While we may be heading into the last stretch of summer, the temperatures are still soaring and that means the quest for some cool, sweet, and flavourful relief is still very much on. With that in mind, I’ve journeyed across Toronto’s vast sprawl to bring you a comprehensive list of where to get your vegan ice cream fix – at least I hope it’s comprehensive. Veganism is growing so rapidly here that it’s hard to keep up with all the new options available. I started off with the intention to include gelato as well (thus the inclusion of Death of Venice), but then quickly realized that was too huge of an endeavor. So here goes.
COSMIC TREATS (207 Augusta Ave.)This all-vegan restaurant in Kensington Market restaurant has a full menu in addition to its spectacular dessert bar. A single scoop will cost you $5.50, but the extra $1.25 for a waffle cone is definitely worth it. If you really want to go crazy you can order their Ice Cream Apocalypse, featuring 6 scoops of ice cream, your choice of toppings, sauce, whipping cream and, of course, a cherry on top. All their ice cream is cashew based, made in-house, and available in a generous selection of flavours. While this list is not in any particular order, Cosmic Treats is definitely one of my faves. I would safely place their ice cream among the city’s best.
BUNNERS (244 Augusta Ave.)
Bunners is a vegan and gluten-free bakery with a location in the Junction and Kensington Market. Along with their assortment of cupcakes, bread, and other sweets, they also have soft serve. Typically it’s a choice of chocolate, vanilla or swirl but occasionally they’ll have other seasonal flavours like pumpkin, or peach. A generously heaped cone will set you back about $3.50 – which is not bad at all.
HIBISCUS (238 Augusta Ave. & 111 Richmond Street West).
Kensington Market definitely wins as the most vegan-friendly area in the city. Four of the places on this list are located in the quirky, downtown neighbourhood. Hibiscus is a vegetarian cafe known for their tasty sweet and savory crepes, soups, and salads, but they also have vegan ice cream in a variety of flavours. It’s all made in house from coconut milk, almond milk or mung bean milk. Hibiscus, in general, is pretty pricey. A single scoop (a pretty small single) costs $5.00. They’ve opened a second location in the Assembly Chef’s Hall at 111 Richmond, but I much prefer the vibe in Kensington.
PUT A CONE ON IT (633 Bloor St. West)
Put A Cone On It seems to slip under the ice cream radar sometimes, though the lovely little storefront in Koreatown is certainly deserving of some attention. You can enjoy one of several vegan sorbet/ice cream flavours like raspberry, mango or sesame seed while strolling through nearby Christie Pitts Park. $6 will buy you a generous double scoop, and yes, you can mix and match flavours!
SWEET JESUS (Various)
One of the local ice cream giants, Sweet Jesus is now doling out decadent confectionery covered towers of soft serve from several locations across the city. Their vegan option is the Bounty Killah, coconut soft serve with shredded toasted coconut and dark chocolate sauce. You can also just order the soft serve if you not overly famished – trust me, you’ll need a big appetite to finish the full version. A regular size will set you back $7.50, but I think you’ll agree that it’s worth every penny.
SWEET FANTASIES (398 Bloor Street)
This Annex staple has been one of my go-to’s for many years and it’s still a sentimental favourite. Served through a sliding window, with a small patio that’s perfect for people watching on hot sultry summer nights, Sweet Fantasies has an undeniable old-school charm. They serve Tofutti brand ice cream as their vegan option. I highly recommend the vanilla almond. A single scoop is $5.49, a double is $6.99.
WONG’S (617 Gerrard Street East)
Tucked away in an inconspicuous storefront along Chinatown East’s main strip, Wong’s is another place that seems to slip under everyone’s radar. Their ice cream is top notch, with a revolving selection of unique Asian themed flavours that include several vegan options, like Coconut Mango, Sticky Rice, Lychee, and Lemonade. A single scoop costs $4.75, and a double is $8.
BOOYAH (16 Vaughan Rd)
If you’re like me, and your principle mode of transportation and exploration is a bike, your probably already aware that getting up the hill to St. Clair Avenue can be a bit of a slog, but the good folks at Booyah are making sure there is a delectable treat awaiting you near the summit. The Wychwood area storefront serves gourmet ice cream at some of the most reasonable prices in the city. One of their famed ice cream sandwiches, filled with two generous scoops of the sweet stuff, costs only about $5.80! Their vegan options are coconut based and made in-house. Also, make sure to try the taro flavour! It’s surprisingly delicious.
LA DIPERIE (372 Danforth Ave.)
What’s that you say? This doesn’t look like ice cream at all. It looks more like…cookie dough. That’s probably because it is. I like cookie dough, but this seems like a very odd option to offer, considering how readily available vegan ice cream is. What makes it perhaps even odder, was that I had no idea I wasn’t ordering ice cream. I assumed that the advertised ‘cookie dough’ referred to the ice cream flavour. La Diperie, a Quebec import that recently made it’s way to Toronto, does, apparently, have more vegan options at some of their Montreal locations, but for now, you’ll have to stick to the dough. It’s $4.50 for a small cup.
DEATH IN VENICE (536 Queen West)
In the heart of the vibrant and bustling Queen West, the gelato experts at Death in Venice dish out their gelato by the scoop or by the pint. They also have a few pop-ups around the city as well, so keep an eye out for them. They have a huge selection of vegan options and some very unique flavours. I tried the Thai Basil Juniper and it was delicious. A single scoop costs $5, and a double is $8.50.
SWEET OLENKA (225 Augusta Ave. & 1050 Queen St West)
Sweet Olenka, gourmet chocolatiers and purveyors of other sweets, have recently expanded, opening a second, much larger, storefront downtown near Queen and Ossington. Their vegan options are coconut based and super creamy. The flavours vary from day to day but they have all the classics. It’s $5 for a modest single scoop or $7 for a double. They also have vegan cakes, if you’re shopping for a special occasion, or just feel like eating some cake.
BEAN AND BAKER (326 Harbord St.)
Bean and Baker is a classic vintage malt shop that may not be that well known outside of the surrounding, largely residential neighborhood, but it’s definitely worth stopping by for a visit. It’s right at the south end of Christie Pitts park, so again, lots of places nearby to rest, relax or stroll while you enjoy your sweet, cold treat. The staff are super friendly, and seem very well versed in all the flavours, should you need a recommendation. For vegan options, they sell both Coconut Bliss and Oat and Mill brand ice creams.
BANG BANG ICE CREAM (93 Ossington StreetIf you ever been wandering up Ossington and wondered what the huge line stretching down the street was for, well, it’s for Bang Bang Ice Cream. I’m skeptical of waiting in long lines – usually, I find that, whatever it’s for, it’s not worth it. But Bang Bang might be the exception. Their ice cream sandwiches are beyond compare. If you want to avoid the enormous line, just avoid their peak hours (i.e. usually in the evening). I have no issue with eating ice cream for lunch, so I went at 12pm, shortly after they opened, and there was no line at all!
NANASHAKE (4750 Yonge Street, Unit 134)
I’d admit I’m one of those Torontonians that has a very limited concept of what constitutes Toronto – I live downtown and very rarely venture north of Bloor Street, but North York surprised me. The area around Yonge and Shepperd is actually quite nice, and not as a desolate as you’d except for suburbia. If you need another reason to venture out into the outer limits, there is Nanashake, an entirely vegan, banana centric frozen dessert shop right next to the Yonge/Shepperd subway station. $4.99 will buy you a fairly substantial helping of banana soft serve.
GRINNING FACE (540 Parliament Street) Grinning Face’s small batch gelato is all coconut milk based, but most of their flavours are not actually vegan, which seems a bit strange to me. Nevertheless, they do have a handful of vegan options that are quite delicious and Cabbagetown is a great neighborhood to explore, so grab a cup of some Dark and Handsome Chocolate or Ontario Fresh Strawberry and take a stroll.
NOT YOUR MOTHER (1346 Queen West) The recently opened Vegandale Brewery in Parkdale houses the revamped, cherished Doomie’s, but also has ice cream bar within its expansive new space. Not Your Mother sells soy-based soft serve, in a cup, cone, waffle or as a milkshake, topped with an assortment of decadent and colorful toppings, such as all-dressed chips, shortcake crumble and a balsamic reduction. There are 10 different very unique, and very hearty cones to choose from, so repeat visits are an absolute necessity if you want to explore everything they have to offer.
BRETT’S ICE CREAM (1698 Queen St. East)Toronto’s vegan options have been, unfortunately for us east-enders, heavily concentrated in the west end, but that seems to be changing. Apiecalypse Now opened a second location at Pape and Danforth, and Cinnaholic is also beginning it’s Canadian takeover with a store-front also on the Danforth! We’ve even been recently gifted our own Fresh location near St. Lawrence Market. It’s great for the downtown crowd, but further east is still kind of a vegan desert. I love the Beaches, but it’s agonizing to watch everyone relaxing along the water with ice cream in hand. That’s why Brett’s was such a great discovery. A short walk from Woodbine Beach, Brett’s offers more than 30 different flavours. Only a few are vegan but they are delicious. It’s $5 for a single, $7 for a double.
It’s great to see some of the big ice cream chains embracing vegan options – I think they’ve finally realized that there’s a huge market for dairy-free desserts. Yogurty has locations all over Ontario and in a few other provinces, with 5 stores in Toronto. They have a few different vegan soft serve options, but some locations may not carry them all. The one at Bloor and Bathurst always seems well stocked though. There are vegan-friendly toppers as well, such as shredded coconut, Oreos, and nuts, but be warned, it’s priced by weight, so don’t get carried away!
THE FIX ICE CREAM BAR (207 Queen Quay, Unit 150)Vegan options in a fried chicken joint? Seems unlikely but it’s true. Located inside Joe Bird at the Harborfront, The Fix Ice Cream Bar has, among their zany custom cones, a magical creation they call Like a Sir – it’s peanut butter soft serve, with a rice crispy chocolate mustache, peanut powder and chocolate sauce for $7. This place is right on the water, so you’ll have a great view of Lake Ontario while you scarf this masterpiece down.
KUPFERT AND KIM (Various) I love Kupfert and Kim but I’m a little weirded out about eating ice cream from a cardboard box. It seems like there are probably better ways to serve this. I should also note that the ice cream sandwich, is not an ice cream sandwich – it’s just a scoop of ice cream on top of a small cookie. Delicious, but not a sandwich and also kind of expensive. Ice cream availability seems to vary, but the Spadina and Richmond location usually has something cold and sweet on hand.
DELIGHT (3040 Dundas Street West)
The Junction is one of the city’s best neighbourhoods, with tons of great bars, restaurants, and retailers. If you need another reason to head out to the west end, there is Delight, a sweet little ice cream spot well known to locals. They always have an assortment of vegan options. My personal favourite is the peanut butter chocolate. $5 will get you a modest double scoop. Need another reason to love the Junction? There are dogs everywhere! So once you have your ice cream, find a bench, relax and enjoy the canine parade along Dundas West.
EVA’s ORIGINAL (454 Bloor Street West)
Since opening last year, Eva’s Original has been drawing in some huge crowds with their soft serve filled chimney cakes. The chimney cake itself is completely vegan and they have an incredibly creamy coconut soft serve. A lot of their toppers, glazes and flavour combos can be made vegan upon request. Prices vary but expect to pay about $7-$8. Do not miss this one!
APIECALYPSE NOW (735 Bloor Street W) – I needed to mention that, although I have never actually tried it, which seems hard to believe, your favourite local vegan pizza slingers do in fact also sell vegan soft serve. There is a rumour (some say it’s a fact) that you can ask for it a la mode, with your choice of donut!