Summer's Best Natural and Organic Ice Creams

Photo: iStock.com/raphotography
Food writer Lindsay Evans declares five champions
Some of life’s simple pleasures never change. Summer is always hot, ice cream is always sublime and those with a yearning for decadence will go the extra mile to scope out their favorite creamy treat. With more and more ice cream brands going organic, and incorporating healthier ingredients such as soy, yogurt and even rice (instead of heavy cream), there’s plenty of good reasons to indulge your sweet tooth. Along with my all-too-eager husband, I tasted dozens of varieties. We stuck to brands that are available nationally, although there are dozens of small producers in every part of the country that produce excellent ice cream and let you keep your food dollars in your community. Our verdict: The following five all-natural, organic and/or soy varieties were the cream of the crop. From smooth, silky (and always reliable) Häagan Dazs to lovingly handcrafted Mapleton’s Organics, these unbeatable brands serve up delectable scoops that will keep you satisfied all summer long.

Organic 


Mapleton’s Organic Ice Cream:

Mapleton’s is handcrafted in an organic dairy located on a family farm in Moorefield, Ontario. Their cows are raised with care to provide the freshest organic ingredients including milk, cream and eggs. The result is a creamy ice cream that tastes utterly smooth and refreshing. We sampled the chocolate flavour, which proved to be pure, fresh and delicious (although a tad on the unsweetened side, so it may not be a favourite amoung kids. But it’s great for grown-up tastes).

An added bonus? Mapleton’s guarantee that all its ice cream is gluten- and nut-free (except for their Cappuccino flavour, which is guaranteed gluten-free). My only qualm is the hefty price for a very small container, but I suppose you get what you pay for.

Green Claim:

100% organic and free of chemicals, GMOs, antibiotics, artificial ingredients, added colours and salt.

The Deets:

Mapleton’s Organic Ice Cream is available across Canada at select grocery stores including Sobeys, Whole Foods Markets and Rabba Fine Foods, as well as many other organic and health food stores. Flavours include Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Cappuccino, Ginger and Vanilla with Chocolate Chips. $6.59/473 ml

Organic Meadow Ice Cream:

Canada’s Organic Meadow produces many traditionally made organic dairy products including ice cream, milk and butter. Its products are created in farms across Ontario and other provinces and distributed across the country. Well-suited for a crowd, their 1- and 2-litre containers are the perfect companion to summertime desserts. Organic Meadow Ice Cream is made from natural and organic ingredients including milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, guar gum, locust bean gum and carageenan. We tried the chocolate variety and found it to be rich, smooth and velvety. My only disappointment with it was the lack of inventive flavours. However, if you prefer simple flavours, such as vanilla and strawberry and are on the quest to eat organically, it is a great bet.

Green Claim:

Only natural and organic ingredients. Organic Meadow supports eco-friendly practices and local, family-owned-and-operated dairies, such as Steen’s Dairy located in Erin, Ontario.

The Deets:

Organic Meadow Ice Creams can be found in most major food chains and health food stores across Canada. Flavours include Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla Swirl, Chocolate Swirl and Caramel Swirl. $11.79/1L

All Natural


Häagan Dazs:

Häagan Dazs has long been a favourite of ours. In addition to a delectable line-up of flavours, it is made with surprisingly few ingredients in comparison to the competition. In fact, the company’s products (including ice creams, sorbets, frozen yogurts and bars) are all made from high-quality natural ingredients, meaning: milk, cream, eggs, sugar and natural flavours. Our verdict? A smooth, creamy and decadent ice cream which exudes natural flavour and intense richness.
In the U.S., Häagan Dazs has recently introduced Five, an all-new, all-natural ice cream crafted with just five ingredients: skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks and natural flavouring. Although it’s not yet available in Canada, the reports are that Five is an incredibly pure and balanced ice cream, with surprisingly little fat. 

Green Claim: Does not purport to be organic or eco-friendly, however, it is made with all-natural ingredients.

The Deets:

Häagan Dazs is readily available across Canada in major grocery stores, health food stores and even your local convenience store. Lick-your-lips flavours include vanilla bean, dulce de leche, Mayan chocolate and pistachio. About $5.99/pint.

Breyers Naturals Ice Cream:

Breyers Naturals Ice Cream in Vanilla is made from evaporated whole milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, natural vanilla flavour and pure ground vanilla bean. (In comparison, the first ingredient of Breyers Classic ice cream is the cryptic “modified milk ingredients,” followed by others such as modified palm oil, glucose, mono and diglycerides.)

In the U.S., the company recently came under fire in the blogosphere for adding natural tara gum (to make the ice cream creamier) to its natural ice cream, so I looked into it a little bit. I discovered that tara gum is sourced from the tara tree, a plant commonly found in South America and Africa. Studies have shown it to be natural and safe for human consumption. I suppose it’s similar to using carageenan, an algae-derived thickener. It may be a natural ingredient but it wasn’t in grandma’s ice cream.

We tried the strawberry flavour and even before the first bite made its way to our mouth, we noticed a difference. There were real chunks of strawberries mixed generously throughout the container. And the ice cream was creamy, smooth and had a natural strawberry flavour. Not bad for a large commercial brand.

Green Claim:

No additives and all-natural flavours.

The Deets:

Breyers Naturals Ice Cream can be found nationwide in most grocery stores in 1.5-quart and 1-pint containers. Flavours include Chocolate, Maple Walnut, Strawberry and Vanilla. About $6.99/1.5 quart.

Soy 


Turtle Mountain’s Purely Decadent Soy:

U.S.-based Turtle Mountain is a large company which produces several soy-based and lactose-free products including three lines of ice cream: Organic So Delicious, Purely Decadent Soy and It’s Soy Delicious. For the purposes of this review, we chose to taste the Purely Decadent Soy in chocolate. This product reports to be dairy- and lactose-free, cholesterol- and trans fat-free, certified vegan, made with certified organic ingredients, and with half the fat and 65 percent of the calories of regular ice cream. We found that this “ice cream’s” texture was dense, creamy and chocolatey and had a hard time detecting a soy aftertaste. And, when you consider the nutritional benefits, it could easily rival your favourite gourmet ice cream.

Green Claim:

Certified organic ingredients. Turtle Mountain also supports sustainable agriculture practices and has joined forces with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) to provide much-needed funds and to promote awareness of STRP’s fight to save these gentle creatures.

The Deets:

Can be found across Canada in health food stores and some grocery stores. The company offers an extensive line-up of tantalizing flavours including Chocolate Brownie Almond, Coconut Craze and Blueberry Cheesecake. However their price packs a punch at $6.79/500 mL.

The Final Scoop:

These ice creams were all made from high-quality, natural and/or organic ingredients, and for us, the taste lived up to the hype (and higher price points). The bottom line? Sometimes it is worth it to splurge for taste, exceptional ingredients and the health of your family and the environment.