If you’re lactose intolerant but don’t want to give up ice cream, you’re not alone.

An estimated 65–74% of adults worldwide are intolerant to lactose, a type of sugar naturally found in dairy products (1, 2).

In fact, the lactose-free market is the fastest-growing segment of the dairy industry. This means that if you’re lactose intolerant but still crave dairy, you’re in luck, as plenty of great lactose-free options exist (3).

Here are 7 delicious types of lactose-free ice cream.

1. Dairy ice cream without lactose

Lactose-free dairy ice creams are usually made by adding a synthetic lactase enzyme into dairy milk. This helps break down the lactose (3, 4).

Alternatively, ice-cream manufacturers sometimes filter lactose out of the milk (3, 4).

Just make sure your product has a label designating it as lactose-free.

Some popular store-bought options include Lactaid Cookies & Cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, as well as Breyers Lactose Free Natural Vanilla, which is 99% lactose-free.

These products are perfect for those who want the richness of dairy but can’t tolerate lactose.

Summary

Lactose-free ice creams still contain dairy and typically added lactase, an enzyme that digests lactose. There are many popular options on the market. Make sure the label reads “lactose-free.”

2. Dairy-free ice cream

If you’re cutting out dairy altogether or do not tolerate it well, dairy-free ice cream may be a more suitable treat for you.

Fortunately, a bounty of delectable, dairy-free ice creams has accompanied the rising popularity of plant-based diets. Given that these ice creams don’t contain dairy, there’s no lactose to worry about — or the unpleasant side effects it can bring, like stomach pain.

Halo Top offers dairy-free options in whimsical flavors like Birthday Cake and Peanut Butter & Jelly.

If chocolate is what you’d rather dig into, Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chocolate Fudge Brownie is made with almond milk and free of lactose.

Summary

If you’re avoiding dairy altogether, there’s a bounty of dairy-free options on the market. Since these don’t contain dairy, there’s no lactose or stomach pain to worry about.

3. Nut-free vegan ice cream

If you’re vegan and avoid nuts, there are some scrumptious choices for you as well. Because these types of ice cream do not contain dairy, they are also suitable if you avoid lactose.

Many nut-free vegan ice creams swap milk fat for coconut. While coconuts are technically considered a tree nut by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are botanically different from most tree nuts and aren’t as likely to cause allergies (5, 6).

Perfectly Free’s Fudge Swirl is vegan, coconut-based, and free of nuts, lactose, and gluten. Nada Moo! also produces a range of vegan, coconut-based, organic ice creams in quaint flavors, such as Marshmallow Stardust.

Another popular vegan, nut-free option is soy-based ice cream. Tofutti and So Delicious’ Soymilk ice cream are two options leading the way.

Other suitable choices include oat- and rice-based ice creams. Oatly is slowly rolling out a line of oat-milk-based frozen desserts, with classic flavors like strawberry and chocolate in the works.

Other options with wide appeal include So Delicious’ Oatmilk ice cream line or Rice Dream’s Cocoa Marble Fudge.

Summary

If you’re vegan and avoid both nuts and dairy, there are many viable choices for you made from coconut, soy, rice, or oat milk.

4. Fruit-based frozen treats

If you’re looking for a lighter lactose-free option, you may enjoy fruit-based frozen treats.

Some of the delectable options include banana-based ice creams. A standout in this category is Nana Creme’s Chocolate Covered Banana. It’s both vegan and nut-free.

However, if it’s a refreshing fruit flavor you’re after, you might like Snow Monkey’s line of fruit-based, vegan, paleo-friendly frozen treats with flavors like Passionfruit and Açai Berry.

Frozen fruit bars are another delicious, lactose-free option — just watch out for ingredients like yogurt or other forms of dairy.

Summary

Fruit-based frozen treats are a lighter lactose-free option. Some are banana-based while others are made with a blend of fruits.

5. Sorbets

Sorbets are naturally lactose-free because they do not contain dairy. They’re typically made from water and fruit juice or purée.

Sherbets, on the other hand, will contain dairy in the form of dairy milk or cream, so be sure to inspect the label.

Sorbabes’ Jam’n Lemon sorbet packs zippy lemony notes. Their entire line is vegan, meaning you can let go of any concerns about lactose.

Summary

Sorbets are naturally lactose-free because they do not contain dairy. Be sure not to confuse them with sherbet, which is typically made with dairy milk or cream.

6. Lactose-free gelato

Gelato is not usually the friendliest option if you’re avoiding lactose. Like sherbet, it traditionally contains milk or milk products.

However, there are some suitable options for those with lactose intolerance.

Talenti makes a line of popular dairy-based gelatos, but they also offer a dairy-free line. Their Cold Brew Sorbetto is made with coconut oil and egg yolks to create creaminess, while their vegan Peanut Butter Fudge Sorbetto uses peanuts.

When scouting for other options, be sure the gelato is labeled dairy-free.

Summary

Gelato is traditionally made with milk and not always the friendliest choice if you’re avoiding lactose. Look for options that are dairy-free.

7. Homemade lactose-free options

You might already have the ingredients in your kitchen to whip up your own lactose-free ice cream.

The naturally lactose-free recipes below pack flavor and nutrients. What’s more, you don’t even need an ice cream maker.

Frozen banana ice cream

This recipe, which is sometimes known as “nice cream,” doesn’t get any easier. You’ll need frozen bananas and a good blender.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Peel bananas and slice them into 2- or 3-inch chunks. Place them in your freezer for at least 6 hours.
  2. Add the frozen bananas to your blender and blend until smooth. If your blender sticks, add a splash of your favorite lactose-free or nondairy milk.
  3. If you like a smoother texture, serve and enjoy right away.
  4. If you prefer a firmer, more scoopable dessert, transfer your mix to an airtight container and freeze for 2 hours.

This recipe leaves room for a lot of versatility. Feel free to add other frozen fruits, such as strawberries or pineapples, as well as cocoa, spices, or nut butters.

Coconut milk ice cream

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (475 ml) of full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) of honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon (0.75 grams) of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon (7 ml) of vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Mix your ingredients well and transfer to an ice cube tray.
  2. Freeze for at least 4 hours.
  3. Once frozen solid, add the creamy cubes to your blender. Blend until smooth.
  4. Enjoy right away or freeze in an airtight container for longer if you want a firmer texture.
Summary

If you’d rather make a delicious, lactose-free treat yourself, it’s easy. Banana “nice cream” and coconut milk ice cream fit the bill and don’t require an ice cream maker.

The bottom line

The next time you crave a creamy frozen dessert, don’t throw in the spoon. If you don’t tolerate lactose well but still want to enjoy some ice cream, there are plenty of options.

In fact, the lactose-free market is a rapidly growing sector of the dairy industry, bringing you all of your favorites with none of the bellyaches.

Some versions of lactose-free ice cream can even be made at home with just a few ingredients and don’t require an ice cream maker.