I’ll be honest – non-dairy ice cream really isn’t a priority for me. I have nothing against it, but the higher price tag and generally less delicious outcome isn’t something that I feel the need to seek out and spend my hard earned money on. The only Ben & Jerry’s dairy free flavor I really gave a shot prior to 2018 was the vegan exclusive Seven Layer Bar, but for some unknown reason the availability and price of B&J’s almond milk-based pints have become much more reasonable this year and I now feel compelled to give them their due. While vegan-ified versions of staple but subpar flavors like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey don’t get me too pumped, these three pints that don’t exist with cows milk have me kinda stoked. Let’s spoon.
P.B. & Cookies
Vanilla with chocolate sandwich cookies & crunchy peanut butter swirls
I’m not the biggest cookies and cream fanboy, but when the flavor is done right I can’t deny its simple classic appeal and scoop shop whimsy. Calling the base “vanilla” is a bit of a stretch, as the entire thing is flecked with cookie crumbs, and that’s definitely a good thing. The best C&C flavors utilize the crumbly wafer cookie in all of its glory, and Ben & Jerry’s definitely did that with their non-dairy take. While vanilla sits beneath the surface, the base actually has more of a dunked cookie sweetness that makes it much more interesting than a regular vanilla. The texture is also really impressive with a cool creamy finish and very little nutty almond notes.
The most impressive part of this flavor are the sandwich cookie pieces, which are HUGE by grocery IC standards, some of which were ¾ of an entire cookie. They’re soft and chewy with tons of crème filling and a lovely cocoa flavor that accentuates the crumbles in the vanilla base.
The peanut butter swirls are definitely crunchy, and while they’re delicious, they’re crunchy almost to a fault. I like my PB swirls to be a bit creamier, but given the lack of dairy it makes sense that B&J’s chose to hedge towards the fatty chunks over the creaminess since they couldn’t use any cream or butter to temper the ribbon. Aside from being a bit too chunky, I also wish there was a slightly more dominant presence of the butter, but that’s probably mostly because of my preference being a PB fiend. As a whole the butter is salty and chunky and a terrific compliment to the cookies.
Coffee Caramel Fudge
Coffee with fudge chunks & a caramel swirl
The coffee flavor in the base is nice and mellow with a pronounced sweetness and just a touch of almond milk essence. More importantly, the texture is actually really good with a great melty consistency that doesn’t require too much extra tempering to feel nice and creamy. Like most non-dairy frozen dessert’s the finish is a bit thinner than the real deal but it isn’t so much so that I find it distracting.
The fudge chunks are notably different than the usual B&J’s offering with a much firmer chomp and big toothy crunch. They feel a bit dry as I chew, but I actually enjoy the intense textural contrast, and the bold bittersweet chocolate flavor is great against the coffee base.
The caramel swirls are solid and pretty ample throughout the pint with a perfect gooey consistency and buttery flavor. They’re thicker than the usual B&J’s salted caramel and surprisingly a little less sweet, and I like the way the thickness holds up in the ice cream. Even though there are no marshmallow swirls to team up with the caramel, this flavor as a whole reminds me of one of my favorite releases from the last couple of years – One Sweet World – and as a slightly lower cal and dairy free option, it’s a really great effort.
Caramel Almond Brittle
Almond with salted caramel swirls & pieces of almond brittle.
Here folks, we have a real winner. Almond flavored ice cream, non-dairy frozen dessert or otherwise, is pretty uncommon and when it’s done well I really enjoy it. Embracing the almond milk base and flavoring it to enhance the nutty experience was a smart move, and the sweet, semi-floral almond extract flavor is big and bold. The taste channels almond poppyseed muffins croissants, marzipan candy, and delicious crunchy biscotti in a way that will definitely be too much for those not into the extract vibes, but I dig it. The texture is perhaps the strongest of the bunch, nice and smooth and greatly boosted by the ample swirls of caramel.
Speaking of caramel, the endless ribbons of salted sweetness are terrific, and very similar to the one’s B&J use in their regular dairy pints, unlike the thicker non-salted one in the coffee non-dairy. The intense sugariness of the caramel helps temper some of the more aggressive almond notes for a combination that really works.
The almond brittle pieces are very ample and super crave-able with a strong sweet and salty pop and big crunch that’s downright perfect. The fattiness of the almonds help bring a new slightly savory component to the very sweet pint, and all the elements combine for what is without a doubt the strongest non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s flavors I’ve had and one of the best frozen vegan offerings all around. Not only is it delicious but it’s unique. There are no other flavors like this is B&J’s lineup and I non-dairy or otherwise this is probably floating around my top ten favorite non-limited batch flavors Ben & Jerry’s offer right now.
All flavors found at Target for $3.99