I know a couple of people that can’t drink milk, which means they suffer a fate worse than death: not being able to eat ice cream. The solution? Make ice cream from soy milk.
But I discovered that there are two problems with making soy milk ice cream. First, soy milk has almost no fat in it, which is a problem when trying to make homemade ice cream because it needs a fairly high butterfat content to be smooth and creamy. And second, soy milk ice cream tastes like soy milk. Even if you’re used to the “beany soy” flavor, you probably don’t want your ice cream to taste like that. You want it to taste like vanilla, or strawberry, or whatever flavor you’re making.
To help overcome the problem of the low fat content, I used “Silk” brand soy milk creamer, which has about 7% fat by weight, instead of their normal soy milk, which has less than 2% fat. But since low-fat ice cream doesn’t even start until about 10%, and recipes like the Sweet Cream Base are about 19%, even the 7% creamer is way too low to make good ice cream without it being icy.
My first thought was that I’d compensate for the low fat content by using a stabilizer like xanthan gum. I’ve had good success with xanthan gum in strawberry ice cream, because it helps reduce the iciness from all the water in the strawberries. And stabilizers are a key ingredient in low-fat ice cream like gelato, which is often made from just milk, and no cream at all. But an interesting thing happened that made the xanthan gum unnecessary — more on that in a moment.
For the first test, I decided to make a simple batch of vanilla, with no stabilizer. This would be the worst-case scenario, to see how bad 7% ice cream really is. And let me tell you, it’s bad. Not only was it horribly icy, the soy flavor completely overpowered the vanilla. The result went right down the sink.
For tests two, three, and four, I used xanthan gum, which worked great for getting rid of the iciness. But even though the consistency was fine, nothing could cover up the strong soy bean flavor. I tried a batch with cinnamon, a batch with fresh strawberries, and even a batch with almond extract, just because I had it on-hand. They were all terrible. Not quite as bad as the horrible vanilla batch, but terrible nonetheless. I realized that if I was going to cover up the soy bean flavor, I was going to have to bring in the big guns. That’s right, nothing was going to work in this case but the ultimate flavor for ice cream: chocolate.
So with that in mind, test five was a modification of the Jerry’s Chocolate recipe, with a combination of melted chocolate and cocoa powder, and then I added some dark-chocolate-covered almonds just to give it a bit of crunch. I also switched from two eggs to four egg yolks, just to try to increase the richness a bit. The result? Fantastic! Finally, the chocolate covered up all the soy bean flavor, and it tasted almost as good as the original recipe with heavy whipping cream (almost).
But since I was still using xanthan gum at that point, it tasted way too sticky. So I decreased the amount of xanthan gum a couple of times, and somewhere around test number seven, I realized it probably didn’t need stabilizer at all. Apparently the chocolate and egg yolks did the trick on their own. I do think, however, that if you removed the eggs, you might need to add about 1/4 teaspoon or so of xanthan gum, but I haven’t actually tried that. (If you do use xanthan gum, be sure to add it while the mix is spinning in a blender, to prevent lumps.)
The final result ended up being a rich, creamy chocolate ice cream, with no stabilizer at all. Give it a try — it’s great.
Chocolate Ice Cream From Soy Milk
2 cups soy milk creamer (I used the Silk brand)
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark-chocolate-covered almonds
(makes about a quart)
To prevent the chocolate from seizing when you melt it, chop it up and toss it in with the cocoa and soy milk creamer, and heat it all together on medium-high heat. Usually about the point it starts to bubble is the time to take it off the heat, and whisking it a bit will make a nice smooth consistency that looks like chocolate cream, rather than tiny bits of chocolate mixed in with the cream. You can then follow the basic process in my Sweet Cream Base post to get everything mixed together.
Cool the mix somewhat before adding the vanilla, to prevent the extract from evaporating in the heat. Then continue cooling the mix to 40 degrees F (5 C) or lower before churning it in an ice cream machine.
Quarter the almonds, and put them into the refrigerator to chill.
After churning, move the ice cream to a pre-chilled bowl with a pre-chilled spoon. Fold in the almonds, and then move the ice cream to pre-chilled containers and into the freezer to harden.
Absolutely delicious recipe! I tried this over the weekend and it’s amazing. It’s good to be able to eat ice cream again!
great article… thank you…!! for vegans/non dairy people, coconut milk is so wonderful for ice cream too… :)
Thank you for explaining why the soy ices in the freezer. It’s a problem I’m having.
2 questions: I tried arrowroot powder (based on book The Vegan Scoop) but the mix didn’t thicken up at all. Have you tried arrowroot powder?
When I used my ice cream maker (Cuisinart), the soy milk did not get thick at all! And that’s after I cooled the mix in the fridge for 3 hours.
I haven’t tried arrowroot powder actually, so I’m afraid I don’t know what you should expect from it. But if the mix isn’t freezing right in your machine, it’s probably related to the fat content of the milk you’re using. Send me a message via the Contact link at the top-right of this page, and I’ll be glad to help you figure it out.
Hi there, nice blog!
I think you’re attacking this the wrong way.
Almost all people that cannot tolerate milk (Besides vegans) are lactose intolerant. If you take the lactose out of the milk, it’s completely digestible!
You can do this with an enzyme called “lactase”. It breaks down the lactose into glucose and galactose, just as the gut would normally do to digest lactose. This is how lactose free milks and creams like Xymill are made.
It also has the added benefit of making the ice crystals shorter, reducing the need for stabilisers.
If you buy the liquid form you can put the liquid into the sweet base just after it’s tempered. I wouldn’t put it in while the mixture is over 30 degrees celcius though, as I’m unsure at what point the enzyme breaks down. Lactase works fastest at 25 degrees, if you leave your sweet base in the fridge overnight, all of the lactose should have been processed leaving you with a mix that you can use in any ice cream! You then should be able to move onto the sterilisation step.
I haven’t tried making lactose free ice cream yet, but as soon as I get my hands on lactase liquid, I’ll get stuck in. I can’t wait to stock up the freezer!
My son has an egg allergy along with a dairy allergy. Any chance you would be willing to experiment with an egg-less recipe?
I’d suggest trying the same chocolate soy milk recipe above, but without the eggs. There’s so much chocolate in the recipe that it might just work anyway. If it’s a bit icy, try adding small amounts (1 teaspoon or less) of xanthan gum while spinning the mix in a blender. You can read about my experiments with xanthan gum in these posts:
Stabilizers in Ice Cream
Stabilizers in Ice Cream Part 2: Strawberry Ice Cream
Thanks and good luck,
ditto, what Kristie said, my son is allergic to eggs as well. I’m trying a recipe where you use silk chocolate milk, and mix with cornstarch and cook for a bit, I’m hoping this works.
Silk brand coconut milk is 8% fat. It also has a nice flavor that’s sort of a cross between ‘regular’ coconut milk and 2% milk.
Do you think that mixing it with a bit of coconut oil to bring the fat content up would give a good result for a nondairy ice cream?
The coconut flavor in the product is fairly milk and would mix well with a lot of other flavors.
Great question Janeen. I’ve been wondering the same thing, can adding more oil (coconut or whatever) to the rice milk give a better result. I haven’t tried any procedure yet, but when i do I want a good product.
What do you think Russell.
Maybe coffee would also be strong enough to cover the soy flavor. I remember trying store-bought soy ice creams and it was the same problem: chocolate worked, vanilla definitely didn’t. I had an inspiration, though. I’m mixing in a package of instant vanilla pudding mix to help with both the texture and the flavor. We’ll see.
Fun recipe. Found that using soy creamer combined with regular full-fat soymilk helps it to come out less icy.
I’ve made coconut milk ice cream and it’s wonderful! A bit icier than regular ice cream of course but I have a lactose intolerant friend as well and he likes it just fine. I’ve made mint chocolate and coconut chocolate chip. I think you can even get coconut cream to make it creamier but since I only make it occasionally I haven’t tried that yet.
This recipe sounds great! I have tried quite a few commercially produced dairy-free ice creams over the last few years, and have been disappointed by almost all of them. I have high hopes for this home made version…:). Thank you!
Not until recently, i find out that I have problems with casein, a protein in milk, also problems with egg, corn, soy and gluten, but then it turn out to be that it was the genetic modified stuff that I have problem with.
I love ice cream, and I want it the way I used to enjoy it, so I use Gordon Ramsay’s chocolate ice cream recipe with reduced sugar content by 30%, as the semi sweet chocolate may contain a certain percentage of dairy, I use 100% dark chocolate, but I have reduced the amount by 50%. Instead of milk, I replaced that with organic soy milk with no sugar (actually if you own a food processor, you do have the option to make your own soy milk, consult the owner’s handbook for instruction), as for the double cream, fat content of 48%, I have tried coconut oil, with adjusted amount from the original recipe, but my housemates couldn’t stand the favor, so I now use cocoa butter, and the result was great, my friends love it! I may try vegetable oil later to see how it goes.
The down side is it take more than an hour to make, and the ingredients are not cheap at all.
Since I have an issue with corn, not only I didn’t includ corn starch in my ice cream, I also stay away from the xanthan gum. To a point I used only the Italian free range chicken egg, for it unique texture, and wishing to stay away eggs from corn fed chicken.
Such a great blog, for those starting out to make ice cream and do not have a degree in Food Science, your blog made it easy for me to understand when “mishaps” would happen why and what to do!
Great great stuff!
Keep up the good work…all the way from ice cream fan in Indonesia :)
You are a genius!! I made this recipe tonight for my daughter, who is allergic to cow’s milk protein. It looked and tasted so delicious that she kept asking me if it was really milk free. Since she has a nut allergy as well, many of the commercial dairy free ice creams are off limits to her so this is a great find.
The egg yolks and cooking was exactly what I was missing in previous recipes. I cooled this recipe in the fridge/freezer for a few hours and then ran it through my new Cuisinart ice cream machine. I ran it for about 5 minutes longer than dairy ice cream and it was still fairly soft, but delicious.
Great insight, Russell. Ice cream is a major trigger for my intolerance, but the vegan ice cream I’ve tried is far too icy. I’ll have to give this a try.
Thanks for the tips and comments. I just started with an ice cream maker and I’m looking for ways to make soy milk ice cream. I’ll take your comments on board, thanks.
My youngest child is allergic to milk protein and from all the diary products what he misses most is ice cream. Today I made it and it is really good. I was about to make it vanilla flavor, but fortunately I found your article and did it chocolate.
I just made this using dairy free ‘Valencia Orange’ flavoured dark chocolate and some dairy free chocolate chips :)
Best Oh-My-Gosh worthy Jaffa Ice-cream I have made yet :)
I also don’t consume COW dairy, was thinking I’d just have to stick to sorbet but this gives me hope. I hate soy milk but will try with coconut… maybe adding coconut cream will help others with the lack of creaminess, I use it to make coffee popcicles.