Plant-Based Ice Cream (“Nice Cream”) with Caramel Sauce

bowl of nice cream with frozen berries

Who doesn’t love ice-cream? It seems that ice cream is probably one of the most popular desserts consumed today and, as a result of refrigeration, it can now be a household staple. Enjoyed globally, each country has its own version of the frozen treat such as gelato in Italy, kulfi In India, and mochi in Japan.

These days frozen dessert comes in many forms and despite all the flavourings available from sweet to savoury, it seems the most popular flavour is still good old vanilla.

I am no stranger to enjoying ice cream and my personal favourite is pralines and cream. I recall in my younger days being able to devour a tub of Baskin Robbins in one sitting. How times change.  It is still my favourite flavour, however, my digestion would no longer appreciate this gesture.

bowl of nice cream with frozen berries

Why do we love Ice Cream?

Although one of the appeals of ice cream is the rich, creamy taste and texture, an article by the Graham Family Dairy asks the question, “Can Eating Ice Cream Make you Happy?” It discusses the science which suggests that ice cream can actually do just that. The article states that during studies at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, neuroscientists discovered that eating ice cream stimulated a portion of the brain known to become activated when people enjoy themselves.

The article continues on this theme by indicating that the “science doesn’t stop there as ice cream contains protein and fat, both of which our bodies need to help level our moods. On top of that, the amino acids you take in when eating ice cream, such as tryptophan, are known to increase serotonin production. This leaves us feeling calm, satisfied, and well, happy! “

bowl of nice cream with frozen berries

What are the origins of Ice Cream?

In an article entitled, The Evolution of Ice cream, the International Dairy Association talks about the origins of ice cream dating back to the second century B.C. Some early references include Alexander the Great being said to enjoy snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar and that “during the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar (A.D. 54-86) frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices”.

In an article, “Explore the Delicious History of Ice cream”, Tori Avey also talks about a chilled dessert consisting of goat or buffalo milk, flour and camphor which was consumed during the Tang Dynasty in China. She also mentions that despite its history spanning worldwide over many centuries, the earliest forms of ice cream would bare very little resemblance to what we consume today.

What goes into today’s Ice Cream?

Commercial ice cream is a semi-frozen mixture of milk, cream, sugar, flavourings, and colourings.  It can also contain small quantities of stabilisers (such as gelatin or vegetable gum) and emulsifiers which are usually added to enhance texture or appearance.

bowl of nice cream with frozen berries

Does giving up dairy mean giving up frozen treats?

Moving to a plant-based diet does not necessarily meaning giving up creamy, delicious tasting frozen desserts.  Although frozen treats in their many forms have been enjoyed for centuries, the disadvantage of today’s commercial ice cream is that they are often high in saturated fats, refined sugars, gums and preservatives.  

A more recent addition to popular frozen desserts is “nice cream”. This fruit-based frozen treat closely mimics the creaminess of ice cream but is a low-calorie, low-fat, plant-based alternative that is free of refined sugars and packed with nutrients..  There is also no limit to the potential flavours that can be made and with this kind of versatility and health benefit, perhaps nice cream will become the next evolution in frozen desserts! 

Recipe for basic “Nice Cream

The recipe for basic nice cream is very simple and I first came across it in the Deliciouly Ella cookbook. All you do is remove the skins of four ripe bananas, slice them and place in the freezer overnight or for at least 6 hours. Riper bananas will make for a smoother result.

blender with nice cream

When ready to make remove the frozen bananas from the freezer for about 5 minutes and then blend in a food processor until smooth and creamy (about 5 minutes). At this point you can add a pinch of cinnamon if desired and then pulse again to mix it through.

For a berry version you can add about 1/2 cup of frozen berries and for a caramel version add 6 Medjool dates and 2.5 tbsp almond butter or peanut butter.

As it melts quickly, serve immediately or place in a sealed container in the freezer for later.

jar of caramel sauce

Recipe for Caramel Sauce

One of the tastes I loved about pralines and cream was the caramel sauce.  There is a recipe for caramel sauce on the Deliciously Ella app and it is a very simple refined sugar free alternative to commercial caramel sauce. It contains the following four ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter

The quantity of these ingredients can be adjusted accordingly depending on the volume of sauce you want. It is made by heating the ingredients in a pan over low to medium heat and stirring continuously until everything is blended into a smooth sauce (about 5-8 minutes).  For salted caramel sauce, just add a large pinch of sea salt.

This is a delicious and healthy topping for the banana nice cream and will work well with any of your other favourite toppings such as chocolate, cacao nibs, nuts or fruits.

bowl of nice cream and caramel sauce

Closing Thoughts

One of the pieces of kitchen equipment needed to make this recipe is a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix.  They tend to be quite pricey but it is one of the investments I made when moving to a plant-based diet.  I have found it is worth its weight in gold and I now use it all the time for many recipes including smoothies and sauces.

I hope you enjoy this treat to celebrate one of the last weekends of summer and, just out of curiosity, considering all the delicious wild and wonderful flavours of ice cream available, what’s is your favourite?

10 responses to “Plant-Based Ice Cream (“Nice Cream”) with Caramel Sauce”

  1. I’ve stumbled across this way of making ice cream too. I always use bananas to provide the creamy texture, then add flavours. I’ve done raspberries and mangoes so far. Planning to keep experimenting. 🤭Healthy and nice.

    Liked by 2 people

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