Ever buy a carton of coconut milk ice cream, only to wonder whether the $5.99 purchase was worth it? Did you ask yourself – how hard could it be to make this at home?
I have. More than a few times.
While I have found cartons at a discount i.e. at Grocery Outlet, I still can’t help but question the sugar content. Is the 20g of sugar per 1/2 cup serving really necessary, even if it is agave nectar? Probably not. I never feel great afterward, if I indulge in more than a spoonful. Sugar doesn’t agree with me. My limit is probably 1 piece of fruit. After that it’s lightheadedness, difficulty concentrating, a headache, or all three.
Why vegan ice cream brands haven’t jumped on the stevia bandwagon is beyond me. It’s probably only a matter of days or weeks. Maybe it’s happened already. Surely marketing execs at Coconut Bliss and SO Delicious are frantically racing the clock to make sure their product debuts first. Maybe an unknown competitor will arrive out of nowhere and beat them to it. If only I had the resources to market my own version. Attn: ice cream brands, hire me! After throwing that out there, maybe I should patent this recipe.
Think what you want about stevia. It’s not 2005 anymore, back when its only available form was a powder made from the dried leaves. Now it comes in baking crystals – which are of course de-bittered and ready for use in recipes as a sugar substitute. *Tip: don’t mistake Stevia in the Raw (probably the most commercial variety, found at chain coffee shops alongside Sugar in the Raw (same brand), other sugar substitutes – the bad kind, i.e. Sweet N’ Low (aspartame) or Splenda (sucralose) for Truvia (another commercial stevia product that is 1 part stevia, 1 part sugar).
This recipe does contain sugar (from the dates). I tried to create a salted caramel recipe using stevia instead—but found that every attempt lacked the natural thickness created by the dates. I couldn’t get the stevia to thicken without adding a binding agent; I tried arrowroot, cornstarch, and every non-dairy milk under the sun (coconut, almond, soy, hemp) except for rice milk (has a watery consistency, would be counter-intuitive to use as a thickener). Then I thought – what would be the point of further reducing the calorie content? I didn’t intend for this No-Churn Salted Caramel Ice Cream to be one of those low-cal frozen desserts that you can eat in one sitting without guilt. This is a sort-of guilt free recipe, but it’s still ice cream. Non dairy and with far less sugar, but still. Indulge at your own risk, because it is that good. It’s hard not to eat a whole carton in one sitting.
Even though it’s coconut milk-based, this ice cream doesn’t taste like “coconut-flavor” ice cream. It will taste as much like coconut as store-bought coconut-based vegan ice cream varieties do. I’ve experienced this when creating coconut-milk based cheez and “cream” sauce/soup recipes also. It is definitely in my opinion the most versatile option for mimicking dairy products in vegan recipes.
It’s also the most versatile in terms of who can enjoy it…considering the fact that other dairy alternatives contain allergens (nut milks, soy), or aren’t paleo-friendly (rice milk, soy). Seeds – which are also both paleo-friendly and allergen free – work great for cheez, cream sauce, and soup recipes also…but coconut milk has a more dairy-like (creamier, smoother) texture.
Which, in conclusion, makes it perfect for ice cream.
- 2 x 15-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
- ½ cup stevia baking crystals
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- pinch of sea salt
- 10 pitted mejool* dates
- ½ cup water
- ¼ or ½ tsp sea salt
- Place a 4-cup container into the freezer, or multiple containers amounting to 6 cups i.e. 2 standard 16oz mason jars.
- Using a food processor or blender, process/blend dates with ½ cup water and ¼ tsp sea salt. Continue to process/blend until smooth. Add more water in 1 Tbsp increments if necessary, or for a thinner caramel. Taste-test and add an additional ¼ tsp salt if desired. Set aside.
- Add coconut milk, stevia, and vanilla extract to a large bowl. Use a hand mixer, or a manual whisk** using a very vigorous whipping motion, to whip the stevia crystals and vanilla extract into the coconut milk.
- Fold in salted caramel, then transfer ice cream to container that can hold at least 4 cups, or divide between containers.
- Freeze until firm (4-5 hours).
- Scoop. Serve. Enjoy.
**Using a hand mixer will result in an airier texture for the ice cream, whereas using the manual method tends to create a more gelato-like texture. I've tried both ways, with positive results each time.