Cashew Gelato (That Just Happens to be Vegan)


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.

Shopping list:

  • 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.


  1. Combine the water, cashew butter, cashew oil, sugar and salt in a food processor or blender.  Blend until very smooth.
  2. Add the Xanthan gum and Guar gum and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.  The mixture should thicken to the consistency of cream.
  3. 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.

Velvet Hazelnut Gelato

hazelnut gelato

This dessert is so good that you’ll make an “ooo” face when you eat it.  The silkiness of this gelato comes not from some mysterious culinary secret, but from the inclusion of lots and lots of fat.  There’s no two ways around it, folks: great ice cream is heavy (iced) cream.  I’m confident that your guests can look past your nutritional indiscretions for a rare treat like this.

Makes: 8 bowls of hazelnut heaven
Total kitchen time: 20 minutes plus freezing

Shopping list:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream (get the best stuff you can find)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 13 Oz. nutella hazelnut spread
  • 1 personal trainer
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the cream, half and half, and sugar.  Over medium heat, bring the mixture to 170°F.
  2. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the nutella – yes, all of it.  Wisk together until well combined.
  3. Refrigerate the mixture until it has chilled thoroughly, at least 6 hours.  Then, freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

That’s it.  No special magic, just a lot of tasty ingredients and a carefree attitude towards gravity.  Garnish with a dessert wafer, or serve with fresh raspberries.