Whether you’ve been forced to go lactose-free or you’ve committed to making your dessert a little lighter, you’ve probably tried some of the so-called “healthy” ice-cream brands that are filling the freezer aisles. But those treats are often full of chemical flavors and sweeteners, and they just can’t compete with homemade freshness.
When researching the best products to help you keep cool in the summer, Reviewed came across the Yonanas, an at-home soft serve maker that’s hugely popular on Amazon. As someone who loves indulging but also has to limit my dairy intake, I was intrigued when I read the Yonanas’ big claim: That it can churn out smooth soft serve with nothing but frozen fruit.
But how good could it actually be? We purchased a unit and got to churning to find out.
What is the Yonanas?
The Yonanas soft serve machine, made by the world’s largest fruit and vegetables producer, Dole, is a crossover between a blender and an ice cream maker. Using frozen bananas as the creamy base, it blends up any fruit you throw at it and promises rich, soft serve-like frozen treats. Unlike conventional ice cream makers, the Yonanas doesn’t require the addition of any dairy products, making it suitable for different dietary needs.
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to assemble the parts—there’s a base, a plunger, a chute with spinning blades inside, a blade cone, and a gasket that keeps everything together. You don’t need any tools to set it up because everything is already screwed on.
What we like
First, the machine itself doesn’t cost too much if you’re getting the basic Yonanas model. At a reasonable price ($39.99), you’re able to make ice-cream-like treats at home for less than the cost of a couple months of buying ice cream out. The deluxe version, the Yonanas Elite ($124.05), costs substantially more, and while some reviewers prefer it to the original for its capacity and speed, we opted to test the classic model for its popularity and affordability. The compact size of the original makes the machine easy to store, which is important for a single-purpose device like this.
When testing, it took about five minutes (post freezing and thawing) to make a batch that serves two people. I used chopped frozen bananas and frozen strawberries to create a healthy version of strawberry ice cream. I was amazed by how much the taste resembled a cup of real ice cream.
The Yonanas recommends you use frozen bananas as the base of each batch to achieve the texture and taste of soft serve ice-cream. However, you can use any frozen berries or other fruit to make sorbet, parfait, pie fillings, smoothie bowls, and even guacamole. The Yonanas comes with a recipe book that covers a wide range of desserts and treats you can explore. The recipe book is well-designed so that you can browse through categories to find the recipes you want to try.
What we don’t like
Although the Yonanas can help fulfill your ice cream needs on the hottest days of summer, the machine isn’t without its flaws. First of all, you really need to plan ahead of time to use it. The machine only works with frozen ripe bananas, so you’ll need to let them ripen, chop them into pieces, and freeze them for easy blending.
And even with all the planning taken care of, you still need to let the frozen fruit thaw for about 10 minutes for smooth churning. Otherwise, it can be difficult to get solid foods down the chute. What’s more, the spinning blades inside the chute will “eat” half of your fruit mix, so you need to disassemble the machine and scrape the remaining frozen treats off the inside of the chute once you’re done with it.
The machine is also very noisy. If you’re expecting guests, it’s better to make the frozen treats in advance.
How to clean the Yonanas
To clean your Yonanas, simply unscrew and detach the pieces from the base. Scoop out any remaining fruit chunks, then rinse the pieces under warm water and let them dry. It’s dishwasher-safe according to the manual, but some Amazon reviewers pointed out that the chute would “warp and shrink” after being put in a dishwasher. All parts are made of plastic, so the surfaces are smooth and relatively easy to clean.
Is the Yonanas worth it?
This small but powerful machine has changed my expectation for dairy-free soft serve makers. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t actually “ice cream” when I first tasted it. According to reviews from adults with small children, this machine is great at encouraging kids to start loving fruit at a young age. It’s also good for entertaining guests and people with different dietary restrictions. For the price, it certainly works, but it takes time and effort to create the advertised creamy consistency. It's up to you to decide how much the taste of summer is worth.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.