7 Los Angeles Ice Cream Spots You Won’t Believe Are Vegan
April 23, 2019
With average year-round temperatures in the 70s and seemingly endless sunshine, Los Angeles is prime ice cream country. That poses a challenge. The city is also one of the country’s most progressive gourmet landscapes, and full-fat dairy sits awkwardly within the trend for whole foods as well as organic and sustainable ingredients. Named the most vegan-friendly city in the United States in 2018, Los Angeles isn’t a place you’d expect ice cream to establish a stronghold. Somehow, though, that’s exactly what a handful of outlets have done, swapping out milk and cream for plant-based alternatives and forging ahead with bold, on-trend flavors.
The Secret of Vegan Ice Cream
Traditional ice cream, the kind immortalized in soda fountain shops and ice cream parlors across America, capitalized on a steady flow of thick, creamy full-fat dairy milk. That’s no longer the only milk in town, however. Since 2012, sales of dairy milk have plummeted while sales of plant-based alternatives have increased by 61 percent, largely due to the growing popularity of veganism. Where ice cream is concerned, coconut milk is just as thick and unctuous as dairy cream and yields the same light consistency when frozen. In some cases, the texture might be boosted with arrowroot or cornstarch. Almond or soy milk can also be used to make ice cream, but coconut milk gives the best results.
Try the vegan ice cream at these LA venues, and you won’t notice the difference from dairy.
1. Cocobella Creamery
253 Vine St #12
Alice Cherng and Belinda Wei grew up on the joys of ice cream parlors, but they struggled to find a substitute when they became vegans. So they invented their own, opening Cocobella Creamery in 2017 at the Fountain and Vine strip mall. As of April 2019, they offer 16 daily flavors of ice cream made from a blend of coconut milk, cane sugar, and vanilla. Choose from traditional scoops like Cookies ‘n’ Cream and Coffee Chip, or more outlandish varieties such as New York Cheesecake or Matcha Monsta. The indulgent sundaes take things to another level with whipped cream, hot fudge, and sprinkles, but Cocobella is best known for its distinctive Unicorn Magic, with pink vanilla and marshmallows.
2. Van Leeuwen
300 S Santa Fe Ave, Ste R; 2925 W Sunset Blvd; and 5915 Franklin Ave
The Van Leeuwen story began in 2008, when Ben Van Leeuwen, Laura O'Neill, and Peter Van Leeuwen started selling artisan ice cream from a food truck. In 2014, they headed west. They now have stores at three LA locations: Franklin Village, Silver Lake, and the Arts District. Ice cream fans can choose between traditional dairy and vegan options. Whereas vegans make up only five percent to 10 percent of customers in New York, roughly a third in Los Angeles choose plant-based sundaes and scoops. The clincher is the use of cocoa butter to go with cashew milk, coconut milk, and organic carob bean blends, as well as the emphasis on premium artisanal ingredients, from dates to pistachios. Included on the vegan menu are Cookie Crumble Strawberry Jam, Cookies & Cream Caramel Swirl, and Toasted Coconut Blondie.
3. Ginger’s Divine Ice Cream and Pops
12550 W Washington Blvd
Since opening in 2017, Ginger’s Divine Ice Cream and Pops in Mar Vista has already been featured on several city “Best Of” lists and named a “Top Ice Cream Store in LA” by USA Today. It’s a bright, sunny venue with a long frozen counter offering seemingly endless choices. As of mid-April 2019, Ginger’s offers 47 flavors of ice cream, including six vegan creations—among them Turkish Coffee, Coconut Roasted Almond Joy, and Chocolate Covered Strawberry. The vegan selections are made with coconut cream, coconut milk, and fresh fruit and nuts sourced from local artisanal markets.
4. by CHLOE.
2520 Glendale Blvd
Founder Chloe Coscarelli achieved peak zeitgeist in 2016 with her Kale Cookies + Cream creation, but there’s a lot more to by CHLOE. than hitting the right foodie notes. For a start, this is a dedicated vegan kosher restaurant in the vegan stronghold of Silver Lake, so you can warm up for the ice cream round with some delicious wholefood appetizers and mains. Or you can just head straight for the Chill menu, where you’ll find—along with Kale Cookies + Cream—Birthday Cake, Chocolate Chocolate, Coffee + Cookies, PB+J, and Strawberry Jam.
317 S Broadway
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams’ roots are firmly in conventional dairy. In fact, the family-run business started out in 1934 with its own dairy facility in downtown Santa Barbara. In the 1970’s, the firm switched focus to ice cream only, and now has four scoop shops in the city, at Grand Central Market, Studio City, Los Feliz, and Pacific Palisades. Although the decor and ambiance allow a modern twist on the American ice cream parlor, the vegan options feel like they’ve been finessed over decades. The Turkish Coffee uses house-brewed espresso, and the fruit flavors are made with house-made preserves.
6. Magpies Soft Serve
18971 Ventura Blvd and 2660 Griffith Park Blvd
The inspiration for Magpies Softserve came from a visit to Dairy Queen, but Magpies has fully embraced plant-based ice cream with some outstanding flavors. Founders Warren and Rose Schwartz approach the humble ice cream with a chef’s perspective. You’ll find Ice Cream in the Sun (black mocha), Coconut Tapioca, Corn Almond, and Birthday Cake among the options, along with a non-dairy fudge sauce for a topping. The Corn Almond won plaudits in the Los Angeles Times. Magpies has two locations, one in Tarzana and one in Silverlake—which has been lauded as one of the best ice cream shops on the Eastside.
7. Wanderlust Creamery
609 Lincoln Blvd, Suite B; 3134 Glendale Blvd; 18511 Ventura Blvd; and 785 Bay St
Promising “a destination in every scoop,” Wanderlust lives up to its name. Inspired by ice cream styles around the world, co-founders Adrienne Borlongan and Jon-Patrick Lopez have brought some exotic, wild flavors to bright and stylish venues in Venice, Atwater Village, Tarzana, and Smorgasburg. Some of these flavors include Sticky Rice + Mango from Thailand, the signature scoop that launched Wanderlust in 2015, and Brazil’s Passionfruit Cacao. Picking a soothing scoop on a hot summer’s day is no longer a straight coin toss between vanilla and chocolate. Ice cream is enjoying its own fine dining treatment and vegan ice cream has proven to be no compromise on flavor or texture. So if you’re in Los Angeles and you want to indulge your taste buds, you know where to find the outlets that go beyond ordinary.
Written by Nick Marshall for Knockaround.