Homemade Ice Cream (with Omega 3s!)

Those of you who’ve been reading my columns for awhile now know that homemade ice cream is very near and dear to my heart. Some of my major food memories are ice cream- related. Summer Sundays when I was a kid meant homemade ice cream, with the leftovers (if there were any) serving as supper. Some of the earliest home movies of me show my mom spooning homemade chocolate ice cream into my mouth at age six months. Yes, it’s true. I am smiling beatifically in the movie, completely into the moment. So, when I tell you that homemade vegan ice cream can be good, I know what I’m talking about.

I’ve written a couple of columns about ice cream before, and I’ve made a lot of homemade vegan ice cream over the years, but I’ve just had a revelation. I picked up my copy of The Garden Of Vegan (by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer) and was flipping through it when I came upon Tanya and Sarah’s “Chocolate Ice Cream” recipe. In addition to some tofu and soy milk, it calls for 1/4 cup of regular (not Dutched) cocoa powder, and a 1/2 cup of olive oil. “Now that’s just plain weird,” I thought. “That can’t taste good.” But I usually like their recipes, so I gave it a go. I have to say – it’s brilliant! It tastes like a Wendy’s Frosty. Not exactly like my mom’s homemade chocolate ice cream, but very, very good and very, very easy. It doesn’t require any cooking at all – just blending and freezing.

“Why oil?” you ask. The emulsified oil makes the ice cream very smooth, rich, and creamy. I used extra virgin olive oil in the chocolate ice cream, and the cocoa completely covered the flavor of the olives. Then I had a brainstorm. We’re all looking for vegetarian sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Bingo – I used flax seed oil and made a coffee-flavored version which was also delish. (You can use canola or safflower oil, instead, but I for one have to balance my indulgences with some nutritional benefit whenever possible). If you are trying to limit fat in your diet (even the healthy kind), you can simply leave the oil out. You will get something closer to ice milk than ice cream – less rich and icier, but still very good. I personally find a small serving of the richer ice cream more satisfying.

I tried making vanilla ice cream the same way, but the result was very “beany”. Vanilla just isn’t strong enough to cover the soybean flavor of the Mori Nu tofu that I used. For vanilla ice cream, try the gelato recipe below. Bryanna Clark Grogan uses a mix of ingredients to avoid the beany flavor, but hers is a much more involved recipe and requires cooking and pre-planning. The upside to her recipe is that it is much lower in fat and calories.

These recipes are all written for those small electric ice cream makers with the frozen sleeves you keep in the freezer. They all make about 3 cups (just right for those “quart” ice cream freezers. Where do they get these measurements?) If you have a very cold freezer like mine (-10 F) and you keep your ice cream freezer liner in it, you won’t even have to pre-chill the mix. If you have a freezer that’s not quite so heroic, pre-chill your mix for a couple of hours before freezing. Or pop the mix into your freezer before dinner, then churn it in the ice-cream maker after dinner.

If you’re going on a picnic this Memorial Day, or any time this summer, try doubling or quadrupling one of these recipes and making it in a large ice cream churn with ice and rock salt. Churn your cream before you go if you won’t have electricity on-site. Then, remove the dasher, repack the ice cream churn carefully with fresh ice and rock salt, wrap it in some beach towels, and carry it along with you. The ice cream will stay lovely and frozen for a couple of hours or more that way.

If for some bizarre reason you have leftover ice cream, remember that homemade ice cream freezes rock hard when saved. To counter this, you can stir in some of your favorite liqueur. It tastes great and keeps the ice cream scoopable. Or you can let your left over ice cream sit out of the freezer for 10-15 minutes, then run it through your food processor to whip it back into a soft serve texture.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, most especially my own Mom, who taught me to make and love lots of great foods, including homemade ice cream.

For more vegan ice cream recipes and ideas, and variations on the vanilla gelato , search this site using “homemade ice cream” as your search term.  “Ice cream” gives you too many hits about using ice cream scoops to measure out cookie dough, etc.  As always, e-mail me with any questions or comments. Enjoy your summer!


Chocolate Ice Cream

Recipe adapted from The Garden of Vegan (Barnard & Kramer)
Serves 6 (1/2 cup servings)
Preparation Time: 5 minutes plus time to freeze

2 cups tofu (soft or silken)
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup olive or flaxseed oil
3/4 cup unbleached sugar or Sucanat
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. In a blender or food processor, blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. This will take a couple of minutes. Stop and scrape down any bits of tofu that want to stick to the sides of the container, then continue processing until the mixture is glossy.
2. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Makes approximately 3 cups.
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Notes: If you want to add chocolate chips or toasted nuts, do so when the ice cream is almost finished churning. If you add them too soon, they will end up frozen in chunks at the bottom of the churn.

Per serving (as written): 347 Calories; 23g Fat (58% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 56mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Fruit; 4 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates

Cappuccino Ice Cream

Recipe adapted from The Garden of Vegan (Barnard & Kramer)
Serves 6 (1/2 cup servings)
Preparation Time: 5 minutes plus time to freeze

2 cups tofu (soft or silken)
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup olive oil or flax oil
3/4 cup sugar unbleached
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. In a blender or food processor, blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. This will take a couple of minutes. Stop and scrape down any bits of tofu that want to stick to the sides of the container, then continue processing until the mixture is glossy.
2. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Makes approximately 3 cups.
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Notes: You can find instant espresso powder in most well stocked supermarkets on the coffee aisle, or check your local Hispanic food market.

Add additional espresso powder to taste, but be careful – it’s very strong.

For Mocha Ice Cream, add 1-2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the mix.

Adjust the sweetness to suit your palate, but remember that the mixture needs to taste sweeter than you want the frozen ice cream to taste.

Per serving: 339 Calories; 23g Fat (59% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 55mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Fruit; 4 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates
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Vegan Italian Vanilla Ice Cream (with variations)
(Gelato Vegan Alla Vaniglia)

Recipe By: Bryanna Clark Grogan, Nonna’s Italian Kitchen
Makes 1 quart, serves 8 (1/2 cup servings)

Mixture #1
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown rice syrup or white corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Mixture #2
1 cup water
3/4 cup soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup Grade A maple syrup
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Blend Mixture #1 in a blender, then set aside in a measuring cup.

Blend Mixture #2 in a blender until very smooth and frothy. (Make sure it doesn’t feel grainy.) Place this mixture in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, and stir over medium-high heat until thickened.

Microwave option: Place Mixture #2 in a large, microwave-proof bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Whisk and cook 2 minutes more. Whisk and cook 1 minute more.

Whisk Mixture #1 into cooked Mixture #2. Chill the gelato mixture and then freeze according to the directions for your ice cream maker. Scoop into a plastic container, cover, and freeze for several hours before serving.

Per serving: 169 Calories; 4g Fat (22% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 80mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates
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