I was buying some SO Delicious Coconut Milk today at the store and I noticed it had a coupon attached for a dollar off their new “ice cream” (aka Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert) product. Then I remembered, I had been meaning to compare this to my recently reviewed “ice cream replacement,” Arctic Zero. I had in my mind at the time that it used the same type of sweetener, monk fruit, and I wanted to see if it held up better or if the disturbing qualities from the other product were a result of this new sweetener. As it turned out, the SO Delicious ice cream did not use monk fruit, it was their fudge bars (which I haven’t seen available yet) and apparently some sweetened milks that do, however I decided to try the “Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert” anyway :).
I had seen this before in another store recently, but only in mint. Although I like mint ice cream, I noticed today that there was also chocolate available so I got that instead. Firstly because: Chocolate can’t help but make practically anything better, like mint chocolate chip (which this was not) :). Secondly, the Arctic Zero product I reviewed recently–another “non-dairy frozen dessert”–was also two different chocolate flavors. The options for So Delicious Coconut Milk frozen dessert were: mint, chocolate, and some third flavor which I can’t remember now–whatever it was it didn’t appeal to me. None of the in-store choices were “combination” flavors or had any mix-ins. (Though I now see they have more options on their website).
I had some hope for this product because I actually like SO Delicious unsweetened coconut milk. Although I love dairy products (and eat a lot of them) I tried some different non-dairy milks awhile ago in an attempt to cut calories. I had occasionally encountered soy milk, etc in years past and I never liked any of these “imitation milks” at all. I really like regular cow’s milk. In fact it has been a long process to wean myself off whole milk and gradually down to 1%, solely because I like to drink a lot of it (not to mention, cheese, yogurt, etc) and I didn’t need that many calories. After some unfortunate experiences with other almond, soy, and coconut milk options in the past, I had finally settled on SO Delicious Coconut Milk. It stood out a lot from the other imitation milks I tried: It did not have a lot of weird additives. It was offered in and palatable in unsweetened form (I didn’t see any point in having sweetened milk and it seemed to me that some of the sweetened/flavored options were intended to mask the fact that they really didn’t taste very good, including weird off chemical flavors or chalkiness). Now, I’ve actually had fresh homemade almond milk that was really good (which is one of the reasons I made the attempt into the world of imitation milk again) but the off the shelf stuff did not measure up at all.
The coconut milk from SO Delicious, on the other hand, tasted pretty good. It did not taste like the kind of “coconut milk” that is actually the water you pour out of a coconut, it was white and somewhat thick with a milk-like consistency. It was “creamy” and foamed a bit when I made it into a coffee drink (such a drink being my primary use for substitute milk, though the foam was not critical). It had more body to it than skim or nonfat milk (which I can’t bring myself to drink, 1% is as low as I go). It also didn’t have any weird off flavors or chalky texture. It did taste slightly of coconut, which was not a bad thing because I like coconut, and often when I order from a coffee stand I get that flavor (though it was not nearly as pronounced). Although it didn’t really taste like actual milk to me, it was the best version I’ve had. Also, it had only 45 calories a cup, less than half the calories of the 1% milk I buy (100 calories/cup). If I’m going to consume multiple 12 oz-ish “lattes” at home (actually mixed with Nescafe most of the time because I’m usually too lazy to make real lattes for myself, though I can, and I’m supposed to be boosting my caffeine intake) this is definitely a bonus calorie-wise. Note: Apparently SO Delicious also makes other non-dairy milks besides coconut, though I don’t recall seeing it in local stores, but if you don’t like coconut they might be worth trying.
The main drawback to the coconut milk as a drink was that there was some level of satisfaction or fullness or mouthfeel missing after drinking it, compared to ordinary milk. I decided that this was due to the comparative lack of fat. There is something satisfying or filling about even a small amount of milkfat which, although a prepared latte tasted extremely similar, simply didn’t come across in the coconut milk latte. However, I found that mixing a small amount of regular milk into the coconut milk (less than half) produced a satisfactory effect.
I tried “adding fat” because I had also previously noticed this effect when I started making hot chocolate or mocha with my wonderful favorite Basak cocoa powder using water instead of milk (also an attempt to consume caffeine and relaxing drinks while cutting calories). Basak cocoa, which is an amazing find and you should definitely buy it if you ever run into it, has most of the fat removed (12 calories/tbsp, only 1-2 tsp is needed to make a good size cup of cocoa because it is very rich). Unlike almost all other unsweetened cocoa powders I’ve found, it mixes up with no bitterness, no dry mouth effect, no harshness at all even without milk (milk naturally binds to the bitter elements in tea, coffee, and chocolate to help smooth them, so making inferior cocoa with milk can result in a less bitter product, but with water, it’s just the cocoa taste and it has to be really good). However I had found that a certain satisfaction/fullness element was missing from the drink which I found was remedied by adding back in a small amount of fat in the form of a few tablespoons of milk or a dab of peanut butter. Still better calorie-wise than making sweetened cocoa or using all milk, and with Basak it tasted great. It’s just that a little bit of fat can go a long way into making a snack more satisfactory and soothing.
Anyway, back to the coconut milk. So, I’d found a suitable way to put it to use and was ready to try the ice cream version. Despite my enjoyment of SO delicious coconut milk (I also had used it in milk-based soups successfully), I had a little trepidation after the last disastrous imitation ice cream replacement experiment. Also I happened to get some delicious traditional ice cream the day before (what can I say… it’s been really hot :P I don’t go around cutting calories ALL the time) so there was that to live up to. I worried that the sweetener was responsible for the weird texture of the other one, and also one of the things that other ice cream had been missing was that very satisfaction of such a treat, it was like a hologram of an ice cream instead :P.
I helped my son and I to a scoop of the ice cream after dinner and we dug in to sample it. I will note that it had only recuperated gently in the freezer while we ate dinner after being in the hot trunk of my car, so it wasn’t rock hard, but it was still in pretty good scoopable shape. It was not turning into slime. Later, when I froze the leftovers, it returned to a delightful frozen dense state, with only minor crystals on the very top. In fact the density reminded me of a good gelato (except much slower to melt than gelato, which it seems is always half melted before I’m done with the tiny dishful).
The first thing I noticed trying it was the chocolatey taste. Unlike the other “ice cream replacement” this one did not skimp at all on the chocolate flavor. There was a very slight granularity that I noticed in the first bite as of tiny grains of cocoa but that went away with continued eating, perhaps from the melting on the surface (I didn’t notice this later when I tried the remainder of the frozen carton). The flavor was very good, very chocolatey with a hint of coconut as with the coconut milk itself, perhaps a little more so (also good in my book, I love coconut mochas). It wasn’t really enough to bill itself as a “mounds” flavor or something but it was there, so if people do not actually like the taste of coconut (I do actually know some such people!!) these products probably would bother them, but if you don’t have such a hang up it will just be an added delight :). The sweetness was something I didn’t even take note of until I remembered in writing this review that the other one had been distinctly unseen, so I conclude and remember that the sweetness of the SO Delicious ice cream was exactly as expected. It was sweet as ice cream usually is, it was not too sweet such that it would seem cloying (I’m not really a fan of super sweet ice cream flavors actually) nor was it less sweet than for instance the fudgy delight I had the other day making me think it was a diet food. It tasted properly sweetened like ice cream should be.
I noted the texture carefully both in the solid parts and as it melted around the edges. It melted at about the pace one might expect (actually I think it held up better than traditional ice cream would have probably after being in the trunk of the hot car). The melted parts did have small bubbles in them, but the texture was about as one might expect and not any frothier than cream-based ice cream. The texture overall was very smooth and creamy. I will note there was a *slight* gooeyness which was different from standard ice-cream, it was not to the point of okra-slime like the other one, but I looked for it and there was a hint of it, a certain stickiness if you will that does not normally exist. However, it was not unpleasant at the amount it occurred, very understated. The overall mouthfeel was very good, and unlike say, the coconut milk latte, it actually had a very good satisfaction level as if it contained fat of some kind (well, it does, but I guess it did contain enough to correct that problem I had noticed before with defatting things too much). It had a satisfying taste and aftertaste and fullness to it.
My son was also enthusiastic about it (I didn’t make him sample the other kind since he was in bed at the time and they were so disappointing) but he liked this one and ate all of his serving. I also was not left feeling as if the dessert had been skimpy even though I didn’t eat very much, as is sometimes the case with diety desserts, possibly due again to that fat ratio. With the other type of ice cream, for instance, I could have eaten the entire carton (if it were palatable) without achieving satisfaction. With this, although the flavor was excellent, a small amount satisfied since I had just eaten, perhaps because it was so chocolatey.
The SO Delicious Coconut “ice cream” weighed in at 150 calories per serving (1/2 cup serving, 4 to the pint), 80 from fat. This is certainly lower than some types of ice cream, but more than some other low-calorie ice creams, so it’s not the lowest calorie option but not too bad. They have a lower calorie option as well that I didn’t see in the store. The calorie trade off for the taste and satisfaction seemed adequate in testing, especially if you’re specifically looking for a non-dairy ice cream or have any dairy sensitivity or allergy. It’s something I would happily buy again even though I’m perfectly able to eat dairy. The ingredients list is as follows:
Organic Coconut Milk (Water, Organic Coconut Cream), Organic Agave Syrup, Chicory Root Extract, Cocoa (processed with alkali), Carbo Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Natural Flavor.
In ordinary ice cream, as with yogurt, I prefer to avoid a lot of additives such as thickeners, other than milk products, sugar, and flavoring agents, because I know it’s possible to make without them. For instance, it astounds me the number of yogurts that add gelatin as a thickener, even though yogurt thickens perfectly fine without it under normal circumstances. This problem is often increased when you start looking at lower calorie options (as when I looked at comparable-calorie conventional ice creams in the case besides the So Delicious Coconut Milk dessert). However, when making a “cream” product with coconut milk I understand some additional thickening is necessary, so I didn’t find the ingredients to disturbing. I suspect the chicory root may be responsible for the slight gooeyness I detected, which still leaves monk fruit as a possible suspect in the Arctic Zone slime problem, but unproven.
The SO Delicious Coconut Milk ice cream also contains a hefty 6 grams of fiber per serving, as much as an apple, a big bowl of popcorn, a FiberOne bar, or about a tablespoon of dry chia seeds (a fiber favorite of mine I may have to blog about :) ). I haven’t actually found any food product that contains more than 6g of fiber per serving, so that’s pretty good for half a cup of ice cream.
I finished up the rest of it a few days later with gusto (it didn’t degrade in the freezer). After looking at the SO Delicious website, I see they have numerous other flavors including some which probably have mix-ins, which I will be eagerly looking forward to try. The chocolate was good but I usually like some kind with fudge ripples or chunks or something to add a bit of variety to the texture (though it’s also possible to add such things yourself, of course). Chocolate Brownie Almond, Coconut Almond Chip, and Mocha Almond Fudge all sound quite promising :). They also have the no-sugar-added options on the website that I’m interested to try and compare, if they show up in stores (which DO contain monk fruit, to add to the intrigue).