Dairy-Free Ice Creams, Ranked Worst To Best

Everyone deserves ice cream. But let's face it, traditional ice cream doesn't sit well with everyone. It used to be that you had very few options if you wanted an alternative to dairy-based ice cream, which you probably had to go out of your way to find. Luckily, times have changed, and you might even notice that your regular grocery store now sells nearly as many dairy-free ice cream options as traditional options.

We tested 14 different dairy-free ice creams with a mix of flavors and milk alternatives to bring you a cross-section of brands that are lactose-free without sacrificing the ultimate pleasure of ice cream. Every dairy-free ice cream we tasted is also vegan, stabilized with ingredients other than eggs. Several ice creams are also organic. Legally, none of these products are allowed to call themselves "ice cream" because they lack the "cream" portion of the name. Instead of milk, these ice creams achieve their "creaminess" with alternative plant-based milk, including almond, cashew, oat, coconut, or soy. You get the idea.

Almost all dairy-free ice creams suggest letting your pint sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to let it soften, which you should definitely do. Grab your spoon, and let's have a taste.

14. Arctic Zero - Salted Caramel

Nothing about this ice cream tastes real or like ice cream. The Arctic Zero Salted Caramel "frozen dessert," made with water and faba beans instead of alternative milk, is an impressive feat of confectionery gymnastics — but the result is a chemical tasting nightmare that lingers in your mouth, well past the point of being enjoyable. It smelled like caramel when opening the container, but the first bite tasted more like an over-toasted salted pretzel. For all of the natural stabilizers involved, the texture is more icy than creamy since there's no fat content. With that said, if you're into lighter-style Italian ices, the texture might genuinely appeal to you.

The main attraction here is that there are only 160 calories in the entire pint, and it's fat-free. If that's something you're looking for, consider trying one of the ten other flavors they offer instead of this one. The lineup includes all of the flavors you'd expect as well as a few you might not, including cake batter and chocolate peanut butter. The incredibly low-calorie pints are ideal for someone following a keto or low-sugar diet.

13. Haagen-Dazs - Coconut Caramel

There's no argument that Häagen-Dazs knows how to make a craveable pint of ice cream, which is why it was so disappointing when this scoop of coconut caramel didn't live up to that reputation. The coconut ice cream itself was thin, mostly flavorless, and far from creamy. The caramel sauce ripple, which looked nice and saucy, tasted oddly burnt. Coconut-based ice creams have a comfortable fat content that keeps them from getting too icy and boosts the potential to be plenty creamy, but this one just isn't for some reason. The barely coconut-flavored spoonful melts on your tongue and quickly disappears before you even have time to register it.

The Häagen-Dazs line of dairy-free products includes four flavors available in pints, three non-dairy ice cream bars, and three fruity sorbet options that are inherently dairy-free. The chocolate and peanut butter options are potentially creamier and more satisfying since those ingredients have naturally thicker textures.

Even though these ice creams don't contain milk or eggs, don't confuse them with "diet" foods. The overall calorie count is comparable to a serving of traditional ice cream. Häagen-Dazs is known for indulgence and luxury, after all.

12. Ben & Jerry's - Coffee Caramel Fudge

Most of Ben & Jerry's non-dairy pint flavors are based on the most popular choices already in the Ben & Jerry's lineup. The Coffee Caramel Fudge, on the other hand, is an exclusively dairy-free flavor. Unfortunately, it's not nearly as exciting and iconic as some of the original flavors you've come to know and love. The ice cream uses an almond milk base, which lends itself to a pleasant creamy texture that coats your mouth almost exactly as dairy-based ice creams do. That's pretty much where the excitement ends.

The actual flavor of the ice cream lacks depth. It's supposed to be coffee ice cream, but it doesn't taste like coffee. After double-checking, the label confirms that fair trade coffee extract is in the ingredients — but a real coffee enthusiast would have difficulty picking up on it. It's sweet but doesn't taste like caramel either. The chocolate chunks are plentiful and a welcome crunch, but the caramel swirl can be hard to find. Overall it's okay as an ambiguously sweet and creamy frozen dessert, just keep expectations low.

Don't let this particular ice cream dissuade you from trying other non-dairy flavors from the famous Vermonters, though. If you still dream about Cherry Garcia, Phish Food, Peanut Butter Half-Baked, or the original Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream — there's a dairy-free version made with almond milk to feed your cravings.

11. Oatly - Chocolate

If you've had Oatly brand oat milk in your coffee, you may already be familiar with the thick texture of this product. You're probably also accustomed to the distinctly oaty flavor it has, which can be a little curious at first. Oatly Chocolate ice cream works the same way. In a very informal survey of friends who eat dairy-free ice creams, the Oatly flavors came highly favored by almost everyone. The one thing they all claimed to like about it? The ultra-lush texture and bold flavors. If you're not into the oat flavor though, it'll probably be distracting and a big turn-off.

It's nicely creamy with a great chocolate flavor that comes out swinging and a noticeable hit of oat. The chocolate flavor will be especially appealing to those who like dark, bittersweet chocolate. If you like the oat flavor, Oatly even makes an unmasked oat flavor that doubles down on their signature ingredient. 

Almost across the board, one serving of dairy-free ice cream is considered ⅔ cup. While Oatly Chocolate certainly wouldn't be considered a "light" dessert, it clocks in around 200 calories per serving — which is notably less than many of the other options that average well over 300 calories. It also comes with the benefit of eating straight from the freezer if waiting for it to sit at room temperature for ten minutes isn't your thing.

10. Trader Joe's - Strawberry

For a long time, if you wanted an organic, non-dairy, or vegan dessert option, one of the few places you could rely on was Trader Joe's. While those options have become more mainstream, Trader Joe's remains a reliable, satisfying, and economical choice. This strawberry ice cream looks, tastes, and scoops just like dairy-based natural strawberry ice cream, but is made with oat milk instead. For those who might be put-off by the oat flavor that comes through in the Oatly brand ice creams, it's almost entirely undetectable here.

The drawback to it is the almond brittle bits mixed in. They are tiny and flavorless, which doesn't add anything to the dessert's overall enjoyment, but ultimately detracts from it. It also seems counter-intuitive to add almonds to an oat milk ice cream that would otherwise be dairy and nut-free, eliminating a large group of people sensitive to those ingredients when it was intended to cater to them. Nevertheless, there are also little bits of candied strawberry mixed in that don't especially stand out, but when you do notice them, they're a nice little touch.

9. Trader Joe's - Chocolate

Instead of an oat milk base like the strawberry ice cream, this pint uses a coconut milk base that whips up light, airy, and perfectly balanced with the chocolate. Not too sweet or bitter, this chocolate ice cream is a pure classic that meets your expectations. There are no offending flavors or textures, but also nothing especially exciting or powerful either. The lightweight, fluffy texture and middle-of-the-road flavor of this chocolate make it worthy of an awesome sundae or "milk" shake. Consider bananas and cherries, sprinkles, your favorite sauce, nuts, toasted coconut, or pretty much any other mix-in you enjoy to liven-up this pint. The biggest drawback? Even though a few different sugars and gums stabilize this ice cream, it may still get a little icy going in and out of the freezer.

Assuming you've been inside more than one Trader Joe's, you know that every store is a little different. Depending on what's available in the region you're in, you may or may not come across this exact ice cream flavor. If it's not in stock, don't fret. You can hardly go wrong with one of the other dairy-free options available.

8. Halo Top - Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

After having tried some of the original dairy-based ice creams Halo Top makes, we were skeptical that any of the dairy-free offerings would impress us. But there's a lot of hype around Halo Top, and it's widely available in many groceries, so we picked up a few pints for the sake of being thorough. Halo Top's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough was a surprise breakout from the pack that exceeded expectations in the flavor department. The cookie dough bits tasted great, suspended in a fluffy coconut-based ice cream that was more milky than creamy — but pleasingly balanced. It was like munching on cookie dough with a nice glass of sweet milk to wash it all down with.

At only 360 calories per pint, you don't need to beat yourself up for having ice cream for dinner (we'd never judge you anyway). Sweetened with stevia and sugar, this pint is slightly lower in carbs than other options and low fat. It's worth noting that while this ice cream is vegan, it isn't gluten-free.

7. Van Leeuwen - Mint Chip

Mint chip is one of those ice creams that's nearly impossible to mess up, and Van Leeuwen's Vegan Mint Chip is no exception. Creamy cashew-based ice cream is gently mint-flavored, with a generous amount of small chips packed into every bite. Not so minty that it feels like you've just downed a bottle of mouthwash, Van Leeuwen leans towards a more delicate peppermint flavor. It's not green, which is a plus or minus, depending on your personal preference. The nutrition information lists only nine recognizable ingredients, which is comforting for anyone trying to keep it simple. Where the sweetness in the Halo Top Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream can begin to taste fake after several spoonfuls, this Mint Chip is pleasantly sweet and textured with every bite. 

Van Leeuwen makes 22 different vegan ice cream flavors — one of the largest selections available, even outnumbering their own 18 other dairy-based ice creams. Most grocery stores don't carry the full line, but you're likely to find something exciting in stock, including ice cream bars. All of the usual suspects are available, but be on the lookout for unique flavors like honeycomb, brown sugar chunk, and marionberry cheesecake. 

6. Halo Top - Peanut Butter Cup

Peanut butter isn't exactly known for being low calorie, so you might not expect a peanut butter ice cream to be only 330 calories per pint and taste good. But the Peanut Butter Cup dairy-free ice cream from Halo Top is all that and more. The peanut butter helps boost the creaminess of the coconut milk-based ice cream. The peanut butter cup chunks are a sweet hit with every balanced savory bite. All of the flavors combine to bring you one of the most flavorful treats on this list. The sweeteners are neither overwhelming or chemical tasting, and the mix-ins are more plentiful than any of the others tasted so far. 

Like other coconut milk and high water content ice creams, your sweet treat may start to get icy as it thaws and refreezes a few times. The peanut butter cup ice cream is nice and smooth when you open it for the first time, but you might want to eat it within two or three sittings for the best possible texture — which shouldn't be very difficult.

5. SO Delicious - Oh-So Strawberry

If you've been in the dairy-free product game for a while, you're probably intimately familiar with the SO Delicious brand already. They've been around for over 30 years, and the alternative milk products they create are industry standards. So, of course, the So Delicious dairy-free ice creams came highly recommended.

The Oh-So Strawberry is an instant hit with a robust strawberry flavor and a lightly creamy texture. The strawberry flavor is so strong that we had to check the ingredients to make sure that it wasn't fake. For the record, it's completely real, made with organic strawberries and a touch of organic beet powder for a lovely pink finish. Not only are the strawberries organic, but so are the coconut, sugar, and tapioca. If you were to taste this ice cream blindly, you'd assume it was the real dairy-full deal, which sets it apart from most of the others.

If you like this flavor, you can feel good about trying any other dairy-free frozen products in the So Delicious collection. While the strawberry ice cream we tasted is made with coconut milk, other ice creams are made with cashew, oat, almond, and soy to fit your taste and dietary needs.

4. Coolhaus - Salted Caramel Crunch

Don't read the ingredients before you try this ice cream. Just eat it. Once you've fallen in love with it, then turn it over and discover what's in the ingredients. Okay, spoiler alert: the first ingredient in this dairy-free ice cream is non-GMO yellow peas. Followed by organic whole grain brown rice. We would have never guessed how incredible yellow peas could taste.

Unlike some of the other dairy-free caramel choices (looking at you, Arctic Zero), the Coolhaus Salted Caramel Crunch was downright dreamy. The caramel ice cream and caramel ripple are precisely what you'd expect an authentic caramel ice cream to taste like. The texture is nearly identical to dairy, with no weird chemical caramel flavors here. The chocolate and toffee bits are perfectly crunchy accents to the creamy caramel which boosts the excitement of this pint. And now that we know what's in it, we're just going to go ahead and consider it a vegetable.

Coolhaus has a line of eight dairy-free ice cream pints in most of the classic flavors. But if you're looking for something extraordinary, try out one of their dairy-free ice cream cookie sandwiches. Nothing says "warm summer days" like a cold and sweet ice cream sandwich.

3. Trader Joe's - Soy Creamy Vanilla

Don't assume a vanilla ice cream is plain ice cream. Real vanilla is an exquisite flavor and the second-most expensive spice in the world after saffron. A solid vanilla ice cream is nothing to shake your head at, and Trader Joe's Soy Creamy Vanilla is a solid choice. One could honestly mistake the texture for light dairy, and the vanilla is so beautifully scented, you'll keep coming back for another spoonful. This non-dairy ice cream would serve as a fantastic base for milkshakes or dairy-free smoothies when you're not just eating it straight out of the carton.

This ice cream is on the lower end of the calorie spectrum (but not Halo Top low). In the Soy Creamy line, Trader Joe's also offers the Cherry Chocolate Chip flavor. Other than the SO Delicious Vanilla ice cream, this is one of the only easily accessible soy milk ice creams on the market right now. It should also be mentioned that a whole quart will only run you about $4, which is an absolute steal by any standards.

2. Ben & Jerry's - "Milk" & Cookies

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR. This ice cream is fantastic! While you might be expecting a great cookies-and-cream style ice cream, you might not be expecting the nutty sunflower seed butter swirled into this treat. It's such a welcome surprise in an otherwise classic favorite. This ice cream is easily mistaken for a dairy-based product — but we think it might even be better than the original. Not to mention how it's packed with so many chocolate cookies that it puts other brands that are stingy with the cookies to shame.

Prepare yourself for an incredibly pleasurable hit of nostalgia, mixed with just a touch of grown-up taste. Ben & Jerry's "Milk" & Cookies is one of four cookie-forward flavors made with sunflower milk instead of almond milk for those who may have nut allergies. While it is certified vegan, it is not gluten-free. If you're feeling especially adventurous, scoop a spoonful of this ice cream between some Oreo cookies (which might also be vegan) and make an army of mini cookies and cream ice cream cookie sandwiches.

1. Van Leeuwen - Churros & Fudge

Friends, this ice cream is it. Of the 14 dairy-free ice creams we tasted, this is the one we couldn't put down if our lives depended on it. It looked terrific just taking the lid off. The dark brown sugar cinnamon ice cream in the Van Leeuwen Churros & Fudge pint is thick and creamy, and intensely flavored. It's then studded with churro bits and swirled with chocolate sauce that doesn't overpower the ice cream but perfectly enhances it. There are no standout oaty flavors but all of the rich texture you'd expect from an oat milk ice cream. 

While Van Leeuwen makes a large selection of dairy-free ice creams, they vary between oat milk bases and cashew milk bases. If you're sensitive to nuts, there's plenty to be excited about in the oat milk selection. 

Regardless of where you are in your dairy-free journey, there's an ice cream out there for you. Look for flavors you love, and then narrow down the type of alternative milk that appeals to you. There's a rainbow of choices based on dietary needs and personal preferences. And we can tell you firsthand that tasting your way to your new favorite ice cream isn't a bad deal any way you look at it.