Dairy-Free Ice Cream: 6 Tips for Success

Creamy Dairy-Free Ice Cream via @kingarthurflour

There’s almost nothing better than a big scoop of ice cream on a hot summer day.

But for someone who doesn’t eat dairy, my options are limited to sorbet. And while delicious, it can get a little boring after awhile.

The beauty of it is that making ice cream at home is a cinch. Especially dairy-free ice cream. As long as you have an ice cream maker and a few simple ingredients, in a matter of a few hours you can have a batch of ultra-creamy, decadent and delicious ice cream to enjoy.

In today’s post, we’re going to share six essential tips for making your dairy-free ice cream a home run. AND we’re going to give you the basic recipe which you can jazz up as you wish.

So let the brain-freeze party begin!

Tips for: making dairy-free ice cream

How to pick the right milk for Dairy-Free Ice Cream via @kingarthurflourPicking a base

When you’re choosing which plant-based milk to use when you make your dairy-free ice cream, there’s isn’t a “best choice.” Really, it’s up to you; but do keep in mind that different milks will have varying effects on the end product. Here are some milks to choose from:

  • Full-fat coconut milk
  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Rice milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Soy milk

You can decide by flavor, but also think about texture. If you want ice cream that’s ultra-creamy, silky smooth, and fairly decadent, then choosing a milk with a higher fat content – like full-fat coconut milk – is your best bet.

Since fat freezes at a different rate than water, using a higher-fat milk will result in a creamier, less icy ice cream. But at the same time, these ice creams will be quite rich and also high in fat and calories, so consider that as well.

My preference is to combine a high-fat milk with a lower-fat option. I find the texture just how I like it, and the ice cream is a bit on the lighter side. I like to use a blend of coconut milk and either almond, cashew, or hemp milk as my base (mainly because I like the taste of these milks the best).

What sugar to use in Dairy-Free Ice Cream via @kingarthurflourChoosing a sweetener

Next up is picking your sweetener. As with any ice cream, you have lots of options. You can go with a granulated sweetener like cane sugar or coconut/palm sugar. Or you can opt for a liquid sweetener like honey, maple syrup, or agave. Both are great options; again, it just depends on what you prefer.

If you’re opting for granulated sugar, just note that you’ll need to dissolve the sugar in the base before churning it, which means you’ll also have to chill the base for longer before being able to make your ice cream. I’ve tested both ways and like them both, but I tend to opt for maple syrup as my sweetener of choice because, hey, I’m a Vermont girl and any excuse to eat maple syrup is a win in my book.

Also, while I haven’t tested this myself, I do think that you could use stevia as a sweetener. I’d start with 1/2 teaspoon and increase it by 1/8 teaspoon until you find your desired sweetness level.

How to make creamy Dairy-Free Ice Cream via @kingarthurflour

Eggs vs. no eggs

This is a common question I’m asked when talking about making dairy-free ice cream at home: do we add eggs or not? The answer is… it depends.

When you’re using eggs in your ice cream, you’re essentially just making a custard base which you then churn and freeze. Custards are usually on the thicker side, and have a very creamy, smooth texture.

Egg yolks are primarily fat and protein, and help keep the ice cream smooth (similar to the higher-fat milks). Egg yolks also act as an emulsifier: The proteins in the yolk bind with water and fat molecules in the milk, which results in a more stable and creamy end product. Basically, the ice cream will melt more slowly.

So again, as we did with our milk bases, the dilemma of adding or not adding eggs comes down to texture and personal preference. My best tip is to first use eggs when you’re not using high-fat milks. So if you’re making an ice cream that’s just soy milk, to get that rich, creamy texture you’re going to want egg yolks in the mix. If you’re making your ice cream with coconut milk (or even cashew cream) as the base, then you probably don’t need the eggs.

And then experiment and find what you like best.

Xanthan Gum from King Arthur Flour

Adding a thickener

While not a required step in the dairy-free ice cream making process, adding a thickener can help make your ice cream more creamy and help reduce the amount of ice crystals that form during the freezing process, especially if you’re not using egg yolks. Even with the higher-fat ice creams using coconut milk that you see at the store, you’ll often find a thickener on the ingredients list because it helps give the ice cream wonderful creamy texture.

Common thickener options include:

Since I’m not using eggs in the recipes in this post, I’ll be adding 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum to each batch of ice cream.

How to make Dairy-Free Chocolate Ice Cream via @kingarthurflourFlavor options

OK… now the fun part: the flavors! Making ice cream into tons of different flavors is definitely my favorite part of doing it at home. I can play around with all types of ingredients and find the combination I like most.

Here’s how to make the most common flavors:

  • Vanilla: blend the seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod OR 2 to 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract into the base before churning.
  • Chocolate: blend 1/4 to 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder into the base before churning. The more cocoa powder, the darker chocolate the ice cream will be.
  • Coffee: add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee/espresso OR a few teaspoons of instant coffee/espresso powder to the ice cream base before churning.
  • Strawberry: macerate the berries in lemon juice and sugar for 10 to 15 minutes, then blend them into a purée and add them to the ice cream base before churning.
  • Mint: either add 1 to 2 teaspoons of peppermint extract OR blend 1 bunch of fresh mint with a bit of the milk (or water) and add that to the ice cream base before churning.

I’m sure you’re starting to notice a theme here. When flavoring the base of your ice cream, do it before you begin churning. You want to be sure the ice cream base is completely smooth before churning. Check out the image above to see this process in action!

How to make Dairy-Free Ice Cream via @kingarthurflour

Adding extra goodies

Another fun part of making ice cream at home is adding your favorite goodies. Whether you’re a fan of chocolate chips, cookie dough, white chocolate, or any other delicious add-ins, jazzing up your ice cream is super easy.

Just pick your favorite extras, and add them to your ice cream maker when it’s got about 5 minutes left of churning. You want the base to still be somewhat soft, so all the ingredients are evenly mixed throughout; but not so soft that they fall to the bottom. I like to add any extras when the ice cream is the texture of soft serve.

Check out the image above to see the different stages that the ice cream will go through. I’m adding our delicious chocolate sprinkles to a coffee flavored ice cream!

Perfect Dairy-Free Ice Cream via @kingarthurflour

Dairy-free ice cream recipes

And now for the recipe! The great thing about dairy-free ice cream is the base is pretty much the same for each recipe. Head on over to our Dairy-Free Ice Cream Recipe where we’ll show you the base and give you a few tasty variations for you to try, including this dark chocolate and java chip!

Print just the recipe.

Alyssa Rimmer

Alyssa grew up in Vermont, attended the University of Vermont and now lives in New York City, where she bakes and writes recipes for her blog Simply Quinoa. She is the newest member of the King Arthur Flour blogging team and has been living gluten-free ...


  1. Kalisa

    I’ve just started using coconut milk in cooking and I’m excited to use it in ice cream! I also just bought myself a bouquet of vanilla beans so I am chomping at the bit to make some great vanilla ice cream as well. I inherited a massive, but awesome, Italian ice cream machine from my MIL and it get put out on the counter every summer (it trades space with the crock pot).

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      What a wonderful swap to make! Warming stews in the winter to give you your much needed dose of comfort food, and then cool, homemade ice cream in the summer to beat the heat. It sounds like you’ve got a good system on your hands there, Kalisa! Happy ice cream making! Kye@KAF

  2. justine

    my daughter has allergies and I want to know is it best to cook gluten free, what are the dangers of gluten? I never knew

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Justine, although we are happy to offer recipes for those who need to stick to a gluten-free diet, we’re bakers and not doctors and can’t really advise you on dietary choices for your daughter. I would recommend consulting her doctor and checking to see if she is allergic to gluten. Barb@KAF

  3. Tim Cho

    Hi Alyssa, do you have any recommendation on sugar free ice-cream. I have diabetic family members, and they cannot take regular sugar. I’ve been very successful in substitute the regular sugar with sugar imitation product from recipes posted on the King Arthur web site but not for cold desert items. They do not taste the same. Thanks!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Tim – Please see this response that Jon provided for Mei. “If you are only using sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, etc, then you should be fine as they still mainly contain sugar. However, once you start going into non-sugar based sweeteners, you will notice the icy texture you have mentioned. Using the thickeners Alyssa listed will certainly help in that regard. You can find other ice cream stabilizers out there that can also help. You may also want to try sticking to sugar-alcohols such as maltitol as they have similar properties to sugar. Maybe check out some sugar free ice cream in your local stores and see what they use!” Hope this helps, Tim! Elisabeth@KAF

  4. Mei

    What a comprehensive and informative post! I have a question about sweetener. Granulated sugar has a function of lowering the freezing temperature in making ice cream. In making home made ice cream, I have control over how much sugar I put in. But the lesser the amount, the more icy and hard the ice cream will be. So I wonder how you can still make creamy ice cream by substituting other forms of sugar, like maple syrup and other sweeteners?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you are only using sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, etc, then you should be fine as they still mainly contain sugar. However, once you start going into non-sugar based sweeteners, you will notice the icy texture you have mentioned. Using the thickeners Alyssa listed will certainly help in that regard. You can find other ice cream stabilizers out there that can also help. You may also want to try sticking to sugar-alcohols such as maltitol as they have similar properties to sugar. Maybe check out some sugar free ice cream in your local stores and see what they use! Jon@KAF

  5. Karen

    Thank you for this informative blog. I bought an Ice Cream maker but the recipes inside seemed to indicate you couldn’t use anything but full fat milk. So happy to read otherwise. You have helped me to understand ice cream making.

  6. wedge rafferty

    Hey!!! Try Eagle brand condensed milk for an emulsifier…………works great………………! W

    1. Kathleen Schippers

      Yes, but it is extra sugar and lots of milk. This is for a dairy free recipe.

    2. Mindy

      Wedge Rafferty:
      Eagle Brand condensed milk, while delicious, wouldn’t be a good choice for an emulsifier in dairy-free ice cream.

    3. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi there,
      Yes, it can be a great emulsifier in many things however it would make this dairy-free ice cream into dairy-full ice cream! :) ~ MJ

  7. Ann olsen

    Thanks for this recipe. I have a grandson with a dairy and nut allergy and am always looking for treats for him. Any other dairy free recipes you have would be great to have.

  8. Jeannette

    Both commercially prepared coconut milk ice creams and my homemade tend to be extremely hard and difficult to scoop out. I do not use eggs. Any suggestions to make it softer?

    1. Alyssa Rimmer , post author

      Hi Jeannette – really it sounds like you just need to let them soften a bit more before scooping. I find that leaving the ice cream on the counter for about 10 minutes makes it easily scoopable. Alternatively, you could also pop in the microwave for 5 – 10 seconds to get it to soften. Try that and let us know if it helps! – Alyssa

    2. Marc

      I guess what you need to be aware of is cream freezes at a warmer temperature. Most commercial refrigeration is set to -10 deg. F. for freezing. Your home freezer is probably set somewhere between that and 0 deg. F. Freezers used for storing and seving ice cream are usually set between 5 and 10 deg. F. That’s 15 to 20 degs. warmer. Your best bet is to allow the ice cream to set out for a few minutes before trying to scoop it. If you’re already doing this, then you just need to add an extra minute or two. Hope that helps… or at least is a bit educational. =)

  9. Ashley

    Ecstatic to see some dairy-free recipes. As a vegan, I actually have plenty of options available to me, and they’re all delicious, but I’ve been interested in making my own to experiment with new flavors. I was really just planning to go with the flow and see what happens; however, this article in my email was a pleasant surprise!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re glad we could support your vegan baking efforts, Ashley! Barb@KAF

    1. Alyssa Rimmer , post author

      Hi Lisa – I haven’t personally used egg yolks in this recipe, but I think you could do as many as 4 if you wanted. I’d start with 1 or 2 and see how the recipe turns out, and if it’s not creamy enough, then I’d add another one. Hope that helps! – Alyssa

  10. Amy

    Just a note for folks keen to experiment with sweeteners. Using stevia or another non-sugar substitute will dramatically change your results, and not in a good way. Sugar inhibits freezing and, together with fat, is a big part of the difference between ice cream and a flavored ice cube. Omitting the sugar, especially in a lower-fat ice cream, will put you in ice cube territory unless you use another inhibitor of freezing like a fair bit of alcohol. Glucose and fructose (monosaccharides) inhibit freezing much more effectively than sucrose (disaccharide). Honey is almost entirely glucose and fructose, but maple syrup (and coconut sugar, incidentally) is mostly sucrose. Table sugar is also sucrose, which is all to say that if you’re aiming to use less sugar in ice cream (and the flavor isn’t an issue), you should be able to use a bit less honey than you would maple syrup (especially since you’re typically adding more water with the maple syrup) and avoid the rock-solid problem.

    1. LF

      i have been making ice cream for a year now, and found that 2 Tblsp corn syrup along with a bit of salt and one or 2 teaspoons of vodka will keep your low fat or non dairy cream scoopable. You indeed need some fat in addition to the sugars, so consider adding avocado if making pistachio or a mint ice cream, or even a bit of coconut oil or even canola or safflower oil to your non dairy base.

    2. MaryJane Robbins

      Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences. I would never have thought of the avocado. ~ MJ

  11. Mark

    I always sweeten my homemade ice cream with Coco Lopez, the ingredients list is somewhat daunting but in essence it’s loaded with emulsifiers. It makes full dairy Ice cream keep in the freezer for weeks without turning icy and makes non dairy ice cream much creamier. I still haven’t solved the problem of keeping non dairy ice cream in the freezer without it turning hard as a rock. It’s great right out of the churn but turns hard as a rock in just a few days. For those with minor lactose problems even a cup of cream in the mix will help keep the ice cream soft. Blending a banana or two into the recipe will also keep your non dairy ice cream nice and creamy. If you want banana flavor use overripe bananas, if you don’t want to taste them use bananas that are still a little green.

    1. starrdark

      Thank you so much for this article! There’s lots of great information for me to use.

      I am delighted that someone else has mentioned bananas. I use them regularly when making my non dairy ice cream to improve the texture without a lot of fat. Avocados, also mentioned earlier, also work well, with surprisingly little impact on flavor.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Cathy, the link for the recipe is highlighted in orange, right beneath the title picture. The recipe should give you the details you need. Barb@KAF

  12. Betty

    The recipes uses coconut milk as a base–have you used soaked cashews blended with water as a base? I wonder what the proportions of cashews to water would be to get the proper thickness.

    1. Alyssa Rimmer , post author

      Hi Betty – I have done that before. I think you’d want a 1:2 or 1:2.5 ratio for the cashews to water. So 1/2 cup cashews to 1 cup (or 1.5 cups) of water. I start with the lower amount and if that seems too thick (more like a spread than a liquid), I’d add more water. Let us know if you end up trying it! – Alyssa

  13. Adrienne

    Thank you for this non-dairy recipe!! I am allergic to milk, and I do miss having ice cream. Can’t wait to give these a try.

  14. Monica

    I don’t own an ice cream maker but am intrigued by this article now because my husband is lactose intolerant and can never have ice cream. Do you have any recommendations for a good ice cream maker for the home, something that doesn’t cost more than, say, $125? Are there things to look for in an ice cream machine specifically?

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Monica,
      We’ve carried these Cuisinart machines for several years now, and it’s the one we use in our test kitchen. They make great batches that are not too big or too small. I’ve given several as gifts, too. ~ MJ

  15. Monica

    I’ve seen references to the effects of various sugar substitutes but not specifically sucralose (Splenda). Any idea what that would do?

    1. Alyssa Rimmer , post author

      Hi Monica – I haven’t personally done much baking/cooking with Splenda, but from what I’ve read it seems to be a 1:1 substitute for sugar if you’re using the baking blend. I’d go with that logic for this recipe and try adding 1/2 – 3/4 cup of the baking blend to the base. Let us know how it goes! – Alyssa

  16. crystal

    we all like ice cream…but recently Splenda has been linked with leukemia in mice…so be careful…we may have to put in some things that are not too good for us..but what the heck, we don’t eat ice cream every day…like eggs, sugar, but definite not Splenda, glucose sucrose sucralose, etc…I would prefer maple syrup to honey.

  17. Hermione Granger

    If you add eggs, how much does the use of fresh, free range eggs change the flavor as opposed to regular store bought? Also, can we add butter? I find that, dispute being cowsmilk protein and lactose intolerant, regular, churned butter does not bug me.
    Using free range eggs should not change the flavor but you will know that they are fresh. In regards to using butter, butter is not really used in making ice cream. I would stay with the non-dairy choices of milk explained in the blog. Hope this helps. JoAnn@KAF

  18. Eve

    If I add tapioca starch or arrowroot starch to this recipe as a thickener, do you know how much I should add? Would it be the same amount as xanthan gum at 1/2 teaspoon, or a different amount? Thanks!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Start with 1 tsp of arrowroot or tapioca. It really does smooth the texture! Happy baking- Laurie@KAF

  19. Andrea

    Great recipe! I’ve been making dairy free ice cream for quite some time, but couldn’t quite get the texture right. The xanthan gum did the trick! I used full fat coconut milk and flax milk.

  20. Deirdre


    Being severely allergic to dairy, due to a tick bite, I am excited to see this recipe for homemade dairy free ice cream. My question is how would one make this without an ice cream maker? Can this been poured into a glass oblong dish and stirred with a fork every hour or so to replicate the stirring an ice cream maker does? Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.


    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Deirdre, we’re sorry to hear about your tick bite but rest assured you don’t have to say good bye to ice cream forever! You can use the method you described, stirring the mixture every 30 minutes to prevent the ice cream from forming a solid block. The texture will not be quite as creamy or smooth and may have some larger ice crystals in it. If you are okay with this, go ahead and give it a whirl. You can store the ice cream in a container for longer periods of time afterwards–just be sure to let the ice cream soften at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes before serving. This will give it more of a pleasant texture, and your taste buds will be able to enjoy more of the flavor too. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  21. Alexandra


    I am reading this post and I was just wondering if I can make a creamy ice cream base with: soy or almond milk, eggs and corstrach? In what proportions of each one?

    For religious reasons I don’t eat dairy…. and where I am living for the same reason there are only a few products that I can use.

    Thank you very much in advance!

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sorry Alexandra, we don’t have a recipe for exactly what you’re looking for. I would suggest to use a basic custard based ice cream recipe and sub in your milk alternative. Jon@KAF

  22. Jacqueline

    Just got my KitchenAid ice cream attachment and with my dairy and nut allergies, I’m SO looking forward to good homemade frozen dessert. Two questions/comments:
    – if people are using milk alternatives such as So Delicious coconut milk most already contain additives like carageenen or guar gums so additional xanthan may not be necessary?
    – if adding eggs, you don’t indicate how and when? wouldn’t you want to make a heated custard on the stovetop first, cool that down, then add to icecream maker?

    The linked recipe is also silent on this.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jacqueline, the additives in the non-dairy milk are small enough so that it is still necessary to add all of the ingredients called for in the recipe (including the xanthan gum, etc.) to achieve the proper texture. If your recipe calls for eggs, it will likely call for heating the mixture on the stove top with the sugar to help pasteurize the eggs and make them safe for eating (or adding hot milk or cream to the egg and sugar mixture). If you would like to see an example of one of these recipes to see how the method works, check out our recipes for vanilla bean ice cream. It’s not dairy free but it gives you an idea of the technique, and you’d be more than welcome to try swapping the regular milk for a full fat non-dairy milk. Happy ice cream baking! Kye@KAF

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