Close up of small glass dishes with coconut ice cream topped with mango and peanuts.


Who knew dairy free Coconut Ice Cream could taste this amazing! Add juicy mango pieces and salted peanuts and you will be transported to Thailand with the first bite.

If you’re new to gluten free, or have no problem with dairy, then you might not have a collection of dairy free recipes.

Problems digesting dairy is a topic on it’s own but it is important in the gluten free community. Some people need to avoid dairy completely, some can eat small amounts and others have no problem.

No matter what group you fit into you can create a list of delicious dairy free recipes and this is one dessert to put on that list.

Young Coconuts and Coconut Water

Young green coconuts are not fully ripened like a mature, hairy brown skinned coconut. They have less meat inside but are loved for their refreshing coconut water that’s high in nutritional value.

The ones I buy usually contain one to two cups of coconut water. Even when I demonstrate opening a young coconut in a cooking class I have a can of coconut water as a back up.

In places where coconuts grow you often see green coconuts served with the top removed and a straw sticking out of them. Young coconuts shipped around the world are shaved down so they are white instead of green. This apparently makes them easier to open but there’s definitely a trick to it.

A young coconut with the top off and a cup of coconut water beside it to make coconut ice cream.
Looking into a young coconut I just cut open.

If you’re comfortable using a chef’s knife consider opening a young coconut a fun challenge plus you’ll get to taste the coconut meat. If you’re not ready for that you can definitely make this recipe with canned coconut water.

Ingredients for Dairy Free Coconut Ice Cream

I’m talking about canned coconut water and canned coconut milk used for cooking and baking. There are all kinds of coconut beverages on the market but gluten free eaters are good label readers, right? Don’t mistakenly buy a sweetened or flavoured drink.

A Donvier ice cream maker surrounded by all the ingredients to make coconut ice cream.
Ingredients for Coconut Ice Cream

Canned Coconut Milk

Coconut milk comes from mature brown coconuts and lucky for everyday cooks like me it’s easy to buy in cans. It is made by pressing the pulp of these coconuts to extract the thick milk.

Much like cow’s milk, coconut milk is labelled with the fat content. The higher the fat the more thick and creamy the milk will be.

I wrote this blog post, Gluten Free Coconut Milk, where I go into detail about the percentages of fat and reading labels. It includes recipe links for soups and curries, plus tips on how to use coconut milk as a dairy alternative to whipping cream.

How To Buy and Use Palm Sugar

Palm Sugar comes from the sap of a few different varieties of palm tree including a date palm. It’s not exactly the same as coconut sugar (also called coconut palm sugar) which is made from a coconut palm.

Palm sugar has a light molasses taste and is sold as light brown coloured, rock-like disks in clear packages. It’s available at Asian supermarkets and will keep in your cupboard indefinitely.

I’ve only made this recipe using palm sugar but it makes sense to me that you could substitute it with coconut sugar or brown sugar. If you do let me know how you like it.

Palm sugar easily melts on the stove as the coconut milk heats up so there’s no need to try and break or pound the disks into smaller pieces.

For other uses palm sugar disks can be soaked in cold water for 10-15 minutes, then stirred and use in recipes calling for palm sugar. I can’t remember the last time I did this but it’s always smart to have more than one recipe for every ingredient in your pantry.

PIN for later…

3 pics; the ingredients to make coconut ice cream, a cracked young coconut plus dishes of ice cream with mango and peanuts.
Dairy Free Coconut Ice Cream

Do I Need an Ice Cream Maker

No, you don’t really need an ice cream maker to make ice cream at home but it’s the easiest way to get that creamy, smooth texture.

My Donvier ice cream maker is more than twenty-five years old. My sister and I each bought one at the same time so when I have a crowd I can borrow her machine and double the recipe.

Making ice cream is a fun, year round dinner activity. A simple machine with no moving parts should last for decades. If you’ve got ice cream lovers in your family I’d say it’s a great investment.

Best Ice Cream Tip Ever

The freezer insert lives in my freezer. It’s wrapped in a clear plastic bag and is ready to use whenever I want to make ice cream. The morning after a party I wash it and put it right back in it’s place.

How To Serve Coconut Ice Cream & Dinner Club Ideas

A Donvier ice cream maker surrounded by cut mango, a dish of peanuts and a serving of coconut ice cream with toppings.
Dishing up Coconut Ice Cream with mango and peanuts

Coconut is tropical so this ice cream would be perfect to end any dinner with hints of the tropics. I love planning menus around past and future vacation destinations. Buy some little paper umbrellas, find young and mature coconuts and turn up the music to match the occasion.

My gourmet Dinner Club has been meeting for so long we’ve tried every theme and format for dinner you could imagine. This recipe goes with a Thai dinner and you won’t believe it until you taste it. The combination of this ice cream with juicy mango and salted peanuts is magical!

If you’re excited about getting together with friends here’s a Thai Dinner Club menu to get you started. I think searching for and trying new ingredients is all part of the fun. You get to learn and share with friends and are always rewarded with delicious food.

Let me know in the comments below if you tried this ice cream and how it worked.

Originally published 2015, updated February 2023.

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More Ice Cream Recipes & A Travel Tale from Thailand

Coconut Ice Cream (Dairy Free)

Perfect to end any meal with a tropical flare, this dessert is creamy and refreshing. Serve with any tropical fruit on top but for a Thai experience you must top with juicy mango and salted peanuts. You will be transported to Thailand in the first bite.
Author: Cinde Little
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: thai
Keyword: Dairy Free Coconut Ice Cream
Servings: 8 people


  • cups canned coconut milk
  • 100 grams palm sugar* (2 disks)
  • Tbsp white sugar
  • tsp salt
  • 1 cup coconut water canned or fresh from a young coconut**


  • ¼ cup finely chopped coconut meat from young coconut**
  • 1 Tbsp vodka***


  • ½ cup roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 mango, diced


  • In a medium saucepan combine coconut milk, palm sugar, white sugar and salt. Heat over medium heat stirring until sugar is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and add coconut water and vodka (if using). Chill several hours or overnight in the fridge.
  • Add chopped coconut meat (if using). Pour into ice cream maker and turn according to directions. Transfer soft ice cream to air tight container and store in freezer until ready to serve.
  • Scoop ice cream into individual dishes. Sprinkle with mango and peanuts. Enjoy!


Beware of coconut beverages with added sweeteners and flavouring. Read your labels and buy plain coconut water and coconut milk for cooking.
*Palm sugar can be found in Asian stores sold in packages with several hard, brownish coloured disks. 
**Young coconuts yield 1 to 2 cups of coconut water. Even if I'm using water from the coconut I buy a can of coconut water in case an accident results in not having enough for the recipe. Canned coconut water is fine but when you're up for a culinary adventure buy a young coconut, watch some YouTube videos and crack it open.
***Vodka doesn't affect the taste but helps prevent the ice cream from freezing so hard you can't scoop it.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


  • Leona Hawryluk says:

    So easy and amazing!!! An excellent way to end a delicious meal *****

    • Cinde Little says:

      I agree Leona, a tasty ending to our Thai dinner and so many possibilities for serving it. I highly recommend making homemade ice cream as an activity at any dinner party. Ice cream lovers will come out of the woodwork to mix the ingredients and turn the crank. BEST TIP EVER: Convince your sister (or a good friend) to buy the same ice cream makers as you so you can churn double the ice cream at large gatherings!

  • Joanne says:

    This ice cream was so tasty and light. It did not leave me with that heavy ice cream feeling. So great with the fresh coconut

    • Cinde Little says:

      Thanks Joanne. I haven’t made this ice cream recipe for a few years so cutting open that Thai Young Coconut was a fun challenge. We were rewarded with that fresh coconut taste making it so worth the effort. So good!

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