When the heat is at its peak, nothing tastes better than a frozen summer treat. Late-night ice cream runs, homemade banana splits, cold and creamy smoothies… summertime staples. Clearly, we’ve got ice cream on our minds! But, while sweet and satisfying for our taste buds, our health goals may not always agree. Traditional ice cream is oftentimes loaded with processed sugar, dairy, and calorie-laden add-ins — like cookie dough, caramel, and chocolate syrup. The good news? There are so many ways to enjoy your favorite summertime dessert in a healthy way!
With easy-prep homemade recipes and tons of dairy-free store-bought ice cream options (made with cashews, coconut, and even avocado), there will be no missing out on the sweet taste of summer! Healthy ice cream does exist, and we’re breaking it down for you with an easy guide! Find out the best tips and tricks for making (and shopping) for healthy ice cream, simple DIY dairy-free recipes, and the best of the best healthy store-bought options. Grab your spoon and dig in!
Healthy Ice Cream Tips
If you follow any advice when choosing a healthy ice cream blend, let it be this — always read the ingredient label! Opt for ice cream blends made with whole foods in their least processed state. If they’re sweetened, ideally, it’s with natural sweeteners like honey, dates, or maple syrup. If they’re ultra-thick and creamy, look for full-fat coconut milk, avocado, or cashews as opposed to processed thickeners. If they’re chocolate or mint-flavored, don’t settle for artificial flavorings — look for the real deal! And if you’re making your own, even better! You’re in charge of the ingredients.
Less is More
Speaking of ingredients, less is more when it comes to what’s in your ice cream! If you’re looking at a never-ending list of foods, there’s a good chance it’s filled with artificial ingredients, fillers, and processed foods. Generally speaking, fewer ingredients is best — it will likely be more nutritious and easier to digest!
Portion Your Plate
Even when made with good-for-you ingredients, remember: ice cream is still a treat! Pace yourself and be mindful of portion sizes. While healthy ice cream options are typically made with fewer calories and less sugar, indulging too much or too frequently can affect your health and fitness goals. Moderation is key!
Homemade Healthy Ice Cream Equipment and Tools
Ready to make your own healthy ice cream? To get started, you’ll just need a few simple tools!
Ice cream maker: Though not necessary, these convenient machines make for an easy-prep, no-fuss blend. Creamy and decadent every time!
High-speed blender or food processor: No ice cream maker? No problem! Whip up your homemade blend using a blender or food processor.
Ice cream container: The storage process is just as important as the preparation! Proper storage prevents ice crystals from forming (which can ruin the texture and taste).
Ice cream scoop: Enough said.
How to Make Healthy Ice Cream: 2 Easy-Prep Methods
With An Ice Cream Maker
In a high-speed blender, blend all the ingredients together. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to the ice cream machine instructions. Once churned, enjoy immediately or add the mixture to an ice cream storage container and freeze.
Without An Ice Cream Maker
Method #1: In a high-speed blender, blend all the ingredients together, then pour into ice cube trays, and freeze. Once frozen, allow the ice cubes to thaw slightly before adding to the blender or food processor, this will allow the machine to blend without overheating. Next, blend until smooth. Once a creamy ice cream-like texture is formed, add the mixture to an ice cream container and freeze for 45-60 minutes until firm enough to scoop.
Method #2: In a high-speed blender, blend all the ingredients together. Then, pour into a large ice cream or shallow container and freeze. To prevent ice crystals, stir the mixture every 45-60 minutes and re-freeze. Repeat every 30-45 minutes for about 2-3 hours. P.S. This step is crucial! Though a little tedious, it prevents an icy texture.
Healthy Homemade Dairy-Free Ice Cream Recipes
These tasty and decadent dairy-free ice cream recipes come together in minutes! Made with just a few simple whole food ingredients, enjoy them guilt-free.
Homemade Cashew Milk Ice Cream
- 2 cups cashew milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
- ½ cup cashew butter (or nut or seed butter of choice)
- ⅓ cup raw honey or maple syrup
- ½ tbsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of sea salt, to taste
Homemade Chocolate Avocado Ice Cream
- 1 (13-14 oz) can of full-fat coconut milk
- 1 ripe medium avocado, peeled and pitted
- ⅓ – ½ cup cocoa or cacao powder, unsweetened
- ½ cup raw honey
- 1 ½ tbsp vanilla extract
5 Homemade Ice Cream Flavor Variations
For any of the below ice cream flavors, follow one of the above ice cream recipes and modify with these tasty all-natural flavor boosts!
Follow one of the above recipes for avocado or nut butter-based ice cream. For a lighter cacao flavor, add ¼ cup of unsweetened cacao or cocoa. For a deeper chocolate flavor, use up to ½ cup. Add dairy-free chocolate chips for a double chocolate twist!
Follow one of the above base recipes, adding ⅛ teaspoon pure peppermint extract. Mix in dairy-free chocolate chips for a mint chocolate chip ice cream flavor.
Follow one of the above recipes for avocado or nut butter-based ice cream. For the avocado ice cream, leave out the cacao powder and replace with ⅓ cup nut butter of choice. Increase the vanilla extract by ½ tbsp. For the nut butter-based recipe, increase the vanilla extract by one additional tbsp.
For a chocolate + berry blend, use the avocado ice cream recipe. Add ½ – 1 cup of fresh strawberries. For a pure strawberry flavor, follow the nut butter-based recipe. Reduce the liquid by ½ cup and add ½ – 1 cup of sliced or mashed fresh or frozen strawberries.
Use either base recipe and stir in chunks of your favorite homemade or store-bought brownie. For a cookie dough flavor, add chunks of your favorite chocolate chip cookie to the nut butter-based recipe!
The 8 Healthiest Store-Bought Dairy-Free Ice Cream Brands
#1 Pressed Juicery
This dairy-free ice cream is in a league of its own when it comes to taste and nutrition!
Made with homemade almond milk and sweetened with Medjool dates or maple syrup, it’s the ultimate guilt-free treat that is decadent and delicious. While you can visit any Pressed Juicery location for a soft-serve freeze (walk, don’t run!), you can find their store-bought frozen dessert in a variety of locations. Choose between flavors like matcha, chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla coconut. 100% plant-based, made with real whole-food ingredients, and sweetened all naturally! What’s not to love?
We tried the matcha flavor and… yum. If you’re a matcha and ice cream lover, grab your spoon! Made with less than 10 ingredients like coconut milk, almond milk, matcha, and maple syrup. Enjoy it with a sprinkle of coconut flakes or dairy-free chocolate chips!
#2 Must Love
The dessert possibilities are endless with this healthy ice cream brand! From oat milk-based pints and bars to healthy banana nice cream, there’s no wrong choice. Must Love’s oat milk-based blends are made with ingredients like oats, cassava, coconut oil, and dates, and tastes deliciously smooth and creamy. The banana nice cream option is just as tasty, with ingredients like coconut milk, vanilla bean, dates, and real banana. Scoop it straight from the pint or enjoy both banana nice cream and oat milk-based blends in ice cream bar form!
#3 Van Leeuwen
Real ingredients, delicious flavors, and options for everyone. Choose between dairy-free oat cashew and coconut-based blends, or enjoy dairy-filled flavors if that’s your thing! As one of the creamiest options out there, you’d never guess it was plant-based! Peanut butter brownie, cookie crumble strawberry jam, chocolate fudge brownie, chocolate oat milk cookie dough crunch… our mouth is watering at the thought! With limited-edition flavors on rotation, check the menu (often) to make sure you get a scoop of the good stuff!
#4 Cosmic Bliss
With dozens of flavor options and the purest ingredients, Cosmic Bliss is undoubtedly one of our top healthy ice cream picks. Whether you’re dairy-free or a dairy-lover — there’s something for everyone. Have your pick at 11 Plant-based flavors — like sweet cherry amaretto, sea salt caramel, and chocolate PB. Or, if you’re tolerant of dairy, enjoy 7 sustainably sourced grass-fed varieties (think: cookie dough, PB, and hazelnut fudge).
While it’s hard to pick favorites, Chocolate Walnut Brownie is a top contender! Like all of their flavors, this decadent flavor is sweetened all naturally, with ingredients like maple and superfoods like lucuma.
Proving dessert can, in fact, be healthy, grab a pint and dig in!
#5 Dream Pops
While not an ice cream per se, these ice cream bites deserve an honorable mention! In addition to their ever-popular functional frozen dessert bars (think: chocolate lion’s mane, vanilla matcha, and coconut latte), Dream Pops is here to satisfy your sweet tooth with their bite-sized vegan chocolate-coated frozen desserts. 100% plant-based and made with simple and all-natural ingredients like coconut cream, coconut sugar, and natural dark chocolate. At just 100 calories per serving, this is the ultimate healthy (yet totally satisfying) option!
Cold-brew swirl, wild blueberry crumble, and toasted coconut butter are a few of the reasons we love Sunscoop! This plant-based frozen dessert is made with a coconut cream base and sweetened naturally with ingredients like maple syrup, fresh fruit, and natural flavor extracts. You’ll even find superfoods — like moringa and matcha — infused into their nutrient-dense blends! While primarily located in stores along the West Coast, you can shop online and fill your freezer with these tasty and nutritious blends!
Dairy-free, made with all-natural ingredients, and lightly sweetened with honey and coconut sugar. Trust us — this is one of the healthiest ice cream brands out there — take a look at the ingredient label and see for yourself! Fronen frozen desserts are made with 7 ingredients or less — and you can actually recognize and pronounce them. Choose from five different flavors, such as strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, mint chip, and salted caramel. Made with a coconut cream base and flavored with pure flavor extracts like mint or vanilla bean for a yummy treat that can be enjoyed by all. Gluten and soy-free, paleo-friendly, and a summer must-have.
Cookies and creme, pistachio nut, chocolate peanut butter, caramel cold brew & cookies… need we say more? This dairy-free, coconut-based healthy ice cream brand has been sweetening your freezer since 2005 as one of the first healthy dairy-free ice cream brands on the market. And, with so many delicious flavors that are made with good-for-you ingredients, NadaMoo is here to stay! From seasonal holiday flavors like peppermint bark and pumpkin to new and noteworthy flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough, there are endless reasons to scoop this brand into your bowl.
The Scoop On All Things Healthy Ice Cream
Whether you’re dairy-free or simply looking for a healthy yet decadent dessert, these creamy and delicious plant-based options will satisfy your sweet tooth. For an effortless option, grab a store-bought treat. With oat milk-based pints, banana nice cream, and bite-sized frozen bites, there are so many tasty options to choose from. Want to enjoy a homemade blend full of nutrient-dense ingredients + a little extra TLC? Try one of our easily-customizable DIY recipes. Made from all-natural ingredients and free from sneaky ingredients, fillers, and additives, dig in guilt-free!