Classic Vanilla Ice Milk Recipe

Like sorbet, ice milk is light and refreshing on a hot summer's day, but with the creamy, soft consistency you'll find in the best ice cream.

Photograph: Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Milk powder provides a second layer of dairy flavor, while working to eliminate iciness in the finished product.
  • Holding the base at a boil for 60 seconds ensures that the cornstarch is fully dissolved, eliminating any trace of starchy taste or texture.
  • Reserving some of the milk off-heat preserves its fresh flavor, while also helping the base to cool faster.

With its light and lean formula, ice milk is more refreshing than ice cream on a hot summer day, and a brilliant pairing with already-rich desserts, like brownies and cake. Thanks to a careful balance of sugar and powdered milk, along with a bit of starch, it churns up super smooth, with a soft and scoopable consistency straight from the freezer. Its delicate vanilla flavor and silky mouthfeel are reminiscent of Dairy Queen soft-serve.

Recipe Facts

Active: 15 mins
Total: 5 hrs
Serves: 10 servings
Makes: 5 cups

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  • 9 1/4 ounces plain or very lightly toasted sugar (about 1 1/3 cups; 262g)

  • 1 1/4 ounces cornstarch (about 1/4 cup; 35g)

  • 1 3/4 ounces powdered milk (about 1/4 cup; 50g)

  • 1 teaspoon (4g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt (plus more if desired); for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight

  • 28 ounces whole milk (about 3 1/2 cups; 795g), divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, powdered milk, and salt together in a 3-quart saucier. When no lumps of cornstarch remain, add exactly 14 ounces of the milk (about 1 2/3 cups; 396g) and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly but not vigorously, until it begins to simmer. This will take about 6 minutes; if the process seems to be moving slowly, simply turn up the heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, set a timer and continue cooking and whisking for exactly 1 minute. This ensures the cornstarch is fully hydrated.

  2. Immediately transfer mixture to a large bowl, then whisk in remaining milk, along with the vanilla. Bearing in mind that the ice milk will taste substantially less sweet once frozen, season with an additional pinch of salt, if desired. Cover and refrigerate the base until cold, thick, and no warmer than 40°F (4°C), about 3 hours. (This process can be sped along with an ice bath if time is of the essence; in that case, a stainless steel bowl will help cool the base even faster.)

  3. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Meanwhile, place a quart-sized container and flexible spatula in the freezer. When the ice milk looks fluffy and thick, shut off the machine and, using the chilled spatula, scrape it into the chilled container. Enjoy as soft-serve, or cover with plastic pressed directly against the surface of the ice milk, then close lid and freeze until firm enough to scoop, about 4 hours. (The time will vary depending on the material and dimensions of the container.)

Special equipment

3-quart stainless steel saucier, ice cream maker, nonreactive, freezer-safe container


After making the ice milk, stir in your favorite extracts to taste, or try flavoring it with ingredients such as freeze-dried coffee powder, powdered green tea, or ground spices. The milk can also be steeped with vanilla beans, tea leaves, dried flower buds, whole spices, and other nonacidic flavoring agents.

This Recipe Appears In

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
182 Calories
3g Fat
36g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 182
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 3%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 9mg 3%
Sodium 217mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 33g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 152mg 12%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 191mg 4%
*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.)