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There are many plant-based ice creams on the market today, a handful of which are better than others. Some are unpleasantly icy and thin, while others lack any real flavor. The process of making non-dairy ice cream takes a lot of trial and error (and fine-tuning) to replicate the rich creaminess of traditional ice cream without the milk or cream. Not everyone can pull it off, but the items on this list can.
Our number one pick goes to Ben & Jerry’s “Milk” and Cookies Non-Dairy Ice Cream made from sunflower seed butter for a creamy dessert. Chocolate lovers will enjoy the avocado-based Cado Deep Dark Chocolate pint.
Have a bowl and spoon at the ready for the best non-dairy ice creams.
Best Overall: Ben & Jerry’s "Milk" and Cookies Non-Dairy
It’s probably not a huge shock to see Ben & Jerry’s at the top of any "best ice cream" list, and the frozen dessert kings nailed it again with this version of "Milk" & Cookies. While most non-dairy ice creams utilize coconut or almond as a base, the vanilla-flavored “milk” in this ice cream is actually made from sunflower butter. It also features chocolate chip cookies, chocolate sandwich cookies, and chocolate cookie swirls.
Ben & Jerry’s offers two other sunflower butter-based flavors—Crème Brûlée Cookie and Mint Chocolate Cookie. Also, there are 12 almond milk flavors, including P.B. & Cookies and the millennial-inspired Netflix & Chilll’d, boasting peanut butter, sweet and salty pretzel swirls, and fudge brownies.
Base Ingredient: Sunflower butter | Certifications: Certified Vegan, DE Kosher Certified
Best Vanilla: OATLY! Vanilla
Almond milk used to be the plant-based milk alternative of choice, but oat milk seems to be pushing almond milk aside, and Oatly is one of the leaders in that charge. Once exclusively a producer of the non-dairy beverage, Oatly has moved into the frozen dessert space. Made of simple ingredients, like oat milk, coconut oil, sugar, and vanilla beans, OAT-LY! Vanilla is rich, creamy, and decadent—everything you could want in ice cream. This vegan-certified confection is also soy, gluten-, egg-, and peanut-free.
Base Ingredients: Oat milk | Certifications: Certified Gluten Free, Certified Vegan, Certified Kosher D
Best Chocolate: Cado Avocado Frozen Dessert
Cado ice cream stands out from the bunch because its main ingredient is avocado, not plant-based milk. This chocolate dessert starts with a mixture of organic avocado puree and avocado oil that's sweetened and flavored to perfection with organic cane sugar and organic cocoa powder. The result is a deep chocolate flavor with no hint of avocado whatsoever.
Base Ingredient: Avocado puree | Certifications: Non GMO Project Verified, Certified Organic by Oregon Tilth
Best Decadent: Häagen-Dazs Non-Dairy Chocolate Salted Fudge Truffle Frozen Dessert
Chocolate and vanilla are ice cream flavor staples, but if you're in search of something deliciously indulgent, Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Salted Fudge Truffle always does the trick. Instead of almond, coconut, or oat, it uses Belgian chocolate as its core ingredient and mixes in swirls of salted fudge and chunks of fudge truffle. The result is a rich and creamy plant-based ice cream that truly lives up to its traditional standard. This product is egg-, gluten-, and peanut-free, although it does contain soy.
While Haagen-Dazs doesn’t have as many dairy-free options as others on this list, other flavors include Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge and Coconut Caramel—all of which are just as satisfying.
Base Ingredient: Sunflower oil | Certifications: Certified Vegan, Certified Gluten Free, OU-Dairy Kosher Certified
Best Organic: NadaMoo! Organic Chocolate
For many, NadaMoo! is not only the best vegan ice cream; it's also the best ice cream in general. Every spoonful is so rich and creamy that you wouldn’t even know it’s made with coconut milk instead of dairy-based cream. Furthermore, it’s not only organic, but it’s also certified gluten-free, Fair Trade, and vegan.
While they aren't fully organic like the chocolate flavor, NadaMoo! has several other vegan flavor options, like Rockiest Road and Banana Caramel Crunch. Both are made with a base of organic coconut milk and organic agave syrup but have other ingredients, like rice flour and vanilla extract, that are non-organic.
Base Ingredients: Coconut milk | Certifications: USDA Organic, Non GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, Fair Trade Certified, AVA Vegan Certified
Best Flavored: So Delicious Oatmilk Oatmeal Cookie Dairy Free
If you’re looking for something a little outside the box, So Delicious Oatmilk Oatmeal Cookie tastes like heaven and an oatmeal cookie swirled into one package. Like Oatly, So Delicious uses an oat milk base to create certified-vegan ice cream with hints of sweet brown sugar and cinnamon that, yes, tastes as scrumptious as it sounds.
The entire So Delicious line is dairy-free. If you’re not a huge fan of oatmeal, you can choose from over two dozen vegan frozen dessert options, like a pint of Bananas Foster (made with cashew milk), almond milk vanilla sandwiches, and coconut milk mint fudge swirl bars.
Base Ingredient: Oat milk | Certifications: Certified Vegan, Non GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten Free, Kosher Parve Certified
Best Ice Cream Bars: Cosmic Bliss Organic Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert Bars, Salted Caramel in Chocolate
Coconut Bliss focuses solely on dairy-free frozen desserts, and the Sea Salt Caramel Swirl Bars are wonderful. Using mostly organic ingredients, Coconut Bliss combines coconut milk-based caramel ice cream with a hint of sea salt and dips it into organic, Fair-Trade dark chocolate to give it a crisp, melt-it-in-your-mouth coating that’s truly divine.
Base Ingredient: Coconut milk | Certifications: USDA Certified Organic, Certified Vegan, OK Kosher Certified
Best Ice Cream Sandwich: Coolhaus Dairy-Free Cookie Dough Lyfe Sammie
Do you remember chasing down the neighborhood ice cream truck to nail down a Chipwich on a hot summer day? While nothing can replace those happy memories, the Coolhaus Dairy-Free Cookie Dough Lyfe Sammie can certainly take them up a notch. These dairy-free ice cream sandwiches combine cookie dough batter, cookie dough pieces, and chocolate flake frozen dessert between two chewy chocolate chip cookies.
Not only is this ice cream sandwich dairy-free, but it’s also made with non-GMO yellow peas, organic brown rice, organic cocoa butter, and organic cane sugar. It does contain tree nuts and coconut and is made in a facility that processes milk, soy, wheat, nuts, and peanuts.
Base Ingredients: Yellow peas, brown rice, cocoa butter
Best Strawberry: Van Leeuwen Vegan Strawberry
Strawberry ice cream is tangy, refreshing, and summery. It’s part of the beloved Neapolitan trio and is popular in its own right, too. Van Leeuwen crafts a delicious vegan strawberry ice cream using ripe berries from Oregon, oat milk, coconut cream, cane sugar, and a few other ingredients. The result is a creamy and bright treat.
Van Leeuwen has a wide range of vegan ice cream flavors to try. Popular pints include pumpkin cinnamon roll, mint chip, peanut butter brownie honeycomb, rocky road, churros and fudge, Sicilian pistachio, and salted caramel.
Base Ingredient: Oat milk | Certifications: Non GMO Project Verified, Certified Vegan
"As someone who used to eat plenty of dairy ice cream, you would never know this was vegan. It's so creamy. Throw it on a sugar cone and live your best life." — Taylor Rock, Editor
Best Variety Pack: Jeni's Dairy Free Collection
Why try just one flavor when you can get six? Jeni’s offers a tasty Dairy Free Collection that has something for everyone. The featured flavors include Texas sheet cake, banana cream pudding, caramel pecan sticky buns, lemon bar, dark chocolate truffle, and cold brew with coconut cream. Each type is made with a coconut cream base for a smooth texture. Jeni’s also has a dairy-free sangria-style rosé sorbet with notes of pear, strawberry, and watermelon if you want something tart and refreshing.
According to the company, the desserts are vegan, non-GMO, and several are also gluten free. It’s a great dessert collection for people who have dietary restrictions but also want to satisfy their sweet tooth—just ask our staff writer. Jeni's sent a sample of the entire collection, and it was quickly devoured.
Base Ingredient: Coconut cream
“Each flavor of this dairy-free collection is awesome, but Lemon Bar was definitely my favorite. It’s crazy how much it tastes exactly like its namesake. The lemon curd ribbons were wonderfully tart, and the little shortbread bites were a nice surprise.” – Allison Wignall, Staff Writer
What to Look for in Dairy-Free Ice Cream
If you don't like the way ice cream tastes, there's no enjoyment in it. Ice cream is an indulgence, and you want that creamy, sweet flavor that reminds you of your childhood days. Whether it's a craving for chocolate, swirls of caramel, or chunks of fruit or brownies, your preference is the key to choosing and selecting the ice cream that fits your taste.
Dairy-free ice creams are made with different base ingredients. Check out the labels, as some use oat milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, sunflower butter, and even avocado puree and oil. Watch for certifications such as vegan, gluten-free, egg-free, peanut-free, and usage of soy or wheat, among others. Taste comes into play too. If you like the flavor of coconut, for example, you might prefer this ingredient base over another one.
When you dip a spoon into ice cream, you expect a thick, pillowy type texture, not one that is thin, icy, and crunchy to the ear. Ice cream should be smooth and creamy with that ultimate mouthfeel we've all come to expect when eating this delicious treat.
What does dairy-free mean?
Dairy-free products are free of anything that is dairy, including milk products or milk ingredients. They also do not contain whey, casein, or lactose.
How long does dairy-free ice cream last once it has been opened?
If the carton has been opened and stored properly in the freezer, some manufacturers recommend eating the ice cream within seven to 10 days. Read the labels for instructions on storage, and also check for an expiration date when purchasing.
Is all dairy-free ice cream vegan?
Not all of them are. Check the label, and if it contains eggs, it is not vegan.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Lindsay Boyers is a certified holistic nutritionist with extensive nutrition knowledge and food and beverage testing experience. She’s developed over 1,000 original recipes and is constantly on a mission to find the healthiest, best-tasting options and ingredients across all food and drink categories.
Allison Wignall, who updated this article, is a writer who focuses on food and travel. She firmly believes that ice cream is a year-round treat, and she will absolutely get milkshakes or ice cream cones in sub-zero winter weather. Her work has been featured in publications, such as Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and Southern Living.