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Chill Out: Three Non-Dairy Frozen Desserts

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 Easy Homemade Popsicles, Ice Cream, and Sorbet

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Frozen treats beat the heat! Did you know that centuries ago, ice was hauled down from the mountains and stored in ice houses, then sweetened to create “sherbets” for ancient Persian rulers? We also know that Alexander the Great enjoyed snow flavored with honey and nectar and King Solomon was fond of iced drinks. During the Roman Empire, Nero sent minions into the Alps for snow and then his chefs flavored this precious import with pureed fruits and juices. Face it, we’ve been trying to chill out for millennia.

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Let It Go

Ice cream, popsicles, and sorbets are some of my favorite summertime sweet desserts. (This Peach Ice Cream recipe is my favorite!) Homemade ice cream is special and there are so many inexpensive ice cream machines it makes making it really accessible. But ice cream often involves a cooked custard and can be intimidating for people.

Take a cue from the past and make it simple! Popsicles can be as easy as freezing fruit juice. Or you can even simply freeze juice in old-fashioned ice trays like with this Cantaloupe Creamsicle Soda. As you will see in Nancie McDermott’s recipe for Coconut Ice Cream, ice cream doesn’t have to contain dairy.

Fresh fruit sorbets are exceptionally simple to make, light, and more healthy than many ice cream recipes. It’s just a matter of blitzing a bit of fruit with a sugar simple syrup, agave, or honey. And, I find making sorbet a great way to use berries and fruit that are no longer picture perfect.

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Avocado Popsicles

Guacamole? Sure? Avocado toast? Yup — de rigueur now across the land in chef-driven cafes to hipster coffee shops. But frozen avocados? Yes! Avocado popsicles are incredibly creamy and rich.  And, they are dairy-free – made simply of frozen pureed avocado, agave, citrus, and water.

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How to Choose an Avocado

It couldn’t be more simple! Avocados can be tricky. I always find that they are often as hard as rocks at the market then become instantly overripe and too soft. In this video, my dear friend Sandra Gutierrez explains how to choose a ripe avocado and how to remove the seed pit. Did you know avocados had belly buttons? (By the way, if you need to speed up ripening place the avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple. Apples produce ethylene gas, a hormone that triggers ripening. Need that guac or popsicle even faster? Put the bag in a sunny windowsill for faster ripening.)



How to Make Ice Cream and Sorbet without an Ice Cream Maker

Popsicles and old school ice trays are easy. There are also lots of different machines of varying costs on the market for freezing ice cream and sorbet. You can also do it by hand. Here’s how to make ice cream and sorbet without an ice cream maker.

  • Prepare the ice cream or sorbet mixture and chill it over an ice bath.
  • Place a loaf pan, deep baking dish, or stainless steel bowl in the freezer, and pour your ice cream or sorbet mixture into it.
  • After forty-five minutes, open the freezer and check the mixture. As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a rubber spatula. Get in there and beat up any frozen sections. Return the pan to the freezer.
  • Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously. (You can also use a hand-held mixer, but be quick about it so you don’t melt your progress.)
  • Keep checking periodically and stirring while it freezes until the mixture is frozen. It will likely take 2 to 3 hours.



Easy Freezy

Check out these frozen delights. I’m sharing “Easy Freezy” recipes for Dairy Free Avocado Popsicles, Coconut Ice Cream, and Berry Sorbet. My friend and colleague Nancie McDermott‘s Thai Coconut Ice Cream is made from coconut milk, which is rich and creamy enough that a custard isn’t necessary. So good!

Making sorbet is as easy as it can be — and while sorbets usually contain sugar or some other sweetener, they seldom contain fat. My sorbet formula is perfect – 4 cups fruit to 1 cup simple syrup. No fat, no worrying about curdling a creme anglaise, just press “puree.”

I hope you enjoy. If you give any a try, please take a snap and tag me on social. I love seeing what everyone is doing and so grateful that you have me at your table. Thank you.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis 

PS Need more ice cream recipes? How about Goat Cheese and Chocolate Orange? Check out this post with Five Ice Cream Recipes plus a book about the history of ice cream!  

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Avocado Popsicles

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: dessert, frozen, ice cream, popsicle
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


  • Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Halve the avocados in half lengthwise. Remove the pit and scoop the flesh into a blender, along with the cooled syrup, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides as needed. Add the lemon juice and blend just until combined. Divide the mixture among the molds, snap on the lid, and freeze until solid, about 4 hours.

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Nancie McDermott's Coconut Ice Cream

Makes about 2 cups
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Thai
Keyword: frozen, ice cream
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 2 14- ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk about 3 1⁄2 cups
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ⁄2 tsp salt


  • In a heavy saucepan, combine coconut milk, sugar and salt. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve sugar and salt. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
  • Cover bowl and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Serve at once or transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 weeks.


You can make the ice cream base in advance, cover, and chill for up to 1 day before you churn it into ice cream.

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Mixed Berry Lemon Verbena Sorbet

Makes about 7 cups
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, French
Keyword: frozen, ice cream, sorbet
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 sprigs lemon verbena
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups mixed berries such as blueberries raspberries, or blackberries


  • Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice cubes and water. Set aside. Heat the water in a small saucepan over high heat to boiling. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add lemon verbena. Remove from the heat and let steep until tepid, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove the lemon verbena and discard. Place the berries in the jar of a blender. Pour over the simple syrup and add the salt. Puree until smooth.
  • Cool completely over an ice bath or refrigerate until cool. Churn the sorbet according to the machine instructions.

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Coconut Ice Cream Recipe Courtesy of Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking by Nancie McDermott, 2015 © Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

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Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. (That means I make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.)

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has made chocolate chip cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and Julie Chrisley with her cooking -- but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Virginia is a chef instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen and author of Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South, Lighten Up, Y’all, Bon Appétit, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, Okra, and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome received a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence. She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network's Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know." Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude and approachable spirit. Learn more about Virginia and follow her traveling exploits at

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