When searching for the perfect dessert, vegan ice cream seems like a guilt-free option from an ethical and health-conscious perspective. But what are the pros and cons to this sweet treat, and how does it measure up to its dairy counterparts? Most of all is it okay to refreeze your plant base ice cream after it has melted on a sunny day.
Vegan ice cream does not contain any animal products that could foster harmful bacteria when thawed so it is safe to refreeze and consume it at a later time. At the same time thawed and refrozen vegan ice cream may have a slightly altered taste and texture as a result of the recrystallization process that takes place once the product has melted and the crystallized bonds are reformed, so though it isn’t harmful, for the optimal experience vegan ice cream should be enjoyed during the first thaw.
Is It Safe to Eat Vegan Ice Cream That Has Thawed and Refrozen?
There is no need to worry when opening your refrozen plant based ice-cream. It is safe to eat vegan ice cream that has thawed and been refrozen. Vegan ice cream does not contain any animal products that could foster harmful bacteria when thawed so it is safe to refreeze and consume at a later time.
Though it is safe to eat, thawed and refrozen vegan ice cream may have a slightly altered taste and texture as a result of the recrystallization process that takes place once the product has melted and the crystallized bonds are reformed, so though it isn’t harmful, for the optimal experience vegan ice cream should be enjoyed during the first thaw.
The lack of animal protein in vegan ice creams gives it the potential to be thawed and refrozen, but there are more considerations when deciding what’s the right late-night treat for you. We’ll lay out more of the information for you so you can make the best decision for you when you want a frozen dessert.
What Is Vegan Ice Cream Made Of?
Vegan ice creams are typically made from plant-based milk, including soy, almond, coconut, or oat milk.
Plant proteins such as potato proteins and polysaccharides like inulin are also critical ingredients for vegan ice cream that act as stabilizers to prevent recrystallization as a result of changing temperatures throughout the production, storage, and shipment of the product.
A common vegan ice cream recipe could include sucrose, glucose syrup, coconut oil, Cremodan SE stabilizer (which preserves the texture of ice cream by minimizing the formation of ice crystals), potato protein, or inulin water.
Large-scale production of vegan ice cream contains complex ingredients such as stabilizers which are necessary given the inconsistency of temperature control the product must undergo during the process from factory to the storefront to your freezer, but an at-home vegan ice cream recipe can be as simple as 3 ingredients, such as full-fat coconut milk, a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
Though consumers report a preference for vegan ice cream when searching for healthier alternatives to standard ice creams or as a solution to food intolerances, the nutritional composition of many vegan ice creams closely mirrors their traditional dairy-based counterparts in sugar, fat, and calorie counts.
Vegan ice cream brands such as Halo Top often advertise themselves as sources of protein which is a necessary ingredient in ensuring an optimal texture given the lack of animal protein. But a vegan label does not automatically equate to ‘healthy’.
Aside from dietary restrictions of ethical concerns relating to the consumption of animal products, vegan ice creams have a similar nutritional composition to traditional dairy ice creams so if you’re looking for a tasty treat without throwing your health goals out the window for the evening, you have to look further than store-bought ice cream with a vegan label.
Does Vegan Ice Cream Melt Faster?
Vegan ice cream does melt faster than traditional dairy ice cream. Inulin and potato proteins that replace milk proteins in dairy ice creams allow vegan ice creams to maintain a similar texture and composition to their traditional counterparts, however, these ingredients are unable to maintain the structure and shape of the ice cream in the presence of temperature fluctuations.
The size and uniformity of ice crystals are another critical consideration when determining the speed at which ice cream will melt.
The lack of animal proteins in vegan ice cream allows its crystals to form more uniformly, which initially helps slow the melting of vegan ice cream, but as the ice cream begins to melt, the ingredients are unable to hold the shape of the product and the melting vegan ice cream accelerates more rapidly than dairy ice creams.
This is why when you first remove your vegan ice cream from the freezer it takes longer than ordinary ice cream to soften up, but once it begins to thaw the process accelerates and you’ll have a soupy dessert sooner than you may like.
Why Does Some Ice Cream Melt Faster Than Others?
The ingredients used in ice cream significantly impact how quickly the ice cream will melt. Different ingredients have varying bonding abilities that determine how long it will take for those bonds to break, and when those bonds begin to break the melting process begins.
Animal proteins such as those found in milk are better able to bond with the other ingredients found in ice cream, allowing dairy ice creams to melt at a slower rate than vegan ice creams that substitute inulin, potato, or other plant-based proteins that don’t have the same bonding abilities as their animal counterparts.
The size and uniformity of ice crystals also impact how quickly ice cream melts. The smaller and more heterogeneous the crystals, the slower the ice cream will melt because the small spaces between crystals create more narrow paths the liquid has to flow through to become melted.
Vegan ice creams tend to crystalize relatively uniformly which can allow them to melt more slowly but because its plant-based proteins lack the superior bonding capabilities of animal proteins, once the bonds begin to break and the crystals start to break down the melting process rapidly accelerates.
The invention of vegan ice cream is a positive option for individuals with ethical or dietary concerns relating to dairy-based ice cream, and science has allowed for the invention of vegan ice cream that can be enjoyed without remorse.
However, this benefit comes at the expense of some qualities of dairy ice cream that have made it so popular, such as taste and especially texture. Though vegan ice cream serves as a great alternative to traditional dairy options, it is not the same as dairy ice creams and certain elements such as the rate at which it melts will be different.
Does the Flavor of Ice Cream Affect How Fast the Ice Cream Melts?
The flavor of ice cream has little to do with the rate at which ice cream will melt, but it is rather the presence of stabilizer and the absence of milk proteins that allow for uniform development of ice crystals which creates better-textured ice cream that is capable of withstanding more variance in temperature.
The ingredients comprising the core of the ice cream are most impactful on how quickly the ice cream will melt as opposed to any additional ingredients that constitute different flavors.
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