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I wasn’t always lactose intolerant. Like many people, I once enjoyed cheese plates, cheesecake, milkshakes, and most importantly — ice cream. Ice cream cakes. Hot fudge sundaes. Milkshakes. Gelato!?!? Sigh. As I’ve gotten older, my digestive system seems to have maxed out its dairy limit, and I’m no longer able to enjoy the cheesy, melty, creamy foods I once loved so much.
Thankfully, a new generation of ice cream makers are perfecting their non-dairy selections. I’ve been whining and moaning about non-dairy options at grocery stores for years because a lot of mainstay brands miss the mark. Texture is the biggest issue. Without fat from milk, it’s hard to infuse that same creamy goodness into milk-free ice cream.
Flavor-wise, big brands also load their offerings with tons of sugar, trying to make up for the aforementioned weird texture. Sure, you’ll stop clutching your knotty stomach all the way to the bathroom, but you’ll still end up with a sugar overload headache afterward. Plus, most grocery store frozen desert aisles only offer a handful of non-dairy flavors compared to their real deal counterparts.
If you’re sick of missing out on ice cream because of your dietary restrictions, today’s your lucky day. I reviewed six non-dairy ice creams to see how they stack up to a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. To fairly compare the ice creams, I chose chocolate-forward flavors, but also listed additional noteworthy flavors that each brand has to offer. Grab a spoon, let’s dig in!
NadaMoo! knows exactly what it's doing. I tasted both the Organic Chocolate and The Rockiest Road (for research, wink wink) and both flavors filled my chocolate cravings for the week. The texture is the closest to real ice cream, plus the other flavors in the brand’s line are outrageously good.
Other noteworthy flavors: NadaMoo! has an impressive range of 20 flavors, including my personal favorite, The Rockiest Road. Give the Peach Cobbler and the S’mores a try, too. (I’m drooling, y’all, so good.)
Overall rating: 5/5 stars
Brave Robot harnesses the power of non-dairy whey, which has a similar molecular structure as cow’s milk. All that science aside, the brand’s ice cream is insanely delicious. Like, mind blowing. A Lot of Chocolate is just that: fudgy swirls and dark chocolate chips in a silky ice cream base. A chocolate-lover’s dream, this is the perfect scoop of ice cream after a spicy meal.
Other noteworthy flavors: Brave Robot offers 8 flavors, including a mind-blowingly delicious Hazelnut Chocolate Chunk — hands down, still one of my favorite flavors ever.
Overall rating: 4.5/5 stars
You’ll find Ben and Jerry’s in almost every grocery store, convenience store or bodega, but the brand’s vegan offerings don’t always hit the spot. The Vegan Chocolate Fudge Brownie is decent, but has a weird sour aftertaste and artificial mouthfeel. Sure, it’ll do just fine if you’ve got the midnight munchies, but it really does taste like fake ice cream.
Where to get it: Your local grocery store.
Overall rating: ⅗ stars
Eponymous ice cream salon Van Leeuwen’s started in Brooklyn in 2008 and has recently expanded to offer its innovative flavor range online and in select grocery stores. At first bite, the texture is incredibly smooth and creamy, but left a weird fatty texture in my mouth. I also found it weird that the ice cream melted into a soft butter instead of a liquid after sitting in the bowl for a while. The flavor was reeeeeally well-balanced and satisfying, though.
Overall rating: ⅘ stars (bonus points for the range of flavors and easy access)
Healthy fats from avocados are the star ingredient of Cado’s Deep Dark Chocolate ice cream. The texture is sooooo decadent, without that fatty aftertaste I was getting with Van Leeuwen’s ice cream. The earthy taste caught me off-guard at first, but it grew on me. This ice cream almost had a coffee undertone. I’m here for it, but it doesn’t quite hit the spot if you’ve got a hankering for chocolate.
Other noteworthy flavors: Cado offers 8 flavors, including an earthy Cherry Amaretto with dark chocolate flakes.
Overall rating: 3.5/5 stars
If you already buy vegan yogurts and sour cream, The Forager Project is probably a familiar brand. Using the mighty power of cashews, The Forager Project created a small line of ice creams that are honestly so f*cking delicious, I had to FaceTime my mom and tell her about it. The flavor is incredibly balanced — not too sweet, yet luscious and chocolatey. Definitely going to be stocking up a few pints for the summer.
Overall rating: 4.5/5 stars (docking half a point for lack of flavor variety)
I wanted to love Arctic Zero’s low-calorie ice creams soooo badly, but I just didn’t. I tried the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor and was surprised to find that it had more of a sorbet texture than it did a creamy one. It even melted like a sorbet would, which was kind of off-putting. The flavor was decent, a rich peanut buttery flavor that still gave me my chocolate fix.
Where to get it: Order on Amazon Fresh or use this Store Locator to find it near you.
Overall rating: ⅖ stars