It is most definitely and officially ice cream season here in New York. Within only a few weeks, we had the typical spring to summer transition of suddenly moving from intermittently warm and cool days to sticky, humid, sunny ones. I don’t mind it one bit—it makes it easier to put on my mask and get outside—but I’m craving cool treats. This vegan chocolate cherry ice cream is hitting the spot!
I’d say that this ice cream is a nice balance of effort and ease. The base is really simple: coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, salt. I’ve used cornstarch and then heated the base to make it more custardy, and while it refreezes a little better that way, it ultimately doesn’t make a big difference for all of the steps that it adds to the process.
The cherries are roasted, which brings out their flavor brings them to a jammy consistency, without the effort of actually making a jam. I recommend cooling everything really well before you actually churn the ice cream (more on that below), cherries included.
Roasting the cherries and remembering to put your ice cream machine’s freezer bowl in the freezer overnight before churning are really the most complex parts of making the recipe. Everything else comes together simply, and once it does, you have a wonderfully creamy, faintly coconutty, fruity, and chocolatey dream dessert on your hands.
Chocolate cherry ice cream ingredients
You won’t need too many ingredients for this ice cream. The main components:
I use full-fat, canned coconut milk to make the recipe. You could likely use the same amount of canned coconut cream to get a similar, but creamier result. Don’t use light coconut milk or the type of coconut milk that comes in a carton: neither one will give you the creamy, silky consistency that makes this ice cream so tasty.
I love making ice cream with a cashew base, too. If you prefer cashews to coconut milk, and you have a high-speed blender that can pulverize cashews pretty easily, then you can follow the instructions in this post to create your creamy base, then keep the mix-ins for this recipe the same.
I use sweet, dark cherries for this recipe, and I tested it with both fresh and frozen cherries. Both work well! If you use frozen cherries, you may need to roast them for an extra 5-10 minutes, as they release more juices while cooking.
Any vegan chocolate, dark or milk, is fine for the recipe. I prefer dark chocolate here, and I used vegan baking chunks that I’d chopped down a little. If you like, you could pick your favorite dark chocolate bar and simply chop that up before adding it to the recipe. You’ll need 2/3 cup of pretty finely chopped chocolate (about 6 ounces).
How to make chocolate cherry ice cream
Making a base
Making the “custard” for this ice cream is as simple as blending up 2 (14.5 ounce) cans of full-fat coconut milk with cane sugar, vanilla, and salt. After blending, you’ll want to refrigerate the mixture for about an hour, so that it’s quite cold when it goes into your ice cream maker. If you don’t have an hour, 30 minutes will cut it. If you have a few hours, that’s even better!
Roasting the cherries
I roasted my cherry halves with a tablespoon of additional cane sugar, and nothing more. You could add a cherry to the cherries if you’d like more cherry flavor, but I think they shine through just enough on their own. I found it easiest to pit and cut the cherries in half before roasting (or just cut them in half if frozen), then give them a rough chop on the roasting sheet before cooling and adding them to the ice cream. You can adjust how finely chopped they are depending on how you like your ice cream add-ins to be.
Churning the ice cream
This recipe is written for an ice cream maker for churning, but there are ways to make ice cream without a machine if you don’t have one. Both this post and this post are helpful, and Hannah Kaminsky also has a good tutorial in her (awesome) vegan ice cream book, Vegan a la Mode.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, but you love ice cream and would like to make more of it, it’s an investment that I can vouch for. There are a lot of inexpensive models, as well as used or refurbished ones. My ice cream maker is something I didn’t think I’d use a lot when I got it, but it now gets plenty of use each summer, and I’m really glad to have it.
You can add the cherries and chocolate to your ice cream in two ways. The first is to add them to the ice cream machine about 1-2 minutes before they finish churning. This will incorporate them evenly and turn your ice cream a lovely, pink purple color. The ice cream will loosen up as soon as you add mix-ins to the machine, but it’ll firm up again after a minute or two of churning.
You can also finish churning the ice cream, transfer it to your loaf pan, and then fold in all of the mix-ins with a spatula. This will create pretty swirls of color as you go. I usually add mix-ins to the machine to distribute them quickly, but both methods work!
Storing your ice cream
After churning, I let the ice cream sit in the freezer for about 30-60 minutes, just to firm up. I store in the freezer, too, in an 8. 5 x 4. 5 x 2. 75 inch loaf pan, covered in aluminum foil. If the ice cream sits in the freezer overnight, be sure to let it soften at room temperature for a little while before serving. I also like to give mine a big stir with my ice cream scoop before scooping. Homemade ice cream is a little more prone to forming crystals than store-bought ice cream, and this helps to keep it creamy.
- 2 14.5 ounce cans full-fat coconut milk, lightly shaken (about 3 1/3 cups total)
- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (or 1/4 teaspoon fine salt)
- 2 cups (heaping) pitted and halved cherries, fresh or frozen (about 12 ounces)
- 2/3 cup chopped dark chocolate
- The night before making your ice cream, put the ice cream freezer bowl in the freezer overnight.
- In a blender, blend the coconut milk, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt for a full minute. Transfer this mixture to a storage container and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
- Preheat your oven to 400F. Place your halved cherries onto a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with your remaining 1 tablespoon cane sugar. Roast the cherries for 10 minutes. Stir them on the sheet. Roast them for another 10-15 minutes, or until shriveled and tender but still a little juicy. Allow the cherries to cool to room temperature (you can blast them in the fridge or freezer to speed this up). Give the cherries a rough chop on the baking sheet, so that they're in pieces small enough to churn into your ice cream.
- Prepare your ice cream maker for churning. Pour in the cooled coconut milk mixture. Follow your ice cream maker's directions (my machine takes about 20-25 minutes). Add your cherries and dark chocolate to the machine about 2 minutes before the ice cream is fully churned. The ice cream will momentarily loosen up, but the machine will churn it back to a good consistency quickly. You can also finish churning the ice cream, turn it out into your loaf pan, and add the mix-ins by hand, using a spatula to fully incorporate them.
- Chill the ice cream for 30-60 minutes, or until it's a consistency you like. Serve in scoops or on a cone, and enjoy.
Roasting and simmering fruit has helped me to eat more fruit overall this summer, and I’m glad for that. If ice cream happens to be the vehicle, I’m especially happy 🙂
If you don’t have cherries, or if you have a lot of strawberries or blueberries or blackberries, I think the recipe would work really nicely with all of those. And, if roasting the fruit is a little too much effort in these hot days, or if using an ice cream maker isn’t for you, or if you’d like something a little more fruity and a little less coconutty, there’s always banana soft serve. Or this refreshing, fruit-based blueberry ginger ice cream treat.
Alright, friends. It’s another hot day here, in spite of an unexpected and dramatic hail storm yesterday! Glad to have leftover ice cream in the freezer, and hope some of you will get to enjoy it soon, too.