Monday, June 20, 2011

Making cheap non-dairy homemade ice cream

Recently, I found a Rival brand ice cream maker at the Goodwill for only $10. I had been looking for one for quite a while and was very excited to finally find one that looked good. A few years ago, I found one of those hand-cranked ice cream makers but it didn't seem to work properly. However, this automatic model that I found works great! As long as you let the machine run before pouring in the mixture, the spinning paddle won't get stuck.

The problem with ice cream machines is that it's not really much cheaper to make your own, if you like the premium ice creams that have a high fat content and mix-ins. I used to buy Turkey Hill vanilla bean pints for $2.49 each. To make your own ice cream, you need milk and heavy cream, which are not cheap nowadays. Then, for those of us who are lactose intolerant, we pay a premium for the lactose-free dairy products, such as Lactaid milk. Typically, the recipe for a quart of ice cream is 1 cup milk, 1 cup heavy cream, and flavorings. The milk and cream will cost over $2 and the cost goes up from there. If you want to make vanilla bean ice cream, those vanilla beans aren't cheap! From a health standpoint, all that saturated animal fat isn't good either. From a practical standpoint, it's difficult to transport ice cream home from the store without it melting if you don't own a car! But, we still want that ice cream in the summer, right?

Here are three easy solutions. The first is the most complicated one but offers you the most variety. The second one is very simple but you might not be able to create all the flavors you want. Both are healthier and cheaper than buying heavy cream and milk. The third solution is for athletes and people who want some protein in their ice cream.

Solution #1 - coconut ice cream
The first solution is to use coconut milk, which can be found for as little as 99 cents a can (e.g. light coconut milk at Trader Joe's). One 13.5 oz can should be enough for nearly a quart of ice cream because it expands as it churns. Also, you need to add stuff like flavorings and sugar. For about $2, you can make anywhere between 1.5 pints to a quart of chocolate ice cream, depending on what you add. The coconut milk is usually a buck or two a can and the other two ingredients are probably in your house already. BMS has Goya brand coconut milk for $1.69 a 13 oz can while CVS has the same for only $1.39 a can. The coconut milk replaces the milk and the cream in the typical recipe if you use the full fat Goya (or other brand) stuff (the light coconut milk will obviously make a lighter ice cream). I should also point out that the taste of coconut is actually quite mild. If you want coconut flavored ice cream, you need to add some kind of coconut extract and maybe some coconut flakes.

Chocolate ice cream takes only 3 ingredients:
  • 1 can of coconut milk 
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder. 
The basic recipe is just the coconut milk and some kind of sugar. Substitute whatever you like in place of the cocoa. Blend it all up either by hand or in a blender. Turn the ice cream machine on, pour in the mixture, and let it churn for about 15 to 30 minutes (depending on your machine). At that point, you'll have a great soft-serve ice cream. Use a wooden spoon to get all the ice cream into air-tight containers and freeze it for about an hour to have a harder ice cream. That's all there is to it. The bowl is easy to wash by hand and you can put it back in the freezer once it's dry.

  • add a shot of espresso or instant espresso dissolved in a small amount of water to the mixture
  • add tropical fruit chunks (e.g. pineapple, coconut flakes, mango, or banana) during the last 10 minutes of churning
  • omit the cocoa powder and add vanilla beans (but not vanilla extract because the alcohol will prevent the ice cream from solidifying).
  • add nuts during the last 5-10 minutes of churning.
  • use honey instead of sugar
Solution #2 - only bananas
The second solution is to use only bananas. This idea is the simpler one because it doesn't require an ice cream maker. There's actually a machine called "Yonanas" that is basically a sideways blender, that makes ice cream with frozen bananas. However, you don't need to do that. Why buy a machine that does only one thing? The only equipment you really need is either a food processor or blender. The processor works a little better, I think. Basically, you cut up 2 or 3 bananas, freeze them for about 5 hours, and process them. Eventually, you'll have delicious and refreshing soft-serve "ice cream" that's healthier for you and cheaper than regular ice cream. Here are a couple of people on youtube who have successfully demonstrated that it works:

This lady used a hand-cranked food processor!

She used an automatic food processor.

Frozen banana chunks in the Bella Cucina cup
Since most people use a food processor, I was curious to see if it would work in a blender and it did! However, I needed a splash of soy milk to get the blades going. Other than that, the two bananas were all I needed and there was enough to serve two people.
All done, ready to eat!

It was pretty amazing how the texture resembled regular soft-serve ice cream. In a blender, you really need at least a little bit of liquid to get the blades going. I also had to shake it after every 10 seconds at the beginning to help it along. After a few shakes, it all came together. The taste was actually very banana-like and sweet enough without adding any sugar. So, if you don't have an ice cream maker but have some ripe bananas and a food processor or blender, this would be an easy way to have some cheap ice cream all summer. It's actually very good. After you try this, it'll be hard to pass up a package of ripe bananas in the clearance section at the supermarket!
Golden opportunity! Only 49 cents a package. Less than 10 cents/serving.

Solution #3 - Ice cream for jocks
Finally, for those of you who need/want some protein in your ice cream, here's a recipe for high protein chocolate ice cream inspired by a body-builder blogger named Charli. I'm leaving out the xanthan gum because it's $11.99 a bag and it's not necessary. If you like the flavor of Mexican hot chocolate, add a dash of cayenne pepper. Rather than mixing it up and then freezing it, I suggest freezing the banana for about 5 hours as in solution #2 and then using a blender to mix everything up into a soft-serve style ice cream. I've tried this with hemp protein powder and it's more fun to eat than having a smoothie.

  • 1 medium banana, broken into chunks
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (any kind - whey, hemp, soy, etc.)
  • 3 tsp cocoa (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)


1. Freeze the banana chunks for about 5 hours or more.
2. Put all the ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until it's smooth. If you're using a blender and it's not moving well, add a Tbsp of liquid (e.g. soymilk, water, any kind of milk).

So, there you have it - 3 easy ways to make non-dairy homemade ice cream at home. Enjoy!


    1. Great post!! Looks good!
      I just started a blog about homemade non dairy ice cream!

      Thanks for sharing!

    2. You have some great ideas on your blog too! By the way, I was born in Toronto too. :)

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