dairy-free strawberry, vanilla & coconut ice cream recipe

Back when I used to work in Sydney, one of my main jobs in the pastry section was making ice cream. I loved it. Playing with all that sugar, milk, cream and eggs was so much fun. We used two commercial ice cream machines to churn the custard bases, which were always whizzing away under my bench. The freezer was full to the brim with all sorts of flavours; cinnamon, creme fraiche, pistachio, brown sugar and one of my all time favourites... burn honey. 

Real, pure, home made ice cream cannot be beaten and for the last 10 years I've been dreaming of owning my very own commercial ice cream maker, but a few other priorities have stood in the way of me and my machine, it seems. Yes I know it's easy to make ice cream without a machine (instructions follow below), but to me the results are not quite as good as with one. And yes I know there are loads of really cheap machines out there, but see, I'm one of those people who would rather wait for years to be able to afford the real deal than to fold and buy a much cheaper and possibly sub-standard model. Yes, I'm a snob. Well that's one way to look at it, that or I'm actually really on-to-it and would rather buy quality that won't break in two seconds? Whatever way you want to look at it I've found a happy medium and am now the proud owner of a not-rubbish-cheap-but-not-break-the-bank ice cream machine! Thankfully for me, cuisinart now make a reasonably priced machine, and although it will never be as good as my dream model with the inbuilt freezer, it does the job okay, so I'll get over it. For now.

The first recipe to christen my new machine was a no brainer, I've been eyeing up David Lebovitz's vegan strawberry ice cream recipe since way back in July last year. We were in the middle of winter when he posted it and I remember thinking how lovely it would've been to be somewhere with berries in season, eating a huge bowlful of ice cream.

He used rice milk as the base for his ice cream and a touch of alcohol to keep the texture softer, but as we don't ever really have a bottle of vodka hanging around the house these days (in the past, yes. But not so much any more) and knowing the kids would love to eat some too, I left that out altogether and used coconut milk in place of rice. The higher fat content helps to keep it ever so slightly softer. This ice cream isn't exactly what most would associate with the name, it's more sorbet-like in texture, light and not overly creamy. The strawberry flavour is dominant, with an undercurrent of vanilla, coconut and orange to keep things exciting. It's lovely eaten like soft-serve straight from the ice cream machine bowl, or pop it into a container and freeze for two hours to firm up further. If like me, you forget about it and leave it for way longer, simply pull it out of the freezer about 20-30 minutes before you are wanting to serve, leaving it to soften enough to roll with a hot scoop. Serve topped with lightly toasted coconut flakes or drizzle with dairy-free chocolate sauce for a real treat!

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

dairy-free strawberry, vanilla & coconut ice cream
I used grated pure palm sugar, but feel free to use a nice organic raw cane sugar. If you aren't vegan, you could use honey in place of the brown rice syrup (although it will change the final flavour somewhat), or try using agave nectar. I used coconut milk, because that's what I had in the pantry, but would love to try this made using coconut cream for a much richer and consequently smoother ice cream. When buying coconut milk and cream, make sure you read the labels and only buy 100% coconut milk/cream. Many have added preservatives and stabilisers and some contain gluten (I know, what?). I've been using a vanilla bean paste lately, but if preferred use the seeds of 1 scraped vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
makes 1.25 litres

  • 700g fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and cut in half
  • 100g (1/3 cup firmly packed) pure (light) grated palm sugar or 100g (1/2 cup) organic raw cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) pure coconut milk~ see head notes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or the scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • a good pinch of fine sea salt
  • lightly toasted flaked coconut to serve, optional

Place the strawberries in a bowl with the sugar, brown rice syrup and vanilla bean paste. Mix well and set aside for 1 hour until the sugar dissolves and forms a lovely pink syrup. 
Blend strawberries, their syrup, the coconut milk, orange juice and salt in a blender until smooth. At this stage you can pass the mixture through a fine sieve if a totally smooth ice cream is preferred. I wasn't fussed, so left the strawberry seeds in.

Chill the mixture well before churning in an ice cream maker, following your manufacturers instructions. Eat as soft serve straight from the machine, or scoop into a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2 hours before serving. This ice cream freezes solid when left any longer than 2 hours in the freezer due to it's high water content and lack of cream and eggs. If left for longer than 2 hours, remove from the freezer 20-30 minutes before serving and use a warm scoop to roll or simply scrape out chunks of ice cream to serve. Top with toasted coconut flakes or dairy-free chocolate sauce for a real treat!

If you don't have a ice cream machine pour the mixture into a shallow freezer-proof container (a loaf tin is perfect), freeze for 1 hour until the edges are starting to freeze, beat with a hand mixer or whisk until smooth. Return to the freezer and repeat this another 2-3 times before leaving to freeze for 2 hours. The results won't be quite the same, but still delicious! 

A few of David's links you may like to read:
How to make ice cream softer
How to make ice cream without a machine for a much more detailed explanation than mine above.

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  • hungryandfrozen
    January 12, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Ice cream! My favourite. This sounds just beautiful šŸ™‚ And good on you for waiting on an ice cream machine, because seriously, if you're going to fork out that much money you might as well get the good stuff.

    Oh, and I'm so going to be checking out the labels of coconut milk/cream now, I buy so much of it but never thought to check that it had anything other than pure coconut in it. Gross!

    • emma
      January 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      Yeah it's kinda scary what some of the cheaper brands add to their coconut milk/cream. The ingredients list should read, coconut + water. That's it. Most contain stabiliser 466 (read more about it here~ http://mbm.net.au/health/400-495.htm) I make my own coconut milk and cream on occasion and might share my recipe in the next week or so…

  • Jennifer (Delicieux)
    January 12, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Your ice cream looks fantastic!!!!! There's nothing better than ice cream made out of fresh strawberries.

    I had no idea about the additives in coconut milk. Why do companies need to mess with food? Thanks for the tip….I'm running off to check my pantry.

    • emma
      January 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      Sadly the reason they add all those nasty things is so they can sell us watered down products that have been thickened with additives so we won't know the difference šŸ™

  • jas - the gluten free scallywag
    January 12, 2012 at 9:20 am

    yay for ice cream machines! I love mine, although I haven't utilised it this summer as much as I would have liked… however, I love love love the look of this ice cream! I made David's chocolate, eggless ice cream with coconut cream for a friend who was going lactose free for a while and she loved it. Tasted just like a chocolate billabong that we used to lick up on the summer holidays.

    Looking forward to seeing more icy treats from you, esp a burnt honey one šŸ™‚

    • emma
      January 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Yum! That egg-less chocolate ice cream recipe of David's has my name written all over it! Off to google it now… Thanks for the heads up!
      I will get to work on making a dairy-free burnt honey ice cream recipe that tastes as good as it's dairy-laden original šŸ™‚

  • Nina
    January 12, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Wow! Your photography is fabulous! I'm drooling looking at that ice cream.
    Thanks for this recipe. If Canberra ever decides to return to Summer (it was down to 1.6'C overnight) I'll be making some of this.

    • emma
      January 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks for your kind words šŸ™‚ Wow that is cold for the middle of summer. It's stinking hot over here in Perth!

  • JJ @ 84thand3rd
    January 12, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Well, that does it – this amazing looking ice cream is just about the tenth one I've come across in the past two months – I now must get an ice cream machine! The coconut milk/cream additives really get me – they're even in the organic ones… I've only found one kind in Sydney that has nothing aside from coconut and water, so frustrating, but at least there is one!

    • emma
      January 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      The only brand I buy is Ayam, the ingredients list reads: coconut kernal extract and water šŸ™‚ It is the most expensive one, but so worth it!

    • JJ @ 84th & 3rd
      January 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      That's the same brand I get šŸ˜‰ and the only 'clean' one I've found!

  • The InTolerant Chef
    January 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Ooooh so yummy! Great flavour combination too. I'm so glad you got your ice cream machine, its worth waiting for the right equipment rather than making do. One day you'll get your fancy-pantsy machine, and I'll get my commercial kitchen…. šŸ™‚

    • emma
      January 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      The commercial kitchen is on my wish list too!… along with a decent camera šŸ˜‰ Lotto?

  • Caitlin
    January 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    wow, this strawberry ice cream looks delicious!

    • emma
      January 13, 2012 at 1:43 am

      I'm still dreaming about your coffee coconut ice cream! šŸ™‚

  • Ina
    January 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    What a wonderful recipe! I love my Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker – seems to do a great job, and your ice cream looks wonderful! We are in the dead of winter here, but can't wait for summer and fresh local strawberries. Thanks for sharing a winner recipe!

  • Blandine
    January 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Now I can't wait for summer so that I can try your recipe šŸ˜‰ A good ice-cream machine is definitely on my wish list.

  • Domestic Executive
    January 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I got an ice cream maker for Christmas and looking forward to filling my freezer with goodies. Hope you're buying those lotto tickets…..

    • emma
      January 13, 2012 at 1:44 am

      Every week šŸ˜‰

  • France@beyondthepeel
    January 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Yum. It looks fantastic, and though you say it's more like sorbet in consistency is looks very much like ice cream from the photos.

    • emma
      January 13, 2012 at 1:45 am

      Yeah it's does look creamy in the photos doesn't it. It is, slightly. But with all those strawberries the mouth-feel is more sorbet-like. Either way it's pretty damn good šŸ™‚

    • emma
      January 13, 2012 at 1:48 am

      Maybe I should have said it's more like a gelato? Creamy but not as rich as a regular ice cream if that makes sense?

  • hollypop
    January 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I have a cheapy ice cream maker and the results are invariably rock hard unscoopable ice creamss. It's still fun to make though! This recipes sounds great, I looove cococonut

  • Anja
    January 13, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Oh Emma, you are making me go and and buy an ice cream machine with this recipe! Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing šŸ™‚

    • emma
      January 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      It's a good thing, trust me šŸ™‚

    • Emily @LivingLongfellow
      January 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      Yum! I tried coconut ice cream last week for the first time when a student brought it in, and I fell in love. Now I must try to make it myself. Thanks!

  • Rach
    January 16, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Yum thanks Emma, what a delicious treat to welcome me back to your blog in 2012! I haven't made this recipe YET but amalgamated this with another of your icey treat recipes. We have new rocket ship popsicle moulds and I wanted to make mango treats for vegan friends, after reading this post made mango, lime and coconut milk rocket popsicles (with a bit of rice milk too – thanks to your link to David L's post). Will be eaten after lavosh with edamame dip (which I was at first sure you'd made a recipe for, I just come to you for all things good!), and Heidi's Otsu soba noodles with tofu. Thanks and happy New Year!

    • emma
      January 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Wow, sounds like the perfect feast Rach! Great idea adding the coconut milk in place of yoghurt, I seem to be adding it to everything these days šŸ™‚
      Happy New year to you too xx

  • Annaliese Lemmon
    January 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I got the Cuisinart ice cream maker for Christmas, and I'm excited to make dairy-free ice creams for my son. Thanks for the recipe!

    • emma
      January 18, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      You're welcome šŸ™‚

  • Cass @foodmyfriend
    January 19, 2012 at 5:28 am

    I just finished making myself a big bowl of salted caramel ice cream. I wish I had of made this one, I wouldn't feel so sick!

  • Mairi @ Toast
    February 3, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Love ice cream & love my Cuisinart ice cream maker, not one for gadgets or gizmos in the kitchen, but love my ice cream maker. I haven't tried ice cream with coconut milk or cream but thinking I should definitely give it a whirl šŸ™‚

  • Beki
    June 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I used it for the first ever time I made ice-cream this weekend. I'm allergic to dairy to it's great to see one that doesn't have the soya substitute in it. It was delicious!

  • Pauleepaul
    September 14, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Since i became intolerant to eggs and dairy I've been wondering how i'd be able to cope without ice cream. I managed for a while on soy ice cream from the supermarket, but for nearly $6 a litre i ate it sparingly.
    I too like buying quality products and will wait for ages for the right product to come out instead of buying something for the hell of it.
    Today i picked up my new $330 Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker, model BCI600. It has the built in refrigerator so there's no to mess around with pre-freezing bowls and so forth and it has different setting to choose hardness.
    All i need now is to find some egg and dairy free recipes (Vegan) that will work great in my fully automatic ice cream maker! Anyone out there that can help?

    • emma
      September 14, 2012 at 6:17 am

      This recipe is vegan. Also google vegan ice cream, you'll come up with loads of recipes to choose from.