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How to Make Vanilla Ice Cream from Scratch

10 minutes Cook
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Homemade ice cream is a delicious summertime treat. This vanilla ice cream recipe produces a silky, ultra-creamy ice cream packed with vanilla flavor.

With just a few simple ingredients like cream, milk, sugar, and real vanilla you can create old-fashioned ice cream that beats any store-bought pint.

Read on for step-by-step instructions, tips for achieving the perfect creamy texture, and ideas for customizing with mix-ins.

Equipment Needed

Here are some Equipment needed for this recipe:

Prep the Ice Cream Maker

If using an ice cream maker, freeze the canister overnight so it’s completely chilled before starting.

Cook the Custard Base

  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and salt.
  2. Warm over medium heat, stirring frequently, until steam begins to rise from the mixture. Turn off heat.
  3. Whisk in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds if using. Let steep for 30 minutes.
  4. Reheat the mixture to just scalding (bubbles start to form at edge).
  5. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Churn the Ice Cream

  1. Remove the ice cream base from the refrigerator and whisk thoroughly.
  2. Pour into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Churn for 20-25 minutes per manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Once the ice cream has reached a soft, creamy consistency, it is ready.

Freeze the Ice Cream

  1. Transfer the ice cream to a loaf pan or freezer-safe storage container.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface to prevent ice crystals.
  3. Freeze for at least 2 hours to allow ice cream to set up.
  4. After initial freezing, transfer to a freezer safe container for long term storage if desired.

Serving Suggestions

  • Scoop into bowls, cones or sundae glasses.
  • Serve with hot fudge, caramel sauce, whipped cream or cherry topping.
  • Sprinkle with crushed candy, cookies, or nuts before serving.
  • Layer it into an ice cream cake or pie.

Mix-in Ideas

Customize your ice cream by adding any of the following to the base after churning:

  • Chocolate chips or chunks
  • Crushed candy or cookies
  • Chopped nuts
  • Fresh fruit like banana chunks or strawberry slices
  • Pie pieces or crumbled cake
  • Granola
  • Almond or peanut butter swirls


  • Store ice cream tightly covered in freezer for 1-2 months for best quality. Eat within 2 weeks for ultimate creamy texture.
  • Softened or melted ice cream can be re-frozen but may crystallize.


  • If ice cream is too icy, try adding more cream to recipe or churning a bit longer.
  • For creamy texture, be sure to fully dissolve sugar while cooking base.
  • Work quickly while freezing to prevent iciness from forming.

With these simple tips, you’ll achieve smooth, creamy homemade ice cream beyond any store-bought!

The Science Behind Making Ice Cream

Understanding the basic science behind ice cream making helps ensure the best results every time.

The base for ice cream is an emulsion. An emulsion is a suspension of fat molecules in water. In ice cream, it’s formed by the blending of cream, milk, and egg yolks.

As the base is churned and air incorporated, the fat molecules coat the air cells and help prevent ice crystals from forming. This results in a smooth creamy texture.

The faster the base freezes, the smaller the ice crystals. This makes a smoother end product. An ice cream maker churns quickly to optimize this.

Sugar helps lower the freezing point so the ice cream doesn’t freeze into a solid block. The sugar and fat content make homemade ice cream much softer than commercially made ice cream.

Key Tips for Success

Follow these tips for velvety smooth ice cream:

  • Cook base just until simmering to properly dissolve sugar. Don’t boil.
  • Chill base fully, ideally overnight.
  • Strain for silky texture without bits of egg or vanilla bean.
  • Churn in ice cream maker for fluffiest texture.
  • Work quickly when transferring to freezer to set.
  • Seal surface tightly with plastic wrap to prevent ice crystals.

Fun Flavor Variations

Once you master basic vanilla ice cream, try your hand at these delicious flavors:

  • Chocolate – use cocoa powder or melted chocolate in base
  • Strawberry – fold in strawberry puree after churning
  • Mint Chocolate Chip – add mint extract and chocolate chunks
  • Coffee – brew espresso into the cream and milk
  • Peanut Butter – swirl in peanut butter before freezing
  • Spiced – add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or cardamom
  • Fruit Swirl – fold in fruit sauce after churning

The options are endless when making ice cream from scratch. Get creative with your own signature flavors!

Make It an Ice Cream Social

Homemade ice cream is the perfect dessert for gatherings. Set up a full ice cream bar for guests to customize their treat:

  • Set out cones, bowls, sundae glasses
  • Offer a variety of toppings like sprinkles, crushed candy, nuts, whipped cream
  • Provide flavored syrups like chocolate, caramel, strawberry
  • Make it boozy with bourbon, Kahlua, or amaretto mix-ins
  • Include cookie crumbles, brownie bites, or cake pieces

Use these ideas to take your homemade ice cream over the top!


Homemade ice cream is a delicious summertime treat. This vanilla ice cream recipe produces a silky, ultra-creamy ice cream packed with vanilla flavor.
prep time
30 minutes (not including overnight chilling)
cooking time
10 minutes
1 quart
total time
7-8 hours


  • Heavy bottomed saucepan

  • Whisk

  • Fine mesh strainer

  • Loaf pan or bowl

  • Plastic wrap

  • Electric mixer or whisk

  • Storage containers


  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 3/4 cup white sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out (optional)


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