How To Make The Best Homemade Ice Cream

Discover how easy it is to make delicious homemade ice cream that rivals what you’d pay for at a gourmet shop. Once you learn the basics, you can turn out your own small-batch artisanal frozen dessert (you could totally call it that) in any flavor imaginable.

Coconut Ice Cream

Photo by Valerie’s Kitchen

Pictured: Coconut Ice Cream

French or Philly?

Homemade ice cream comes in two basic styles: Custard-style (also called French) and Philadelphia-style (also called New York or American).

  • Custard-style ice cream starts with a cooked base enriched with egg yolks, sugar, and cream. This style of ice cream has the smoothest, creamiest, richest texture and flavor.
  • Philadelphia-style ice cream contains no eggs, eliminating the need to cook a base. The texture is lighter and more delicate than custard-style ice cream. It’s also faster to make because there’s no cooked base to cool before churning.

Custard-Style Ice Cream

To make a classic cooked custard ice cream base you’ll need:
8 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups half-and-half
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (optional)

Measuring cups and spoons
Heatproof spatula
Fine-mesh sieve
Ice cream maker
Freezer container

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and half of the sugar. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, stir together the cream, half-and-half, salt, and remaining sugar. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring often, until it comes to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium.
3. Add about 1/2 cup of the cream mixture to the egg mixture while whisking constantly (this helps prevent the eggs from cooking). Repeat with another 1/2 cup of the cream mixture.

How to Make the Best Homemade Ice Cream | Adding hot cream mixture to beaten eggs.

Adding hot cream mixture to beaten eggs. | Photo by Erin Vasick of

4. Using a heatproof spatula, stir the cream mixture in the saucepan constantly as you pour the egg mixture into the pan.

How to Make the Best Homemade Ice Cream | Egg mixture being poured into cream mixture.

Egg mixture being poured into cream mixture. | Photo by Erin Vasick of

5. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and mixture coats the back of the spatula, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

How to Make the Best Homemade Ice Cream | Thickened egg and cream mixture coats the back of a spatula.

Thickened egg and cream mixture coats the back of a spatula. | Photo by Erin Vasick of

6. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and whisk in the vanilla extract. Set the bowl in an ice bath and stir the base occasionally until it’s cooled to room temperature. Remove the bowl from the ice bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

How to Make the Best Homemade Ice Cream | Cooling the base for ice cream in an ice bath.

Cooling the base for ice cream in an ice bath. | Photo by Erin Vasick of

Churning, Ripening, and Storing

Churning (by hand or in a machine) prevents large ice crystals from forming in the ice cream and produces the smooth texture that makes ice cream feel so luxurious when you eat it. Ice cream churned in a machine will generally have more air whipped into the mixture than hand-churning can achieve.

  • If you’re using an ice cream machine, churn following the manufacturer’s instructions. When the mixture has thickened and is hard to stir, remove it from the ice cream maker and transfer it to a freezer container. If you can resist the urge to devour it while it’s still in this “soft-serve” stage, let it harden in the coldest part of your freezer for several hours or overnight. Your patience will be rewarded.
  • If you don’t have an ice cream machine, pour the chilled ice cream mixture into a freezer-safe container and place in the freezer. After an hour, stir vigorously (spatula, whisk or electric hand mixer) in order to break up any hard ice crystals. Repeat every 30 minutes for the next 2-3 hours or until frozen. If not eating immediately, cover until ready to serve.

Tip: To keep your ice cream from becoming super-hard in the freezer, make sure both the ice cream maker and the mixture are kept ice cold as you’re making the ice cream.

Store leftover ice cream in the freezer, in an airtight container with a layer of plastic wrap pressed onto the surface to prevent it from absorbing odors or forming ice crystals.

How to Make the Best Homemade Ice Cream | Churned vanilla ice cream in an ice cream machine.

Machine-churned ice cream. | Photo by Erin Vasick of

5-Star Custard-Style Ice Cream Recipes

Philadelphia-Style Ice Cream

Philadelphia-style ice cream contains no egg yolks and does not require cooking. It’s based purely on cream and sugar. You can churn this kind of ice cream in an ice cream machine or by hand.

5-Star Philadelphia-Style Ice Cream Recipes

Check out 3 ways to make ice cream without a machine.

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What’s Your Favorite Flavor?

Popular add-ins include ripe summer fruits, chocolate, and toasted nuts. Other good choices? Vanilla beans, lavender, green tea, fresh peppermint, and candied ginger.

Tips for adding flavors:

  • Infuse herbs and spices into the mixture as you heat the milk. Strain them out before proceeding with the recipe.
  • Extracts, liqueurs, and flavoring oils (citrus, peppermint, cinnamon) should be added after the custard has cooled slightly.
  • To get the most flavor from a vanilla bean, split it lengthwise with a sharp knife and scrape the seeds into the milk. After the bean has steeped, remove the pod and rinse in cold water and pat dry. “Used” vanilla beans are still powerfully aromatic, and can be stored in a canister of plain granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar.
  • Add perfectly ripe fruits and berries to your ice cream base: sprinkle fruit with sugar and crush it with a potato masher before mixing it in. This adds much more flavor than plain chunks of fruit stirred into the mix.
  • To add nuts, chocolate, crumbled cookies, or whole berries, let the ice cream reach the consistency of soft-serve, and then stir in the garnishes; pack in airtight containers and freeze until firm.


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