This vegan Katahdin Sundae, with vegan peanut butter cups, is among the vegan sundae options at Mainely Custard in Freeport. Photo courtesy of Mainely Custard

Spencer’s Ice Cream is a Main Street institution in the small town of Bradley, located across the Penobscot River from Old Town. For 90 years the shop has served ice cream cones in the summer. But this season there’s something new on the menu board: Vegan sundaes.

When Spencer’s tested the market with vegan ice cream flavors in April, the reaction was immediate and positive. Then, when the scoop shop put vegan sundaes on its menu in June, it quickly ran out of vegan ice cream.

“We sold out for a couple days and had to replenish,” said co-owner Staci Watkins, who along with the rest of the team makes all the shop’s ice cream. “I had no idea there were so many people going without ice cream completely. Now that we know that people want it, we will continue to offer vegan sundaes.”

Watkins, who owns the business with her son Jack Watkins, wasn’t sure how vegan ice cream would go over with customers. Her friends and family were skeptical, making comments like, “How many vegans are there, really?” But Watkins has surprised the doubters by attracting a significant group of new customers.

This summer, as the vegan ice cream wave continues to ripple into new scoop shops across Maine, you can enjoy decadent, candy-topped vegan sundaes across the state, if you know where to look.

One place to find them is at Mainely Custard on U.S. Route 1 in Freeport, where vegan sundaes such as the Turtle and the Peanut Supreme are on the menu for the second season. Customers can pair them with vegan brownies, vegan peanut butter cups and vegan gummy bears that owner Jaime Shaw added after purchasing the business in late 2021.


“I’m amazed at how much of the vegan product we’re selling lately,” said Shaw, who also runs the Veggie Life wholesale food business in a building adjacent to the scoop shop. “It’s really growing.”

Though the number of vegans in Maine is unknown, a 2022 national survey from the Vegetarian Research Group and YouGov found that 3 percent of the U.S population identifies as vegan and up to 29 percent as veganish, meaning they regularly eat vegan meals. The market for vegan ice cream is even larger as it includes people who can’t digest cow’s milk. According to the National Institutes of Health, 68 percent of the world’s adult population is unable to digest lactose, the sugar in cow’s milk.

The Patriotic Parfait, Curbside Comfort’s July sundae special. Photo courtesy of Curbside Comforts

In May, Curbside Comforts in Gorham added a banana split to its all vegan menu of burgers and ice cream. Co-owner Suzanne Dawson had delayed doing so until she found the perfect vegan whipped cream; she landed on using Country Crock plant cream as a base. The shop also added butterscotch to this summer’s line-up of toppings. For July, the vegan sundae special at Curbside Comforts is a Patriotic Parfait with layers of vanilla soft serve between blueberry and strawberry topping all crowned with whipped cream and red, white and blue sprinkles.

Curbside Comforts is open year-round, and Dawson and her team “were very surprised by the ice cream demand throughout the winter.” Last winter, they didn’t shut down the soft serve machine, as they’d planned, when the cold weather arrived. Sundaes are popular year round, too, she said.

Spencer’s Ice Cream in Bradley added vegan sundaes this season, and they’re in high demand. The coffee sundae, shown here, is made with coffee ice cream, whipped cream, hot fudge and peanuts. Photo courtesy of Spencer’s Ice Cream

The new vegan ice cream cooler at Spencer’s always holds three hard serve flavors, such as black raspberry, blueberry, coffee, mint chocolate chip or peanut butter. The housemade chocolate and caramel sauces at Spencer’s have always been vegan and dairy-free whipped cream is now available, too.

Mainely Custard offered a particularly popular limited edition sundae in May. “On Mother’s Day weekend we did strawberry shortcake sundaes,” Shaw said. The sundaes came with a vegan biscuit piled with vanilla ice cream then finished with strawberry topping and whipped cream. “It was so popular,” Shaw said, “but I can’t keep up with it to do it all the time.”


Twelve’s Chocolate Sundae, with white barley miso, candied cocoa nibs, urfa chile, chocolate sorbet and a cocoa tuile. Though not advertised as so, the sundae is vegan. Photo courtesy of Starchefs

Don’t look for one of the most original vegan sundaes on a Maine menu at a scoop shop. The dessert menu at Twelve, a high profile Portland restaurant that opened last summer on the waterfront, includes a chocolate sundae. The menu makes no mention of it, but the sundae is vegan.

“It’s usually surprising to people that it’s vegan,” said pastry chef Georgia Macon.

She begins the sundae with a base of a miso-caramel sauce, then layers it with candied cacao nibs mixed with smoky urfa pepper, then a large scoop of sorbet made with Valrhona chocolate. The sundae, which comes with a chocolate tuile wafer cookie, is sprinkled with sea salt and gold leaf.

“I wanted to do something really decadent and rich with a complex depth of flavor,” said Macon, who points out that the Twelve bar is open for walk-ins and customers often come in just for dessert. “The chocolate sundae has actually been on our menu since we opened, and we can’t take it off because it’s so darn popular.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

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