There was a time when I firmly believed that eating lots of (unsweetened) coconut would improve my health. To that end, I bought cans and cans of coconut milk to make morning smoothies. I came to consider myself an expert in coconut milk at the time because I tasted so many brands looking for the right one to use in my smoothies. More on that later.
Anyway, as what happens every time I get an itch to try some specific food fad, lifestyle, or diet, I ditched the idea that eating lots of coconut was good for my health but still had these damned cans of coconut milk on hand that have been sitting in my cupboards for quite too long frankly. (You should see all the unopened keto ingredients I have in my pantry that I will literally never use. So! Much! Money! Wasted!) There are tons of ways to use canned coconut milk but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t cook with it often. I happen to think when you use it to make vegan soups it makes the dish taste … coconut-y. Know what I mean? I prefer to use cashews to make creamy vegan soups and this does not make soup taste cashew-y, in case you were wondering.
At any rate, I’ve been craving ice cream recently because it’s getting to be summer here in Southern California. I don’t usually have ice cream on hand in my freezer though I go through periods of time where I may have pints of frozen custard that’s been shipped to me by my family back in Wisconsin or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream lining my freezer. (When it’s on sale at my local Vons I may buy a pint or six.) But generally speaking, I don’t keep ice cream on hand. Which is sad because ice cream is amazing.
Right now I own two ice cream makers (even though I really don’t make a ton of ice cream). I set one aside the other day to get rid of it because why do you need two ice cream makers? But then I got this pang deep inside me like… what if I regret getting rid of one of my ice cream makers? The trusty ice cream maker I’ve had for years? What if I find my new ice cream maker that I’ve not tried yet doesn’t work as well? Or what if there comes a day when I want to make copious amounts of ice cream and I can’t because I got rid of one of my two ice cream makers? Do you see the dilemma? Anyway, having one of two ice cream makers visible at all times made me want to use the one I was going to give away. So I thought I would use some of the coconut milk I’ve had on hand since forever to make some vegan ice cream.
I am not vegan. Nor am I vegetarian. I do like the taste of both vegan and vegetarian foods (along with the health aspects associated with these foods) so you see them on my blog more often than not, especially recently. I say this because I know some people eat vegan or vegetarian for moral/ethical reasons; I admire those people. I am not one of them. I eat meat.
Because I’m not very well versed in vegan or vegetarian food, I did some research on making ice cream from coconut milk, as any serious blogger should do when embarking on such an adventure, and decided specifically to make the ice cream vegan by using cornstarch as a thickener instead of a vegetarian ice cream using eggs. There was no real rhyme or reason to this except for the fact that since I was going out of my way to make non-dairy ice cream I figured I should just go all-the-way vegan. I used the recipe found at the Kitchn. At first I wanted to make some really fun flavor of vegan ice cream like peanut butter chocolate or chocolate peanut butter (because what’s better than that combination?) but I decided to start out with plain vanilla ice cream so I knew what the base flavor actually tasted like behind the mask of other yummy flavors.
If you do your research on coconut milk ice cream, you will see that people say that coconut ice-cream tastes like coconut, not like dairy milk ice cream. So of course this is what I was prepared for when I dug into my vegan ice cream earlier in the day. With glee I will tell you that’s not the case. Vegan ice cream made with coconut milk does not have to taste like coconut, but you have to research brands of coconut milk and find the right one. I’m here to tell you, Trader Joe’s is not the right one. Sorry, Trader Joe’s. Remember when I said I’m a coconut milk expert? I really am. And Trader Joe’s canned coconut milk tastes sooooooo strongly like coconut!
There are many options of canned coconut milk out there and some are better than others. There may even be a brand better than the one I’m going to share (though I kind of doubt it). You can go through the process of experimenting with coconut milk or you can buy the stuff I recommend. It’s up to you.
I will tell you when I dipped my spoon into this creamy, dreamy ice cream, I really did not taste coconut at all. In the event that I’ve become accustomed to the flavor of coconut milk having become a coconut milk expert, I might say this recipe tastes slightly coconut-y (but I swear it doesn’t at all) as a caveat. I will tell you exactly how I made this recipe so you can replicate if your heart so desires. I pretty much dare you to try this recipe and tell me you don’t love it.
- 2 (13 to 15-oz) cans full-fat Faraon brand coconut milk
- ½ c. sweetener, such as agave syrup, maple syrup, honey, turbinado sugar, or cane sugar (I used mostly agave syrup as recommended by the Kitchn but also a little bit of vanilla sugar because I ran out of agave syrup)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 T. cornstarch
- 1 T. vanilla extract
- At least 24 hours before you plan to make the ice cream, put the ice cream machine’s bowl in the freezer. The bowl should be frozen solid before using (you should hear no liquid sloshing inside when you shake it). Or just always keep your ice cream bowl frozen and there will be no need to do this step!
- Before opening the coconut milk, shake the cans thoroughly to ensure no separation has occurred. Open the cans of coconut milk and reserve ½ cup. Pour the remaining coconut milk into a 2-quart saucepan. Add sweetener and salt.
- Warm the coconut milk over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sweetener has completely dissolved into the coconut milk, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the starch to the reserved ½ cup coconut milk and whisk until the starch is completely dissolved. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the warm coconut milk while whisking gently. Increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the base has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes, without allowing the mixture to boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Let the mixture cool slightly on the counter so it’s not hot when you put it in the refrigerator. The coconut milk base will form a thin skin as it cools. I kept stirring the mixture every once in a while to mitigate this. Cover the container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to 3 days. Your base should be completely chilled and slightly thick in texture before churning.
- When ready to churn, pour the base into the ice cream machine bowl and begin churning. Churn the ice cream until it thickens considerably and is about the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Depending on your machine, this could take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes — mine was ready in about 5 minutes!
- Scrape the ice cream into a freezer container. (I use this one.) Press a piece of parchment or wax paper against the surface to prevent ice crystals from forming. Seal the container. Freeze for at least 4 hours to harden the ice cream.
- When ready to eat, let the ice cream warm a few minutes on the counter before scooping if you find it’s too hard to scoop. Store leftover ice cream in your freezer for up to 2 months.