How to Make Homemade Ice Cream—and 5 Recipes to Try

Making ice cream from scratch allows you to be infinitely creative with your favorite mix-ins.

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Homemade raspberry ice cream
Photo: Picalotta/Getty Images

Stop by a grocery store these days, and you'll probably find a wide range of frozen desserts. But there's nothing quite like homemade ice cream! It's much easier than it seems to make ice cream from scratch, and it's obviously delicious. Only a few simple ingredients are required to make homemade ice cream, and there are no fillers, thickeners, emulsifiers, preservatives, or stabilizers in sight. The best part is the variety of mix-ins you can add.

The homemade ice cream experience starts with the ice cream base, which then turns into the frozen dessert we all know and love. Whether the ice cream is milk or water-based, the base will be made up of milk, cream, sugar, and eggs (whole or just the yolks). There are different bases to experiment with, and they range from fuss-free to one requiring more attention to detail, yet they're still incredibly simple. Keep reading to learn how to make homemade ice cream!

Types of Ice Cream


Custard-based ice cream, the most common type, is a French-style ice cream. It is usually an egg custard with a good amount of heavy cream, and the technique is the same as making crème anglaise—the rich custard sauce that's served hot or cold over a variety of desserts. This base does take a little babysitting and caution to ensure the eggs don't scramble. Pro tip: even if there's a slight look of curdled eggs, pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl for smooth results.


Philadelphia-style ice cream, sometimes known as American-style ice cream, doesn't contain eggs. The base is made up of milk, cream, or a combination of both. It's frozen just like custard-based ice cream, yet the texture can lean grainy because of the lack of a luscious custard.

Considerations Before You Get Started

To make traditional ice cream, including either of the methods described above, you need an ice cream maker. Churning ice cream prevents large ice crystals from forming and clumping together, therefore smaller ice crystals encourage a smoother texture in the finished product. While ice cream makers range in price and quality, it's easy to find fairly inexpensive options at around $20.

There are also several no-churn options to make ice cream without a machine. They range from shaking up heavy cream, sugar, and mix-ins in a mason jar, to whipping up a sweetened condensed milk-and-heavy cream base with fruit.

There are infinite possibilities when it comes to flavoring homemade ice cream. Just before transferring to the freezer, fold in a handful of chopped fresh fruit or chopped mix-ins like pretzels, marshmallows, nuts, chocolate chips, or candy; a generous drizzle of syrups, nut butters, melted chocolate, or a smidge (or more!) of instant espresso powder or freeze-dried fruit pulsed in a food processor into a powder. Feel free to skip the vanilla in the base and swap it for another extract depending on the flavor profile you are craving.

What You'll Need


  • Ice cream maker
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, or 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt


How to Make Homemade Ice Cream

The basic ice cream recipe below will become your go-to base and a blank canvas. Enjoy it as is, or experiment with flavors and mix-ins and make it your own creation. You will need an ice cream maker to make this custard-based ice cream. Most ice cream makers call to freeze the bowl at least a day in advance, so plan ahead.

Step 1: Set Aside a Bowl With Ice

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set a clean bowl over it. (This helps to cool down the base later.) Place a fine mesh sieve over the bowl; set aside.

Step 2: Mix and Simmer Milk, Cream, Sugar, and Vanilla

Combine milk, cream, half the sugar, and vanilla in a large saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Watch carefully to ensure the milk does not boil. Remove from heat.

Step 3: Beat the Eggs

Beat the egg yolks with a pinch of salt and the remaining sugar in a large bowl until well combined and the mixture lightens in color.

Step 4: Add Milk Mixture

Gradually whisk in half the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture to warm the eggs slightly and help to keep the eggs from curdling in the following step. Return the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture.

Step 5: Thicken the Custard

Cook custard over medium, stirring throughout, until thickened and custard coats the back of a wooden spoon, 4 to 6 minutes. Custard should be thick enough that it leaves a trail and does not come back together when you run your finger through it on the spoon.

Step 6: Strain the Custard

Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve into the prepared bowl over ice. Discard vanilla pod, if using. Let cool, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Custard can be made up to one day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Step 7: Move It to the Ice Cream Maker

Process custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions until the base has thickened.

Step 8: Transfer and Freeze

Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm for at least 4 hours and up to 1 week. Makes 1 quart.

Homemade Ice Cream Recipes

Now that you know what goes into making ice cream at home, feel free to experiment with these easy ice cream recipes.

Easy Cookies 'n' Cream Ice Cream

Easy Cookies ‘n’ Cream Ice Cream

With just five ingredients, this crowd-favorite flavor omits eggs in the ice cream base. You'll need an ice cream maker to throw together this ice cream recipe, but the easy base is fool-proof and comes together in a snap.

No-Churn Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream

No Churn Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream
Samantha Seneviratne

For an ice cream recipe that doesn't require an ice cream maker, give this treat a try. While similar to traditional strawberry ice cream, roasting the berries gives this dessert a complexity of flavors that you won't find in the store-bought stuff. Not a strawberry fan? Substitute peaches or plums instead.

Homemade Rolled Ice Cream

Rolled ice cream
Getty Images

Rolled ice cream is a frozen dessert that originated in Thailand, often referred to as Thai rolled ice cream or stir-fried ice cream. The base is just two (!) ingredients, heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk, and there is no ice cream maker needed– all you really need is a small rimmed baking sheet and a spatula to scrape and roll the ice cream base. The hardest part will be choosing your favorite mix-ins.

Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Break out the ice cream maker for this five-ingredient ice cream studded with chocolate chunks. It's a fuss-free ice cream base that only calls for heavy cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, and chopped semi-sweet chocolate. Experiment with different flavors and mix in equal parts chocolate and peanut butter chips, or chocolate and mini marshmallows.

No-Churn Papaya Ice Cream

Victor Protasio

No ice cream maker needed for this tropical dessert, which is made with heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and fresh papaya chunks. Transform an ordinary bowl of this ice cream into a sundae by adding roasted pineapple, toasted coconut flakes, and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

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