Ode to New York: A Vegan Ice Cream Guide

by Jen Wanous

On my third year anniversary of living in New York, I would like to dedicate an ode to the best vegan ice cream this wonderful city has to offer.  Many of you know that I am lactose-challenged and as you probably also know, I love ice cream.  This makes for a challenging scenario, but with some digging, sweet, cool, creamy deliciousness can be found!  Below are reviews of what I have enjoyed here.

Right photo courtesy of Kelsey Leland, check out her blog at: http://www.girlwiththecupcaketattoo.com/

You see, I used to be able to eat dairy like a champ.  Hot days at the beach in my Southern California hometown would never be complete without some Thrifty’s ice cream, pizza was plentiful and cheddar cheese to complement all the Mexican food was essential.   Then came college and my earthy-herbal vegan days where I cut out dairy completely.  When I decided I was over it, I tried to go back to my decedent milkshake-loving ways and I quickly realized that I was doomed!! It was a particularly low point in my life.  I had indeed become lactose intolerant- joining the ranks of my mom’s side of the family- we would all pay dearly for our cheesecake indulgences on Thanksgivings.

It’s estimated that 75% of adults in the world are lactose intolerant. Your body is missing lactase, which is the enzyme you need to digest lactose.  Prior to pasteurization, milk contains lactase but the high heat process of pasteurization destroys it, making it hard for us to digest if we don’t already produce lactase.  If you can find a trusted local, raw milk producer, you might not have any reaction at all.  (In NYC, it is illegal to sell non-pasteurized milk…but ask around someone might be able to hook you up!)

Lactose intolerance is the heavy, stomachachey feeling you get from eating pizza, cream soup or ice cream.  (Lots of bubbles…you know what I’m talking about.)  Of course, the severity can vary.  If you tune into your body enough, you can start to notice what might bother you the most.  The sugar-lactose combo that is found in ice cream is particularly challenging for your body to digest.  It might be worthwhile to pay attention to any correlations you notice between symptoms like: stuffy nose, you have to clear your throat a lot (ehem), for kids- if they get ear infections often, asthma, snoring or just tummy aches in general.  It might not seem like such a big deal but over the years, I’ve noticed that I get totally grumpy when my stomach hurts, so for me it’s just not worth it to suffer through—especially when there are so many wonderful alternatives!

The Best Vegan Ice Cream in New York City

1.  Lula’s Sweet Apothecary – I discovered this gem just last week and I was so thoroughly impressed!  First off, the place is as cute as a button-taking you back in time to a soda fountain of the early 1900’s and second, the soft-serve it to die for!  I got the cake batter-fudgecicle swirl and it was really something special! (516 E. 6th St., NYC)

2.  Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream –  These artisans finally made a vegan variety. They just have chocolate and vanilla, but, hey, those are two solid standards that will get me through any creamy craving. (Psst. They make vegan shakes too.) (Two Brooklyn locations and one in the Lower Eastside- plus an ice cream truck. Check out the schedule on their website: http://www.vanleeuwenicecream.com) 

3.  Ample Hills –  This is a lactose-full ice cream shop with one spectacular vegan option. Usually it’s a dark chocolate coconut milk based ice cream. They also usually have a fruit sorbet. I mixed the creamy chocolate with the lemon sorbet and it was the perfect punctuation to a July night. (623 Vanderbilt Ave., Prospect Heights, Brooklyn)

4.  Natural Blend – This place was a real find and it was right under my nose for an entire year before I discovered it.  Only a block away from my apartment!  They serve Klein’s kosher ice cream, vending out of five-gallon tubs of the stuff.  Cookies and cream is the best I’ve tried so far.  (769 Washington Ave., Crown Heights, Brooklyn)

Milk(less) Shakes:

1.  Champs Family Bakery – The Fonze goes vegan at this diner.  Shakes of a variety of flavors to go with your vegan burger. (176 Ainslle St., Brooklyn, Williamsburg.)

2.  Foodswings – This Brooklyn hang out combines two opposites: vegan and diner fare- making for one heck of a shake!  Check out the “Tank”: chocolate ice cream, peanut butter and cookie shake.  (295 Grand St., Brooklyn, Williamsburg.)

3.  Organic Grill –  A super sweet place that takes me right back to Santa Cruz.  Homemade, healthy vegan desserts. (123 1st Ave., NYC)

4.  Quantum Leap – One of my fave places for its relaxed ambiance and excellent service.  Their vegan shakes are good.  However, their vegan cheesecakes–not so delicious.  (226 Thompson St., NYC)

Honorable Mentions:

Maggie Mudd’s – Even though this one is in San Francisco, I had to mention it.  They have lots of flavors and sundaes to keep you dreaming of California.  They even have ice cream that’ll get you tipsy—with rum and tequila!  I miss you Maggie!!

Babycakes – Vegan, sugar-free and gluten-free baked goods that are staged in the cutest kitschy bake shop. Try the carrot cake! (248 Broome St.)

La-Loo’s – Is a store bought goat’s milk ice cream (no lactose!) that is sold at Whole Foods now.  It’s the best non-cow ice cream I’ve had (all of the above included).  It’s so delicious and decadent!  Add it to your WF shopping list!

Victory Garden – A classy establishment that has goat’s milk soft serve with divine selections like salted carmel.  (31 Carmine btw Bleeker and Bedford, West Village)

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2 Comments to “Ode to New York: A Vegan Ice Cream Guide”

  1. do any of these places sweeten with something other than sugar? like agave, palm sugar, etc? My boys can’t have regular sugar…

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