Ice cream is a summertime staple, but may seem like it’s not an option for those who are vegan or lactose intolerant. Luckily, in Seattle, there are a handful of vegan-ice cream shops that use plant-based milk alternatives in their delectable frozen treats.
In the name of investigative journalism, I tried three vegan-ice cream places around Seattle, and while I am neither vegan nor lactose intolerant, I brought along some friends who are to help me get the inside scoop. As a constant variable, I tried vanilla ice cream at each spot, in addition to one seasonal and one popular flavor. Here are the results:
Frankie & Jo’s
Multiple locations: 1010 E. Union St., (Capitol Hill) Seattle; N.W. 70th St., (Ballard) Seattle; 2758 Alki Ave. S.W. Suite B, (Alki Beach temporary summer location) Seattle; frankieandjos.com
I’ve walked past Frankie & Jo’s in Capitol Hill numerous times, always baffled by the endless line out the door. Why would anyone be willing to wait for so long for “plant-based” ice cream?
But after trying this vegan ice cream I must admit I am a changed woman. Frankie & Jo’s has flawlessly pulled off nondairy ice cream, with a variety of flavors incorporating unusual ingredients like ash, beet juice and tahini. Despite lacking the fat from dairy cream, this ice cream was still luxuriously creamy and rich; if I didn’t know beforehand, I doubt I would have guessed it was vegan.
And just in time for summer, Frankie & Jo’s has opened a temporary shop on Alki Beach that will run through Labor Day.
The constant vanilla: You can definitely taste the coconut and cashew milk in the brown sugar vanilla ice cream, but I found that these extra flavors actually enhanced the vanilla.
The crowd favorite: The salty caramel ash is gray in color, looking kind of like “a charcoal face mask,” according to reporter Asia Fields. But despite its unusual color, I found this flavor to be the perfect balance of salty and sweet, and definitely did not taste like a clay face mask.
The seasonal: Frankie & Jo’s most recent crop of seasonal flavors are inspired by ingredients from Mexico. The Mexico morning ice cream is a tasty take on dirty horchata — a blend of coffee, cinnamon and milk, with a swirl of dulce de leche and cookie chunks. This was the sweetest of the three I tried at Frankie & Jo’s, but still delicious nonetheless.
Alternative milks used: coconut, cashew
Price: $4 for a single scoop
Location: 324 15th Ave. E., Seattle; plumbistro.com
In addition to vegan ice cream, Sugar Plum, a subset of vegan restaurant Plum Bistro, also has soft serve and other vegan pastries and desserts. I found the texture to be more icy than smooth, which is perhaps due to their use of oat milk, which has less fat than some other milk alternatives. Alas, the price we must pay for health.
The constant vanilla: Out of the three spots, Sugar Plum’s vanilla ice cream tasted the most straight-vanilla, but also tasted the least like regular ice cream. The consistency and flavor reminded me of a frozen pudding — thin and uninspired.
The crowd favorite: I believe the blueberry crumble is also a seasonal flavor, so get it while it lasts! I’m a huge advocate for other-desserts-mashed-into-ice-cream flavors, although I wish the blueberry flavor was a bit stronger in this ice cream.
The seasonal: By far the best ice cream we tasted at Sugar Plum was the dragon fruit soft serve. I complained earlier about the icy texture of the ice cream, but I think the iciness worked well with the soft serve. To be quite honest, I am a bit of a novice when it comes to unusual fruits, so I’m not fully sure what flavor I was supposed to be expecting with dragon fruit. But each bite started off almost slightly salty before transitioning into a light sweetness. The soft serve was best described by Education Lab reporter Dahlia Bazzaz, who simply said, “She’s complex.”
Alternative milks used: oat, coconut, cashew, almond, hemp, really anything plant-based
Price: $3.63 for a single scoop; $4.54 for soft serve
The Cookie Counter
Location: 7415 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle; seattlecookiecounter.com
The Cookie Counter is a lovely neighborhood spot off Greenwood Avenue. Currently they serve just six flavors, but are planning to add a few more (I heard rumors of lemon?) before summer.
The constant vanilla: The flavor from the coconut milk was pretty prominent in the vanilla ice cream — personally I enjoyed it very much — so if you are coconut-averse, this may not be the best choice.
The crowd favorite: There has to be dairy in their mint chip ice cream (I was assured there is not) it tastes too much like regular ice cream!!! The chocolate chips were a bit icy, but other than that, a great ice cream!
The seasonal: The chai ice cream was very creamy, with strong — but not overpowering — chai and spice flavors. I found it to be a tad chalky, but not enough to turn me off. To quote my friend, Harrison, — who has previously told me, “I like chalky foods” — “I wish this ice cream was more chalky.”
Alternative milks used: coconut
Price: $4.50 for a single scoop
Have you encountered other delicious vegan ice cream places in Seattle? Tell us in the comments below.