Just because you can’t digest lactose or you’re opposed to the dairy industry doesn’t mean you should be deprived of a scoop of creamy refreshment on a scorching summer’s day. Phew – you’re in Berlin, so you don’t have to! The city has become so much more vegan-friendly that by now virtually every Eisladen boasts cow-free options. But too many menus still fall back on fruit sorbets which are only a lip-smacking treat if you’re a fruit bat, scurvy-prone pirate or a Berliner with an allergy to fun. So where do vegans in the know go to get their desserts? When frozen fruit just won’t cut it, here are Berlin’s best vegan ice cream options devoid of funky fillers such as dyes, artificial flavours, emulsifiers or vegetable fats. TRIBECA: Pure plant-based goodies Milk alternative: Coconut, almond or cashew milk, cold-pressed coconut oil Vegan cones? Yes Scoop price: €2.20 Klaus Zinsmeister gained inspiration for the shop in 2015 while searching for a vegan alternative to classic ice cream in the bougie Tribeca neighbourhood of New York. After coming up short, Klaus and his brother Frank launched an ice cream popup store in New York using the motto “art meets ice cream” and last year they crossed the pond to open their plant-based, vegan ice cream shop. All the products have a base of cold-pressed coconut oil, dairy-free milk (almond, coconut or cashew) or filtered water with cocoa butter and are handcrafted in-house in small batches. They sweeten their scoops with coconut blossom sugar, rice syrup, raw cane sugar or maple syrup. The product is a lusciously creamy, organic ice cream which is also free of gluten and soy – result! Since all the ingredients are pure, this scoop is a bit pricier than others on this list. But you can worry about that at the end of the month; this store accepts credit cards and has a huge variety of creative flavours, including Salty Maca Caramel, (maca root, cashew milk, salted caramel thickened with locust bean gum), Pistachio Lucuma (organic green pistachios, sweet lucuma powder) and Banana Pecan (fairtrade bananas, maple syrup, salted pecans). The quirky Coconut Ash is dark grey because it’s made with active charcoal but has a subtle flavour. Raw Chocolate, however, is another story. Made with organic cocoa beans and sweetened with dried coconut sap and raw chocolate nibs, the result is deeply satisfying. Ethical, exotic and oh-so-moreish, credit card be damned!
Tribeca, Rykestr. 40, Prenzlauer Berg, Mo-Sun 13-19
BALARAM: Soy good you can’t stop
Milk alternative: Soy, oat milk Vegan cones? Yes Scoop price: €1.50/€2
Perusing GDR remnants at the Boxhagener Platz Flohmarkt is hard toil. Cool off at Balaram, an entirely vegan ice cream parlour likely to blow your mind or at least let out a little “woohoo!” in public. With 18 regularly changing flavours such as New York Cheesecake and Florentine Hazelnut along with fruit sorbets, it’s no wonder this Eisladen is swarmed by fashionable foodies with their babies and dogs in tow. If you can handle the frenetic customers, you’ll be rewarded with a tower of icy delight and free toppings such as crushed nuts and gooey caramel sauce (be careful with the sauce though, it overpowers other flavours). All of Balaram’s ice cream is manufactured by Kontor Eismanufaktur Berlin, a vegan ice cream maker in Prenzlauer Berg. Because everything here is animal-free, including cones and toppings, you can focus on flavours. The main dairy alternative is soy milk, used in Walnuss Brownie, Cookies Cream, Macadamia, Mango Lassie and the best-selling Crazy Peanut, to which you can add vegan cream for 80 cent extra. The soy-averse are restricted to Chocolate Sorbet or an oat milk/banana combination. Come early: it’s consistently busy here and the non-fruity flavours go first!
Balaram, Gabriel-Max-Str. 17, Friedrichshain, Mo-Sun 12-23
GELATERIA MOS EISLEY: Where hip vegans have a field day
Milk alternative: Soy, almond, coconut milk Vegan cones? Yes Scoop price: €1.40/€1.60
It would be a crime against taste not to include this Eisladen, which is named after the Star Wars spaceport town and has been feeding the fashionable picnickers at Tempelhofer Feld since 2013. Judging by the line outside, plenty of other Berliners think so too. Hang in there though, service is fast. Owner Daniela Teuber, discovered her passion on a trip to Italy when she took a course at Gelato University of Bologna. Maintaining the Italian tradition, her ice cream is made fresh in-house daily. Nearly half of the assortment is vegan, with pictures of a cow on the menu as if to say no moo-moos hurt here! When you subtract all the fruit sorbets, there are usually between one and three other vegan choices every day, made with soy, almond or coconut milk. The soy ice creams come in flavours such as Soy Peanut Crunch, Soy Matcha and Soy Hazelnut. For eco warriors who have renounced the bean, there is the option of a banana, peanut and almond milk ice cream, or a chocolate treat made with coconut milk. The sorbet section is equally snazzy; boasting a potent chocolate one, as well as the interesting Tannenzäpfle beer sorbet (€2 per scoop). Try the Soy Matcha Green Tea if it’s available and combine with a vegan waffle for a matcha made in heaven. No vegan pistachio, too bad!
Gelateria Mos Eisley, Herrfurthplatz 6, Neukölln, Mo-Sun 12-22
GEH VEG: 100 percent cruelty-free zone
Milk alternative: Soy Vegan cones? Yes Scoop price: €1.30
Geh Veg is a vegan café with a mission – the owner Agnieszka Sola says the team respects all living beings and wants to make a “valuable contribution to a better life on Earth” – and there’s even seating outside to enjoy bird watching. The 18 flavours are made off-site by EisBär. Although most are fruit-infused, there are a few that aren’t, such as the dark chocolate sorbet (the perfect amount of rich but slightly too sweet), matcha and black sesame peanut. The base is either soy or water depending on the flavour. Arrive hungry: the portions are so generous they border on excessive. If you want to increase your chances of slipping into a diabetic coma, you can add vegan cream for an extra 50 cent, swap a plain cone for a premium waffle for an extra 20 cent or just go bananas and add a milkshake for €4.20.
Geh Veg, Birkenstr. 30, Moabit, Mo-Fri 9-19, Sat-Sun 10-20
EARLY BIRD: Go nutty for the fat of the land
Milk alternative: Nuts Vegan cones? No Scoop price: €1.70
If you like to feed your soul by flipping through quality magazines such as Wallpaper (and Exberliner, natch!) while tickling your tongue with the finest gelato, then Early Bird, a cosy Italian-owned café in the quiet Prenzlauer Berg’s Winskiez, has got your back. Not only does Lorenzo Lodi write all the recipes, he is passionate about quality ingredients and on any given morning you can spot him making fresh Eis in the back room of his café, which by the way also serves the best espresso this side of the Prenzlauer Allee. Here ice cream is not just for dessert, so don’t be surprised to see body-conscious morning customers forego carbs for nut-based ice creams. As well as the dairy options, there are sorbets and six vegan treats each day, such as pistachio, raw chocolate, and peanut butter and jam (photo). Our favourite is the salty pistachio, made from loose Piemonte pistachios roasted in-house to control the intensity. It’s so deliciously creamy you’d be damned to guess it doesn’t contain any milk, dairy or otherwise. According to Lodi, you need 16 percent fat content for good ice cream. So, with nuts containing up to 60 percent of fat anyway, there is no need to add more, just a little rice oil for silky smoothness – minimalism with full flavour! Early Bird’s clientèle is an eclectic mix of fellow Italians, business casual millennials and sassy international Muttis on their daily childcare break. Proud of his café’s homely feel, Lodi has no plans to branch out, but he dreams of acquiring a cargo bike to spread ice cream love across the city. That day can’t come soon enough.
Early Bird, Winsstr. 68, Prenzlauer Berg, Mo-Fri 7-20, Sat-Sun 8-20
CUORE DI VETRO: Eis that rocks
Milk alternative: Almond, coconut milk Vegan cones? No Scoop price: €1.60/€1.80
We already knew that Angelika Kaswalder and Guido Dorigo served up some of the tastiest gelato in the city, with prizewinning recipes perfected in the glass-walled kitchen of their small Mitte café. We just weren’t sure whether they were vegan-friendly or not – but they are! – and apparently we should thank musician power couple Alexander Hacke (of Einstürzende Neubauten fame) and Danielle de Picciotto for that: five vegan flavours were created for their animal-free wedding anniversary at Cuore di Vetro. Next to the to-die-for pistachio or best-selling, Bowie-inspired White Duke (almond butter, peach jam, caramelised almonds), and the many fruit sorbets (try the melon!), there are now more creamy treats which change daily for the dairy-free. These include the feisty Sanctuary, inspired by Hacke’s album of the same name, an intensely dark and spicy chilli chocolate sorbet textured with peanut butter for smoothness, as well as de Picciotto’s sublimely nutty Luminous, made out of almond milk and paste and topped with more (home-caramelised) almonds. But the devil here is in the unusual, almost refreshing kick brought by the rose extract, and enhanced by the floral bitter-sweetness of muscovado sugar. Thanks, Danielle! More almond milk – cut with coconut milk this time – comes with the zesty Lemon Incest, a smooth lemon cream infused with verbena that Kaswalder dedicated to Mick Harvey, as the Australian musician made a stop at both the Volksbühne and Cuore di Vetro on his Gainsbourg tribute tour in May. In case you wondered: half of the flavours are inspired by Kaswalder and Dorigo’s favourite musicians. And yes, the music rocks here – from Bowie to Neubauten – until late in the evening (or until the neighbours call the cops). So does the kick-arse duo behind the EXB team’s favourite Eisladen.
Max-Beer-Str. 33, Mitte, Mo-Fri 12-23, Sat-Sun 10-23