Best Coconut Milk Ice Cream (Dairy-Free!)
Coconut Milk Ice Cream – This is by far the BEST dairy-free vanilla ice cream recipe out there! Easily make a batch of vegan “nice” cream at home with just 5 wholesome ingredients, and load with all of your favorite sweet mix-ins and toppings for a perfect summer treat.
Why We Love Coconut Ice Cream
We love making deliciously cold ice cream in the summer and have quite a growing assortment of frozen treats recipes. How else would we be ok in the south when it hits those 90+ degree temps?!
As much as we enjoy classic ice cream, there are times we need a dairy-free vegan option for friends with food sensitivities and specialized diets. That is where vanilla bean coconut ice cream comes in clutch!
This is our favorite non-dairy ice cream recipe, also known as nice cream since it is totally plant-based. It’s made with coconut milk, coconut cream, and vanilla extract for a perfectly creamy, smooth, and sweet treat everyone will love!
Dairy-Free Coconut Milk Ice Cream: To Heat or Not to Heat?
It’s SO easy to make Coconut Milk Ice Cream from scratch – and it tastes fabulous! Seriously, you will not miss the cow’s milk one bit.
Typically when making ice cream with dairy and sugar you need to first heat the mixture to dissolve the sugar. But I’ve made this ice cream several times and have discovered that it doesn’t always need to be heated/cooked before churning… Which cuts out a significant amount of time.
How do you know if you need to heat the mixture? Well, it depends on what brand of coconut milk/cream you use and the type of blender you use. You can put all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth to find out. If the coconut ice cream mixture is VERY smooth without ANY chunks, it’s safe to churn it as-is without heating.
However, if there are any coconut cream chunks present, they will freeze into hard waxy clumps in the ice cream. In this case, you need to warm the mixture over medium heat until smooth, stirring regularly. Then chill and cool to at least room temperature before churning.
If you don’t want to “test” the no-heat method, you can simply dump all the ingredients in a saucepot and heat until smooth, so the coconut clumps and sugar dissolve. Then chill and churn.
Ingredients You Need
One of the many MANY reasons we love this vegan nice cream recipe is that it only includes 5 wholesome ingredients. Nice, indeed!
To make the best Coconut Milk Ice Cream you need:
- Full-fat unsweetened coconut milk – from a can
- Coconut cream – a thicker and creamier substance, also canned
- Granulated sugar – white or coconut sugar both work well
- Vanilla extract – or vanilla bean paste for even more concentrated flavor
- Salt – essential to make a great dairy-free ice cream that doesn’t freeze solid when churned
Plus your favorite toppings! Keep reading for some sweet ideas.
How to Make Coconut Milk Ice Cream
Whether you plan on heating or not, first prepare the dairy-free ice cream mixture by blending all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Again, if there are any chunks of coconut cream you’ll definitely want to heat the mixture first. Let cool completely before churning.
If the coconut ice cream mixture is smooth without any chunks, it is safe to churn as-is without heating.
Once the ice cream mixture is cold, set out a 1.5-2 quart ice cream maker machine. Place the freezer bowl in the machine and turn it on. Then pour the very smooth and cold coconut ice cream recipe mixture into the machine.
Churn for 20-25 minutes, until the nice cream is thick, firm, and smooth. Be careful to not over-churn or the Coconut Milk Ice Cream will be hard and brittle.
Get the Complete (Printable) Dairy-Free Coconut Milk Ice Cream Recipe + VIDEO Below. Enjoy!
Serve immediately, or scoop into an airtight container and freeze until ready to enjoy.
Tips & Tricks
- Use full-fat coconut milk! Make sure to use the full-fat canned coconut milk and not lite coconut milk. You can’t use the refrigerated coconut milk beverage as this is not the same kind of coconut milk and doesn’t contain enough fat to make ice cream!
- This coconut ice cream is the best and creamiest on the day that you make it! Once you leave it in the freezer, it will get an icier texture. Still delicious, just different than the first day.
- Adjust the sugar content depending on how sweet you want it!
Possible Add-Ins and Dairy-Free Toppings
There are endless possibilities for all of the extra yummy goodies that can be added to this Coconut Milk Ice Cream recipe!
We recommend that you first churn the ice cream in the machine per the regular vanilla ice cream below. However, once the ice cream has churned you can fold in or top the ice cream with any sweet treats. Add in your favorite dairy-free delights such as:
- Coconut shreds
- Strawberry sauce
- Chocolate shavings
- Dark chocolate chips
- Chopped nuts like cashews, macadamia nuts, or pistachios
- Lime zest or lemon zest
- Crushed pineapple
- Fresh berries
- Berry jam
Add fresh homemade dairy-free whipped cream and a cherry on top for a delicious vegan sundae!
Frequently Asked Questions
There is a hint of coconut flavor in the homemade ice cream, but mostly it tastes just like vanilla. It has a lightly tropical flavor that I LOVE, and pairs really well with crushed pineapple as mentioned above.
Feel free to make this Coconut Milk Ice Cream recipe with whatever extract flavor you prefer! Other extracts that pair well with the coconut are hazelnut or almond, lemon or lime, raspberry, and mint.
Enjoy scoops of Coconut Milk Ice Cream in root beer floats, make banana splits with all of your favorite toppings, or add to baked desserts like cake or pie to serve a la mode.
Keep the coconut ice cream in a sealed container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let the container sit on the counter for 5-10 minutes to soften a bit before you scoop and serve.
Looking for More Dairy-Free Dessert Recipes?
- No-Churn Mocha Mint Chip Vegan Ice Cream
- Meyer Lemon and Peppercorn Italian Ice
- Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding (Vegan!)
- Thai Mango Sticky Rice
- “Date With Fate” Tropical Smoothies
Best Coconut Milk Ice Cream (Dairy-Free!)
- No-Heat Test: I’ve made this ice cream several times and have discovered that it doesn’t always need to be heated/cooked before churning… Which cuts out a significant amount of time. (It depends on what brand of coconut milk/cream you use and the type of blender you use.) To test if your ice cream needs to be heated, put all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. If the coconut ice cream mixture is VERY smooth without ANY chunks, it’s safe to churn it as-is without heating.
- Heat and Stir: However, if there are any coconut cream chunks present in the mixture, they will freeze into hard waxy clumps in the ice cream. In this case you need to warm the mixture over medium heat until smooth, stirring regularly. Then chill and cool to at least room temperature before churning. *If you don’t want to “test” the no-heat method, you can simply dump all the ingredients in a saucepot and warm over medium heat until smooth, so the coconut clumps and sugar dissolve. Then chill.
- To Churn: Once the ice cream mixture is cold, set out a 1.5-2 quart ice cream machine. Place the freezer bowl in the machine and turn on. Pour the very smooth cold ice cream mixture into the machine. Churn for 20-25 minutes, until thick, firm, and smooth.
- Serve immediately, or scoop into an airtight container and freeze until ready to use.