This is hands down the best vegan vanilla ice cream I've ever tried, and that includes store-bought! The base is made using my vegan custard recipe, which is speckled with real vanilla beans and gives the ice cream the most amazing creamy consistency.
What's more, it's completely nut-free and made without cashews and you definitely won't find any bananas in this non-dairy vanilla ice cream. You can also choose to make it with oat milk or soy milk depending on your preference.
Why use a custard base?
Traditional French ice cream has a rich, thick custard base otherwise known as creme Anglaise. Similar to my vegan banoffee ice cream, this recipe uses a dairy-free crème Anglaise base along with vegan condensed milk to create the best texture possible.
Because of the thick and creamy base, this dairy-free ice cream is also less likely to go icy in the freezer, unlike other recipes that use just milk or cream.
Notes about the ingredients
I've tested this recipe with soy milk, oat milk, and almond milk. I personally find that soy milk makes the best ice cream base, with oat milk coming in a close second. Almond milk gave a slightly paler color and lighter consistency. You could probably also use coconut drinking milk or rice milk as well.
Obviously, vanilla is the main ingredient of this vanilla vegan ice cream, so a real vanilla pod is essential for that authentic flavor. Alternatively, you can also go for a good-quality vanilla bean paste. Vanilla extract is also included in the recipe to help create an intense vanilla taste.
This dairy-free creme Anglaise base of the ice cream uses cornstarch as a thickening agent. This thickens the custard instead of eggs, giving it a rich consistency.
Sweetened condensed coconut milk replaces regular condensed coconut milk typically used in ice cream recipes. As the custard base is only mildly sweet, this adds sweetness and creates a consistency that doesn’t get too solid once frozen. This seriously helps with giving the ice cream a wonderful melty consistency.
If you're looking for a refined sugar-free vanilla ice cream, check out my vanilla chamomile ice cream from my cookbook.
🥣 How To Make vegan vanilla ice cream
(Full ingredient quantities and instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post)
(1) First, get started with the custard base. Add the cornstarch, sugar, and non-dairy milk to a saucepan and whisk to get out any lumps. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod with the back of a knife and add to the pan.
(2) Cook the mixture for 4-5 minutes until it thickens. The custard should coat the back of your spoon, remove it from the heat and stir in the sea salt until thoroughly mixed through.
Cover the custard with some plastic wrap or a lid. Chill the mixture for at least an hour before using the next step.
(3&4) Add the coconut milk, vegan condensed milk, and vanilla extract to a large mixing bowl and whisk with a hand mixer until fluffy.
(5&6) Add the chilled custard mixture to the bowl and whisk again until thoroughly mixed through.
(7) Pour the vanilla ice cream mixture into your ice cream machine and churn for 30-40 minutes, or according to the manufacturer's instructions.
(8) Lastly, transfer the churned ice cream to a loaf pan or lunch box, cover, and freeze for 2 hours before serving.
It's no secret that vanilla ice cream tastes amazing in pretty much anything sweet. Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy it:
- Drizzle over some homemade caramel sauce, healthy date caramel, or chocolate fudge sauce.
- Swirl vegan lemon curd throughout the ice cream before freezing for a delicious lemon ice cream.
- Scoop on top of vegan pancakes, waffles, or crêpes.
- Serve with fresh fruit or berries, caramelized pineapple, hot cherries, or crushed nuts.
- Added to milkshakes or smoothies.
- Stir through crushed oreos or biscoff cookies for a delicious cookies n' cream ice cream situation.
- Stuffed between 2 cookies to make ice cream sandwiches.
👩🍳 Recipe Success Tips
Freeze the ice cream bowl in advance. I usually keep mine stored in the freezer (when it's not packed to the brim with other vegan treats, that is!). Make sure you freeze the ice cream bowl at least 12-24 hours in advance of making your ice cream.
Thaw before serving for 10 minutes to allow the ice cream to become scoopable.
Refrigerate your cans of coconut milk overnight. I usually keep a few cans in the fridge for good measure, that way I never have to worry about prepping the day before making a recipe.
Heat your ice cream scoop in hot water before scooping to get perfect scoops every time.
💬 Frequently Asked Questions
Although I highly recommend using an ice cream machine, here are some tips if you're keen to go ahead and make the recipe without one.
After an hour of freezing or as it begins to freeze around the edges, transfer the ice cream mixture back into the blender to blend down any ice crystals before pouring it back into the loaf pan and into the freezer. Continue to check the ice cream every 30-45 minutes, using a spatula to stir it vigorously by hand.
Alternatively, another interesting method for making ice cream without a machine is with a plastic bag as shown on Delish. I haven't personally tried this method yet, so I can't vouch for how good it works!
You could also go for one of these great no-churn recipes instead including mango ice cream, caramel ice cream, or passion fruit ice cream.
The secret is in the base. Any great ice cream recipe will have a high-fat content which is less likely to crystalize than water-based ice cream. This coupled with using an ice cream machine and ensuring that the ice cream is airtight when in the freezer and not exposed to the air will give the best results.
If you're able to find a vegan whipping cream such as soy or oat that could work (although I haven't personally tried it). You can also use sweetened condensed oat milk in place of condensed coconut milk.
🍨 More vegan ice cream
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star ★★★★★ rating in the recipe card below and consider leaving a comment as well, thanks!
- 520 ml (2 ⅕ cups) soy milk, or oat milk
- 100 g (½ cup) granulated sugar, *see notes
- 45 g (⅓ cup) cornstarch, or arrowroot starch
- 1 vanilla pod
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 200 g (7 oz) vegan condensed milk
- 200 g (7 oz) full-fat canned coconut milk, or coconut cream, *see recipe notes
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Freeze the ice cream bowl from your ice cream machine at least 12 hours ahead of making the recipe.
- Add the soy milk, sugar, and cornstarch to a saucepan and whisk well to remove any lumps. Cut the vanilla pod down the center and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to the saucepan and place on medium heat.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes whilst whisking. Alternate between using a whisk and rubber spatula to make sure the custard does not stick to the pan. The mixture will become thick once the cornstarch is cooked, remove it from the heat. Carefully remove the vanilla pod and stir in the sea salt.
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming and allow the custard to cool for 10 minutes before transferring it to the fridge to cool fully for an hour before the next step.
- Add the vegan condensed milk, coconut milk, and vanilla extract to a large bowl and mix with an electric whisk for a couple of minutes until creamy. Add in the chilled custard mixture and whisk for another minute to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions, mine usually takes about 30-40 minutes.
- Transfer the ice cream mixture to a loaf pan, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and freeze for a minimum of 2 hours.
Storage and serving
- Store in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Remove the ice cream from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving to allow it to thaw slightly and use a hot wet ice cream scoop to serve.
- Some white sugar in the US is not vegan, if in doubt use organic sugar.
- Full-fat canned coconut milk: Refrigerate overnight and only use the thick cream from the top of the can. I find Biona and Nature's Charm yield the best amount of coconut cream.
- Heat your ice cream scoop in hot water before scooping to get perfect scoops every time.
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