You know, I’m not sure what made me pick up that carton of rice-milk ice cream in my local Whole Foods that day. Generally my sweet tooth is a subdued little creature, given the occasional roar for chocolate. But, I had been avoiding dairy for a while and I got this pang for ice cream, so I decided to check out the new offerings. I was a little surprised to see, in addition to Turtle Mountain, Tofutti, Rice Dream and the like, a new kid in town- Good Karma and their “Organic Rice Divine.” I had actually used their whole-grain brown rice milk products before, found at the same Whole Foods. Interestingly, they have a brown-rice milk that is certainly more nutritious than most. I had no idea that they had their own ice cream, though. As I browsed the flavors of the rice cream, I noticed a clear “Gluten-Free” tag on their “Carrot Cake” flavor. Gluten-free, Dairy-Free Carrot Cake ice cream? No way! I read the label and found that the ice cream had chunks of rice flour-based carrot cake, and it actually sounded like a tasty carrot cake. Molasses, yummy spices- and carrot. Mmmm… how could I resist? Needless to say, that ice cream went home with me. One note for those with soy intolerance- it does contain (small) amounts of soy, despite being a rice cream. I have not been excessively impressed with most of the dairy-free ice creams I’ve tried. Most soy ice creams have a strong soy aftertaste and just seem to be trying too hard. I scooped out a small amount of this carrot cake ice cream and took a tentative nibble. It was like an amazing chai, mixed with carrot cake- a wonderful fusion concoction without any abrasive flavors. The ingredients harmonized together so well I didn’t miss the dairy at all, and in fact it just tasted RIGHT without any false notes or obvious gluten-free textures or flavors. I was in heaven. I’d never found an ice cream that matched my taste buds so well. I tested it out on the DH, whose verdict was “Mmm, good.” But I don’t think he fell in love the way I did. It reminded me of Grainnaisance’s much coveted winter seasonal Almond egg-less-nog beverage that i used to hunt down in Boulder, Colorado, but even better. I finished the small carton that week, no small accomplishment as ice cream or dairy-free creams usually sit in our freezer for months or longer, waiting for my sweet-tooth to assert itself. What’s more, the next time I went to Whole Foods, I bought another one, and even tried another flavor. I would give the carrot cake flavor a… well, a 10/10 as true dairy-free perfection. But how did the other flavors stack up? One thing I liked was that there was no chocolate in the carrot cake flavor. I like chocolate, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t always agree with me. But I wanted to try the chocolate flavors. Next, I tried the chocolate peanut butter fudge dairy-free ice cream. Honestly, who could resist chocolate and peanut butter together? Not me. I have to admit I was a little disappointed after the glory of the Carrot Cake flavor. The peanut chunks were really good, but the dark chocolate cookie crumbles (gluten-free! yay!) had the faintly flat note I associate with mediocre gluten-free baked products. The chocolate fudge swirls also didn’t cause my heart to beat faster, for some reason. I enjoyed it fairly well, but have to give it a 7/10 because the flavor of the cookie really detracted from the final product for me. Finally, in my last greedy trial, I succumbed to the allure of the banana fudge dairy-free ice cream. I happen to love frozen banana ice cream, which is odd because I hate fresh bananas. But when I was a child, one of my favorite treats was a real fruit banana ice cream bar that we found at a local health food store. This ice cream reminded me of those happy childhood memories and I thoroughly enjoyed the strong, natural banana flavoring. The chocolate fudge was nice, but it was almost superfluous. I would give this enjoyable ice cream an 8/10. I enjoyed it, but haven’t had more than that first serving since I bought it, so it doesn’t seem to engender cravings to the same degree as the delightful carrot cake flavor. It really is a shame for those who must avoid soy that these ice creams do contain some soy ingredients. But, if your primary issue is dairy and gluten, these ice creams are a wonderful alternative to dairy ice cream and allow us to indulge in real gourmet flavors that are normally off limits. One thing that I couldn’t detect was whether these products were actually vegan. I didn’t read any obvious references to eggs or other animal derived products in the ingredients, but if this is a concern you may want to contact the company. However, for this gluten-free vegetarian experimenting with being dairy-free, this was the perfect treat. For those with severe allergies, it is worth noting that the rice creams are produced in factories using milk, soy, tree nuts, and peanuts. The fact that the factory also makes milk products may be what stands between Rice Divine and the strictest vegan label, but I’m satisfied, and personally thrilled that a company made this effort at producing a truly high quality, gluten-free line of ice creams and milks for the dairy-free, gluten-free community.
If you’re interested in Gluten-Free, Dairy-free and Egg Free Ice Cream here’s a list of some of the major options:
Turtle Mountain lists allergens in a helpful allergen list to make it easier for you to find your egg-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free ice cream. (So Delicious etc.) Note that the PURE DELICIOUS Cookie Dough Ice Cream is, indeed GLUTEN-FREE!! I gotta get me some of that. *contains soy*
Tofutti has a wimpy gluten-free policy and doesn’t test their products (read their faq) but two snack bars, sour “cream,” their “better than cream cheese,” and their ice cream pints seem gluten-free. *contains soy*
Rice Dream has been a controversial product for some years now because the brown rice syrup they’ve used in their products has been derived from barley. I had heard that they had either undergone testing to demonstrate that there are no barley residues in the product or changed their formula, but this is unsubstantiated and I am by no means current on this. I’ve tended to avoid their products in the past. I did send them an email so we will see what response they have about the gluten-free status of their products. They do have this gluten-free list available. Oddly enough, it doesn’t include Almond Dream, despite its seemingly innocuous ingredients. One advantage of their company IF you can find truly gluten-free products from them is that they actually have entirely soy-free rice ice creams.
I hope those of you who must be dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free find this a useful article highlighting our current options. If you’ve had experiences with any of these products, or have your own recipe for a killer gluten-free, vegan ice cream, please post in the comments! I’d love to hear from you. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some rice banana fudge ice cream calling my name…