Is There Milk in Ice Cream?

Written by: Kelly Donovan

Ice cream is one of the greatest pleasures in the dessert world, but if you are lactose intolerant or vegan, you may struggle to know when it’s okay to eat ice cream.

That’s why we’ve created this guide to the milk/dairy content in ice cream.

Most ice cream products contain some kind of milkfat - rather than milk itself. And of course, ice cream also contains heavy whipping cream, which is a type of dairy product containing lactose.

To learn more about which ice cream products contain milk and other forms of dairy, keep reading.

You’ll also learn about dairy alternatives to milk and cream used in products similar to traditional ice cream. Let’s dive in!

Is There Milk In Ice Cream?

Ice cream contains cream as its base, as its name implies. But you might not realize that most ice cream is traditionally made with some amount of milk fat.

In fact, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, a frozen dairy product needs to contain at least 20% of total milk solids and at least 10% of total milkfat.

Milkfat is essential in making ice cream smooth with its signature creamy texture.

It’s also part of why ice cream is so rough on the stomachs of lactose-intolerant individuals.

black mand white woman eating ice cream cones in park

Types Of Ice Cream With Milk

Products labeled as ice cream are going to contain some amount of milk product in them.

But did you know that the following other frozen dairy products may also contain milk?

  • Soft serve ice cream
  • Italian gelato
  • Sherbets
  • Frozen custard
  • Frozen yogurt (you may not realize it contains cultured milk)

The one main exception you’ll find in the ice cream aisle of the supermarket is sorbet - which generally doesn’t contain dairy.

Sorbet is also a healthier alternative to frozen dairy treats in terms of fat content, according to the USDA.

Is There Dairy In Ice Cream?

Most people know that ice cream contains dairy since it contains cream from cows. Thus, it’s not inherently vegan-friendly or safe for lactose-intolerant consumers.

Ice cream usually contains dairy in the form of milkfat, as well as heavy whipping cream - its main component along with sugar and flavorings.

Since sherbet, frozen custard, gelato, soft serve, and fro-yo contain similar base ingredients, they also have dairy.

four ice cream scoops on table next to ice cream scoop

Ice Cream Without Dairy/Milk

Luckily for vegans and lactose-intolerant consumers, you can use plenty of non-dairy milk options instead of milkfat and cream in ice cream recipes.

Nut milk like almond milk and cashew milk makes some of the best alternatives since they have similar fat content as dairy milk.

You can also find many lactose-free ice cream products and vegan ice cream products in certain grocery stores these days.

Even classic brands like Ben & Jerry’s offer alternatives.

If you prefer to get hands-on, you can even make your own vegan ice cream.

This video from The Domestic Geek has five easy recipes that don't contain milk or dairy!

Final Thoughts

Ice cream made with traditional recipes will inevitably contain milk (as milkfat) and other dairy products such as heavy cream. Products similar to ice cream contain similar dairy ingredients, such as soft serve ice cream, sherbet, and gelato.

However, ice cream recipes work just as well with non-dairy milk substitutes such as nut-based milk. This provides a healthy alternative for vegan and lactose-intolerant eaters.

About the Author

Kelly Donovan is a freelance writer. She enjoys helping people reach their wellness goals by educating them about how food plays a role in their health.