Besides tasting better than store-bought (with few exceptions), homemade ice cream is one of the most fun and rewarding kitchen projects you can take on. That's because, once you get a machine and develop a practiced hand at the basics, you can churn up any flavor combination you can think of. Traditional varieties, like chocolate, strawberry, or rocky road, are a given, but that's just the beginning. Peanut butter and honey, rum and lime, pecan and browned butter—all of it can be yours. We've even got a recipe for cheddar cheese ice cream that's perfect on top of apple pie.
Check out our Ice Cream Essentials page for a comprehensive education in DIY frozen treats, or read on for 20 of our favorite recipes for rich dairy ice cream, 100% vegan ice cream (made surprisingly creamy with coconut milk), and soft, full-bodied, Midwestern-style frozen custard.
Dairy-Based Ice Cream
Smoked Muscovado Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream
This isn't the kind of vanilla that's synonymous with "boring." We enhance it with muscovado sugar, a dark raw sugar infused with molasses, plus an ingredient that's not often seen in homemade ice cream recipes: smoked cream. It's smoked just as you would a piece of meat (though with an ice bath, to help keep the temperature down), and you can then add more cream as needed to dilute the smoky flavor. The result is sweet and rich, but also a little pungent.
Scotch Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
For a more grown-up vanilla, add a little whisky to your standard base before churning: The Scotch won't overwhelm the ice cream, but lends a touch of maltiness, while enhancing the floral, honeyed flavors of the vanilla. We'd recommend a Highland Scotch, like Glenlivet 12.
The Darkest Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
This ice cream is for dark-chocolate lovers only—if your ideal of chocolate is mild and milky, steer clear. The recipe starts with a generous amount of high-quality bar chocolate and cocoa powder, but the real secret is cocoa nibs, steeped directly in the base. The nibs fortify the bitter and fruity flavors of good cocoa, for an ice cream that's intensely rich and fudgy.
The Best Mint Chip Ice Cream
The mint chip ice cream I loved in my childhood was packed with mint extract, which provides lots of concentrated mint flavor but is rather one-note. Fresh mint leaves, though not as strong, have a sweet, grassy depth that we put to use here in an updated version of the classic. Chocolate stracciatella swirls are an improvement over the hard nubs of frozen chocolate you tend to find in the store-bought kind.
Smoked Honey Mint Chip Ice Cream
For this unconventional mint chip variation, we add honey along with sugar and fresh mint leaves, and again use smoked cream for a little unusual charred flavor. The honey provides a deep sweetness that helps bridge the gap between the rich smoke and bright mint.
Rocky Road Ice Cream
It's the little chunks of almond and marshmallow hidden within the chocolate ice cream that make rocky road special. We take our version a step further by adding white chocolate and hazelnuts, too. Toast the almonds and hazelnuts for better flavor, and use mild milk chocolate for the ice cream base—it's a nice, understated canvas for all the other flavors.
The Best Strawberry Ice Cream
Strawberry ice cream is a tough one because the berries release a lot of water, making for an ice cream that's way too icy. Adding corn syrup to the base contributes body and helps cut down significantly on the iciness. Use only the freshest, ripest strawberries from your farmers market (and leave them uncooked) to keep the focus on pure fruit flavor.
Bold and Bracing Coffee Ice Cream
If you love the bitter, bold flavor of black coffee, this coffee ice cream has the kick you've been looking for. Five tablespoons of medium-grind coffee are steeped in a base with a moderate butterfat content for a dessert that's just creamy enough, yet refreshing above all, with a good balance between bitter and sweet.
Milky and Mild Coffee Ice Cream
This recipe, on the other hand, is for those who'll always take the latte over the double espresso. It uses a rich, buttery base and limits the coffee infusion to just two tablespoons, for a creamier result with a more restrained coffee flavor. But, in the interest of keeping this tasting like coffee, we do keep the amount of sugar in check.
Peanut Butter Honey Ice Cream
With its high fat, protein, and sugar content, peanut butter is a natural choice for making ice cream that's especially smooth and creamy. To liven up the concoction, we add a strongly flavored wildflower honey, which lends floral and lightly citrusy notes. Choose a honey that's robust, but don't use a super-dark variety like buckwheat; its molasses-y flavor will overwhelm.
Browned Butter Pecan Ice Cream
Your average supermarket butter pecan ice cream is likely to taste just like vanilla ice cream with some nuts scattered throughout. To really bring out the pecan flavor, we steep the nuts in the ice cream base, but mix in a fresh batch of chopped nuts at the end of churning. Browned butter adds a nutty, toasted dimension to the ice cream, and raw sugar brings greater complexity.
Maple Walnut Ice Cream
The same steeping technique comes in handy for making a better maple walnut ice cream. Dark maple syrup complements the nuts with a pleasantly bittersweet complexity. While you could reuse the steeping nuts by mixing them into the final product, you'll get better nutty flavor (and more crunch) by chopping up a second round of nuts.
Dense, Chewy, and Rich New England-Style Ice Cream
The kind of ice cream you're likely to find in New England scoop shops is distinct in its dense, rich consistency; when made right, it takes on an almost taffy-like chewiness. To achieve that density, you'll want as little air as possible in the ice cream. Among the best ways to get that effect at home are using tons of protein (in the form of evaporated milk and egg yolks) and corn syrup, and churning it just until it's set.
30-Minute Philadelphia-Style Ice Cream
Philly-style ice cream incorporates no eggs, which means it churns up lighter, fluffier—and far quicker than most ice creams. Omitting the eggs places all the emphasis on the flavors from the cream, milk, and vanilla. However, it also increases the likelihood of iciness as the ice cream sits in the freezer, so we recommend eating this the same day you make it.
Cheddar Ice Cream for Apple Pie
I don't know when I first learned about the combination of apple pie and cheese, but I know it came as a shock to someone raised to consider ice cream the default pie accompaniment. How to make everyone happy? Split the difference and make this sharp cheddar ice cream, which has the advantage of not turning oily and leathery when used to top pie, as cheese tends to. It isn't meant to be eaten on its own, but pair it with a slice fresh from the oven and you'll be amazed at how well it works.
Vegan Ice Cream
Vegan Mint Chip Ice Cream
There may not be any cream in it, but great-tasting vegan ice cream is no contradiction in terms. Our basic vegan ice cream recipe gets ample richness and body from coconut milk and coconut cream. It makes a fine chocolate or vanilla, but I particularly like how coconut highlights the herbal, refreshing flavor of fresh mint.
Vegan Salty Peanut Butter Ice Cream
No-stir peanut butter is just as good for adding body to vegan ice creams as it is dairy-based ones. Here, we balance the sweetness of both peanut butter and coconut by adding a little extra kosher salt.
Vegan Coconut, Lime, and Rum Ice Cream
This version goes heavy on the coconut in our vegan ice cream base and complements it with other tropical flavors: lime zest for citrusy brightness, and dark rum for deep molasses flavor. Be sparing with the rum, though—too much, and the ice cream won't freeze right.
Soft and Rich Vanilla Frozen Custard
As good as ice cream is, the born-and-bred Midwesterner in me favors ultra-rich frozen custard above all else. The real stuff requires equipment beyond the home-cooking arsenal, but we'll get you close with this recipe, which includes an ice cream base that's heavy on the cream and egg yolks, with a little corn syrup. The final product is soft and creamy, but denser than regular ice cream.
Soft and Rich Chocolate Frozen Custard
If it's chocolate or nothing with you and your custard, just add some Dutch-process cocoa powder to the custard base. As with all frozen custard, enjoy this one within two hours of churning for best results.