion better than their dairy counterparts.

    6.10.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Yes! I feel the exact same way about chocolate ice cream and about pastries. You should do a Cherry Garcia taste test with the regular one and DF and report back for us. I’m curious to hear the difference.

      6.10.19 · Reply
  4. Kayla said:

    omg this blog post is EVERYTHING for this lactose intolerant, ice cream lovin’, gal. I’m super partial to Van Leeuwen but have only every had it at the shops in NYC/LA. Their cookie dough is my favorite

    6.10.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Yay I’m so happy it’s helpful! I need to try the Van Leeuwen cookie dough next.

      6.10.19 · Reply
  5. Jeni’s roasted pb & strawberry jam (and their texas sheet cake for chocolate lovers). Fronen’s strawberry is great, too!

    6.10.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      What? That sounds so good. I haven’t found the Jeni’s DF in Connecticut yet but I’ll keep an eye out.

      6.16.19 · Reply
  6. Anne said:

    SoDelicious Cold Brew is AMAZING for folks who like coffee ice cream. I’m lactose intolerant and allergic to tree nuts (somehow coconut isn’t a tree nut?) and SoDelicious coconut varieties have literally made me happier. 🙂 Their ice cream sandwich bars are also awesome.

    6.10.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Oh my gosh yes that bars! Love those too. I don’t drink coffee but I need to try the cold brew ice cream that sounds so refereshing.

      6.11.19 · Reply
  7. Emily said:

    I was very intrigued when Ben and Jerry’s came out with dairy free ice cream, but for me personally, I hate it! The almond milk base is the worst in my opinion—the texture is dry, not creamy, like eating dry ice lol. I wish they had made a coconut milk base. Just goes to show everyone has diff tastes.

    6.11.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Woah, interesting! Have you tried the Cherry Garcia though? And have you tried it recently?

      6.11.19 · Reply
  8. Rachel said:

    Just bought the mint chip from Coolhaus. I normally eat their dairy ice cream sandwiches but was looking for non dairy to try. I like it! They use real mint but it tastes great! I think they have dairy free ice cream sandwiches too. Got it at Fairway

    6.11.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Never seen it but I’ll look next time I go to Fairway!

      6.16.19 · Reply
  9. hatton said:

    My daughter (4) loves the chocolate Ben & Jerry’s and we have to keep the So Delicious Fudge Bars in the fridge!! THANK YOU for doing this post so we can try others. She is a diehard chocolate lover and going dairy-free thankfully has not been as challenging as I feared because there are so many fantastic dairy-free options!

    6.12.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I’m telling you in this day and age it’s not hard at all! So many good options for milks, ice creams, yogurts, and even cheeses.

      6.16.19 · Reply
  10. Mila said:

    Morgenstern’s (in ny) vegan dark chocolate – it is SO good. Made with coconut milk, so super super creamy and yummy 🙂

    6.14.19 · Reply
  11. Amanda said:

    Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Chip is HEAVENLY! I’ve heard rumors that it may be discontinued so stock up!

    6.16.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      She immediately runs straight to Trader Joe’s…

      6.16.19 · Reply
  12. Jen Nordine said:

    Craig’s Vegan is amazing based in LA, but they ship! Big fan of the Killa Vanilla to make chocolate shakes 🙂

    6.16.19 · Reply
  13. I’m wondering if these would be good for my hubby. He had to drink coconut milk (I think) growing up because cow dairy messed him up. But now he’s like whole cow milk for everything. And his stomach is constantly torn up.

    6.21.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Definitely. Have him try them and see if it makes a difference.

      6.23.19 · Reply
  14. brittany french said:

    YUM! I have an autoimmune disease and a cow dairy intolerance (but not goat and sheep) so its always great to see dairy free options! I had no idea those Ben & Jerry’s flavors were dairy free, so I will def be grabbing some for a treat. I love how this post is kinda random, so thanks for sharing 🙂

    6.24.19 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      You have to try them. They’re the best!

      6.24.19 · Reply