I should mention I was a vegan for four years.
Like a full-fledged, make and pack all my own food, no Grandma I won’t drink that cup of-coffee even if there’s “only a little bit of milk in it,” why does the house dressing contain parmesan, oh my God I can eat Oreos, Vegan.
Yeah, one of those.
Maybe someday I’ll write more on the subject, what drove me to choose a vegan lifestyle in the first place, and why I stopped, but for now I’ll just say that one January day when I was 15 I basically decided over night that vegan was how I was going to eat. And then almost four years to the day later, I just as quickly made up my mind that I was going to eat some of the rotisserie chicken in the refrigerator.
That chickeny day was only four years ago, but looking back it all seems so far behind me!
During that period of time as a vegan, I definitely ate my fair share of dairy-free ice cream. Soy-based, coconut-based, rice-milk based, you name it. Some were really bad, but many were pretty great. And since then, I think many of the vegan ice creams on the market have gotten even better. (Like have you tried this stuff? Omg.)
Three summers ago, I lived in Italy for a month. No longer vegan, my main activity there was eating gelato. I ate gelato every day. My mom would (and still occasionally does…) send me articles about gelato. Not just which places served the best, but how to distinguish the best from the second-rate. I became a connoisseur, if I do say so myself.
I tried them all, but my go-to favorite flavors were nocciola (hazelnut) and fior di latte (sweet cream.) Mmmm.
When I drove myself from Connecticut to California the summer before last, I mapped out all the ice cream and gelato places recommended by all the big food websites and magazines along my route. I went to at least ten.
That’s it. I really need to write a separate post just to talk about my opinions on frozen desserts and my favorite places around the world to eat them. And then figure out how to work for this guy. <—Dream job right there.
But for now, have I made a decent enough argument for you to trust I have really high standards for ice cream, dairy-free or otherwise?!
This vegan, naturally-sweetened Mexican chocolate ice cream is good stuff. Creamy and not icy in the least, like so many homemade ice creams. It’s rich, dense, and a small serving goes a long way. Which is a pretty relative statement when it comes to ice cream, but moving on…
I love combining warm spices with chocolate, and it’s especially nice during these colder months. The coconut is not overpowering, but gives this treat a complex flavor. And to top it off, all of the ingredients come with wonderful health benefits!
Whether you’re a vegan, dairy-free, or just an ice-cream lover like I am, you’ve got to make this. But if animal products are part of you diet, may I suggest a hefty swirl of whipped cream to top it off….
Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
Yields about 1 quart
- 2 (14oz) cans full-fat coconut milk
- 1/3 cup (66g) coconut palm sugar
- 1/3 cup (112g) agave nectar
- 2 Tbs. (15g) corn starch
- 1/3 cup (27g) cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- Dash of cayenne (optional)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3.5 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped*
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
In a sauce pan over medium heat, warm the coconut milk, coconut sugar, and agave to just below a simmer.
Meanwhile, whisk together the corn starch, cocoa, spices, and salt in a medium bowl. Slowly pour in about half of the heated milk mixture, whisking constantly until no lumps remain.
Return the saucepan to the stove and add the contents of the bowl. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Using a heat-proof rubber spatula, gently stir until it thickens. Remove from heat just as it starts to bubble. You don’t want to let it boil. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour the mixture back into the bowl. If you’d like you may strain it first through a fine sieve, but I don’t find it necessary. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top and chill in the refrigerator for at least six hours, but preferably overnight.
Churn the ice cream, once again following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm. Once frozen the ice cream will be pretty hard, so it’s good to let it sit on the counter for 5-10 minutes before scooping and serving
*If you want to ensure your ice cream is 100% vegan and naturally sweetened, use chocolate that is dairy-free and grain-sweetened. I personally don’t mind a little sugar so the variety of chocolate I typically use contains evaporated cane juice. If you can’t find a brand of bar chocolate you like, chocolate chips will work fine.
Recipe adapted from A Couple Cooks.