For what has felt like eons, I have been on the search for substantial vegan ice cream. And this has been a plight of mine for years now, even before my vegan years. I just wanted to find some good, and I mean, GOOD–CREAMY–RICH–WORTH–MY– SALIVATION–VEGAN–ICE CREAM. But no, life just kept taunting me with failed attempts; Kind Kreme, Ben and Jerry’s (steer clear!) Cocobella (except for its chocolate flavor, which is commendable); everyone one of these established offerers of vegan ice cream has failed me, disappointed me, pierced my heart with the most jagged knife.
How so? To be forward: watery, mealy (I am quoting you, Elite Squad Kedar D.) and, the worst part of all, cloyingly sweet. I love, love, love sweetness, when the sweetness is distributed appropriately, but this is not the case with most vegan ice creams in the market. Why? Because distributors believe an over abundance of sugar compensates for a poor base? Exactly.
Ben and Jerry’s, for example, uses a milk that never, and I mean, NEVER, allows for decent tasting vegan ice cream: almond milk. Almond Milk has its purpose: cereal and on its own. While I have never been a fan of just having a glass of any milk, I would certainly fill up a jug of this type and have it with cake. And I’ve had it with cereal before and due to its general tame flavor, it fuses well with any cereal to accentuate the cereal’s ingredients. But that’s as far as almond milk goes; lamely put, it’s terrible as an ice cream or dessert base. Yet, vegan ice cream joints and major chains insist on using it in creating their vegan variations. Why…why…why!!! It leads me to wonder if they even test out their product before releasing it to the public.
Alright, enough ranting (sorry, repressed, bad ice cream experiences resurfaced momentarily). I decided to give Van Leeuwen a chance after reading its ingredients list: almond milk free. Also, the fact that most of its social media pictures promote its vegan options more than its dairy ones caught my eye: this had to mean something. Needless to say, it did. My long, winding road had come to an end. I had reached the finish line and received a better prize than last place.
So yes, this is to date the best vegan ice cream I have consumed. Amongst it ranking list are the following:
Chocolate chip cookie dough: My favorite flavor from the classic’s list; generous pieces of vegan cookie dough, a creamy texture resulting from coagulation of the coconut cream in it, and the added, organic cane sugar, and a pinch of salt that infuses with the Tahitian vanilla base to make this flavor an all star. There’s a reason why it’s runs out by the end of the night every Saturday.
Honey Comb: I had never tried a “Honey Comb” ice cream flavor prior to my Van Leeuwen experience, so I’ll admit that I asked “So it’s honey-free?” like an ignoramus. Yes, it is. The masses seem to favor this flavor as much as the cookie dough one and I can see why. Though I’ve only had it twice (indulgence is more my game), I loved it on both occasions;
coconut cream, coconut oil, cashews, organic brown rice syrup, cocoa butter, salt. Though a lot of coconut goes into this flavor (which can also be overkill in creating vegan ice cream), the cashews and honey comb bring balance to it, along with the added salt. On a side note, most flavors at Van Leeuwen have salt in them, and I have to give props to Van Leeuwen for doing this right. From past experiences, ice cream (all ice cream types) either hit or miss the mark when they make something “salted”, giving way for a distinct-tasting flavor or ruinous saltiness in ice cream. Ice cream is, after all, a sweet. I appreciate salt, when used accordingly.
Van Leeuwen excels in offering interesting seasonal flavors. Some personal favorites of mine are the “Vanilla Strawberry Crumble” and “Paleo Chocolate Fudge and Almond Brittle”; the Vanilla Strawberry Crumble is a mixture of strawberry jam, GF oatmeal cookies, coconut cream, cashew milk, organic Equadorian cocoa butter, organic cane sugar; this all organic party gives way to a piece of humble pie. It’s very humble in taste, almost like having some traditional strawberry ice cream with added cookie pieces, and it tastes like pie. All the flavors stand out, allowing for a simple yet enjoyable ice cream flavor. The Paleo Chocolate Fudge and Almond Brittle is more indulgent, with the fudge dominating the show in a good way. This flavor reminds me a lot of Almond Mocha Fudge, minus the mocha component which I have never been a fan of. Surprisingly, I actually prefer the more fruity flavor of these two. The Vanilla Strawberry Crumble’s simplicity is just so reminiscent of my childhood, those hot summer days of enjoying Neapolitan ice cream after school, that it takes precedent over the chocolaty complexity and indulgence of the Paleo Chocolate Fudge latter. Both flavors are great nonetheless.
Other memorable mentions are the “Vegan Mint Chip chip” and the “Chocolate”, both which are respectfully great. The Mint Chip is a lighter, more refreshing options, while the Chocolate is chocolaty galore.
Van Leeuwen is well-worth the buck. To all my fellow veganaires, if you haven’t tried Van Leeuwen yet, you’re missing out. Go there tonight! It’s every ice cream lover’s dream and the end to an arduous search for worthy vegan ice cream.