Brown Sugar & Walnut Dairy-Free “Ice Cream” a.k.a. Frozen Dessert Delight

Summer and early autumn means that it is time for homemade ice cream. However, if you are lactose-intolerant, then eating lots of ice cream may result in an uncomfortable digestive reaction. Since we’ve started drinking almond milk at our house, I decided to see if I could make a dairy-free and lactose-free “ice cream” variation. I used almond milk, brown sugar and walnuts in the recipe and amaretto liqueur for flavor. To make a “smooth texture” I added xanathan gum. The recipe doesn’t contain eggs making this recipe good one for a vegan diet. For a finishing touch, I topped the frozen dessert with my “Fresh Cherry Topping” and some of the topping even got mixed in with the frozen dessert for a swirled effect. Well, surprise, it turned out to be quite delicious. Let’s enjoy this concoction.

Making “creamy” ice cream with xanthan gum

Technically this recipe is not really “ice cream” since it doesn’t contain milk or cream. A better term might be a “frozen dessert.” However, the ingredients are similar to ice cream and it is prepared in the same manner using an ice cream maker.

Traditional ice cream is made from a cream/sugar/egg custard recipe. The fat content helps make a creamy ice cream and beating the ice cream incorporates air into the dessert. Emulsifiers help stabilize this milk/cream/air mixture as it is beaten to result in full body and smooth texture. Another reason to “beat” the ice cream custard as it freezes is so the sugar will form tiny sugar crystals resulting in a smooth frozen dessert. Without emulsifiers and “beating” the custard, large sugar crystals clump together making a grainy texture. Emulsifiers help the sugar crystals “slide” past each and also help the fat and air bubbles stabilize. Here’s my trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker which has lasted many years and still makes a great batch of ice cream.

Examples of emulsifiers include heavy cream, eggs, gelatin and gums such as carrageenan, guar gum and xanthan gum. If you look at the label of any commercial ice cream container, you will probably find one of these emulsifiers added. I’m using xanthan gum in my “frozen dessert.” I purchased the package on the internet from Bob’s Red Mill. This particular gum can also be purchased at many grocery stores. You only need a tiny amount of the xanthan gum in the ice cream recipe. So the package lasts a long time!

Xantham gum is made from the fermentation of a sugar (usually corn but also soy or wheat) by a type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. Then the resulting product is dried and turned into a powder. Once xantham gum powder is added to water or another liquid it rapidly turns into a viscous, slimy solution. It makes a great thickening and stabilizing product for many foods and has found its way into commercial salad dressings and ice creams. Since gluten-free flours lack the ability to bind (as with traditional all purpose flour), it is often added to baked products made with gluten-free flour.

This was the first time I’ve used xantham gum in an ice cream recipe. Wow, I only needed needed a tiny amount. Yes, the gum quickly dispersed and expanded in the almond milk and became very slimy. But it also clumped together. I found that it helped to sprinkle the xantham gum over the almond milk concoction while the milk was still warm on the stove and stir alot while pressing the gum against the sides of the pot with a wooden spoon. I still managed to get the slimy gum all over my fingers!


This frozen dessert recipe is a very simple one to mix up. It has two basic ingredients — almond milk and brown sugar. To jazz things up a bit, I added almond extract for flavor plus toasted chopped walnuts and amaretto liqueur. And of course, I added the xantham gum.

My final recipe actually was made using dark brown sugar — not light brown sugar as in the photo. Brown sugar is made from molasses which has been added back to refined sugar. The difference between light and dark brown sugar is in the amount of molasses. Dark brown sugar has more molasses and a richer flavor. Either sugar can be used in the recipe — I liked the flavor imparted by the dark brown sugar.

To make my frozen dessert, I dissolved brown sugar water and cooked this on the stove until the mixture bubbled and the sugar dissolved, melted and reduced in volume. Then I added the almond milk and cooked a little longer. Next, I added the xantham gum and stirred it around pressing it against the sides of the pot in an attempt to dissolve it. Finally, I removed the mixture from the stove, added the almond extract and liqueur and let the mixture chill for several hours. (If brown sugar syrup cools or gets too thick and hardens — just add a little more water and reheat it.) After chilling the mixture, I processed it in the ice cream mixer. And I add toasted, chopped walnuts at the end.

Even though I added almond extract and amaretto liqueur which imparted an almond flavor to the frozen “ice cream” dessert, the walnuts seemed to go nicely with these flavors. Toasting the walnuts in the oven first helped bring out the flavor of these nuts. I served the ice cream with some “Fresh Cherry Sauce” and even poured the remainder of the cherry sauce in with leftover ice cream for a “swirled” effect.

Now you have a gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free vegan frozen dessert which has the texture of ice cream, tastes like ice cream and is healthy for you. No one will believe you. Too good to be true. Let’s enjoy this dessert in our hot summer/fall weather.

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2-1/2 cups Almond unsweetened vanilla milk
  • 1/4 tsp xantham powder
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Ameretto liqueur
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces with extra for sprinkling on top of ice cream
  • Fresh Cherry Sauce, optional

Method and Steps:

  1. Add dark brown sugar and water to small heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring with wooden spoon. Reduce heat and let gently boil until reduce by half, stirring frequently.
  2. On low heat, slowly stir in almond milk, stirring to scrape sugar syrup off sides and bottom of sauce pan.
  3. Add xantham powder and stir to dissolve. Press xantham clumps against sides of sauce pan.
  4. Remove from heat, add almond extract and amaretto liqueur. Stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to non-metallic bowl, cover and set in refrigerator to chill for several hours.
  6. Meanwhile, toast the walnut pieces. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place walnut pieces on it in single layer.
  7. Toast walnut pieces for 5 to 10 minutes until aromatic and they begin to brown.
  8. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to small bowl.
  9. Chop any large walnut pieces by hand or using a small electric food chopped.
  10. When ready to freeze, strain “ice cream” mix through strainer, if needed, to remove any xantham clumps.
  11. Transfer to ice cream container, and process until mostly frozen and ice cream maker slows down. Frozen “ice cream” will still be very soft.
  12. Add walnut pieces and process for another minute or two.
  13. Remove ice cream container and set in freezer for half an hour to an hour  to allow ice cream to continue to freeze and set.
  14. When ready to serve, scoop into individual dishes. Top with Fresh Cherry Sauce.
  15. Freeze leftover “ice cream” in container — mix in some of the Fresh Cherry Sauce for a swirled effect.

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