Let’s face it. There is no bad time for ice cream. However, with the weather heating up and summer unofficially under way, we have entered optimum frozen dessert pig-out season. Whether you prefer bowls or cones, milkshakes or popsicles, chocolate or vanilla, ice cream is excited to make a regular return to your diet. And we are here for it!

For those who are dairy-averse, it’s easy to feel left out. But just because you’re lactose intolerant or vegan doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a creamy, albeit cream-less treat. With an ever-increasing array of milk alternatives and a growing awareness of the dairy-free lifestyle, there are more dairy-free ice cream options on the market than ever before. But are they any good?

As someone who loves cheese as much as my family, I decided to tiptoe into this newfound dairy-free territory to find out. And what better place to do so than at the 2018 New York Scooper Bowl. The annual event (which has editions in both NYC and Boston) is the nation’s largest all-you-can-eat ice cream festival. And best of all, the proceeds go towards cancer research, so you can chow down for a great cause. This year’s edition boasted 64 flavors from over a dozen vendors. From national brands to local shops, every possible variety of ice cream was represented. And yes, that includes plenty of dairy-free flavors. In the name of research, we tried them all. We entered skeptical. We left satiated. Get the complete scoop on some of our favorites below.

Ben & Jerry’s Caramel Almond Brittle

By utilizing almond milk as the base of this frozen dessert, the company made a wise decision to play up that nutty flavor. They also add little pieces of almond brittle for an extra crunch and the swirls of caramel lend a sweetness that complements the nuts instead of overpowering them. This is a major upgrade over boring old pistachio, and has the benefit of being just as beloved by the lactose intolerant.

Häagen Dazs Non-Dairy Frozen Chocolate Salted Fudge Truffles

Häagen-Dazs

If you didn’t think dairy-free chocolate couldn’t be decadent, Häagen-Dazs is here to prove you wrong. These chocolate salted fudge truffles are rich, dense, and delicious. Utilizing soy and sunflower lecithin, as well as coconut oil for thickening purposes, there is no way you’d ever know this frozen dessert was vegan.

Van Leeuwen Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Van Leeuwen

You might not have heard of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, but it’s one of the finest local purveyors of ice cream in New York City. Their small batch artisanal flavors have been satisfying Brooklynites for over a decade. And they’ve been perfecting vegan ice cream for most of the duration of their existence. Homemade cashew milk and fresh coconut cream are the basis for a lot of their dairy-free flavors including this chocolate chip cookie dough pint of heaven.

Van Leeuwen Vegan Salted Caramel

Van Leeuwen’s

Van Leeuwen also makes a mean dairy-free salted caramel, which was also represented at the Scooper Bowl, making them the only vendor with multiple vegan samples up for grabs.

Baskin Robbin’s Triple Grape Ice

Baskin Robbins

Technically this is a sorbet, but it’s one of the denser ones we’ve eaten and the multi-colored swirls make it look deceptively creamier. Whether or not you’ll enjoy it depends on your fondness for grapes. At times I felt like I was licking a spoon of jelly, albeit a really cold one.

Sambazon Acai Sorbet

Sambazon

Technically we weren’t able to try this flavor since they weren’t at the Scooper Bowl on the same day as us. But despite the bad timing, we’re still curious to try this sorbet made from the trendiest superfood this side of turmeric. According to the ingredients, it also incorporates tapioca syrup and locust bean gum, so we’re intrigued how that impacts the texture compared to a traditional sorbet.

Header image courtesy of Häagen Dazs.

Jessica is an Associate Editor at Chowhound. Follow her on Twitter @volume_knob for updates on snacks and cats.
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