Vanilla Bean Ice Cream + Variations · GF (1 quart)

I held a blind tasting of two batches of ice cream, both made with this recipe. I learned that using conventional eggs and dairy results in a gorgeously white ice cream with a pronounced vanilla flavor. Using free range eggs and fresh, local dairy results in a creamy yellow ice cream with an old fashioned custard flavor. Click through the link above if you’d like to learn more about the role ingredients can play in this simple recipe.

vanilla bean ice cream mad with non homogenized organic milk

I call for an ounce of booze to inhibit ice crystals from forming during the churning process. A neutral spirit like vodka works well, but I’m partial to a shot of bourbon which underscores the flavor of the vanilla bean. Use what sounds good to you, or none at all.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
10 oz cream
10 oz whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped; seeds reserved
6 ounces egg yolks (from between 7-10 eggs, depending on size)
6 ounces sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt or more, to taste
optional: 1/2 ounce liquor

In a medium pot, bring the milk and cream to a boil together with the vanilla bean. When the mixture begins to simmer, shut off the heat and cover with a lid. Steep for one hour, or as long as 24; if you plan to steep it for longer than 4 hours, stash the pot in the refrigerator.

When your chosen steep time has elapsed, return the dairy mixture to a simmer.

Fish out the vanilla bean and use a spatula to scrape out all of the heavily flavored cream from inside the pod. That stuff is liquid gold, make sure not to lose a drop. It’s easier to scrape out the vanilla pod while it’s still warm (hence bringing the mix to a simmer) because when cold, the vanilla-goo congeals and sticks more resolutely to the bean.

Meanwhile whisk together the yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Next, whisk some of the hot dairy into the egg yolks, one ladle-full at a time, until the egg mixture is quite warm and fluid. Then whisk the egg mixture back into the pot of cream. Turn the heat to medium and use a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula to stir constantly, making sure to scrape all along the bottom of the pot while to avoid allowing any of the mixture to curdle.

Continue cooking and stirring until the ice cream base thickens markedly (“coating the back of a wooden spoon” being the popular description of done-ness).

Immediately shut off the heat and strain the custard through a sieve and into a large bowl. Stir in the liquor, if using.

Cool in an ice bath and refrigerate overnight. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.


Banana Ice Cream : same recipe with the addition of fresh banana, but it required a little more explanation than I could cram into a footnote. One of my favorites!

Berry Ice Cream; essentially a half batch of the vanilla base, blended with a strawberry reduction or blue, black, or raspberry reduction. By using a reduction, rather than fresh fruit, you remove the berries’ water and effective add, ounce for ounce, more fruit to the base for an intense berry flavor that won’t get icy.

Basil Ice Cream

For basil ice cream, you’ll need 2 ounces fresh basil and Hendrick’s gin to use as your liquor. If you don’t have Hendrick’s, use a neutral spirit instead; Hendrick’s has a unique herbal note that works wonderfully with the basil in the ice cream, but I can’t say that’s universally true of gin.

Blitz the basil in a food processor with the sugar and whisk into the eggs, otherwise following the “normal” directions given above. After straining cooked custard, press firmly on the mass of basil left in the sieve. The wet, shredded leaves will release quite a bit of basil-scented dairy back into the ice cream base, as well as a solid dose of green color.

The base will seem greener than the finished product, lightens to a yellow-green color as the air is churned in. For a more pronounced basil color, use just a speck of blue food coloring to counteract the yellow undertones of the egg yolks in the base. (Green food coloring, combined with the color of the yolks, makes for a rather army-green shade.)

Otherwise, simply process the base in your ice cream maker as directed.


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Any questions?

Jun 20, 2011 · 12:42 PM

Lovely! Thanks for sharing! That shot of ice cream is absolutely mouth watering. I wish mine hadn’t turned all icy on top when I started shooting…

 · kaitlin ·

Jun 20, 2011 ·  9:30 PM

@Kaitlin, I wouldn’t mind a pinch of icy in exchange for the color yours had, it was magnificent. So it developed weird icies on top when you started shooting? How strange!


Jun 25, 2011 ·  2:36 AM

Haha – thanks! The owner of the patch told me that the variety of berries she grows are best when picked at an almost maroon color. So – yes – they were quite dark! Still bummed about the icy-coating in the photos, but it’s still perfectly smooth in the freezer. Somehow my mom forgot about it while I was away. I just helped myself to a few spoonfuls! Also, I just used your basic custard recipe to make candy cane ice cream for my cousin (I made it loooooong ago in my early days of baking and she talks about it all the time). It’s setting up in the freezer now and I can’t wait to try it in the AM! YOU’RE THE BEST!

 · kaitlin ·

Jun 25, 2011 ·  1:46 PM

Oh golly, I bet those berries were gorgeous and oh so delicious! Candy cane ice cream sounds ultra refreshing! I love making pink peppermint ice cream sandwiches. I’m a sucker for mint chocolate anything, though. I don’t have any eggs in my mint recipe, though, so I’ll be curious to hear how yours turns out! Keep me posted.


Dec 04, 2011 ·  2:15 PM

Is the cream necessary? If not what are some substitutes.

 · i ce · 

Dec 04, 2011 ·  3:50 PM

@i ce, Cream is really important for ice cream to have a nice, smooth texture. It is ice cream after all. You can use coconut milk as a substitute, but that will change the flavor a little.


Mar 19, 2013 ·  3:32 AM

Hey there!
Got myself an ice cream maker recently and your Vanilla Bean ice cream was the first to be tested. Wow. That was one really creeeamy ice cream. Those black specks just made it more interesting.. We are currently rationing it so that it would last longer.. hehe I hope…

My niece is already asking for strawberry ice cream… oh gosh..

 · sharina · 

Mar 19, 2013 ·  6:19 PM

Congrats on the new ice cream maker, Sharina, hurray!! I’m so glad your inaugural batch of ice cream was a success, and that you included the vanilla bean. Soooo good. Good luck with the strawberry!


May 02, 2013 ·  7:52 PM

The banana recipe is great! Do you have any thoughts on a rose ice cream recipe?

 · Sharon · 

May 05, 2013 ·  7:17 PM

Hi Sharon! I haven’t played with rose petals, or anything, but I’d imagine a basic vanilla base will a 1/2 teaspoon of rose flower water would be a lot like what you might be looking for….


May 24, 2013 · 10:07 PM

Hi Stella. Just to let you know, that I made the strawberry ice cream, and it tasted like the real fruit! Awesome! Makes all the labour of making the reduction worth it. Thanks!

 · Sharina · 

May 27, 2013 ·  9:37 PM

Ooph, I know! That reduction can be a real pain sometimes, but once you’ve made a big batch, it’s so useful. I’m really happy to hear the ice cream turned out for you after all, whew!


Jun 03, 2013 · 12:12 AM

Hi Stella, what is your suggestion for chocolate-flavored ice cream? Thanks..

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 · Margherita ·

Jun 21, 2017 ·  3:05 PM

How would this recipe work with using vanilla extract instead of the bean?

 · Kas · 

Jul 06, 2017 ·  9:03 PM

You say to reserve the seeds from the vanilla bean. Are they ever put back in the ice cream or do you save them for another use?

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