This homemade strawberry Italian cream soda is the perfect drink for a hot day and is a healthy, naturally sweetened alternative to soda.
Growing up, I used to love Italian cream sodas. At one point, we had multiple bottles of those flavored syrups in our pantry so we could make our own at home.
I hadn’t had one in years due to the fact that I typically feel best when I don’t consume things with artificial coloring, flavoring, and excess amounts of sugar. Plus, I'm allergic to dairy, so there's that, too.
Last year we were in San Diego for a long weekend and while we were exploring a neighborhood, we stopped into a cafe for a little pick me up. My husband ordered an Italian cream soda, and all those memories from childhood came flooding back.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. We were up at my family’s cabin and rode our bikes into Glacier nearby. My husband wanted a coffee, and I was planning on getting iced matcha until I found out that wasn't an option. I saw Italian cream soda on the menu and ended up ordering a strawberry one with almond milk, which was the first time I had ever had one dairy-free.
It was refreshing, but I temporarily forgot how sweet those syrups are. I knew I could make a homemade dairy-free version using just a few simple, healthy ingredients. I also knew I could make it better than the one I had. (Everything is always better homemade.)
Italian Cream Soda Ingredients
Traditional Italian cream soda is made with carbonated water, flavored syrup, and heavy cream (or half and half) poured over ice.
To make it both dairy-free and healthier, here's what I used:
- Fresh strawberries. Using the whole fruit instead of syrup helps you get all the fiber and nutrients. Plus the seeds add a nice texture and it adds natural sweetness.
- Organic cane sugar. This adds a nice subtle sweetness and also brings out the natural sweetness in the strawberries.
- Oat milk. Oat milk is great for adding a nice neutral flavor and creamy texture.
- Soda water. Using soda water gives you the bubbles, but none of the sugar since we already sweetened it.
Please remember that recipes are meant to be used as guides/templates. How can you make this Italian cream soda using what you already have? Here are some ideas…
No strawberries? ➝ Depending on what produce is in season, you can use a variety of different fruits. Fruits to try: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, apricots, kiwifruit, cherries, peaches, plums, mango, pineapple, or orange.
No organic cane sugar? ➝ You can also use raw honey, maple sugar, or maple syrup (the color may change slightly with maple syrup).
No oat milk? ➝ Other dairy-free milks such as cashew or coconut are best. Almond milk will work, but it won't be as creamy. If you don't mind the taste of coconut, you could also use coconut milk from the can (full fat or lite). Or sub regular milk.
Combinations to Try
- Piña colada = fresh pineapple + coconut milk
- Creamsicle = fresh oranges or orange juice with vanilla extract
- Strawberries and cream = fresh strawberries with vanilla extract and oat milk
- Strawberry lemonade = fresh strawberries with a squeeze of lemon juice without milk
- Apple pie a la mode = apple juice or cider with cinnamon and dairy-free milk
- Only have frozen fruit? Just make sure it's thawed first before using it.
- Using fruit juice instead of the whole fruit? Keep in mind that it'll be sweeter since the sugars are more concentrated so you may not need to add as much sweetener.
- Depending on the fruit you choose, you may need to adjust the added sweetness amount, depending on the ripeness of your fruit. Just something to keep in mind.
- Only want an Italian soda, but no cream? Leave out the milk, and you'll have a homemade, healthy soda.
More Healthy Nostalgic Childhood Desserts
If you like this enjoyed this healthier spin on strawberry Italian cream sodas, be sure to check out:
- 1½ cups hulled strawberries or fruit of choice
- 2 tablespoons sweetener organic cane sugar, raw honey, or maple syrup
- ½ cup dairy-free milk oat or canned coconut milk
- Club soda or sparkling water
- Handful of ice
- Add fruit to a blender with sweetener and blend until it's pureed. If your blender isn't powerful enough, you may need to add a little water to get it going. Taste and adjust sweetness as needed.
- In each glass, put the desired amount of ice, 2 to 3 tablespoons of the fruit puree, fill ¾ of the way with sparkling water and top off with 2 to 3 tablespoons of dairy-free milk.
- Mix with a spoon to incorporate before drinking.
- Serves about 4.