Luxuriously sweet and creamy, it’s hard to believe this ice cream is dairy-free and naturally sweetened – and incredibly easy to make.
After years of developing mostly healthy recipes, people logically assume that I am one of those really virtuous eaters. And I truly enjoy lots of wholesome foods. Truth is though, I also have a massive sweet tooth and hardly go a day without satisfying it.
I struggle like everyone else but have managed to control my urges by, for example, counting out a respectable number of peanut M&Ms for my afternoon coffee break. When it comes to the craving that hits a couple hours after dinner, however, luxuriously creamy ice cream is the only thing I really want.
Trouble struck last year when I had to give up dairy for a while. I was having major GI troubles and my doctor had me eliminate some things to help determine the problem. While I have been able to resume eating dairy in moderation, the hiatus kicked off a love affair with coconut milk-based ice cream. My husband gasped at the price of a measly pint. It’s a specialty item after all – six-dollars-plus-change special. I knew I had to sustain this relationship in a cheaper way.
Extensive experimentation (not a hardship in this case!) led to the following recipe. Freshly made, it’s creamy like soft serve. Allow it to “ripen” in the freezer and it will freeze hard. Because there are no artificial stabilizers or additives, the ice cream will freeze harder than most commercial brands.
Just let it rest on the counter for a few minutes before serving until it reaches a scoop-able consistency. I decided that if I was going to the effort to develop a healthier, dairy-free version of my beloved ice cream, I should pull out all the stops and eliminate refined sweeteners. Of course, it still had to taste great. Based on the quantity that has been consumed in this house, I’m confident in saying it does. : )
When not using an ice cream maker, I have experimented with freezing the mixture undisturbed and stirring the mixture once an hour for the first three hours in the freezer. The undisturbed ice cream is set and slightly creamier after 3-4 hours. The stirred option is slightly creamier the following day after the ice cream has fully “ripened.” If eating the same day, I don’t bother stirring. I do set my kitchen timer and stir when saving the ice cream for the next day,
For a smaller yield, the recipe can easily be cut in half.
Yields 8 servings (approximately 1 1/2 quarts).
- 2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated until very cold
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I use regular, not Dutched)
- 2/3 cup honey (could use agave or pure maple syrup)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
Place a freezer-safe container in the freezer. (See notes for additional details, but a cold container will prevent the soft set mixture from melting when transferred, thereby preventing ice crystals from developing.)
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth and creamy. Tips: Make sure you scrape all of the hardened coconut cream out of the cans. It can become quite hard, depending on the age and temperature of the can (which is actually a good thing in this case). Also, I find it helpful to stir the cocoa powder into the coconut milk mixture before blending. This will prevent a poof of cocoa powder that sticks to the sides and lid of your blender.
Taste the mixture at this point. In this recipe, the sweetness level is more similar to dark chocolate than milk chocolate. If you prefer a sweeter ice cream, add a little more honey to taste, blending to incorporate.
At this point, you have two options. You can transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker, which will freeze the ice cream in about 20 minutes. Simply follow the manufacturer’s directions. When finished, the ice cream will be soft set. Enjoy immediately or transfer to the container you placed in the freezer for storage.
For a no-ice-cream-maker option, transfer the blended mixture to the container in your freezer and freeze for 4-6 hours, or until firm.
After sitting in the freezer overnight, the ice cream will “ripen” and freeze slightly harder than regular ice cream. Simply allow it to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before scooping.
- Refrigerating the cans of coconut milk for several hours or overnight will help the cream portion firm up and allow for faster freezing. I also recommend freezing the container in which you plan to store the ice cream. When not using an ice cream maker, a loaf pan or other container that provides good surface area will allow the ice cream to freeze more quickly and evenly.
- When using an ice cream maker, the mixture will be soft set after freezing according to the manufacturer’s directions. For harder ice cream, transfer to another container and freeze for several hours. Again, if you think to freeze the container, the mixture will not become soupy around the edges when transferred.
Thank you for posting. I just churned my ice cream and it’s not frozen yet, but it looks like it will be great, and the batter tasted terrific! I made a few changes- I used a few T simple syrup instead of honey because the honey overwhelms the chocolate flavor for me. I also used 1 can coconut milk and 1 can coconut cream. In your ingredients it says coconut milk and in the text it says cream so I split the difference. I think it will be a good decision. Thanks again!
Hi Betty Jean, The batter does taste so good…and just as good once frozen! Thank you for the feedback. The syrup should work perfectly, and when I mention cream in the instructions, I’m referring to the thick layer that separates and firms up when the coconut milk is refrigerated. The can of coconut cream should work well and will likely make the finished ice cream a little more decadent. Enjoy!
Can I use coconut cream?
Hi Rachel, I haven’t used coconut cream but it would likely work. The difference, I think, would be a richer ice cream, more like traditional gourmet ice creams with a higher level of butterfat.
Can I use regular sugar and how much
Hi Kelly, Although I haven’t tried, you could likely use a similar amount by weight (or a little more by volume as honey is denser/heavier than sugar). I would first warm the sugar in the coconut milk to dissolve the sugar and then completely chill the mixture before proceeding.
Can I use real sugar or Splenda and how much
Hi Kelly, Granulated or cane sugar would likely work well, but you would want to dissolve the sugar into the coconut milk first by warming the milk. Then you could chill the mixture before proceeding. If you try, feel free to report back.
So excited! I’ve been wanting to make homemade ice cream for weeks, and found a little beauty of an ice cream maker. Now trying your recipe.
Would suggest to anyone reading this recipe: make sure when you buy your coconut milk you refrigerate the cans ASAP! This step took the longest for me as I bought the shelf-ready cans and did NOT have them refrigerated and cold to start.
Used the agave syrup as no honey in house, and trying it with some organic coconut sugar (about 1/4 cup) blended in after the mix, as I found it bitter to the taste without.
Would you suggest just freezing the cans for 15-20 min if not cold?
Still so excited for chocolate coconut ice cream !!
Thanks for your great comment, Caro, and the reminder to think ahead and refrigerate the coconut milk. And to answer your question about freezing, you could do that. You want the milk to be cold – but just don’t forget about it as you don’t want it to freeze solid. Agave would be a fine sweetener to use as you mention. It might have tasted a little bitter if you went a little light on the agave or if the cocoa powder was compressed while measuring. Nothing a little extra sweetener won’t resolve! So happy you’re excited about this!
Can I use real sugar in this recipe? And is there any way of not having any coconut taste?
Hi Kelly, Sugar should work. I think the best option would be to heat the sugar in the coconut milk just to dissolve and then refrigerate both. You do want the milk to be very cold. You could blend without dissolving the sugar first. My only concern would be that the sugar doesn’t completely dissolve in the blender. As for the coconut flavor, it’s mild but you’ll likely detect a hint of it. If dairy isn’t an issue you could try with cream. I hope this helps!
I don’t have an ice cream freezer, so after blending, I poured this into a container and put it in the freezer. I added unsweetened coconut, a small 85% cacao chocolate bar chopped, and some chopped walnuts. It tasted great! It was way too hard to scoop, however, even leaving it out for a bit, so next time I’m going to put it into popsicle molds. I think that will come out great! Thank you for the recipe!!
Yvonne, I’m so happy you tried this and liked! Thank you for commenting and mentioning your tweaks. The ice cream does freeze harder when an ice cream maker isn’t used, simply because the churning incorporates air. Letting it sit on the counter helps － but I’ve also made popsicles and they’re wonderful!
Thank you for sharing. I can finally get it right ☺
My pleasure, Verona. Enjoy!
Hi there, I tried making this using raspberries for a different flavour last week, but I don’t have an ice cream machine and it came out too icy. I left the coconut milk cans in the fridge for over 24 hours to harden and kept the container in the freezer before using. Do you think it would be a good idea to use the cream , but a little less of the coconut water from the cans? Also perhaps the water from the frozen raspberries didn’t help so I think I should leave them to defrost properly before blending. Any advice you can give me would be very welcome!
Hi Joanna, The flavor of raspberries would be fabulous here, although anything that adds additional water can lead to ice crystals and a harder, icier final product. An ice cream maker will definitely yield the creamiest end result, although I’ve had very good results with the basic freezer method, as mentioned. I’d be curious to know how much of the raspberries you used. You could try without the raspberries and/or with your idea of leaving some of the coconut water behind. Also make sure to blend everything really well as that will incorporate air, which will provide more of the lightness that is lost when not using an ice cream maker. Please let me know if you have any more questions when you make this again!