Making your own dairy-free vegan ice cream—also known as "nice cream"—is a whole lot easier than you might think. Plus, you can feel good about what you're eating because you get to control the ingredients—no mystery fillers or artificial flavors for you! I'll show you how to make two basic recipes for easy homemade vegan nice cream—one vanilla and one chocolate—and show you how to turn them into different variations by adding a little of this and a dash of that. And because these are small-batch recipes, you can have a different flavor adventure every night!
Two Basic Recipes, So Many Possibilities
Making vegan nice cream truly does not get easier. Simply process a handful of common ingredients in a blender with some ice. That's it. Seriously. After that, you'll add flavors and make substitutions to create your custom nice cream treats.
Basic Vanilla: Vanilla Vegan Nice Cream
Ingredients: Cashews, banana, tofu, pitted dates, vanilla extract, ice cubes, and a dash of soy milk.
Basic Chocolate: Chocolate Vegan Nice Cream
Ingredients: Same as the basic vanilla, but with cacao powder added.
4 Nice Cream Variations to Try
Each of these riffs shows you how you can start with one of the basic recipes and change up the flavor by adding and swapping ingredients.
For this variation on the vanilla nice cream recipe, you'll swap out the vanilla for mint extract and add vegan chocolate chips. Done and done.
A cup of frozen strawberries is all that's needed to take the vanilla recipe from nice to niiiiiice.
Dried cherries add a bit of tartness to the chocolate base recipe, and vegan chocolate chips double the chocolate fun.
This variation of the chocolate recipe is like your favorite peanut butter cup, but better because we added a touch of salt. And, ya know, it's in nice cream form, so...YUM.
Top Tips to Make Vegan Nice Cream
Sweet Substitutions: By design, these recipes are light on the sugar, but if you need a little bump, here are some ideas for turning up the sweetness while still keeping it healthy:
- The ripeness of the banana will affect the sweetness, so choose riper bananas for sweeter bites.
- Adding agave or maple syrup is a good option for adding sweetness. One teaspoon goes a long way. (NOTE: If you add a liquid-like sweetener such as these, you may not need any plant-based milk—try blending the ingredients before adding the milk, and only add it if needed.)
- Certain ingredients like chocolate chips or fruit are automatically going to make your recipe sweeter, so keep that in mind when choosing your ingredients. And always try a bite first to see if anything additional is actually needed.
- Adding more medjool dates is another easy option for bumping up the sweetness.
- Throw in a dash of salt! Sounds a little weird, but sometimes a bit of salt effectively masquerades as touch of sweetness.
Blender versus food processor. A high-powered blender is going to give you the best results, and a regular blender is going to do a darn good job, too. Most food processors won't have enough umph for a smooth consistency, but if that's all you have available, make sure to use crushed ice—full pieces of ice just get pushed to the top of the mixture in a food processor and don't quite blend in.
Cashews—to soak or not to soak. The cashews are going to blend much smoother if they are soaked for at least an hour. That said, in a pinch you can get away with tossing them in without soaking—the nice cream texture just won't be quite as smooth.
Making nice cream without bananas. Not crazy about the taste of bananas? Understood. Increase the cashew and tofu amounts by about fifty percent and that should do it. Avocado is also a great, creamy option—you could also use it to swap out the tofu if you're trying to avoid soy.
Fun with fruit. Berries are at their best in summer, so go crazy with the blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. And peaches peak in July and August, so take advantage. If your favorite isn't in season, no problem—nice cream is made for frozen fruit! If you're using fresh fruit, freezing it beforehand will help you get a thick nice cream consistency. But, if you are tossing it in at room temperature, hold off on adding plant-based milk when blending—the juice from the fruit may be enough to get things moving.
Add some crunch. Candied pecans, raw walnuts, roasted almonds—chocolate-covered almonds?! From nuts to granola, stirring in something that adds some texture can really up the delicious factor. Not to mention the protein factor!
Flavor swap. Try swapping out the vanilla extract with a different flavor: anise, almond, hazelnut, etc.
How to Store and Serve Nice Cream
All of these nice cream recipes are meant to be made-to-order style, eaten right after you make them—and they are definitely along the lines of soft serve in terms of consistency. But, if you'd like to save some for later, or you'd prefer a firmer texture, here's what you can do:
Line a jelly roll pan with plastic wrap and spread the nice cream out in a thin, even layer:
Place another layer of plastic wrap on top and place another jelly roll pan over it—this will get it freezing from the top and the bottom. You can even pile a few pans up together if you're making a few different flavors:
Place pans in the freezer and check on your nice cream every hour. Depending on how many you have stacked, it can take anywhere from one to three hours to freeze to a firm consistency. To test readiness, press your thumb on the plastic wrap into the center of the nice cream. If it's firm, but you can make a slight indent, it's done. (If it got a little too hard, no problem—just let it sit out on the counter for 10-15 minutes to let it soften a bit before you scoop it.) Use an ice cream scooper to serve:
Chill your serving bowls in the freezer for about ten minutes before you use them to prevent melting. And presto, lovely scoops of vegan nice cream!
Happy nice cream making!