Vegan Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk Ice Cream

February  4, 2014
8 Ratings
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

For this recipe I’ve used full-fat coconut milk instead of heavy cream to make a dairy-free, vegan version. You may have seen, or even tried to make coconut milk ice cream in the past. It’s always perfectly delicious right out of the ice cream maker, with that silky soft-serve texture but then it always seems to freeze into a rock and form crunchy ice crystals. And no one wants ice cream with ice crystals in it. For this reason I’ve been testing a base recipe for ice crystal free and slightly softer vegan ice cream. The trick is in the arrowroot starch, liquid sweetener, and vodka. Make this recipe as is, or throw in your favorite mix-ins. —Ashley McLaughlin

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla beans, from 1 to 2 scraped vanilla bean pods -- reserve pods
  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup or coconut nectar
  • 1/3 cup pure cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  1. Freeze your ice cream maker canister for at least 24 hours before starting this recipe. Do not skip this step!
  2. With a sharp knife trim the ends of your vanilla bean pod and slice down the center lengthwise cutting through only the top layer. Scrape the vanilla beans from the pod with a dull edge, such as a butter-knife. Measure 1/4 teaspoon or a tad more and set aside. (You may need 2 vanilla bean pods depending on the size of your pods.) Reserve the scraped pods.
  3. To prepare the ice bath: Find two large heat-safe (glass and plastic are not recommended) mixing bowls that can nest together and fill the larger of the two about 1/3 full of ice. Place the other bowl on top. Set aside.
  4. Empty entire contents of both coconut milk cans into a medium-sized pot.
  5. Remove a few tablespoons of the coconut milk liquid and place in a small bowl along with the arrowroot starch. Whisk thoroughly until combined.
  6. Pour entire starch mixture into the pot along with the brown rice syrup, cane sugar, and vanilla beans.
  7. Heat over medium and whisk the ingredients until fully combined.
  8. Once combined add the vanilla bean pods to the pot and bring to a low boil, whisking every minute or so.
  9. Let boil for about 1 1/2 minutes and slowly stir with the whisk.
  10. Pour entire mixture into the top bowl of your ice bath.
  11. Whisk in the vodka and let the mixture sit until ice cold, whisking every so often. It will take at least 1 1/2 hours to fully chill. Waiting for the mixture to fully chill is a must!
  12. Once cold, pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and turn on. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and remove ice cream into a 8- x 4-inch bread pan or plastic container once complete. (I have a Cuisinart brand and it takes just over 20 minutes before it’s the consistency of a thick soft serve.) Serve immediately if you are after a soft serve texture.
  13. Pack ice cream into your container and spread evenly. Place a piece of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap on the surface of the ice cream and press lightly so it’s fully stuck to the top.
  14. Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving for a traditional ice cream texture. Let sit for a few minutes then scoop, serve, and top however you’d like. Place your parchment paper securely on the surface of the ice cream to help avoid ice crystals forming and store in the freezer.
  15. NOTES: If you do not want to use the ice bath method, you can instead pour the hot mixture into a heat-safe bowl, whisk in the vodka, and then place in the refrigerator until fully chilled. Whisking the mixture will help speed the cooling process. *The vodka is a necessary ingredient to help the ice cream not turn rock hard. If you want an even softer ice cream use 1 1/2 tablespoons. *The arrowroot starch and liquid sweetener help the texture and also avoid ice crystallization. *For sweeter ice cream add 2 more tablespoons of pure cane sugar to the mixture before heating.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • insecureepicure
  • Melanie Yarbrough
    Melanie Yarbrough
  • Ameena Williams
    Ameena Williams
  • Katya Mendes da Maia
    Katya Mendes da Maia
  • Ashley McLaughlin
    Ashley McLaughlin
Hello! My name is Ashley, and I'm the photographer + writer behind the blog, Edible Perspective. LOVE // the husband // family // cooking for others // farmers markets // the first winter snow // cycling // snowshoeing // snowboarding // bluegrass // architecture // our pups // farm fresh eggs // mountains // boxed wine // breakfast // biking to breweries // clean sheets // traveling

18 Reviews

kbakich August 10, 2020
Made this yesterday and it was fabulous! Followed the recipe except subbed an equal amount of maple syrup as the liquid sweetener, since I didn't have brown rice syrup on hand. Used 1.5T of vodka, and it is nice and soft after 12 hours in the freezer. Thank you for giving me a simple but effective method for a non-dairy treat! Can't wait to try variations of add-ins.
Islander441 April 24, 2020
I just made this with a few changes and it came out perfectly. I have a
feeling my husband will not be eating this 1TBL at at a time as he normally
does(well who does eat 1 TBL at a sitting but him!!).
I did the water bath for maybe 5 min and then refrigerated it 3 hrs before churning.
I used Native Forest organic coconut milk classic. this is my recipe(halved bec.
I have a small ice cream maker):
1 can full fat coconut milk
2 tsp. arrowroot powder
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. cane sugar
2 tsp. vodka

AngelinaSpear February 25, 2018
I made this twice and during the ice bath it developed a very lumpy texture that wouldn’t whisk away! I have no idea what went wrong since I followed all of the boiling directions and used the right ingredients. The only thing I can think of is that maybe my vodka was too old. It’s from the 70s or something (inherited bar from in-laws). But that doesn’t make a lot of sense. It didn’t go away when I churned it either. Any ideas?
Ashley M. February 26, 2018
So strange! I haven't run into any issues like this after making the recipe a handful of times. My guess is it's from the type of coconut milk you're using. Brands very a lot and some are sort of mealy and don't combine thoroughly.
AngelinaSpear February 26, 2018
I used Trader Joe’s coconut cream the first time, full fat the second and it was the same. It all combined fine over heat, clumps appeared during chilling.
G S. October 29, 2016
Is there anything that can be used in place of pure cane sugar? My family members are vegans for ethical reasons and white sugar is white because it is filtered through bone-char which bleaches it. Bone-char is made from cow bones. What would be the best substitute for this to make it taste great. I don't ever use artificial sweeteners.
Ashley M. October 31, 2016
Many cane sugars are vegan (a lot of organic lines, especially). A quick google search will tell you what you need to know.
insecureepicure October 2, 2016
I forgot the alcohol and added it as it was mixing the ice cream in ice cream maker. I could actually see the crystals disappear. I also used whiskey as I had no vodka. The ice cream came out great!! Delicious and beautiful texture.
Melanie Y. August 6, 2015
Looks very yummy
Molly H. July 11, 2015
What do you do without an ice cream maker? Can the ice cream still be made? I don't have an ice cream maker.
Melanie Y. August 6, 2015
Did you ever get a answer? I want to try this as well but I'm in the same boat lol no ice-cream maker. Did you try this yet?
Ameena W. March 4, 2015
Sounds and looks delicious, what about the vodka? Can it be omitted, im just thinking about the children.
rick January 25, 2015
wow...just made this....amazing results.....if i was to add say mango or raspberries would the liquid in the fruit effect the creamy texture
LisaBoban July 28, 2014
I've made this recipe a few times now, and whole family loves it. This is more of a technique than a recipe. Sometimes I used a vanilla bean, and sometimes I use high quality extract. Since corn starch is a more available stabilizer, I sometimes use it in place of arrowroot. Tonight, I added fresh cherries! Yes, you do have to cook this then cool it thoroughly. The cooking activates the arrowroot-there's no other way to do that. Cooling it thoroughly eliminates ice crystals. The ice bath does it quickly, or you can refrigerate over night. All cooking is chemistry! Really...follow directions and you will be rewarded!
Ashley M. July 28, 2014
The cherries sound like an excellent addition! So happy to hear you've been enjoying this technique/recipe. :)
waty L. March 2, 2014
Its now, I have simple recipe for fun with family. But its the same questions, can it just be blended...?
Katya M. March 1, 2014
Wow! This ice-cream look like the best dairy one! Is it essential to boil the mixture? Can it just be blended?
Mei C. March 4, 2014
Hi! I haven't made this, so I can't be sure, but I would guess that the boiling is necessary to activate the arrowroot starch. This is how starches work- they need consistent heat in order to gel and create a creamy consistency. If you skip it the texture would probably be gritty and it would spin really hard.