According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, approximately 65 percent of the international population is lactose intolerant, and many other people are choosing to cut dairy out of their diets for other health reasons. With choices such as almond milk, soy milk and oat milk now available, substitutes for dairy milk are all the rage. Restaurants and coffee shops are more accommodating today for dairy-free customers than ever before.
This new trend towards lactose-intolerance makes finding non-dairy ice cream a piece of cake. In fact, there are almost too many non-dairy choices of ice cream, so it can be difficult to decide. Non-dairy ice-creams can be made with soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk and others. I tried three popular brands, and they each brought different elements to the table.
The first ice cream I tried was Halo Top. The brand began by advertising its low-calorie ice cream, which caught the attention of millennials everywhere with its impressive low calorie count per pint, ranging from 280 to 400 calories. Halo Top now sells a non-dairy version, sold for $5.49 at Harris Teeter, in a variety of flavors. I opted for Peanut Butter Cup. Halo Top bases their non-dairy ice creams on coconut milk, which definitely sets the tone for the taste. Although it was supposed to be peanut butter-flavored, the ice cream had a slightly overwhelming coconut flavor, making it taste less like traditional ice cream.
The consistency was also not nearly as creamy as ice cream should be. Halo Top tends to feel icy and hard — the non-dairy version was no exception. Halo Top does have the lowest calorie count per serving of all of the ice creams I tried. So if the consistency does not bother you, this may be your best option. At only 80 calories per serving, Halo Top is about as low-calorie as ice cream can get. Icy consistency aside, I also thought the flavor of coconut and peanut butter mixed poorly.
After Halo Top, I tried the Ben & Jerry’s almond-milk ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s makes a variety of non-dairy flavors, ranging from classic remakes like Chocolate Fudge Brownie to newer options like P.B. and Cookies. I tried the Peanut Butter Half-Baked flavor this time — $5.99 for a pint at Harris Teeter.
The flavor description read “chocolate and peanut butter with fudge brownies and gobs of peanut butter cookie dough” — evocative of Halo Top’s Peanut Butter Cup, but on another level. This flavor contains 330 calories per serving, packing enough chocolatey flavor to back that up. By using almond milk for a peanut butter flavor, Ben & Jerry’s avoided the coconut-peanut butter clash that Halo Top was guilty of. The almond milk blended well with the peanut butter to create an even nuttier taste. This ice cream tasted remarkably like real ice cream and reminiscent of all other Ben & Jerry’s flavors. Almond milk is less creamy than regular dairy milk though, so the ice cream still felt much harder than traditional ice cream.
The last non-dairy ice cream, Nada Moo, is also based on coconut milk. The brand is based in Austin, Texas, and has multiple unique flavors such as Lotta Mint Chip and The Rockiest Road. Nada Moo began in 2004 when Amy Ramm began making coconut milk ice-cream for her friends and family.
I went for the Birthday Cake Cookie Dough option in an attempt for something a little more eccentric than the previous peanut butter-themed flavors. This sweet and fluffy flavor has 200 calories per serving and 7 grams of added sugars. Nada Moo Birthday Cake Cookie Dough is sold at Harris Teeter for $5.99 per pint.
After trying this brand for the first time, I immediately noted that it was the creamiest of the three options I tried. The consistency wasn’t icy like Halo Top or stiff like Ben & Jerry’s — it felt the most like real, 100 percent dairy ice cream. My favorite element was the addition of little sprinkles and tiny chunks of cookie dough in the ice cream. The Halo Top flavor contained nothing but ice cream, and though the Ben & Jerry’s flavor claimed to have brownie chunks, they were hard to come by. I often think birthday cake-flavored ice creams have an artificial taste, and I did notice Nada Moo’s birthday-cake flavor was somewhat oversweet. However, Nada Moo was the most flavorful and creamy of the three.
Overall, non-dairy ice cream can be a hit or a miss. Even within a brand, some flavors can be a serious fail or a major win. The winner of the three is Nada Moo for its success in mimicking real ice cream more than its competitors. Ben & Jerry’s was a close runner-up, and I think it just comes down to personal preference between those two. Bringing up the rear is Halo Top. If you are trying to cut some serious calories but still want ice cream, then Halo Top is for you. However, if you’re going to have ice cream, you might as well go with the one that tastes the best. Luckily, the world of non-dairy ice cream is only growing, so you will have no difficulty finding even more brands and flavors of this sweet treat sans dairy.