As a heuristic, I tend to avoid foods labeled as “vegan” because, in my limited experience, they tend to be poor imitations of their non-vegan counterparts. Sure, a tomato is both vegan and delicious, but I’ve never met a vegan pizza that tasted better than the paper on which they print Dave Matthews tickets. However, at my first visit to the Intellectual Ventures kitchen lab last summer, I ate a bowl of pistachio gelato, which I was later informed was (you guessed it) vegan! The gelato was smooth and silky, and unquestionably better than any lactose-free ice cream I’ve ever tried. And although the Modernist Cuisine book doesn’t wander into the realm of desserts, luckily for us, their pistachio recipe is their sole exception. I’ve substituted cashews for pistachios, but other nuts will work just as well. I’ve also simplified the emulsifiers called for in the book, which means you can find everything you need to make this recipe at a (finer) grocery store.
- 680 g water
- 210 g cashew butter (available in the nut butters aisle at Whole Foods)
- 102 g cashew oil
Note: I haven’t been able to find a bottle of cashew oil, straight up. Instead, I poured off the oil that had settled at the top of my cashew butter. Using this amount only yielded 1/5 of the recipe. You can sacrifice 4 more jars, or substitute the remainder with walnut, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut, or even safflower oil – just make sure the oil is unused, or your gelato will taste like french fries.
- 155 g fine baker’s sugar
- 22 g salt
- 2.5 g Xanthan gum
- 2.5 g Guar gum
Note: both Xanthan gum and Guar gum are available under the Bob’s Red Mill brand at finer grocery stores.
- Combine the water, cashew butter, cashew oil, sugar and salt in a food processor or blender. Blend until very smooth.
- Add the Xanthan gum and Guar gum and blend until combined, about 30 seconds. The mixture should thicken to the consistency of cream.
- If necessary, chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Churn in an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, break 2.5 lbs of dry ice into 1/2” pieces. Add the gelato base to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment installed. Mix on medium, then add the dry ice. Continue mixing until the dry ice fog has stopped. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer.
This gelato screams “cashews” and is delightfully salty. Now that you’ve got a reliable recipe for nut-based vegan gelatos, you can finally open that Fremont dessert shop you’ve always dreamed of… bongo drums and all.