Ice cream, nice cream, gelato, sorbet…no matter what you call it I’m in (as long as it’s dairy-free of course). For as long as I can remember ice cream has been my vice….you can’t leave me alone with a bucket of ice cream (even the small half litre variety, lol). I’m surprised I haven’t shared more ice cream recipes to date, but when I think about how picky I am about the end result (aka achieving that WOW feedback from Janik and the kids in terms of texture and taste) I can appreciate why 😝. I have tried making vegan ice cream more than a dozen different ways times and I’ve finally found that ah-ah recipe I’m thrilled to share. Brace yourselves chocolate lovers: today’s recipe is for Dark Chocolate Gelato. Perfect for Valentine’s Day indulgence or watching your next episode of “This is Us” lol.
After plenty of trial runs developing this recipe I’ve discovered a few things about vegan ice cream:
-full-fat coconut cream is necessary (coconut milk just won’t do, trust me)
-a cornstarch slurry (which acts as a thickening agent) is a must
-a liquid sweetener (such as agave syrup) yields better results than using a crystallized sweetener such as cane sugar
– you don’t need an ice cream maker to make vegan ice cream (you do, however, need a high-powered blender)
During the development of this recipe I also came to appreciate the key difference between ice cream and gelato (which explains why I aptly named this gelato):
-Gelato has a smoother texture than ice cream
-Gelato contains less fat (due to more milk than cream)
-Gelato contains less air than ice cream. Air is incorporated into the mixture when its churned…since gelato is typically churned at a much lower speed than ice cream there is less aeration. This produces a mixture more dense and rich than ice cream.
After just one bite I knew this recipe belonged in the gelato classification….it’s rich and dense in the best possible way. In fact it almost reminds of a hybrid between chocolate ice cream and a brownie 😄. I’d say this recipe comes pretty close to an epic dark chocolate experience. The secret to this experience? I’m fairly certain the cacao nibs are the gem ingredient in this recipe. Often characterized as “nature’s chocolate chips”, cacao nibs are chocolate in its purest form. They are essentially crushed cacao beans — dried and fermented bits of the cacao pod — before the cacao beans are ground up to make chocolate. On their own, cacao nibs are slightly bitter and nutty (no trace of sweetness) but they have a distinctive deep chocolate flavour. When combined with a natural sweetener (agave syrup) and more processed forms of chocolate (in this case, cocoa powder) the result is HEAVENLY. It certainly doesn’t hurt that raw cacao nibs are packed with nutrients, antioxidants and fibre to boot.
The cashew butter is not a typo 😝. In fact, I would say next to the cacao nibs this is another gem ingredient. Since cashews are neutral in flavour yet high in fat, cashew butter is the perfect way to sneak in the creamy texture you want in the perfect ice cream or gelato. On the subject of fat (good fat!), you will get best results when you make gelato (or ice cream for that matter) using a blend of both coconut cream and coconut milk. The high fat content of the coconut cream mimics the fat you get from conventional dairy-based gelato. Using one or the other (alone) just doesn’t cut it.
Last but not least, please don’t be put off by the Thermomix instructions. Anyone can make this recipe as long as you have a high-powered blender (to mimic the churning process of a traditional ice cream maker). As long as you freeze the gelato base overnight you will be golden.
If like us you are a true chocolate lover, we also encourage you to head over to our Classic Vegan Brownies recipe!
1/Make one batch of starch slurry (whisk 1 Tbsp tapioca/arrowroot/corn starch with 2 Tbsp coconut milk). I used tapioca starch in my test kitchen. Set aside.
2/Line a shallow pan with parchment paper (Tip: Allow extra paper to hang over the 2 sides of the pan for easy removal)
- 1/3 cup agave syrup (95g)
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (25g)
- 1/2 tsp guar gum (<5g)
- 1 400mL can full-fat coconut milk (345g)
- 1 200 mL can coconut cream (195g)
- 1 Tbsp cashew butter (15g)
- 1/2 tsp coconut milk powder
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (50g)
- 2 tsp cacao nibs (<5g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (5g)
- Additional cacao nibs (optional)
- Pinch of sea salt flakes (optional)
- 1/Add agave syrup, cocoa powder and guar gum to your Thermomix mixing bowl. Whisk 10 sec/Speed 3.
- 2/Add coconut milk, coconut cream and cashew butter to the TM bowl. Whisk 25 sec/Speed 3. Then cook at high heat: 3 min/85C/Speed 1.
Reminder: When left on the shelf, cans of coconut milk separate into a thick, creamy layer and a thin watery layer. Shake the can of coconut milk thoroughly (before using) to incorporate the mixture.
- 3/Add reserved starch slurry and coconut milk powder to the TM bowl. Whisk 10 sec/Speed 3. Cook uncovered on medium heat: 3 mins/70C/Speed 1 (Reverse)
Note: Use the simmering basket (vs lid) on the Thermomix mixing bowl to cook uncovered during this step.
- 4/Add chocolate chips, vanilla extract and 1 tsp of the cocoa nibs to the TM bowl. Blend 10 sec/speed 3.
- 5/Remove your Thermomix mixing bowl from the unit. Let the mixture cool slightly on the counter (10-15 mins).
- 6/Gently stir in remaining (1 tsp) cocoa nibs and a pinch of sea salt flakes. Transfer the mixture to a parchment-paper lined pan. Press a piece of parchment paper against the surface before freezing (to prevent ice crystals from forming). Freeze overnight (ideally)…at least 8 hours.
- 7/Let the mixture sit on the counter to ‘warm up’ (15-20 mins). Coconut-based ice cream tends to melt more quickly than milk-based ice cream so keep your eye on the clock! Scoop. For added decadence, garnish with sea salt flakes and/or cocoa nibs.
Note: This recipe was made using a Thermomix appliance; however, it can easily be adapted using similar food prep tools (e.g. multi-function processor, immersion blender etc).