I've talked at various points in the past about going vegan, rather than merely sticking with eating a vegetarian diet. (My 18 year anniversary of going vegetarian is coming up in a couple weeks!) Basically, all my reasons for not eating meat apply just as much to dairy and eggs - but it's been much harder, emotionally and logistically, to give up eggs and especially dairy.
One such hurdle has been ice cream. I've tried many various vegan alternatives over the years, and they're ok, but I've never found one that's totally great. But now, the big ice cream companies are coming out with their own versions! And although I do think there's value in supporting the smaller vegan-focused brands, there's also something to supporting big brands like Ben & Jerry's or Haagen Dazs who can have more resources behind the development and also take it mainstream.
Both of those brands are currently in my freezer, and I'm thoroughly enjoying their ice creams (or rather, "frozen desserts" - FYI if you're looking for these, they're generally under the sign for novelties, near but not actually in the ice cream section. I presume for legal reasons they can't actually be marketed as ice cream.) as post-run treats. (Please be assured this post is not in any way sponsored, but if either company wants to send me free non-dairy frozen dessert, I'll certainly take it, cause even when on sale this stuff is not cheap!)
What I've personally found to be a pretty universal truth about non-dairy ice creams is that the add-ins are more important than the base. Though many alternative milk bases have been tried (for example, So Delicious has cashew milk, almond milk, and coconut milk options, and Ben & Jerry's is an almond milk base), is it possible to make a creamy plain chocolate ice cream that actually tastes and feels just like dairy ice cream? I honestly think the answer to that is no.
BUT! Is it possible to make a decent chocolate ice cream base and throw in an amazing chocolate fudge or caramel swirl (don't need dairy for those!) and make it fantastically delicious? Yes! I think that's what really appealed to me initially about trying Ben & Jerry's, since they're all about the add-ins, anyway, and that works no matter what the base is.
Haagen Dazs seems to have believed in that truth as well, and don't even have a consistent non-dairy-milk base. Their base revolves around the flavor and appears to primarily be sugar water with flavor. But it works; for example the chocolate flavor is mainly cocoa, and the coconut flavor of course starts with coconut cream.
I think these two mainstream brands have really hit the mark with their new lines, and I'd highly recommend trying them. (Except their coffee/mocha flavors, because I can't in good conscious recommend coffee flavored anything in its grossness.) But in particular, these are currently my favorite flavors.
|Editing post to add proof of enjoyment|
from dinner tonight.
5. Ben & Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie - Under the "add-ins matter" theory, this one is a bit plain. But they have done a decent job with their almond milk base, so it's still pretty good, and reasonably reminiscent of the dairy version of the same flavor.
4. Haagen Dazs peanut butter chocolate fudge - I'm not always a fan of peanut butter in ice cream, but this somehow works!
3. Haagen Dazs coconut caramel - Unlike the non-dairy lines that use coconut milk as a base for all flavors (which never quite works in my opinion, since it's such a strong flavor that's hard to hide no matter what it's supposed to taste like), this one is intentionally a strong coconut taste, and deliciously so.
2. Ben & Jerry's caramel almond brittle - The crunchy brittle really takes this to the next level and fits squarely in the realm of B&J's ability to create the perfect combo of add-ins - but sadly this one is nearly always out of stock at our Target!
1. Haagen Dazs chocolate salted fudge truffle - This is the first Haagen Dazs non-dairy flavor I tried, not quite knowing what to expect. It's astonishingly good. If this were the only ice cream I could eat for the rest of my life, I think I would be ok with that.