On a whim I decided to make an ice cream float today. Coke floats used to be one of my husband's favorite desserts back in the day. It's been ages since I've had one though, since we don't really drink pop anymore, so I felt like it was time for a more wholesome version.
I must admit I had to "wing it" with ingredients I had on hand at home, but the result was a unique and utterly delicious vegan chocolate ice cream float -- this is definitely going to be happening on repeat going forward! :)
Here's a breakdown of how this ice cream soda went down + a mini guide to ice cream float essentials so you can improvise with ingredients you might have on hand and enjoy some ASAP:
Syrup is an essential part of most soda floats, but the syrups are typically processed. For a chocolate ice cream float, you want a chocolate sweet syrup. And since I didn't feel like cooking up a syrup at this stage just to have a single serve ice cream float, I went for the two simplest ingredients I could think of: cocoa powder and maple syrup (and a pinch of salt for balance), along with the most no-fuss process: stir together with a fork, and voila, chocolate syrup.
For a chocolatey vegan ice cream soda, you'll want to use some kind of a non-dairy milk as a base. I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk for a lighter effect here, but you can use any plant milk of your choice. For a nut-free option, go with coconut, soy, rice, or oat milk. For a richer and creamier flavor, go with full fat coconut milk or some cashew milk.
Seeing that syrup with some of the almond milk in the jar (first two steps of assembling the float) was so mesmerizing I almost would have been happy with that as a treat on its own... but I persisted... ;)
Next up comes the bubbles. Some floats use coke, root beer, or cream soda as a baseline. Each adds its own characteristic flavor. For chocolate floats seltzer water (or club soda) is typically used. I used sparking mineral water here since it contains no added sugar (or artificial colors/ other additives many sodas have), and of course since I had some on hand anyways :). When combined with the ice cream (next step) you get the fizzy texture and signature froth of an ice cream float.
That brings me to the next step: ice cream. I used a very non-standard ice cream. Typically in an ice cream float you want to use vanilla ice cream as your baseline. In a chocolate ice cream float you can use a chocolate ice cream instead. I bypassed both and used a quick and simple banana ice cream (or "nice cream") -- my favorite go-to for a light ice cream treat. Plus chocolate and banana just make sense together.
If you're not a banana fan, you can try this with a mango-based "nice cream" instead (I haven't tried, but mango and chocolate go well together, so I suspect it should be a decent fruit-based alternative).
If you're really wanting a classic float though, go with a dairy-free vanilla (or chocolate) ice cream of your choice. Store-bought or homemade. It'll make the float richer, creamier, and sweeter. If you're going for homemade, I can recommend this vanilla and salted caramel ice cream recipe. Or you can make an almond butter or peanut butter ice cream instead (for a total non-traditional, but tasty spin on things), or one of the many other ice cream flavors from the recipes page.
Since I wanted a single serving, lighter float, nice cream made sense to me. If you want it to be a chocolate nice cream, feel free to add a bit of cocoa powder and a little coconut sugar and you're in business. If you want it richer, add a tablespoon of cashew butter or peanut butter. You've got options :)
Whipped Cream & Toppings
Last but not least, a proper ice cream float will be forever incomplete without a signature dollop of whipped cream. I made some quick and easy coconut whip, but you can also go the store-bought vegan whip route if you prefer. The whip is totally optional (if you're trying to keep things lighter), but it adds a lot of depth and richness to the drink, so the dollop of coconut whip is definitely good to throw in.
For the topping, I just shaved some dark chocolate with a knife to finish things off. And that's pretty much it -- one vegan chocolate ice cream float will be yours to enjoy in no time!
Some Final Serving Suggestions
This recipe can be easily doubled or multiplied as needed for more servings. The only thing to keep in mind is that it needs to be served (with a straw) right away, because you obviously don't want it to separate and lose the froth. You can always stir it back together but that foamy top is best enjoyed straight away.
This vegan chocolate ice cream float uses simple wholesome ingredients to create a delicious vegan spin on a classic dessert. Dairy-Free, Oil-Free, Paleo.
Coconut Whip (or alternatively use store-bought coconut whip)
- 3 tbsp thick solid coconut cream from a can of full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight*
- 1 tsp maple syrup
Banana Ice Cream (Or alternatively use 2 scoops of vegan vanilla ice cream of your choice)**
- 2 medium-large frozen bananas
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1/16 tsp raw ground vanilla bean (or ½ tsp pure vanilla extract)
- ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or a nut-free non-dairy milk of your choice***)
- 1 cup sparking mineral water
- some dark vegan chocolate shavings
- Chocolate Syrup: place maple syrup in a small bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder through a little sieve (this step is optional, but will help to reduce clumps in the syrup). Add the salt. Stir everything together with a fork or small whisk until the mixture is uniform and glossy-looking (like in the photo below). It will take a few mins of stirring to get to that stage, so be patient. When done, set aside.
- Coconut Whip: place all whip ingredients into a small metal mixing bowl and mix lightly with a hand mixer to whip it up. Set it aside. Note: you don’t want to over-mix this mixture. When done, it should look like this:
- Banana Ice Cream: Process all ice cream ingredients in a food processor until they reach a creamy ice cream consistency. You can also make this in a power blender instead. Set aside. Note: don't over blend or it will turn into a smoothie. You should stop when the consistency is creamy, yet firm and sturdy, and looks something like this:
- Assembly: Give the chocolate syrup a stir. Place it at the bottom of a tall large glass (or jar if you don't have a big enough glass handy). Add the almond milk (or non-dairy milk of choice) and give the mixture a stir to mix in the chocolate syrup. Add the mineral water. Then scoop in the banana ice cream using a small ice cream scoop (a cookie scoop with a trigger works well here). Top with the prepared whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Serve immediately (with a straw). Enjoy!****
*The coconut cream used in this recipe is only the firm white stuff gathered at the top of chilled cans of full-fat coconut milk. You’ll need to chill the can in an upright position overnight for the cream to separate from the water and surface up to the top. I used an organic Thai Kitchen full fat coconut milk can for this recipe. Reserve the remaining milk and water for other uses, only use the firm white cream for the whip. Note that it’s very important for the full fat coconut milk cans to be chilled first so it separates. If the solids aren’t this thick when you open the can, the whip isn’t going to work as well and will be too liquid:
**If you prefer, instead of the banana ice cream (or "nice cream") you can use regular vegan vanilla ice cream here for a more classic effect. You can use your favorite store-bought kind. Or if you prefer to make your own, I recommend this vanilla and salted caramel recipe.
***Feel free to use a non-dairy milk alternative of your choice. If you want a richer effect (and a nut-free alternative), use some of the leftover coconut milk from the can of coconut milk used to make the whipped cream here.
****Note: the middle part of the float will begin to separate if it's not enjoyed straight away. If this happens, simply give the mixture a stir and enjoy.