Fueled by the cries of vegans who literally can’t eat anything, Ben & Jerry’s recently announced four non-dairy frozen desserts that are certified vegan and certified non-GMO. Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy line includes the following four flavors:

  1. Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chunky Monkey
  2. Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chocolate Fudge Brownie
  3. Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy P.B. & Cookies
  4. Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Coffee Caramel Fudge

Only that last one – Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Coffee Caramel Fudge – is a brand new flavor for Ben & Jerry’s this year, the others being available in their full-dairy, God-Bless-America formulation. (Note: The Non-Dairy P.B. & Cookies differs slightly from the limited batch, Walmart exclusive Peanut Butter & Cookies only in the choice of vanilla non-dairy base vs. sweet cream). At $5.99 a pint, I opted to buy only the Coffee Caramel Fudge flavor because of its complete novelty. Bone-headed move. A smarter man would have bought one of the flavors that he could actually compare to the dairy version to see how they stack up. I’m a dumbass, but you guys are stuck with me:

Ben & Jerry's Coffee Caramel Fudge (Non-Dairy)

Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Fudge (Non-Dairy)

Before I begin, I think it’s only fair that we all head into this with reasonable expectations. We all know exactly what “vegan” is (*shifty eyes*), but think about the challenge presented for a company known for ice-cream with fun mix-ins.

Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Coffee Caramel Fudge, like all their non-dairy flavors, contains no animal products of any kind. That includes dairy, egg, honey, and butter… things you might expect to see in ice cream and/or its mix-ins. Ben & Jerry’s began work back in 2013, and it acknowledged this challenge in its press release:

“Creating these new flavors with a Non-Dairy base composition that meets the high expectations of Ben & Jerry’s consumers was quite a challenge,” said Flavor Guru Kirsten Schimoler. “We wanted to bring the same fun with all of the creamy, funky, and chunky swirls plus the Ben & Jerry’s flavor excitement to our Non-Dairy fans and we nailed it!”
– PR Newswire

Settle down, Ben & Jerry’s. You haven’t officially nailed anything until this food-blogging idiot with 7 months of experience says you nailed it. And please never say “chunky swirls” ever again. But I admire the company’s ability to take a risk to satisfy the demands of an often-neglected segment of the consumer base.

Ben & Jerry's Coffee Caramel Fudge (Non-Dairy)

Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Coffee Caramel Fudge is coffee non-dairy frozen dessert with fudge chunks & a caramel swirl. After toying with all sorts of different bases, Ben & Jerry’s has decided on almond milk as the non-dairy base in their new line. How does this translate for texture? I would say it holds up well, all things considered. The coffee base was dense like ice cream, it scooped like ice cream, and it melted like ice cream. If you let it sit on your tongue, it’s hard to tell the difference. If you chew it, though, that’s when you’ll notice it’s a little icier… a little lighter. As far as taste, the difference is more obvious. It’s missing the inherent creamy mouthfeel of dairy, but it has to by design. I’ve had much worse non-dairy frozen dessert than this. I think Ben & Jerry’s did a great job on texture.

Ben & Jerry's Coffee Caramel Fudge (Non-Dairy)

Unfortunately, this particular flavor combination didn’t perform as well for me. The coffee base in Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Coffee Caramel was far from my favorite. It has the bitter note of coffee, but it’s not a robust flavor at all. It feels empty, and this issue is exacerbated by the lighter non-dairy ice cream. You know how coffee is best with cream? Doesn’t work so well with non-dairy. I could desperately use some milk sugar here. The coffee base just wasn’t sweet enough for me to crave this.

Now, for containing no cream or butter, the caramel is actually excellent… something I got to notice in the one bite where the swirl was heavy enough to dissect it. Buttery and rich and sweet, I would have never known any difference in the caramel recipe. But throughout my pint, the caramel swirl was so thin and unevenly proportioned that it was mostly a nonfactor against the bitter coffee base. Thankfully, the fudge chunks salvaged the pint. There’s plenty of them and they have a genuine chocolate flavor with a sweetness halfway between semi-sweet chocolate and dark chocolate. I liked these the best, but that’s not how this is supposed to work.

Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Coffee Caramel has its flaws, but I’m not sure yet if the flaws have much to do with its non-dairy nature. Texturally, the non-dairy frozen dessert was decent enough that I’m going to give another non-dairy flavor a shot soon. Thankfully, the other three flavors have full-dairy versions, so I’ll be able to compare the two directly to form a final opinion on this whole non-dairy thing.

I should have done that the first time. Sorry I’m not smarter.

Certified Vegan Rating: 10 out of 10
How Much Of A Certified Dumbass I Am Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 out of 10

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