Winner, Winner, Ice Cream Dinner!
For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a bit of a foodie. I hate boring food with lackluster flavor. In my opinion, food is about more than just nutrition, it is an experience. I want my food to SCREAM at my senses like a drill sergeant standing in front of fresh recruits. It needs to look good, smell good, have good texture, and of course…taste good. Yes sir, hooah!
If you would like to know more about the food challenges in our home, please head over to the Food Allergy Hub page. In an effort to avoid being too repetitive, all I will say is dairy has been dishonorably discharged from our grocery shopping lists and “Mission: Dairy Replacement For Foodies” has been activated.
So far, my mission has been a successful one. I have found comparable replacements for most of the dairy products I use in my home cooking. The unicorns of the dairy free world have been cheese and ice cream. Following a failed attempt to master a dairy free pizza, I found myself needing to move on to the second illusive creature in the hopes of regaining my pride.
Target acquired. The freezer section of our local Natural Grocers was the destination. Tall, frosted over glass doors filled with rows and rows of colorful cartons poised in perfect formation. I knew one of them was my unicorn, but which one?
After navigating my way through the minefield of peanuts and dairy, I successfully made it to the other side. The casualties were high. The army of ice cream options were reduced by the landmines to just a few remaining troops. Fortunately for me, it was the A team.
V Is For Victory
The battle was over. Victory was mine. Five different brands of ice cream with varying bases, flavors, and add ins were heading home with me for a family night of taste testing. Let the fun begin!
If you’ve ever tried dairy free ice cream, you know it freezes harder than the Rock of Gibraltar. In order to avoid this, I set out the ice cream as soon as we were done eating. This gave the pints time to soften while I finished cleaning up the dinner mess. When the dishes were done, my family gathered around the kitchen island, spoons in hand and bibs aboard.
The first contestant in our little family game night was disqualified. SO Delicious Dairy Free in Chocolate, had snuck past our line. The peanut cross contamination warning on the label was too small and was missed at the store. Our little man didn’t miss out on much as this was the least favorite one of the group. As soon as the spoon touched my tongue, all I could taste was coconut. The texture, flavor, and contamination risk all led to the conclusion that this was not my unicorn.
Contestant number two, Cado Avocado Frozen Dessert in Cherry Amaretto, intrigued me. It claimed to be an ice cream made out of avocados which is vastly different from the majority of dairy alternatives I’ve encountered. The four of us each took a spoon full and then there was a moment of silence. I looked at my husband and he looked at me. Both of our kids were smiling. The flavor was spot on. The texture was creamy. More than one of us went back for a second spoonful. Was this our unicorn? We needed to try the others to find out…
The third contestant, O’MY Dairy Free Gelato in Mint Chip, was the one I was rooting for the most. Mint Chip is one of my favorite ice cream flavors. However, I was concerned when I read that it was made from a coconut base like contestant number one. Fortunately, this brand managed to execute the mint flavor without the overwhelming coconut blanket. The texture was a little icy and not as creamy as contestant two, but it is still one that I’d buy again.
Contestant number four, Van Leeuwen Chocolate Oat Milk in Cookie Dough Chunk, was also an experiment. I don’t have much experience with oat milk as it is fairly new to the market and didn’t know what to expect. We were all blown away. This was a rich, creamy spoonful of heaven. I went back for seconds…okay, thirds.
The fifth, and final contestant, Alden’s Organic Dairy Free in Caramel Almond Crunch, was made of a mixed base. The ingredients include brown rice, oat flour, coconut oil, and pea protein. These are not ingredients that I would expect to find in ice cream, but hey, it worked. The texture was a little too icy for me, but this one ended up being my daughter’s favorite. So many choices…which one will win?
In order to declare a winner, we had to take it to a vote. I created a tally sheet that was divided into a few different categories; taste, texture, healthiest, most allergy friendly, and closest to real ice cream.
In the category of taste, Cado and Van Leeuwen tied. Both had amazing flavor profiles. Cado’s cherry amaretto was all flavor and no remorse. Super yummy! Van Leeuwen, on the other hand, had a richer vibe. It also was flavored very well but grew in flavor as opposed to punching my taste buds on impact. It all boiled down to which flavor are you in the mood for. Fruity? Chocolatey? Honestly, you can’t go wrong with these two.
In the category of texture, Van Leeuwen inched out in front of Cado. After the pint had softened fully, the texture was reminiscent of culver’s custard. It was soft, smooth, decadent, and worth buying stock in. MmmmHmmm!
The category of healthiest is not something you’d normally see in an ice cream competition. However, in light of our family trying to eat cleaner, it is something we need to consider. After much label reading, we concluded that Cado’s avocado ice cream was the winner. It had the least amount of sugar, fat, and calories per serving. Impressive!
In the category of allergen friendly, Cado once again comes out on top. As always, be sure to double check the labels for yourself, but upon my review it is free from all eight of the top food allergens. All the other brands contained at least one or two. SO Delicious brand not only contained allergy warnings, but also cross contamination warnings. That was not the case for any other brand in our line up.
In the final category, which one tasted most like real ice cream, Van Leeuwen was the winner. If it was in a blind taste test with real ice creams, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I was shocked!
At the end of the day, I found not one, but two unicorns. Both Cado and Van Leeuwen blew my mind and far exceeded my expectations. Cado and Van Leeuwen each won two out of five categories and then tied for the third. So whether you prefer cherry amaretto or chocolate cookie dough chunk, you can’t go wrong with either of these brands. Can’t wait to stock up for summer break!
I Want To Hear Your Stories
Have you tried any of these brands? Do you have other favorites not listed here? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.