Vegan coolers: 8 dairy-free ice creams put to the taste test

These are free from dairy but packed with flavour
Vegan coolers: 8 dairy-free ice creams put to the taste test

While shopping for our recent ice cream survey (July 2), we came across some outstanding non-dairy samples that deserved a Top 8 of their own. We found delicious ice creams on sticks and in cones, ideal if dairy-free is not a preference for all the family.

Ice cream may well be cooling on a blazing summer’s day but remember it’s a high-calorie treat. All varieties contain sugar and some form of fat – dairy isn’t the only culprit. Most samples notched up as many as 200 calories, much the same as dairy ice cream, which could be more than an eighth of our daily intake.

In our survey, we have noted some exceptions to fat content, though sugar is as worrying and there is plenty in all the samples we tested.

To minimise quantity, a scoop in a cone is usually less than a portion in a bowl. Resist second portions, remembering it takes six minutes on a bike to work off just 60 calories. One 87g ice cream on a stick had a typical 252 calories.

Ice cream is not thirst quenching, and dehydration can cause tiredness and general lethargy, so drink water (not fizzy drinks) after eating it. To avoid tummy problems, don’t re-freeze ice cream that has melted. Eat immediately if it does, ideally as a sauce for fresh fruit.

Marks & Spencer Plant Kitchen chocolate & vanilla cones 480ml €4.10

Tasters couldn’t tell these were dairy-free. A winner with all.

Four cones have half chocolate, half vanilla throughout in gluten-free cones. Vegan-friendly, dairy is replaced by coconut oil, and there is maize flour, concentrated lupin protein and various forms of sugar. Fats are 10.8% - 9.2g per cone. Have one, relatively guilt free.

Score: 9.75

Magnum Vegan Classic 270ml €3.50

Three chocolate ice creams on sticks have a decent vanilla-flavoured chocolate coating of 33% that appealed to older tasters, reminding them of past choc ices. The vegan-friendly vanilla flavoured ice cream inside has coconut oil, pea protein, various forms of sugar which offset the coating well. 20% fats. Tasters didn’t recognise them as non-dairy.

Score: 9

Booja-Booja Hunky Punky Chocolate 500ml €8.46

Water, agave syrup, cashew nuts (for creaminess) and 4.5% cocoa powder were the interesting four only organic ingredients. Unusual to see no additives and a mere 5.9% fats and 145 calories per 100g serving. A good all rounder for rich, slightly nutty chocolatiness that  appealed to vegans and others alike.

Score: 9

Halo Top Plant Based Peanut Butter Chocolate Overload 473ml €4

Peanut butter flavoured non-dairy ice cream with fudge swirl has 2% each of brownie pieces and chocolate chips in a 9% oat base. Creamy with good peanut flavour, nice caramel bits, though the quality of the chocolate failed to impress. Not too sweet or heavy, with a nice creaminess was the overall verdict.

Score: 8.75

Swedish Glace 275ml €4.55

The first non-dairy ice cream we surveyed in 2003 included this brand, now owned by Unilever. The five ice creams on sticks have coconut fat, rapeseed oil with 1.5% soy powder, and won the hearts of young tasters and adults who were impressed with the base and contrasting 21% chocolate coating. Vegan, dairy-free, lactose-free, gluten-free. Source of soya is not specified. Made in Lithuania. We bought in Tesco.

Score: 8.75

Nobó Irish salted caramel 500ml €7.50

This wins a commendation for just six ingredients. Made from coconut milk, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, avocado, vanilla extract, Irish sea salt. Dairy and gluten-free, vegan friendly, 5.9% fats is low. The compostable tub is noted. Tasters liked the consistently caramel flavour throughout and its creaminess. Not a favourite, but everyone enthusiastically finished their portion. Based in Rathmines, Dublin.

Score: 8.25

Lidl Gelatelli dark chocolate vegan lollies 186g €2.99

Three ice creams on sticks have a decent 31.5% rich chocolate coating of 50% cocoa solids over the less flavoursome vanilla-flavour base in a blend that has a long list of ingredients including rice drink powder. Tasters liked the coating, not inside so much.

Score: 7

Glenown at Fat Badger Vegan coconut and chocolate ice cream two scoops €5

We raced home from the shop opposite UCC with our tub wrapped in tinfoil, and tasters were glad we made the effort. Named after the farm, Glenown is under the umbrella of Silver Pail in Fermoy. The fresh coconut flavour comes from coconut milk and oil with less flavour-rich chocolate chips. More emphasis on ice than cream was a refreshing, cooling change. The shop is owned by Darren Fogarty and Emily Munn.

Score: 8.5

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