Making ice cream from scratch might sound like an activity that’s fun for the kids, but not exactly something to do regularly. Between endless hand cranking and a soupy result that isn’t what you’d imagined, the process can leave you feeling less than satisfied. But we’re here to report that it is totally possible to make ice cream that’s as delicious as it is easy. We spoke with two food-blogging couples, the duos behind Two Peas & Their Pod and A Couple Cooks, to get the secrets behind making delicious — not soupy or melty! — ice cream at home.
There are two easy ways to get silky-smooth, scoopable ice cream at home: With an ice cream maker or by making no-churn ice cream. Sonja Overhiser, half of A Couple Cooks, prefers the former, and she and her husband use the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker.
“A quality ice cream maker is important to us,” she explains. “We’ve been burned by a low-quality maker that made melty ice cream, so we made sure to get a new one that would hold up.” This Cuisinart machine is really all you need — no rock salt or additional supplies. The device can churn ice cream in about 15 minutes, although you will need to do some planning ahead, because the bowl, which comes out of the machine, needs to be frozen overnight. The ice cream can be eaten immediately for a soft-serve texture or frozen in a loaf pan for a more scoopable consistency.
A good ice cream scoop can always come in handy as well. The Overhisers’ favorite scoop is available on Amazon, though this similar one from Oxo, with a pointy tip and comfortable rubber handle, may ship faster at the moment.
If you don’t want to buy an ice cream maker quite yet, or you don’t have the space for one, consider no-churn ice cream, where whipped cream is folded in with condensed milk and flavorings and then frozen. Maria Lichty of Two Peas & Their Pod uses a KitchenAid mixer with the whisk attachment. However, you can also use a hand mixer. The ice cream can then be frozen in a loaf pan until it’s hard enough to scoop.
Cuisinart Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker ($73.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)
The Overhisers invested in this after being burned by a budget model and haven’t looked back.
Balci Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop ($12.95; amazon.com)
This is the Overhisers’ favorite scoop, because the pointed end helps you dig into frozen ice cream more easily.
Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Ice Cream Scoop ($14.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)
Similar to the Balci scoop, but potentially more readily available to ship, this also has a nonslip grip so your hand won’t get too tired or cold.
KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer ($279.99; amazon.com)
This machine is a favorite of our editors for numerous reasons, one being that using the whisk attachment and whipping cream for no-churn ice cream is practically effortless.
Cuisinart 7-Speed Electric Hand Mixer ($59.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)
Cuisinart’s hand mixer is a space-saving way to whip up delicate creams for folding into ice cream or for whipping mousse, tackling tough doughs and mixing batters.
USA Loaf Pan ($15; surlatable.com)
Lichty recommends this nonstick loaf pan for freezing her no-churn ice cream.
Making ice cream with a machine
The biggest thing to consider when making ice cream is time: It can take more than 24 hours from start to finish, even though most of that is hands-off, like freezing the ice cream bowl overnight. Many recipes will also call for combining the ingredients over heat to mix them well, then allowing them to cool before adding to the machine. Then, once the ice cream is churned, it goes back in the freezer to set to a hard consistency. You can start with a basic vanilla recipe and use that as an entry point for playing around with mix-ins and flavors. The Overhisers’ popular chocolate vegan ice cream is also an easy and dairy-free first recipe to tackle.
“Alex and I don’t eat 100% vegan, but we love vegan ice cream because it’s a little lighter and just as creamy,” Sonja Overhiser says. Another advantage to the vegan ice cream? The ingredients are all shelf-stable, meaning you can stock up and make ice cream whenever the craving hits.
The Overhisers have played around with getting their vegan ice cream as creamy as regular dairy, and have learned a few tricks. First, use full-fat coconut milk as the base. Adding cornstarch helps thicken it, and agave syrup in addition to granulated sugar keeps it sweet but not gritty. Once the ingredients are combined and warmed in a small saucepan, then chilled, they go straight into the machine for 15 minutes.
The vegan chocolate ice cream is also easy to experiment with. If you want to make it into a vegan vanilla ice cream, the Overhisers suggest leaving out the cocoa powder and chocolate and adding more vanilla. Add peppermint extract and chocolate chips to make it peppermint chip, or mix in peanut butter to make it chocolate peanut butter ice cream. You can check out more variations on their website, but that’s just the beginning: Start experimenting with your own favorite flavors, spices and mix-ins as well! The Overhisers recommend freezing their vegan ice cream for at least four hours for those who prefer a harder consistency.
Making no-churn ice cream
Look Ma, no machine! You can also make ice cream without the machine. A benefit of the Lichtys’ no-churn ice cream is that it requires less advance planning, since there’s no need to chill or cook ingredients ahead of time. Start by whipping cream until high peaks form (around three minutes). Then sweetened condensed milk is folded in with a rubber spatula, then the mix-ins are added. Finally, the mixture is poured into a loaf pan and frozen for at least six hours. You don’t have to add sugar because the condensed milk is already sweet. You can even make the base chocolate by stirring in cocoa powder with the cream before whipping it.
To get started, check out a pair of recipes for Two Peas & Their Pod’s popular no-churn ice creams: Salted Caramel Toffee Pretzel and Cinnamon Snickerdoodle. With both, you can buy premade ingredients or make your own caramel sauce or snickerdoodles to experiment more.
Serve it up!
The hardest part of making homemade ice cream is the waiting. The easiest part? Definitely the eating. We’ve collected some of our personal favorites and top-rated supplies for serving up your own ice cream party any day of the week.
Otis Classic Whipped Cream Dispenser ($59.99; amazon.com)
Homemade whipped cream is far tastier than the stuff from a can. You can whip it up using a whisk attachment on a hand or stand mixer, or have it “on demand” with a handy whipped cream dispenser.
Waffle Bowls, 10-count (prices vary by location; target.com)
Waffle cones are great, but opting for one usually means toppings are a no-go. That is, unless you scoop them into a waffle cone bowl and get the best of both worlds. (You’re welcome.)
Wilton Rainbow Sprinkles (prices vary by location; target.com)
Rainbow sprinkles brighten up anything. If you need more sprinkles inspiration beyond using them to top cupcakes and sundaes, check out Two Peas & Their Pod’s recipe for Funfetti cookies.
Libbey 12-Ounce Fountain Shoppe Glasses, Set of 6 ($19.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)
Homemade ice cream is also a great base for other desserts, like ice cream pie or milkshakes. These glasses from Libbey are perfect for a dose of nostalgia as you enjoy an old-fashioned milkshake or even an oversized sundae.
’The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments’ ($10.26; amazon.com)
If you’re looking for some recipe inspiration in book form, try this beloved bestselling collection that has more than 800 positive reviews on Amazon. Explore all sorts of flavors and combinations with expert advice along the way.
’Dairy-Free Ice Cream: 75 Recipes Made Without Eggs, Gluten, Soy, or Refined Sugar’ ($29.95; barnesandnoble.com)
If you have dietary restrictions for health reasons, personal reasons or any reason at all, this book has recipes that help you avoid ingredients that might traditionally keep ice cream off your menu. It has more than 200 positive reviews on Amazon and is available now at Barnes & Noble.
However you make your own ice cream, the real fun is finding new favorite flavor combinations or discovering how to make your all-time favorite flavor at home..
“Go with your gut!” urges Overhiser. “There’s really no wrong answer.”
The prices above reflect the listed retailer’s price on the date this article was published.