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 permanent 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 and 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 all 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.