REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Seven Layer Bar

Seven layer bars, or, onslaught sugar injections, as I like to call them, are composed of three main flavors – chocolate, butterscotch, and coconut. Yes, there is the graham cracker crust and some nuts, and there could be a remix edition involving peanut butter, but when I think about biting into a seven layer bar I am immediately given the teeth tingling sensation of butterscotch and chocolate assaulting my tastebuds with an underlining kiss of tropical coco flair. Since I have heard nothing but good things about the scoop shop exclusive Ben & Jerry’s Seven Layer Bar, I had to give their new pint-available non-dairy version a shot, which combines a coconut ice cream made with almond milk, chocolate chunks, walnuts, caramel, and graham cracker for a vegan treat that will hopefully make my teeth hurt.

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Getting my first taste of this almond-driven base is different but not necessarily bad. There’s a strange salty undercurrent and texture that immediately reminds me of almond milk the way it slightly coats my tongue with a taste that gives me childhood flashbacks of the smell of Play-Dough. The first glaring issue I have isn’t with what is there as much as what isn’t – which is coconut. On the first bite there is a subtle coconut flavor that quickly fades after your second or third spoonful, and that’s it.  No coconut flakes or chunks or lasting coconut presence. For a flavor with coconut in its name this seems kind of odd and a massive missed opportunity for Ben & Jerry’s to use almond milk to make the base, considering coconut milk and cream make fantastic non-dairy ice cream and would have been much better than almond. Confusing.

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Luckily the supporting cast of mix ins is pretty solid and helps awaken a fairly dull base into an experience that’s still enjoyable. The biggest boldest surprise flavor off the jump is the walnuts, which is the element I was least excited for. They have stayed extremely firm and crunchy and pop with big robust nutty flavor in a way that I haven’t had in ice cream before. I’m not sure if it’s the freshness of the pint or the non-dairy base but I have never experienced walnuts be this impactful in ice cream.

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The chocolate chunks are also really successful, and I like them more both in size and flavor than the way B&J have been using the fudge flakes in all of their new pints (or classics like Cherry Garcia). They’re smaller and slightly darker which gives them a less sweet presence that doesn’t wash out all of the other components on my spoon. The size of all the various pieces is just right where you can get a chunk of chocolate and walnut in one bite with enough creamy stuff to make it all work harmoniously.

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The two things I was looking most forward to – the vegan caramel and graham crackers – were a bit less abundant and took some digging. The caramel swirl is more prominent and definitely tastes different than your regular butter-made variety, with a slightly thicker consistency that reminds me of a Milky Way but much less sweet. I’m missing the use of butterscotch here but if there’s going to be any substitute for the ‘scotch a good caramel makes sense. The graham cracker pieces are great and pop with a saltiness and grit that differentiate themselves against all the other elements, I just wish there were more. I love the golden flavor of graham crackers in ice cream and had there been bigger pieces or a greater amount that flavor could have really shone through.  Overall it’s a good ice cream, especially for being non-dairy, but with a couple of tweaks it could have been great.
Rating: 7.5/10
Found at: Safeway

Quick Nutrition per 1/2 cup: 320 cals – 18g fat – 9g sat fat – 100mg sodium – 37g carbs – 2g fiber – 28g sugar – 2g protein

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