After a bumpy start last season, Maine’s vegan soft serve scene has expanded this summer. With dozens and dozens of Maine scoop shops now offering vegan hard serve, what’s different this season is newly installed, dedicated vegan soft-serve machines in at least four more ice cream shops, bringing the total number of spots twisting out the plant-based sweetness to at least five.
In 2021, then food truck Curbside Comforts (now a storefront in Gorham) attempted to offer vegan soft serve but found the temperature on the truck was too hot for the machine to function. Also last summer, a scoop shop in Gray advertised 30 vegan flavors of soft serve before learning the mix it used contained hidden cow’s milk. Then in the fall, the vegetarian restaurant Boja’s Bungalow opened in Greenville and began offering oat-based vegan soft serve.
Soft serve is only available in scoop shops, never in pints, and requires a special machine that combines air with flavors and a chilled ice cream mix to create the distinctive, softer ice cream. As the scoop shop in Gray learned the hard way, mixes labeled “dairy-free” sometimes use that label inaccurately and actually do contain cow’s milk ingredients.
This confusing situation can create problems for unsuspecting businesses – for example, prompting the Gray shop to issue a customer apology – and potential health issues for customers unable to digest lactose. All of the scoop shops listed here assured me they are using a vegan mix rather than one labeled “dairy-free.”
In my conversations with ice cream shop owners, I learned that while vegans strongly influence demand for plant-based ice cream, a major segment of the market comes from children and adults who avoid cow’s milk. According to a 2017 review published in the medical journal The Lancet, after infancy, an estimated 68 percent of the world’s population is unable to digest lactose, the sugar in cow’s milk. The exception to this rule is found among people of northern European ancestry.
So whether you’re vegan, lactose-intolerant or just looking for something new to try, there’s still time to enjoy a sweet twisty treat at one of these scoop shops before the season ends.
36 Pritham Ave., Greenville
FLAVORS: Vanilla and chocolate
CONES: Cake cones, waffle cones and gluten-free cones
VEGAN TOPPINGS: Gluten-free chocolate chips, gluten-free granola, strawberries, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and almonds
OTHER NOTABLES: Everything on the menu of this vegetarian restaurant can be made vegan, and it also offers cold-pressed juices and smoothies.
GOOD TO KNOW: The restaurant’s seasonal closing date has yet to be determined, but it will likely be by the beginning of November.
680 Gray Road, Gorham
FLAVORS: Vanilla, chocolate, a twist of the two, or rotating flavors including bubble gum, strawberry, blueberry, tutti-frutti, watermelon and peach
CONES: Cake cones, waffle cones, waffle bowls and gluten-free cones
VEGAN TOPPINGS: Rainbow sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles and chocolate, cherry and blue raspberry dips
OTHER NOTABLES: The scoop shop makes shakes with soft serve in flavors such as strawberry, hot fudge, blueberry and pineapple with an option of a hot fudge drizzle inside the shake cup.
GOOD TO KNOW: Curbside Comforts plans to stay open year round.
244 Log Cabin Road, Arundel
FLAVORS: Vanilla and sometimes chocolate
CONES: Cake cones, gluten-free cones, vanilla waffle cones and chocolate waffle cones
VEGAN TOPPINGS: Chopped fresh fruit, fruit sauce, crumbled chocolate sandwich cookies, naturally dyed sprinkles, cacao nibs, granola and hot fudge
OTHER NOTABLES: The shop offers a hot fudge sundae topped with a chocolate zucchini brownie, hot fudge and sprinkles with a cherry on top.
GOOD TO KNOW: The popularity of the vegan soft serve means the machine might move indoors when the farm store shifts from the open-air summer building into its winter storefront, allowing soft serve to be offered year round.
SALT + PEPPER SOCIAL
67 Main St., Newcastle
FLAVORS: Vanilla and chocolate
CONES: Cake style
VEGAN TOPPINGS: Rainbow sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles and rotating toppings including crumbled chocolate sandwich cookies and spicy nuts
OTHER NOTABLES: Coming soon, the shop will be making single-serving ice cream cakes.
GOOD TO KNOW: The newly opened, all-vegan scoop shop, bakery and take-out sandwich spot will stay open through the winter. The shop will also be open the Saturday and Sunday of the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest in October.
VEGGIE LIFE AT MAINELY CUSTARD
150 U.S. Route 1, Freeport
FLAVORS: Vanilla, chocolate or a twist of the two
CONES: Cake cones, sugar cones, waffle cones, waffle bowls, gluten-free cake cones and gluten-free sugar cones
VEGAN TOPPINGS: Housemade hot fudge and caramel, whipped cream, peanut butter, rainbow sprinkles, peanut butter cups, yummy bears, chocolate chips, cookie dough, nuts, and dips including pineapple, strawberry, blueberry and raspberry
OTHER NOTABLES: Veggie Life offers shakes and sundaes, including the Turtle Sundae, featuring hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream and nuts.
GOOD TO KNOW: After Labor Day, days and hours will be cut back. The business will close for the season after Indigenous Peoples Day on October 10. On October 8, Veggie Life is sponsoring the first-ever 5K road race benefitting the new equine sanctuary in Freedom, operated by Peace Ridge Sanctuary in Brooks. All runners who visit the shop before its seasonal closure will get a free soft serve ice cream.
Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at