Excerpt from The New Scoop: Recipes for Vegan Ice Cream in Unusual Flavors (Plus Some Old Favorites)

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Excerpt from The New Scoop: Recipes for Vegan Ice Cream in Unusual Flavors (Plus Some Old Favorites) by Alina Niemi

copyright 2011 by Alina Niemi
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Chapter 2: Defining Frozen Delights

vegan tomato basil ice cream
Tomato Basil Ice Cream

What’s the difference between ice cream, sherbet, sorbet, and frozen yogurt? Here’s a basic rundown.
Basically, frozen ice-cream-type mixtures can be divided up into three basic categories: ice creams, sherbets (or gelatos) and sorbets (or granitas). The main difference is what kind of milk or milk substitute is used, or not.


According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, which oversees production and regulation of commercial foodstuffs, commercial ice cream must contain at least 10% dairy fat by weight and 20% milk solids in order to be labeled as “ice cream” for sale.

Dairy fat, or butterfat, is the fat that is found in butter and cream from a cow. So by strict definition, there can be no such thing as a vegan or dairy-free ice cream. There are no milk solids or butterfat in vegan ice cream, since there is no milk, cream, or half and half.

But because there is no other widely accepted name, we will use the term “ice cream” to refer to any dairy-free, ice-cream-like, frozen concoction. We aren’t concerned with fat percentages for our purposes, except to note that fat carries flavor.

In other words, if you want a richer, creamier dessert, you need to add more fat. Dairy ice creams use butterfat from cream, half and half, and milk. Eggs are often added as well, especially egg yolks, which contain fat and help to create a velvety texture.

Some traditional dairy ice cream recipes rely on raw eggs. Others use a cooked egg and milk custard, which is then frozen.

Vegan products use fats from nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains to replace the fats from the cows and chickens. Without fat, there would be very little flavor, and the mouthfeel would be more like water and less like cream.
To get an idea of the difference that fat makes, taste a pinch of cocoa powder, then taste a bit of chocolate bar. Cocoa powder has the fat (in the form of cocoa butter) removed. Chocolate still has the fat in it. Both taste chocolaty, but the bar chocolate has a decadent richness that is missing from the cocoa powder.


Commercial sherbets contain milk and fruit or other flavoring ingredients, such as chocolate or coffee. Vegan sherbets use coconut, soy, oat, almond, hemp, or rice milk instead of dairy milk.

Sherbets are lower in fat than ice creams, but they are also less creamy. However, because they still use nondairy milks, they have a creaminess to them that sorbets do not. So I like to think of them as kind of in between sorbets and ice creams.

Gelatos are frozen ice cream-like products originally from Italy, which use whole milk as the main dairy ingredient. They have a richer flavor than vegan sherbets, but the idea is similar.


Sorbets are frozen fruits, juices, purees, or other liquids, such as herbal teas. The flavors can be quite intense and fruity and are often used as palate cleansers between courses during a fancy meal.

They have a higher proportion of water than sherbets and ice creams, so the consistency is much different. They can be icy, crunchy, or more slushy, depending on how they are frozen, but they will never have the rich creaminess of ice cream.

In fact, because they do not have that added fat, they are extremely healthy options for those who want to reduce their fat intake without sacrificing flavor or satisfaction. And their high water content makes sorbets extremely refreshing. A tangy, cooling fruit-mint sorbet will perk almost anyone up on a hot day.


Granitas are sorbet-like Italian frozen desserts that do not use an ice cream machine. They are supposed to have an icy, rougher texture. The base mixture is frozen in a pan in the freezer and scraped out with a fork. If you love icy frozen desserts, you can use this technique for your creations, including sherbets and ice creams.

There are no recipes for granitas per se in this book. But if you want that kind of icy finished product, simply freeze your base in a shallow, rectangular container. When you want to serve it, scrape some out with a fork or spoon. You may need to let it set out on a counter for a few minutes, to soften enough to do so.


Frozen yogurts are made with yogurt instead of regular milk. In our case, we will be using soy or coconut milk yogurt. The tangy flavor of yogurt comes through in the finished product.

Frozen yogurt is also lower in fat and therefore less rich than ice cream. There is no added fat besides what is in the soymilk or coconut milk used to make the yogurt itself.


The basic formula for all of the ice creams, sherbets, sorbets, and frozen yogurts are the same. You create a base mixture, add extra goodies, and freeze it all, although not necessarily in that order.

What kind of delicious things are we using? What makes vegan ice cream so creamy? The basics, plus the extra goodies, like nuts, chocolate, and fruit, are all discussed in the next chapter, Chapter Three: The Ingredients.

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