The height of summer is the perfect time for a cold treat! However, dairy ice cream can be tricky for people who are trying to avoid GMOs because most of the genetically modified corn, soy and cotton seed grown in the United States ends up in livestock feed.
Biotech companies are trying to fill that niche by using synthetic, GMO non-animal dairy proteins as ingredients in high-tech ice cream alternatives. Thankfully, you don't need to use GMOs to get delicious non-dairy ice cream. We held a taste test to prove it.
The Non-GMO Project team recently gathered in our Bellingham, Washington office for a staff meeting and ice cream buffet. We sampled a selection of non-GMO, plant-based frozen treats so we could share our favorites with you. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.
We included one regional brand with limited availability and a couple of awesome options you can likely find in your area, wherever you may be. Also, though we refer to the treats as ice cream for simplicity's sake, they are all plant-based and 100% vegan, with no dairy ingredients that might upset your stomach.
Grab a spoon.
The regional favorite: Frankie and Jo's
Frankie and Jo's makes ice cream from gum-free coconut milk and oat milk. They offer ten "everyday" flavors (ice cream every day, you say? Yes, please!) plus three seasonal flavors each month.
We tried three flavors and we'd recommend any or all of them. We also hear wonderful things about Beet Strawberry Rose … maybe next time!
- Strawberry Milk — June-picked Northwest strawberries infused into coconut-oat milk ice cream with ribbons of strawberry jam and sprinkled with chia seeds.
- Supercookies & Cream — Dark chocolate-maca sandwich cookies in a coconut oat sweet cream base. (Something we learned today: Maca is a Peruvian superfood with a butterscotch-like scent and potential health benefits to mood, energy and libido.)
- Jamocha Chaga Fudge — Dark chocolate, coffee and toasted almonds — and absolutely scrumptious.
If you have the chance to try this ice cream, do not pass it up! If you live out of state, order some, or plan an ice-cream themed trip to Seattle or the Bay area.
For oat lovers: Oatly
Oatly products are available all over the U.S. and Canada — check out the Oatfinder for retailers in your area. This is one of the growing brands helping to elevate the humble oat's profile on agricultural land. Civil Eats recently reported on the benefits of farmers growing more oats, such as improved soil health and reduced fossil fuel consumption (in case you need incentives to eat more ice cream).
- Our team found the Strawberry flavor simply delightful. It's a fresh take on a traditional favorite. If strawberries are the lead singer in this band (they are), a touch of citrus and sea salt offer backing vocals. In the end, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Oatly's website says they were aiming for the sensation of being "in a field eating juicy red strawberries brushed lightly with the leaf of a citrus tree." Mission accomplished.
The first (and last) word in uncompromising creaminess: Cosmic Bliss
Cosmic Bliss won a loyal following back when it was called Coconut Bliss, offering exclusively coconut-milk-based and unbelievably rich non-dairy options. It was the go-to for vegan ice cream, a dessert you could enjoy without feeling like you were compromising. The company's rebranding as Cosmic Bliss reflects their growth and support for dairy-done-right. Cosmic Bliss now includes natural dairy options from grass-fed, regeneratively managed dairy herds.
However, in keeping with our plant-based theme, we chose one of their vegan, coconut-milk options, and we have no regrets.
- Chocolate Peanut Butter was a lip-smackingly rich treat with a silky texture. The chocolate ice cream was smooth, never grainy, and the peanut butter held just the right amount of saltiness. The coconut-milk base didn't overwhelm the main flavors, acting as a supporting player on the stage. (As in, this is a chocolate and peanut butter flavored ice cream made from coconut milk, rather than a coconut milk ice cream with chocolate and peanut butter — see what we mean?)
We believe everyone has the right to eat delicious ice cream, whether they are vegans, lactose-intolerant or avoiding GMOs. We also believe that staff meetings are much better when combined with an ice cream tasting, and encourage workplaces around the globe to consider adopting the practice.
May your scoops be generous and your waffle cones plentiful!