This simple method will teach you how to make delicious vegan ice cream at home with a coconut milk base. Comments We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing. First off, I promise you there are no tricks to this ice cream. This isn’t “ice cream” in quotation marks. You’re not going to get your hopes up only to have them dashed with a bowl of icy, flavorless frozen dairy substitutes. This vegan ice cream is the real deal. Yes, it’s creamy. Yes, it tastes like a real dessert that you’d drizzle with caramel sauce and sprinkle with nuts. Yes, it’s dairy-free and vegan too (no eggs!). Here’s what you need to know. I have to give a massive shout-out to our recipe contributor Megan Gordon for putting this type of ice cream on my radar. A few months back, she shared her recipe for Vegan Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, and she followed it this summer with her Vegan Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream. I started wondering, Is there anything this vegan ice cream base can’t do? It’s high time we shared it with you.
What’s the Secret to Vegan Ice Cream?
The secret is nothing more than coconut milk. Full-fat, creamy coconut milk. Other vegan milk substitutes, like almond milk or soy milk, just don’t cut it when it comes to ice cream. You need the fattiness and unctuousness that can only be found in a can of coconut milk.
Making the Ice Cream Base
Along with the coconut milk, we add a little cornstarch. You can also use arrowroot starch, if you prefer. Either way, you combine the starch with the coconut milk and a sweetener, and then cook it on the stovetop until it becomes thick and almost pudding-like. My friend, there is your ice cream base!
Healthier Sweetener Options
Let’s back up to that sweetener for a second. I love this ice cream made with agave, especially since the syrupy nature of agave helps prevent ice crystals from forming, keeping the ice cream very smooth. If you’re ok with honey in your diet, you can also use that. Alternatively, you can use maple syrup or a granulated sugar like cane sugar or turbinado. Whatever sweetener works for you!
Does This Ice Cream Taste Like Coconut?
Yes, since this ice cream is almost entirely made of coconut milk, it definitely tastes like coconut. I love it plain, all on its own, but coconut is a great flavor base for just about anything, from the nuts and fruit swirls Megan added to mint or basil, dark chocolate, and tropical flavors. Use this recipe as a base and experiment with your own add-ins! If you’re not a fan of coconut flavor, take a look at Sara Kate’s recipe for 3-Ingredient Ice Cream. She uses a smaller proportion of coconut milk, along with a good amount of fruit juice, making more of a fruit-forward creamy sorbet. (Image credit: Emma Christensen) It is not stretching things too far to call this ice cream life-changing. Whether you’re a vegan or an omnivore, this ice cream is a delicious summertime treat that’s totally worth making.
More Vegan Ice Creams & Inspiration
This simple method will teach you how to make delicious vegan ice cream at home with a coconut milk base.
- 2 (13- to 15-ounce) cansfull-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cupsweetener, such as agave syrup, maple syrup, honey, turbinado sugar, or cane sugar
- 1/4 teaspoonsalt
- 2 tablespoonscornstarch, or 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
- 1 1/2 teaspoonsvanilla extract
- Optional mix-ins: nuts, chocolate (or carob) chips, fruit purée, cacao nibs, etc.
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 2-quart saucepan
- Wooden spatula
- Glass or plastic dish, for cooling the base
- Ice cream machine (at least 1 1/2 quart capacity)
- Plastic wrap
- Freezer container, such as a loaf pan or pint container
- Parchment or wax paper
- Make sure the ice cream machine bowl is frozen. At least 24 hours before you plan to churn the ice cream, put the ice cream machine’s bowl in the freezer to freeze. It should be frozen solid before using (you should hear no liquid sloshing inside when you shake it).
- Shake the coconut milk. Cans of coconut milk separate into a thick, creamy layer and a thin watery layer on the shelf. Before opening them, shake the cans of coconut milk thoroughly to incorporate the layers.
- Set aside 1/2 cup coconut milk. Open the cans of coconut milk. Measure 1/2 cup and set this aside in a small bowl.
- Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan. Pour the remaining coconut milk into a 2-quart saucepan.
- Add the sweetener and salt. Add the sweetener (agave, maple syrup, honey, or sugar) and salt.
- Warm the coconut milk. Warm the coconut milk over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sweetener has completely dissolved into the coconut milk, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Whisk the starch into the reserved coconut milk. Add the starch to the reserved 1/2 cup coconut milk and whisk until the starch is totally dissolved.
- Add the cornstarch mixture to the coconut milk. While whisking, pour the cornstarch mixture into the warm coconut milk while whisking gently. This is your ice cream base.
- Heat the ice cream base until thickened. Increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the base has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not allow the base come to a boil.
- Stir in the vanilla. Remove the base from heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Chill the base. Pour the base into a shallow container. Let the base cool slightly on the counter so it’s not hot when you put it in the refrigerator. Before refrigerating, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface — this coconut milk base doesn’t form a skin quite as badly as a milk-and-egg base, but it doesn’t hurt! Cover the container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to 3 days.
- Begin churning. Your base should be completely chilled and slightly pudding-like in texture. Pour the base into the ice cream machine and begin churning.
- Churn until the consistency of soft-serve. Churn the ice cream until it thickens considerably and is about the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Depending on your machine, this could take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes — keep an eye on it! If you want to add any extras, add them now and churn a few more seconds until they are fully incorporated.
- Transfer to a freezer container. Scrape the ice cream into a freezer container. Press a piece of parchment or wax paper against the surface to prevent ice crystals from forming. Seal the container.
- Freeze for at least 4 hours. Freeze for at least 4 hours to harden the ice cream.
- Warm slightly before serving. If your ice cream is too hard to scoop, let it warm a few minutes on the counter before scooping. I find that coconut ice cream melts a little more quickly than milk-based ice creams, so don’t wait too long!
Storage: Leftover ice cream can be frozen for up to 2 months. A note on honey: Those looking for a vegan recipe without honey can sweeten the ice cream with agave, maple syrup, turbinado sugar, or cane sugar.
Only 5 ingredients away from a sweet treat
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
Show Full Nutrition Label
Hide Full Nutrition Label ×
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 14g||17%|
|Saturated Fat 12g||60%|
|Total Carbohydrate 15g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 12g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||3%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.) There’s no summer treat more quintessential than ice cream. Rich, sweet, and filling, it’s a go-to for warmer weather when people want a frozen dessert. However, it can be hard to digest for many people, especially those who don’t eat dairy can’t enjoy it, either. For an ice cream that’s plant-based but also free of soy, we love this version made with coconut milk. The simple base of canned coconut milk makes this a recipe you can pull together from pantry staples alone, with no fresh ingredients needed. Plus, the use of a liquid sweetener helps prevent over-freezing. It’s a vegan dessert even those who are faithful to dairy ice cream will enjoy.
- 1 (13.5 ounce) can full fat coconut milk
- 1 (13.5 ounce) can light coconut milk
- 1/2 cup liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup or allulose syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Gather the ingredients. If your ice cream maker has a bowl that needs chilling, ensure it is chilled.
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir the coconut milk, sweetener, vanilla, and salt until ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.
- Process the mixture in your ice cream maker for 25 minutes, or follow your ice cream maker instructions for churning.
- Pour the mixture into a freezer safe container with a lid, and freeze for 8 hours or longer before serving.
An ice cream maker does help, but if you are not using an ice cream maker, the mixture for the ice cream may be stored in an air-tight container and placed in a freezer until it solidifies. The mixture must be mixed periodically while it is freezing.
- Add the scrapings of one vanilla bean to ingredients
- Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to ingredients; whisk well to incorporate
- Add 1/4 cup strawberry sauce to ingredients
- Add 1/2 teaspoon mint extract to ingredients
- Add 1/3 cup chocolate chips to ice cream once nearly frozen in maker
- Add 1/2 teaspoon pistachio extract to ingredients; add 1/4 cup chopped pistachios to ice cream once nearly frozen
- Add 1/4 cup peanut butter to ingredients, then blend instead of mixing in a bowl
- Add 3 tablespoons strongly brewed espresso to ingredients
How to Store
- Store any ice cream not eaten immediately in a freezer-safe container with a lid.
- To eat leftovers, let thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
- To make thawing easier, store ice cream in individually-sized plastic containers or mason jars, and thaw one serving at a time.
Options For Best Texture
If you like an ice cream that stays extra soft in the freezer, try one of these additives. Combine them with the other ingredients when preparing the ice cream mixture.
- Honey as the sweetener instead of maple syrup or allulose syrup (not vegan)
- 1 tablespoon gelatin powder (not vegan)
- 2 tablespoon vodka or other hard alcohol
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- Use full-fat coconut milk for the second can, instead of light
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