This Vegan Gelato is insanely rich and decadent! It’s made with coconut milk but doesn’t have any coconutty taste. It’s paleo, nut-free and no-churn. It’s also super easy with only 5-ingredients and a little salt.
Dairy-free ice cream is usually too icy for my liking. I’ve tried many different paleo ice cream recipes, but never liked any of them.
Then I realized I already have the perfect recipe. When I made this Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie, I froze the leftovers and the filling tasted like ice cream.
It’s one of those desserts that even non-paleo and non-vegan friends will love. Honestly, it tastes SUPER luscious and no one will know it’s a healthier treat.
What is gelato?
Gelato is Italian meaning ice cream in English. Both are sweet, frozen treats made of milk, cream and sugar. Gelato has been around since the 16th century and is a favored dessert of many Italians.
While the two words can be directly translated and they seem quite similar, there are some differences between the two.
Gelato is denser and richer than American ice cream, which is milkier and creamer than an Italian gelato.
Interestingly, egg yolks are a common ingredient in some ice cream recipes, whereas, gelato doesn’t usually call for egg yolks.
Plus, gelato uses more milk and less cream. Yolks are used as a natural emulsifier and help give ice cream that silkiness without the use of an ice cream machine.
USDA regulations require ice cream to be at least 10% butterfat. Most store-bought brands have between 14 and 25%.
Italian gelato, in contrast, has between 4 to 9% butterfat which makes gelato flavors more intense because the butterfat isn’t coating your palate. And although you would think that gelato would be less creamy, it actually seems creamier than American ice cream.
There’s less air in gelato compared to ice cream, which keeps it dense yet silky and more intensely flavorful. Ice cream is normally made up of 50% air by volume, gelato – 20 to 35%.
In the traditional way of making gelato, it is churned at a much slower speed than ice cream.
Also, there’s a difference in temperature. Gelato is served between 10 to 20 °F, but ice cream is served at 6 to 10 °F. I mention this because we generally taste things better when food is warmer, and it applies to gelato as well.
One other minute difference is ice cream is scooped with a half-round scooper, and scooping gelato is done with a spade. That’s not to say you need to go buy an Italian gelato spade to serve this vegan gelato. ;)
- One 14-ounce (400-ml) can of full-fat canned coconut milk – I highly recommend using full-fat so that the gelato is as creamy as it should be. The brand I use is 14.7% fat.
If yours is higher in fat, that’s fine. If it’s a little lower, your gelato will still be very creamy, but low-fat or fat-free coconut milk aren’t good options.
This recipe was originally made with 1 1/2 cups of coconut cream. It was over-the-top rich – like eating a chocolate-flavored stick of butter.
I think there’s a 0% chance that someone will say that the coconut milk version isn’t rich or creamy enough! But if coconut cream is all you have, go ahead and use it as is, or water it down a little bit so that the consistency is more like coconut milk.
- Pitted dates – no sub for these. They just don’t add sweetness. They’re needed to make the gelato creamy.
- Coconut sugar – here you could use a different type of sweetener, but it needs to be granulated. If you’re paleo, the only one I can think of is maple sugar.
- Cocoa powder – I used Dutch-process for a deep and rich chocolate flavor, but regular cocoa like Hershey’s would also work.
- Vanilla extract + salt – it might look like a lot of salt, but you need it! Otherwise the chocolate flavor doesn’t pop the way it should.
How to make it
In a high-speed blender, add all of the ingredients, in the order listed. You don’t want the coconut sugar and cocoa powder at the bottom.
It’s much easier to blend if you have the liquids at the bottom.
Blend until completely smooth and no date lumps remain. It doesn’t take long. Maybe a minute.
But definitely don’t stop before it’s 100% creamy! Even if you like chunks of dates in your ice cream, you need to blend until smooth, because those pureed dates are needed to sweeten the gelato.
Pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze for 4 to 8 hours.
Make sure to use a container that’s freezer-safe. I’ve used some plastic tupperware containers that have cracked while defrosting.
Scoop and serve! It’s super rich, so you really don’t need much.
Note: This gelato is too firm to scoop with an ice cream scooper straight out of the freezer, but it will scoop up nicely if you set it out for a bit and let it defrost.
I’m never patient enough to wait the 5 minutes, so I stab it with a fork to take what I want, and then it softens quickly in my bowl. If you use a metal loaf pan to freeze the gelato, you might have to wait more like 10-15 minutes to get it to defrost nicely.
This recipe yields about 2 3/4 cups (675 ml). It might not sound like much, but when you consider how rich it is, it’s not such a small yield after all.
You do not want to serve multiple scoops of this to your guests. One is likely enough.
Yes, there are four scoops in the bowl in some of the photos, but a bowl with a single scoop doesn’t look very appealing. ;)
Do I have to use coconut milk?
Using dairy-free alternatives like soy or almond milk would result in something super icy. You would probably have to use an ice cream maker.
If you want to use something other than coconut milk, you might want to find a different recipe.
Can I use raw cacao powder?
I wouldn’t recommend it. The taste is very different, and you’d need to use a lot more sugar.
33% more sugar if you insist on trying it. And you’d need to use the same amount of cacao as cocoa in grams (98 grams) – not cups.
I’m writing a whole post about the differences between cacao and cocoa. I thought it was ready to post a few weeks ago, but then I decided to try cacao out in “just one more” recipe. And buy “just one more” brand of cacao.
All in an effort to see if there’s some issue with the brands I’ve bought or if the taste is really just so different. At least the post will be well-researched. :D My cacao powder collection and the cacao goodies in my freezer are getting out of hand, though.
Other cool vegan recipes:
- If you’re looking for something healthy that the kids will love, try these Healthy Fudgesicles. They’re made with avocado and bananas and can be easily made vegan.
- If you’re a peanut butter lover, you have to try this Healthy Peanut Butter Ice Cream. It’s rich, no-cook, no-churn and vegan delicious. For paleo folks, you can use sunflower butter instead which would also make it nut-free.
- If you need something super quick, try this Vegan Chocolate Pudding. You do have to cook it, but it’s worth it.
- For keto readers, try this Keto Chocolate Pudding. It’s no-cook, so you just put it all together and blend to have an amazing cool dessert.
- If you like the idea of cheesecake, but chocolate isn’t your thing, try this Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake.
- Want a more citrus-forward dessert? These Vegan Lemon Bars are absurdly good.
If you try this gelato or any recipes you find here, I want to hear about it! Just tag your photos #texanerin on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter so I can easily find them. Enjoy!
- Prep Time:
- Cook Time:
- Ready in:
- Yield: 2.75 cups (650 ml)
- one 14-ounce (400-gram) can full-fat canned coconut milk
- 1/2 cup (105 grams) pitted dates
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) coconut sugar1
- 3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons (98 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In the bowl of a food processor or a high-speed blender, add all the filling ingredients (starting off with 1/2 cup coconut sugar and adding more to taste), in the order listed, and blend for about 30-60 seconds (or a few minutes in a food processor) or until totally smooth and no lumps of dates remain. If you use a food processor, it could be that there are some little bits of dates left.
- Pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze for 4-8 hours, depending on how hard you want the gelato.
- Let it sit at room temp for 5-10 minutes before scooping.
- This will stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months.
42 comments on “Vegan Gelato” — Add one!
3 comments are awaiting moderation!
Finally made this today. Really, really good and super rich. You really do need a small portion or it is overwhelming. Unfortunately my dairy free son did not like it but he isn’t much for chocolate these days so I m going to have to try the vanilla version. But my oldest likes it and my husband LOVED it!
I want to try the peanut butter ice cream next!
I got your email!!! For the first time in a long time. Thank you for fixing the issue! And I was just looking at this recipe the day before I got your email. I want to try it but I have to get some dates and your peanut butter ice cream….I want to try it too.
Yay! Thanks for letting me know! I’m really sorry I didn’t figure it out the last time you asked ages ago. I hope you’ll enjoy the ice cream! I also have a vanilla ice cream recipe that I’ve sent to my photographer, but who knows if I actually get it this year (and I can no longer do them myself). It’s ridiculous. Let me know if you want it and I can email it to you. It has cashews, coconut milk and cream, dates, maple syrup. And vanilla and salt.
Yes, I would love your vegan vanilla ice cream recipe. My dairy free son doesn’t seem to like chocolate much anymore and would much prefer vanilla. Thanks!
Can you put the blended mixture in an ice cream machine?
Hello! It’s too thick. It causes the blade to stop stirring and then might break the machine. I’ve tried it.
I can’t have dates do to high sugar. Is there a way not to add them.
Unfortunately not as it’s half the sweetener and it’s needed for the correct texture of the ice cream. I’d suggest looking for a recipe that’s already date-free.
How is a recipe with coconut in, nut-free?
Because coconut is not a nut. You can read about it here or Google “is coconut a nut.” :)
This is gorgeous and I’m making it again today! Do you have a similar recipe for vanilla? Im assuming the dates would change its colour?
I’m so sorry for just now seeing your question! I don’t have one but I’m working on it. :) It’ll be cashew-based, though. And it’ll be beige because of the dates. But it will be yummy! I just need some more time to perfect it.
We need a vanilla version from you Erin! You are so good at making vegan ice cream taste BETTER than regular ice cream. Your peanut butter ice cream and your chocolate ice cream are the best tasting and creamiest ice cream my family has ever had! I came to the website to make this chocolate one again but we sure hope the vanilla version is coming soon. Cheers!
Hi Holly! Nice to hear from you. Things are so chaotic right now! I am a huge mess. What a nice thing to hear that you think that my two ice creams are better than normal ice cream. I think so, too, but sometimes I give them to others and they’re like, “Wow, this is way too rich!” So I’m happy you agree with me. :D I’ve been working on vanilla ice cream for years but the problem is that there’s no way to cover up the coconut taste. Almond milk is too thin for my liking but even that has a strong taste. Maybe I should try a mix of the two and see what happens. Thanks as always for your comment!
I love cashews if I’m trying to avoid coconut flavor..have you ever made ice cream with soaked cashews??
Sorry things are so hectic for you…I hope things slow down a bit soon!
I’ve used cashews but don’t remember if I soaked them. I think I might have actually used roasted because the taste is so much better. So maybe soaked, raw is the way to try! And thanks! Unfortunately, things got worse and they announced all schools, daycares, etc. will be closed for 5 weeks. It might be time for a little blogging break! I’ll still try to post once a week. Maybe people want distractions? :)
The taste of this is great! Rich, creamy, delicious! Thanks for sharing your recipe. We found that using the refrigerator rather than the freezer provided sufficient firmness without needing to let it defrost before serving. Thank you, also, for providing both cup and weight measurements. As an American who had the gift of living in Austria, I have become a great fan of cooking by weight.
You’re welcome for the recipe! I’m really glad that you enjoyed it. :) Do you mean that you refrigerated it and it got firm enough (like regular ice cream?!) Interesting! I’ll have to try that. Thanks for the tip! And I’m an American living in Germany. That’s when I started cooking by weight. ;) Thanks for your comment!
What is the purpose of the dates and what would you recommend for substitutions?
To sweeten the ice cream and provide fudginess. Prunes might work! It’s the only thing I can think of that would give you sweetness and the same texture.
This looks delicious! So chocolaty!
Thanks a bunch! :)
This looks scrumptious. I’m a sucker for ice cream and this one is sheer perfection. I’m so weird about hard chocolate ice cream. I love putting it in a bowl and mixing it with a spoon till it’s soft ice cream. I only do it with chocolate, no idea why. Ha
Then you’d love this one… as long as you don’t freeze it too long! :)
Bring on the ice cream! This looks so good!
Thanks a ton!
I would love to take a crack at this. It looks delicious and much healthier.
I hope you will!
This looks so decadent and rich!
My hubby is lactose intolerant and ice cream is one thing he desperately misses. I will totally have to make this for him!
I hope you will and that you’ll both love it!
I love baking with dates, but wouldn’t have thought to use them in ice cream! Brilliant! This looks so tasty!
Thanks a bunch!
I’ve been wanting to try using coconut cream instead of dairy, and I think I finally have all the incentive I need! Love this!
Yay! Hope you’ll enjoy it. :)
Love that this ice cream is vegan! I’m a sucker for a great ice cream cone :)
Ohhh this looks so rich and creamy!!
It really is!
Where do you buy the coconut cream?
I used 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) warmed coconut cream from 1 1/2 14-ounce (400-gram) cans full-fat canned coconut milk, chilled overnight. So I didn’t buy coconut cream. As for the coconut milk brand, I can’t help as I live in Germany. I’ve heard that Trader Joe’s has coconut cream, though!