This salted caramel ice cream is easy to make, dairy-free, paleo, vegan, healthy, and so incredibly tasty! A simple vegan salted caramel made from dates is swirled into a cashew-coconut based homemade ice cream that’s creamy right out of the freezer. Add it to your list of must-try healthy ice cream recipes ASAP!
After making my strawberry cheesecake ice cream recently, I KNEW I had to test out another cashew/coconut ice cream base.
This time, I wanted the cashews to only serve the purpose of texture and not actually mimic cheesecake, though. I had my heart set on a specific flavor, and luckily, an Instagram poll showed that you all are very into it too – salted caramel, of course!
So, here we go with the story behind this insanely tasty paleo and vegan salted caramel ice cream – recipe at the finale 🙂
For about 2 minutes I contemplated whether I wanted to create the salted caramel by blending dates, or by cooking coconut milk to a syrup. And THEN I remembered this – dates are awesome in ice cream, period.
The reason for this is that they just don’t freeze! Or rather, date caramel doesn’t freeze. I haven’t actually tried to freeze whole dates (and probably won’t ever attempt to) so I can only speak for the caramel/puree. It’s a healthy homemade ice cream maker’s dream – seriously.
Side note – I actually discovered this odd no-freeze phenomenon after making my caramel turtle candies and sticking the leftover caramel in the freezer. It never froze – so funny!
Anyway, any of you who’ve made your own coconut milk ice cream know that it can turn rock solid in the freezer and require, like, 45 minutes on the countertop to thaw out. Not for the impulsive at heart!
Since the date caramel is so helpful in the way of giving us the opportunity to be impulsive with our ice cream devouring, I decided to not only use it to swirl into the ice cream, but also to sweeten the base itself.
Between the date caramel and pure maple syrup, the base might just be my favorite I’ve made yet! Although my date-sweetened vanilla bean MIGHT just be the winner there – it’s pretty amazing. And now I’m off topic. Back to the caramel!
The caramel itself is super easy to prepare – you use softened medjool dates blended up with either non-dairy milk (I used almond) or water along with vanilla extract and sea salt and BOOM! You get the deliciousness you see below.
I have both a Vitamix blender and a Kitchnaid Food Processor, and I prefer using the food processor to puree the caramel and the blender to puree the ice cream base.
This seems to work for the appliances I have, although you can likely use either/or for both and be just fine.
Since you’ll need some of the caramel to add into the ice cream base, make sure you make it first! Once both are prepped, you’ll need to churn your ice cream base (without the caramel) using an ice cream maker.
If you don’t have one yet, now’s the time to pull the trigger! They’re relatively inexpensive and open up a whole world of frozen desserts – my kid are obsessed with ours! In fact, my daughter Emily is trying to get me to help her make ice cream right now…
I think we’re ready to start – who’s with me?! Let’s get those dates soaked and make the creamiest dreamiest salted caramel ice cream ever – go time!
Paleo and Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Paleo and Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream
- 12 medjool dates pitted and softened* (about 1 cup, packed)
- 4-6 Tbsp dairy-fee milk unsweetened (or water - to thin the caramel)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 3/4 cup raw cashews soaked for 2 hours***
- 15 oz can organic coconut milk full fat - cream plus water
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup date caramel see instructions
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
First, Make the Caramel**
Place the softened dates, 4 Tbsp almond milk or water, and vanilla in the food processor/blender and blend or process until very smooth, stopping to scrape the sides as needed. If mixture if very thick, add the additional Tbsps milk or water to thin.
Continue to process until the mixture resembles caramel, then stir in the salt. Place in the freezer until ready to use.
For the Ice Cream:
Make sure the bowl for your ice cream maker has been in the back of the freezer for at least 2 days.
In a high speed blender or food processor (I used my Vitamix for this step) blend the soaked cashews, coconut milk, maple syrup, 1/4 cup of the prepared date caramel, and vanilla. Continue to blend until mixture looks like a smoothie. Once totally blended, you can chill in the fridge until ready to churn, or churn right from here.
Add all of the ice cream mixture to the frozen bowl of the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers directions until ice cream is at least soft-serve consistency. Mine took just 20 minutes of churning to get to this point (and I did not chill my mixture beforehand)
Once churned, you’re ready to put it all together! Add half of the ice cream mixture to a (cold) small loaf pan or other freezer safe container.
Using a spoon, dollop half the remaining date caramel over the ice cream and swirl in using the spoon or a knife.
Add the rest of the ice cream over the top, then repeat the process with the remaining caramel. Smooth the top and cover tightly with plastic wrap before placing in the freezer. Freeze at least 3-4 hours before serving. You can also freeze overnight.
Due to the dates, the ice cream should be scoop able and creamy right out of the freezer! If it hardens too much, thaw on the countertop for 10 minutes before scooping. Enjoy!
*To soften the dates, soak them in very hot water for 2 minutes, then drain
**I recommend making the caramel in a food processor for best results, however, a high speed blender can work as well, but may need more liquid.
***For a NUT FREE version, sub in 1 cup coconut cream, or the thick part only of a 15 oz can coconut milk, for the cashews.
Shop Products and Ingredients:
Want More Paleo and Vegan Ice Cream Recipes? Try One Of These!
Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (Date Sweetened)
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough No-Churn Ice Cream
Espresso Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
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Reader Reviews & Comments
I love salted caramel! This ice cream looks delicious and perfect for the summer!
I hope you enjoy it!
Is there anything you can’t do?! I just love everything about your site! And your chocolate chip cookies are the only ones I make now! Now off to get an ice cream maker…
I’m so thrilled to hear you’re enjoying everything!
I am so going to make this! Love your blog/recipes!
Amanda Miller says
Mine turned out to textutred from the cashews. I’m certain it was a blending issue. I’ll try the all coconut milk version next. The “caramel” sauce is delicious!!!
Yes that’s a blending issue, when I used my food processor sometimes it doesn’t fully blend them, the vitamix does a better job 🙂
Brittany Audra @ Audra's Appetite says
Yes I LOVE using dates in the ice cream base since it keeps it creamy! I’ve tried that before, but never made a salted caramel ice cream…one of my all-time favorite flavors!! YAY 🙂
I have made the Paleo Salted Caramel Ice Cream with coconut cream only – twice …and it turned out so good… creamy and just enough salty and caramel like… Impressive what dates can be used for… thanks for this wonderful recipe… I have tried so many variation ( with bananas) but nothing compare to your recipe… I plan to come back to try other recipes…
This was easy to make and SO GOOD! Thank you! 🙂
Unfortunately i cannot have dates (or dried fruit), i’d love to try this. is there anything you recommend to replace the dates? coconut sugar?
Hey! Do you think cashew butter could replace the soaked cashews, and if so, would you suggest about half the amount?
I’m looking for the answer to this too! I don’t have a good enough blender to get my soaked cashews creamy. Using cashew butter would be great!
How do I avoid “grainy” ice cream? I use full-fat coconut milk; however, it doesn’t have any guar gum, simply coconut and water. The flavor is outstanding, but the consistency wasn’t great.
I know this is an old comment, but I like to thoroughly blend gum-free coconut milk with an egg yolk or two to emulsify it. That’ll help with the separation and graininess. And, if you want to heat it on the stove till the egg yolks “cook,” you totally can!
Oh my worrrrd!! This was so delish, and tasted better than the dairy/sugar version! Everything I’ve made from this website has been phenomenal! Thank you!!
vex 3 says
The vegan ice cream dish you shared was delicious. The tea tastes great. I really love this ice cream.
Brianna Santos says
Mine came out rock hard. The flavor is good but I have to leave it out for almost 2 hours to be able to scoop it.
Hey! Can I make this without an ice cream maker?
Sheena E. says
This is such an incredible recipe. Thank you! We snuck a tsp of bourbon into the date caramel. Shhhhhhh…
Directions unclear in a few places. Do we drain the cashews first? How long do we soak the dates? The dates never did come fully to a texture and flavor that seemed right and I’m unclear what I may have done wrong. The cashews I think might have needed soaking overnight because the texture wasn’t even close. Unless the water they were soaked in was supposed to go in…? I know it was paleo but it wasn’t sweet at all. I won’t make again.
Coconuts are tree nuts therefore is not a safe nut-free substitute.
I tried making this for my brother who visited from NY…unfortunately it turned out not good 🙁 it was chalky and very frozen no matter how long I thawed it out for, and too icy to scoop, any suggestions if I decide to try this recipe again? Thanks! I really want to like this, please help 🙂