WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…See full bio
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As the days grow longer and the temperatures rise, little sounds better than savoring every last drop of a melting ice-cream cone and jumping into the tepid, turquoise waves of the Pacific Ocean to wash it all off. With dozens of classic creameries, vegan ice-cream brands, and miles of coastline to make our summertime dreams come true, the Golden State truly has it all.
The delicate flavors of lavender or golden rose and the bold decadence of salted chocolate ice creams beckon for the good vibes and cool breezes of summertime. Since these sweet concoctions are so enticing, they ought to be classified as vegan essentials—but delicious vegan ice cream can be surprisingly hard to find.
While there are some traditional creameries that serve up vegan ice-cream flavors, shops that make it a point to solely work with vegan ice-cream ingredients and only produce vegan flavors provide peace of mind. Thankfully, California has countless spots where you can indulge your sweet tooth without compromise.
Make the most of the warm temps, and celebrate National Ice Cream Month this July with scoop after scoop of guilt-free vegan “nice cream,” ice cream, and soft serve—trust us, you won’t regret it. These are some of the best vegan ice-cream shops throughout the state to help you through the summer and beyond.
The all-vegan Cocobella Creamery crafts frozen treats for cones and cakes. Each ice cream starts with luscious coconut or oat milk, cane sugar, and vanilla before being mixed with additional ingredients to elevate the flavors to a whole new level. All of the offerings are entirely vegan and gluten-free, making this creamery the perfect place to scarf down some childhood favorites without fear. Try a scoop of the salted caramel (made with house-made caramel sauce), or go for the freshly-baked banana bread and sunflower butter swirl of the Elvis; there’s a good chance you may never crave any other forms of ice cream again.
Location: Echo Park and Glendale
For your vegan soft-serve fix in Southern California, head to Yoga-Urt in Echo Park or Glendale. This creamery is known for its rotating menu of 25-plus flavors—all of which are crafted from organic ingredients and are free of dairy, gluten, and soy. To complement the overall philosophy, Yoga-Urt focuses on sustainability and even uses biodegradable serving utensils.
Choose between the coffee karma, salted caramel zen, lavender blossom, and coconut chai (or get a little bit of each). In addition to scoops, Yoga-Urt offers brownie shakes, banana splits, unique kombucha floats, and other vegan treats to quell all of your cravings. With so many flavors available, a single visit is never enough.
Location: Garden Grove, Orange, and Long Beach
Frustrated by the lack of options that aligned with their plant-based lifestyles, a group of friends set out to create the Tupac Shakur–inspired Hug Life—an “anti-dairy” vegan ice-cream shop in L.A. Unlike most vegan ice-cream brands that stick to a single plant-milk base, Hug Life uses a combination of coconut, soy, and almond milks to craft its various flavors.
Order a scoop of the Sesame Street for the most unusual ice cream flavor you may ever try: The gluten-free and nut-free flavor features roasted black sesame and activated charcoal, with a dash of dark chocolate. For something slightly more familiar, but still adventurous, opt for the Tajín-topped mango chamoy or the creamy Earl Great ice cream.
Feeling extra hungry? Choose the brownie a la mode, which comes with brownies, two mini scoops of ice cream, your choice of topping, and a drizzle of sauce.
Location: Santa Monica
Frozen Fruit Co. has arguably the best vegan ice cream in Los Angeles. Get a taste of the daily rotating flavors by visiting the Santa Monica shop or finding Truckie—the company’s charming, bright-pink truck—which is L.A.’s first entirely plant-based ice-cream truck.
All of the flavors are vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, artificial sugar–free, and made daily at the Santa Monica storefront. Opt for the savory-sweet salted chocolate (made with only coconut milk, cocoa, dates, and sea salt), the passion fruit (comprised of passion fruit, pineapple, apples, pears, and peaches), or the classic chocolate mint (created with coconut milk, cocoa, dates, and peppermint) for a fully decadent experience without the guilt. When it comes to healthier non-dairy ice-cream brands, Frozen Fruit Co. is hard to beat.
Location: Albany, Emeryville, and Oakland
Head out to Albany, the Emeryville Public Market, or Oakland’s Glenview District to get your hands on the organic, all-natural ice-cream creations at Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery. Due to the owners’ own dietary restrictions, the company specializes in frozen treats that are free of gluten, dairy, and soy. Each concoction begins with a cashew-milk base that is sweetened with organic evaporated cane juice; many flavors also include organic vanilla extract and kosher salt. Try the standard vanilla for something familiar, or go crazy with the caramel almond crunch or turmeric ice-cream flavor. Take a tub of vegan caramel or dark chocolate sauce home with you to keep the good times flowing all summer long.
While sticking to entirely vegan eateries can feel safer when it comes to allergies and preferences, sometimes you need a scoop when you’re out and about but can’t find an all-vegan creamery. These California ice-cream shops are also ideal for indulging with your dairy-loving friends, so if you can visit them, they’re worth a try.
Location: Silverlake and Tarzana
Magpies Softserve offers primarily vegan-based flavors at both of its locations, with options including vegan brownie batter, birthday cake, and Golden Grahams. In addition to these non-dairy flavors, you can find creamy staples such as sweet cream and malted milk chocolate, plus a laundry list of toppings to mix things up.
Location: San Francisco Mission District
Bi-Rite is a classic San Francisco stop, and with the number of vegan options available, you may never want to go anywhere else in the Bay Area. Choose between balsamic strawberry coconut, cinnamon maple oat crunch, and a variety of other rotating flavors—each more creative than the last.
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