Advice On: Dairy-Free Ice Cream Tips

in Substitutions
Published: July 24, 2014
Photo: Getty

Here are some great allergy-friendly and gluten-free tips to make your dairy-free ice cream sundae even more delicious. Try one of these fun ice cream recipes or pile on some allergy-safe toppings for an ice cream treat like no other.

Dairy-Free Ice Cream Recipes:
Allergy-Friendly Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream
Strawberry Ice Cream
Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
Dairy-Free Banana Split Shake

Very Vanilla

When using coconut milk, a little extra pure vanilla extract helps to tame the coconut flavor. Choose an alcohol-free variety, if available, or upgrade the recipe with real vanilla bean. Scrape the seeds from 1 inch of fresh vanilla bean to replace 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Hold the Coconut

If coconut isn’t an option for your allergen-free household, substitute a “safe” non-dairy milk alternative or vegan creamer. The resulting dessert will be closer to ice milk but still cool, lightly creamy and delicious. If soy is suitable, silken tofu offers a low-fat creamy base. Blend and use an equivalent amount in place of the coconut milk. This works particularly well in chocolate ice cream.

Chilling the Tools

The biggest mistake when using ice cream makers, especially the less expensive models, is not properly cooling your tools. The container in the ice cream maker should be frozen overnight at the least. I simply store it in the freezer, so it is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

It’s also best to freeze any other items that may come in contact with the ice cream for at least 1 hour. This includes the paddle attachment for your ice cream maker and the container in which you will ultimately freeze and store the ice cream. Finally, the ice cream mixture should be very cold before you churn it in the ice cream maker. Refrigerate it for at least 1-2 hours or even overnight.

Sans Ice Cream Maker

An ice cream maker does help to produce a creamier result, but it isn’t essential for enjoying this warm-weather treat. To make ice cream without an ice cream maker, pour the chilled mixture into a baking dish. Freeze for 45 minutes, remove from the freezer, and beat to break up any frozen sections. Return to the freezer.

Every 30 minutes, beat the mixture until smooth. Once the ice cream reaches a soft-serve consistency (this takes about 2-3 hours), serve or freeze until hard-packed.

Party Pleasing Creations

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Buck tradition and serve this quick cookie dough with or in chocolate ice cream.

  • In a mixing bowl, cream 1/3 cup (80 mL) firmly packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup (80 mL) sugar, 1/4 cup (60 mL) dairy-free non-hydrogenated margarine, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 1/2 tbsp plain non-dairy milk.
  • In a spice grinder, blend 1 cup (250 mL) + 2 tbsp gluten-free oats, 2 tbsp tapioca starch or cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp baking soda until the oats are powdered (about 1 minute).
  • Add the oat flour mix to the mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
  • Stir in 1/3 cup (80 mL) mini dairy-free chocolate chips. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Pinch off 1/2-inch balls or smaller. Cookie dough chunks can be crumbled on as a topping, or gently stir them into ice cream when done churning, but still soft.

Strawberry Float
This is a hit with big and little kids. Drop 2 scoops of the strawberry ice cream into a glass or cup. Fill with lemon-lime or vanilla crème soda and server with a long spoon.

Earthworm Sundaes
Scoop chocolate ice cream into cups and level out. Sprinkle crushed or ground gluten-free chocolate cookies. Top with gummy worms, or partially submerge worms in the ice cream “earth”.

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches
When the ice cream has had 1-2 hours to firm, but is still slightly soft (alternatively, let ice cream sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes), spread a think layer on one cookie (we like the Enjoy Life cookies for their soft and chewy texture) and top with a second cookie. Smooth sides and freeze ice cream sandwiches until firm.

Safe Topping Ideas:

  • Crushed allergy-friendly cookies (Dr. Lucy’s)
  • Allergy-friendly sprinkles (Let’s Do Organic)
  • Dairy-free chocolate chips (Enjoy Life Mini Chips)
  • Dairy-free chocolate syrup (Ah!Laska, Santa Cruz Organic, Hershey’s or homemade)
  • Fresh Berries
  • Pitted cherries
  • Marshmallows (AllerEnergy)
  • Sunflower seed butter (SunButter, melted and swirled in)
  • Fruit topping or syrup (store-bought or try melted jam or fruit butter)
  • Gluten-free graham crackers (Kinnikinnick)
  • Gummy bears (Surf Sweets)

Alisa Fleming is a contributing editor to Allergic Living magazine and the author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance and Casein Free Living, and founder of