Having written two cookbooks on the subject, my love of ice cream is no secret. No flavors are off limits, no combinations too wild. That’s a large part of the appeal; there’s something for everyone. You can find everything under the summer sun, from classic vanilla that’s a scoop of simple elegance in a cone, to bold chocolate that’s as dark and decadent as pure frozen ganache. After a sizable dinner or for a standalone snack, there’s always room for ice cream.
While ice cream makers have become remarkably more accessible and inexpensive over the years, it’s impossible to compete with the instant gratification of grabbing a scoop whenever cravings strike, while on the road, or as an excuse to meetup with friends. As a deeply entrenched part of any community, it’s no coincidence that ice cream socials were originally created as a way to make political gatherings more palatable. Here in Austin, TX, we certainly have a surfeit of frozen treats to chose from, despite many recent crushing losses.
Focusing in on shops that off genuinely custard-like treats without eggs or dairy uncovered a wealth of new options. While you can certainly find suitable sorbet, Italian ice, snow cones, and popsicles elsewhere, this list is dedicated only to frozen desserts with a creamy non-dairy base.
Best Vegan Ice Cream in Austin, TX
Known for keeping it weird and proudly independent, the local ice cream scene reflects those principles through unconventional flavor combinations, innovative inclusions and bases, and broad accessibility for eaters of all stripes. Vegans are not only tolerated with token icy, frostbitten desserts languishing in the back of an industrial freezer, but invited to partake in the same extravagances as everyone else. You’ll find a number of exclusively vegan shops, but many more with generous vegan menus. It’s a common request at this point, so don’t be afraid to ask!
Gati Ice Cream
Gati Ice Cream: Originally created as the in-house ice cream served at Thai Fresh, these coconut milk-based scoops were in such hot demand that they warranted their own standalone shop. Paying homage to Thai-inspired treats, expect more east Asian tastes like pandan, tamarind, coconut ash, and Japanese red beans as part of the 40-flavor rotation. Inexorably drawn to all blue food, I personally have a hard time resisting the cookie monster, which swirls sizable chunks of gluten-free cookies into a base tinted blue with butterfly pea tea extract. All scoops are vegan and gluten-free, but some baked goods do contain eggs, so read labels with care when you venture beyond the freezer case.
Luv Fats: Embracing all the good fats like coconut, avocado, olive oil, and cocoa butter, the resulting scoops are downright decadent. Velvety smooth and rich as softened butter, these treats began life with popups and pints found at various events and farmers markets. Realizing their dream of holding down a brick-and-mortar, this family-owned business opened their very own outpost just one year ago. The walk-up window is as busy as I-35 during rush hour as everyone in the Highland neighborhood and beyond clamors to get their fix. Churning out innovative flavors like chocolate chai and bananas foster, the hype is well deserved. Top it off with a dollop of toasted marshmallow cream to get their signature, whimsical presentation, which 100% adds to the experience.
Pressed: Want something sweet that can still be considered a reasonably healthy indulgence? What about a post-workout snack that won’t derail your diet? Pressed juicery perfectly fills that void. Their “freeze” is basically a soft serve smoothie, made from the same stuff as their cold pressed nut milks; almonds, dates, vanilla, and salt. Seasonal flavors like ube in the summer and pumpkin spice in the fall are must-haves whenever they’re on tap. Don’t forget that three toppings are included with every order, such as crumbled cookie bits, almond butter, and vegan marshmallows. Since the base is downright virtuous, it’s still a healthy combo, right? Right.
Lick Honest Ice Creams
Lick Honest: Honestly made from real ingredients and honestly delicious, there are three Austin locations to get an honestly great frozen dessert. The vegan selection varies and includes fantastic seasonal specialties, such as egg(less) nog and sugar plum in winter, which happen to go together beautifully. The dairy-free range is made from a coconut milk base, so you can trust that no matter the flavor, the texture will also be luscious and silky smooth.
Amy’s Ice Cream
Amy’s Ice Cream: A brand that’s synonymous with old school Austin, Amy’s has been scooping since 1984. The empire has grown to include 12 locations around the city, serving up fun flavors with at least one vegan option always on hand. The current formulation starts with an oat base, usually in chocolate or vanilla. You can always jazz things up with crush-ins, which are smashed into your ice cream to both incorporate the flavors throughout and soften the ice cream itself, bringing it to the perfect temperature to instantly melt in your mouth. It’s always fun to watch the paddles hit the chilled table, blending up your custom creation on demand.
Manolis Ice Cream, Pastries, and Cakes
Manolis: This thick, rich, Italian-style gelato speaks for itself, no rainbow sprinkles need apply. Full-bodied flavors sing from within the creamy frozen base, offered in a number of rotating vegan variants. Dairy-free flavors include double chocolate chip, coconut-stracciatella, coffee tiramisu, and pistachio. While you could also very happily indulge in the lighter side of the menu with fruit sorbets and ice pops, to miss out on such unabashed decadence would be a waste of a trip. Luckily, you can combine up to three flavors in one medium cup, so feel free to mix and match for the best of all worlds.
Frozen Rolls Creamery
Frozen Rolls: Thai-style rolled ice cream is how we roll here, with dairy-free alternatives to all the flavors and a number of vegan toppings to lavish on your custom creation. Not too sweet, light, and refreshing, those thin flaky layers are an absolute textural delight. You can load it up with toppings, like crushed Oreos, fresh berries, coconut, and mochi, too. Go classic with chocolate or vanilla if you like, but part of the fun is starting with a more unconventional base like matcha, cookies and cream, butter pecan, or mud pie, just to name a few.
Zeds Real Fruit Ice Cream
Zeds Real Fruit Ice Cream: Blending your choice of fresh fruit with a vanilla non-dairy base on demand, this New Zealand-style ice cream could be considered a healthier take on soft serve. Remarkably refreshing and fun for all ages, you can finish your cup or cone with unconventional toppings like tajin or crushed cinnamon buñuelos, in additional to some of the usual suspects. Adults can grab a beer or glass of wine, kids can play in the family-friendly open space, and dogs are welcome on the patio too, so the whole family can make a day of it.
Masa y Mas
Masa y Mas: After you’ve filled up on tacos and tortilla chips, keep the fiesta going with a fro-chata for dessert. This soft serve creation starts with horchata base made from oat milk, rice milk, and coconut milk. Tasting exactly like its namesake, each frozen spoonful bears a subtle, pleasantly grainy texture, signifying the presence of actual ground rice. High-key sweetness carries the subtle cinnamon spice lingering in the background. For different flavors, you can ask for yours topped with matcha powder or caramel sauce at no extra cost. The chocolate sauce isn’t vegan, but you won’t miss it with such a rich base.
X Crem: Although they’re only scooping one vegan option, made by Hershey’s no less, what they’re doing with it is the real story. This 21+ parlor is more of a bar with ice cream than the other way around, serving up cocktails, alcoholic floats, and boozy milkshakes. As such, you can roll up at 1am on the weekend to get your sugar fix, along with a steady buzz.
National Ice Cream Chains with Vegan Options
While not unique to Austin, it’s nice to know there’s something in store for everyone at these national chains that have opened up shops within city limits. Just be aware that formulations and specific offerings are liable to change at any time, so it’s best to call ahead and check for availability.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: Splendidly decadent, these super-premium dairy-free options are good enough to convert a staunch omnivore. Perhaps you’ve seen their pints in upscale grocery stores as they’ve rapidly expanded to freezer aisle across the country. There are at least three or four fully vegan, ultra creamy, uber dreamy ice cream flavors that include heavy hitters like Texas sheet cake, caramel pecan sticky buns, and lemon bar. If you want the best bang for your buck, come with a few friends and go for a flight. You’ll get 10 half-sized scoops for $21. Now that’s a sweet deal.
TCBY: As a partnership with Silk, this pay-by-weight froyo shop has been offering non-dairy chocolate almond since 2013. More of a soft serve than characteristically tart, tangy frozen yogurt, it’s a light, sweet, and refreshing option to take the edge off on a hot day. Many more fruit sorbet flavors can be added to mix things up, but no other creamy creations are available for the lactose-avoidant.
Baskin Robbins: Although they’ve scaled back considerably since the initial launch of their alternative ice cream offerings, you can at least scoop up one creamy vegan flavor in store. Right now, that’s the non-dairy mint choco chunk, swirled with fudge and dotted with sizable chocolate chips all through the refreshing mint base. For that complete, nostalgic ice cream parlor experience, it’s still a special treat.
Shake Shack: Historically one of the deliberately least vegan friendly burger chains in the US, I can’t say there are grand movements to change that, but they have recently introduced a new plant-based chocolate frozen custard made in collaboration with NotCo. While their featured vegetarian entree is a mushroom stuffed with cheese and the vegetable burger is only vegan if you get the naked patty, it may be worth stopping in for dessert when cravings strike. I’ll grudgingly give them a nod for finally adding something fully plant-based by default.
Dairy Queen: While you can’t just drive up and expect a thick blended blizzard with candy pieces and whipped cream, you can find packaged non-dairy Dilly Bars at some locations. Round pucks of frozen vanilla ice cream dipped in a hard chocolate shell, this plant-based take uses coconut instead of cream. Call ahead to confirm availability before making the trip since distribution is still limited.
Ice cream is more than just a dessert. It’s a celebration of life’s simple pleasures, a temporary escape from the worries of the world. It’s a moment of pure bliss, where time stands still and all that matters is the sheer joy of that frozen delight dancing on your taste buds. So go ahead, my friend. Indulge in a scoop or two, and let the magic of ice cream transport you to a place where every lick is pure happiness. You deserve it.