Lemon Ice Cream Recipe

Photograph: Max Falkowitz

If you've only ever had lemon sorbet, give lemon ice cream a chance. Sweet and tart, light and creamy, more than a little like lemon meringue pie, it's a beautiful expression of citrus with greater substance than a watery sorbet. This ice cream gets its lemon flavor from three sources: zest steeped into the base, candied whole lemons stirred in during the churn, and a healthy dose of lemon juice for a jolt of puckering tartness.

"All that fat will protect the dairy from curdling into big chunks."

You may be asking, "Won't my dairy curdle if I add lemon juice to it?" If we were talking about milk that'd be true, but the base of this ice cream custard is mostly cream cut with a little half and half, plus plenty of sugar and egg proteins. All that fat will protect the dairy from curdling into big chunks.

The candied lemons that get stirred into the ice cream require more work: slicing them thinly, seeding them, then blanching them three times in three changes of water before cooking in a syrup for 20 minutes. You can find a full how-to on this technique in Lauren Weisenthal's excellent post on candied lemon zest. Although I'm using whole lemons, the procedure and ingredients are essentially the same.

This requires a little effort, but not much time. Start candying your lemons once the ice cream base is done and you'll be finished before the custard has a chance to cool. You can scale the candied lemon recipe up as needed, and the lemons will keep for weeks, so there's no reason not to make a bunch and save it for later. Extra lemon syrup makes some very nice sweet tea.

Recipe Facts

Active: 90 mins
Total: 14 hrs
Serves: 8 to 10 servings
Makes: 1 1/2 quarts

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For Lemon Ice Cream:

  • 6 large egg yolks

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1 cup half-and-half

  • 3/4 cup lemon juice from 6 to 8 lemons

  • Grated zest of 2 lemons

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For Candied Lemons:

  • 2 lemons, sliced about 1/8" thick and finely chopped, seeds removed

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup, glucose, or agave nectar

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. For ice cream: In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Slowly whisk in cream and half and half until fully incorporated. Put on stove on medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until a custard forms on the back of a spoon and a finger swiped across it leaves a clean line, 5 to 7 minutes. Strain into an airtight container and stir in lemon juice, zest, and salt to taste. Cover and chill overnight in refrigerator.

  2. The next day, strain base into ice cream maker to remove zest and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. In last minute of churning, add candied lemons if using (procedure below). Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and let chill in freezer for 5 to 6 hours before serving.

  3. For the candied lemons: Start candying the lemons once you finish making the lemon custard base and chill it in the refrigerator. Set two pots on stove with 1 quart of water in each and bring to a boil. Set a colander or large strainer in the sink. While waiting for water to boil, slice, chop, and seed lemons.

  4. Add lemons to one pot and cook for 20 seconds, then drain lemons into colander in sink and immediately rinse with very cold water until no longer hot. Fill up pot again and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cook lemons in second pot for another 20 seconds, then drain into colander and rinse again until cool. Repeat this process with the freshly boiled water from the first pot.

  5. Put rinsed lemons in an empty pot and add 1 cup fresh water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Heat on medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar, until syrup reaches a bare simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook until lemons are soft and begin to turn translucent, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer syrup and lemons to an airtight container, then chill overnight. Candied lemons will keep for several weeks.

  6. While ice cream is churning, drain syrup away from candied lemons, reserving for another use. Stir lemons in during last minute of churning.

Special Equipment

Ice cream maker

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
379 Calories
21g Fat
47g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 379
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 27%
Saturated Fat 12g 61%
Cholesterol 184mg 61%
Sodium 202mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 17%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 39g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 64mg 319%
Calcium 78mg 6%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 288mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)