Okay, first up, we know ice-cream and gelato by definition can’t be vegan because they’re made by churning sugar with milk and cream (and sometimes egg) until smooth.

But Melbourne’s ice-cream shops and gelaterias have been pulling off increasingly ambitious imitations of the icy desserts – and producing delightfully diverse sorbets – to cater to the city’s many non-dairy dessert lovers.

From soy sauce ice-cream to gingerbread gelato to a Moon Dog-beer sorbet, we’ve collated a list worthy of a summer cross-city crawl.

Gelateria Bico
288 Albert Street, Brunswick

Father and son team Domenico and Davide Gaglioti are graduates of an intensive artisanal gelato-making course at Carpigiani Gelato University near Bologna, Italy. Bico has five dairy-free and vegan-friendly sorbetti, which includes one of its two rotating weekly specials. The options change based on which produce is in season, but best-sellers include chocolate and mango.

Top pick: Peanut butter and jam gelato
Honourable mentions: Bacio gelato
Cost per scoop: $5 single; two for $7; three for $8.50
Summer hours:
Sun to Thu 1pm–9.30pm
Fri & Sat 1pm–10pm
Closed: Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and early on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve

Miinot Gelato
71 Melville Road, Pascoe Vale South

Miinot has a relatively small selection of flavours, but half the cabinet is vegan. The fruits have an intensely natural taste, thanks to an all-fruit base. There’s even the occasional crunch of seed in the raspberry. A new coconut-based pavlova flavour is made with passionfruit and aquafaba (the water by-product from cooking chickpeas – a common vegan egg replacer) meringue. Pistachio is popular, too.

The gelateria is usually closed Mondays but will open specially on Monday, December 23 from 1pm to 8pm.

Top pick: Ohhh Saucey (vegan salted caramel with soy sauce for salt) gelato
Honourable mentions: Vietnamese Coffee gelato
Cost per scoop: $5.50 single; two for $6.50; three for $8.50
Summer hours:
Wed & Thu 1pm–8pm
Fri 1pm–9pm
Sat & Sun 12pm–9pm
Closed: December 24 to January 15, 2020

Kenny Lover
766 High Street, Thornbury

Blindingly orange newcomer Kenny Lover sells the classics, but its real forte is the weird and unfamiliar – vibrant-pink native Australian Davidson’s plums are paired with a zip of fresh ginger, for example. There are six rotating vegan-friendly flavours with a minimum of five available at any one time. Find out why former Broadsheet Melbourne assistant editor Nick Buckley named the soy sauce ice-cream one of his most memorable desserts of 2019.

Top pick: Soy sauce ice-cream
Honourable mentions: Yuzu and sake sorbet; watermelon and olive oil sorbet; sour-beer sorbet
Cost per scoop: $5 single; two for $6.80
Summer hours:
Daily 1pm–10pm
Closed: Christmas Day and New Year’s Day

Gelato Papa
14a Gilbert Road, Preston

The gelato-making method at Gelato Papa is traditional, but many of its flavours are anything but. The vegan jaffa – made with made with 70 per cent dark coverture chocolate infused with orange oil – is available year-round, plus there are experimental summer specials, such as a beer sorbet made in collaboration with Moon Dog using the brewery’s Beer Can beer. The Mexican-style lager is infused with cold-pressed tropical fruit juice, and the sorbet will be available for a strictly limited time.

Top pick: Moon Dog beer sorbet (available January 10 to 12)
Honourable mentions: Coconut and kaffir lime sorbet; lemon and Vietnamese mint sorbet
Cost per scoop: $5 single; two for $6.70; three for $8.40
Summer hours:
Mon to Wed 1pm–8pm
Thu & Sun 1–9pm
Fri & Sat 1pm–10pm
Closed: December 24 to January 2, 2020

Beku Gelato
171 Lygon Street, Brunswick East

Agusta Triwahyu began wholesaling her small-batch gelato under the name The Rolling Scoop a few years before opening Beku in February 2018. Triwahyu uses traditional Italian techniques to make the dairy and non-dairy flavours, which often have Southeast Asian influences. There’s a coconut-milk based chocolate, and several other vegan staples.

Top pick: Coconut (or Indonesian es puter, literally meaning “spinned ice”) with jackfruit gelato
Honourable mentions: Minty lychee sorbet
Cost per scoop: $4.90
Summer hours:
Mon to Thu 2pm–9pm
Fri 2pm–10pm
Sat & Sun 12pm–10pm
Closed: Christmas Day, December 30, New Year’s Eve

Girls & Boys
382A Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Girls & Boys is the sweet-toothed sibling to Brunswick Street institution Vegie Bar. All its desserts are plant-based, including a spicy, cinnamon-y gingerbread gelato with chewy chunks of gingerbread cookie.

Top pick: Gingerbread gelato (festive!)
Honourable mentions: Macadamia praline and white-chocolate gelato
Cost per scoop: $5 single; two for $7
Summer hours:
Daily 11am–10pm (may stay open later)
Closed: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day

Piccolina Gelateria
296 Smith Street, Collingwood

Piccolina’s gleaming Collingwood flagship gelateria (there are outposts in Hawthorn and St Kilda too) prides itself on its vast vegan sorbet offering. Dark chocolate, strawberry, passionfruit and lemon are staples, but you might encounter mango and lime; white peach and mint; or pineapple and ginger depending on the season.

Top pick: 70 per cent dark-chocolate gelato
Honourable mentions: Raspberry and rosewater gelato
Cost per scoop: $5.50 single; two for $6.80; three for $8.80
Summer hours:
Daily 12pm to 11pm
Closed: Christmas Day (Collingwood and Hawthorn only)

Billy van Creamy
27/19 Best Street, Fitzroy North

Billy van Creamy in North Fitzroy went from gelato truck to popular pop-up to permanent fixture in less than two years. Its vegan flavours are made from cashew milk (made in-house) or organic coconut milk. The peanut butter choc-chip mixes house-made peanut butter and organic 70 per cent dark-chocolate chips.

Top pick: Peanut butter choc-chip gelato
Honourable mentions: Salted caramel gelato
Cost per scoop: $5 single; two for $8
Summer hours:
Sun to Thu 12pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–10.30pm
Closed: Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day

Jock’s Ice-Cream and Sorbet
83 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park

Jock Main has been making his ice-creams and sorbets from scratch at his south-side store since 2001. It’s a short stroll from the beach, and during summer there are often queues of sandy beachgoers out the door. All the sorbets are vegan-friendly except, alas, the chocolate.

Top pick: Chinotto sorbet
Honourable mentions: Blood-orange sorbet
Cost per scoop: $5 single; $7 for two
Summer hours:
Daily 12pm–9pm (may stay open later)
Closed: Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day

You can find our full guide to Melbourne’s best ice-cream and gelato (and how to tell the difference) here.