Sep 19
Dairy Free Sweet Potato Soft Cream

I have two favorite flavors of soft cream (i.e. soft serve) in Japan: black sesame and sweet potato.  If you had told me a little over 10 years ago that I would be saying that, I would have laughed at you.  But 10 years ago this month Mr. Fuji and I moved to Japan for the first time, and I tasted both of those flavors during our first weeks of adjusting and I was in love.  So it feels kind of wonderful and special that my amazing guest writer today is sharing a recipe for one of those flavors.  Kate is the author of Eat, Recycle, Repeat, a blog all about the search for health, happiness, and the best way to eat & celebrate life.  Kate is currently living in Japan (lucky girl!) and I got to meet her this summer during our trip to Japan.  She is an absolute doll, and the Fujilings took to her immediately and wouldn’t leave her side.

Kate and the Fujilings in Tokyo

She even braved going to the zoo with us in some pre-typhoon rain and wind!

Playing in the rain at Ueno Zoo

So, without further ado, I’m going to let Kate take it away and tell you about her creation.  Make sure you stop by her blog afterwards and say hello!  (You can hear more about Kate in our most recent Miso Hungry episode!)


One of the best parts of summer in Japan is the soft serve ice cream, or simply soft cream. When I first visited Japan in high school, there was many a sweltering day where I thought a soft cream cone was the only thing standing between me and certain death by sweating. I loved nibbling away at green tea and vanilla swirl cones while climbing temple steps, visiting Japanese gardens, and hanging out at the beach near the Pacific Ocean. Soft cream is everywhere in Japan, especially in the summer, and it comes in a variety of exotic flavors and varieties. My sister’s favorite used to be grape soda swirled with vanilla. Beside the more common flavors of strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, and green tea, other flavors include Hokkaido milk (extra creamy), black sesame – my coworker’s favorite, melon, soy sauce, ume (pickled plum), and wasabi. So eating ice cream in Japan can be not only a cooling treat but a culinary challenge.

Menagerie of Sweet Potatoes

Since I can’t eat dairy, I decided to take on the challenge of making my own version of soft cream. One thing I was never introduced to when I first came to Japan, however, was the absolute best food on the planet—Japanese sweet potatoes. These creamy little tubers with a maple-like sweetness are the perfect comfort food and so beloved by me that I use them to make friends on Twitter as @theyakiimogirl.  Now that I live in the countryside of Japan, I’m exposed to all sorts of sweet potato goodness, including sweet potato ice cream. I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy the rich, maple flavor of sweet potatoes in the summer. In fact, this soft cream saved me yet again after I worked all day in the fields harvesting rice last week!

Rice Harvest in Japan

This sweet potato soft cream recipe is vegan and paleo friendly, and has several options to make it sugar-free or refined sugar-free. It’s a healthy, guiltless indulgence, and I’m willing to bet it tastes better than the original version I see at my local market.

Yaki imo (roasted sweet potato)

I know you can find Japanese sweet potatoes, or satsuma imo, at some Asian markets in the States. This recipe also works with the orange varieties of sweet potatoes more common in America. And, if you can get your hands on them, purple sweet potatoes, or beni imo, make the most wonderful purple shade of soft cream that has me dreaming of my upcoming trip to Okinawa. If there was ever a tropical getaway that needed a dairy-free sweet potato soft serve stand, it’s Okinawa for certain. For now, create your own mini-island paradise with a scoop of this frozen summer treat.

Note: This recipe requires an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker yet, I highly suggest investing in one, especially if you are dairy intolerant and still want to enjoy ice cream! There are tons of recipes out there now, and you can also buy good quality ice cream makers second hand or on sites like eBay. I recently just invested in one myself, for my Japanese apartment, because my family at home needed my old maker to keep up with their demand! It’s a great activity for kids too, so treat them and yourself to a future of healthy indulgences.

Dressed up Sweet Potato Soft Cream Sundae

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Kate’s Dairy Free Sweet Potato Soft Cream

Makes 4 Japanese-sized servings

Recipe from Kate of Eat, Recycle, Repeat

Recipe Notes: This recipe is simple, but just requires some prep time. The day before I want to make it, I usually roast the sweet potatoes if I haven’t already, soak the dates overnight, and make sure my ice cream bowl is in the freezer. You can use any variety of sweet potato here. If you can get your hands on some purple sweet potatoes, I suggest adding a squeeze of lime juice for a tropical flavor.

1 cup mashed sweet potato flesh, either roasted or steamed in the crockpot
1 (14-ounce) can full fat coconut milk, Native Forest is BPA-free
1/2 medium avocado
6-8 dates, soaked until plump or 15-20 drops liquid stevia, such as NuNaturals
1/4 cup almond or coconut milk

Remove the pits from the dates, if using. Blend all the ingredients together until smooth and creamy.  Add the mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer directions. Mine took about 20 – 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

This ice cream is best eaten the day you make it—after all, you don’t take soft serve home from the vendor and freeze it. That being said, I usually can’t eat an entire batch on my own, so I freeze it in individual servings and let thaw for about 10 minutes. You can also re-blend the ice cream with a banana & milk of choice for a delicious shake!


Check out these other amazing sweet potato recipes from Kate, “the Sweet Potato Queen”!

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerry @ Foodness Gracious September 19, 2012 at 9:13 am

Great recipe, I love out of the box thinking and I think this is totally it, great pics too!


S. J. Pajonas September 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm

This looks amazing! I’ll have to break out my ice cream maker immediately :)


Fuji Nana September 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Japan has such amazing ice cream–not at all what I would have expected the first time I went there. I wish we would adopt some of their flavors. Meanwhile, I’ll have to just go buy myself and ice cream machine and try this recipe. It looks fabulous, and it will be perfect for my vegan husband too!


Kate @ Eat, Recycle, Repeat September 20, 2012 at 4:22 am

Thank you! I’m glad you’re like out of the box recipes – most of the time I feel like I’m NEVER in the box.


Kate @ Eat, Recycle, Repeat September 20, 2012 at 4:23 am

I’m glad everyone is excited and breaking out the ice cream makers too! And Rachael – I love that photo of Bug & I ~ thanks so much for posting!


Shirley @ gfe September 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm

This recipe of Kate’s is definitely my kind of non-dairy ice cream. It looks incredible. Will make soon! :-)



Phil September 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Hi Rachael,

I’m planning a trip to Japan and will be visiting the many islands. Do you have a list of soft cream shops to try? I want to try as many as I can. =)

– Phil


marla September 22, 2012 at 9:12 pm

LOVE this recipe for soft cream ~ very similar to something I do here. Coconut milk makes the best ice cream!


Taro September 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm

In the rainy season, you can enjoy the ice cream of “hydrangea” motif in Kamakura where some temples’ outstanding seasonal features. It often includes purple sweet potato ice cream.

My recommendation to you is “Yuubari melon ice cream”. The best red melon of the world becomes as ice cream !


ありりん September 25, 2012 at 4:05 am



Oscar's Mum September 26, 2012 at 2:03 am

We tried this in Kawagoe and it was my number 1 recipe to recreate. So glad I’ve found it here.


software September 27, 2012 at 9:13 am

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Caroline H. March 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Hello Rachael!
I am an American currently living in Japan. I am located a few blocks from Odakyusagamihara station (near Machida), and frequent Yokohama, Shibuya, and Shinjuku often. I came across your blog when researching new sights to see in Japan, and must say two things. First of all, soft sweet potato ice cream is hands down the best flavor! I am so happy that you have come up with a recipe. I feel much better knowing I will be able to fulfill my cravings once I move back to the states in a few years. Secondly, I could not agree with you more about loving Japan! Reading through your blog, hearing you talk about how you miss living here, makes me appreciate the time I have here even more. So thank you!


Angelica McIntely November 3, 2013 at 11:02 am

This was delicious!My only change was that I didn’t have an ice cream maker, so I froze the sweet potato first and then blended everything together


marival May 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm

lazy folks like me can try this abridged version…bake up some sweet potatoes, peel them if you wish a “refined” ice cream, cut the cooked potatoes into cubes and freeze them. When frozen solid put them in a food processor, adding nut milk as needed to process to the consistency you like. I added cinn and cloves and then, at the end, some frozen walnuts ( that had been soaked and dried). You do need a fair amount of cubes in the processor for the blade to grab, maybe four small ones minimum. You should eat it right away, yum ! This might save ok, mine never lasts long enough to find out. Now I do actually have an ice cream maker somewhere, I will dig it out this summer and try this recipe. THANKS for posting it.


Marni June 25, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Can you substitute corn syrup or molasses for the dates?


Fuji Mama (Rachael) June 30, 2016 at 3:19 pm

I wouldn’t substitute corn syrup and I don’t think molasses would be quite sweet enough and the flavor might overwhelm the other ingredients. But it never hurts to try!


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