White Sesame Pistachio Crunch Ice Cream Recipe

Nutty white sesame gets a flavor boost from orange and vanilla, with chunks of pistachios for crunch.

Photograph: Max Falkowitz

It was Chinese New Year last weekend, and as has become tradition, it fell to me to make the black sesame ice cream. So there I was, rummaging through the spice cabinet for the tub of black sesame when out came tumbling the white seeds instead.

Well, I thought, white sesame ice cream would be pretty nice too. Plus if I brought both flavors I could make some cool molded yin yang desserts and...well, that didn't happen. Because when you stir orange zest into hot ice cream base—the same addition I make to my black sesame seed version—the result doesn't taste like Chinese New Year. It tastes like a Greek bakery.

It was clear I was forcing the ice cream into a direction it didn't want to go, so out with the Chinese dessert plans and in with the whole halvah-creamsicle custard I had going. Some vanilla went in for balance, along with toasted pistachios once the ice cream had churned.

This ice cream balances mellow nutty flavors with floral-citrus sweetness, and it'd pair perfectly with some Middle Eastern-style baklava. But it cries out for something tart, a bold topping to give it contrast. The answer is another Middle Eastern staple: pomegranate molasses, pomegranate juice reduced down to a sweet-tart syrup that becomes sticky like hot fudge when poured over ice cream.

You won't want to serve this to say farewell to the year of the snake, but come Greek Easter or an end-of-Ramadan feast, it may fit right in.

Recipe Facts

Active: 60 mins
Total: 13 hrs
Makes: 1 quart

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  • 1/2 cup freshly toasted white sesame seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly toasted pistachios, chilled in freezer
  • For Serving:
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses


  1. Grind freshly toasted sesame seeds in blender on medium speed for 10 seconds, until they are mostly pulverized. Pour in about 1/2 cup milk and blend for another 10 seconds until a fine paste forms. Add remaining milk and cream and blend on high for 30 seconds, until well combined.

  2. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until pale in color and lightly thickened. Pour in dairy, whisk to combine, and cook on medium heat, whisking frequently, until a custard forms on the back of a spoon and a swiped finger leaves a clean line. Strain custard into an airtight container, pressing on sesame solids to extract all liquid.

  3. Stir in orange zest and vanilla extract, then salt to taste. Chill at least 6 hours or overnight in refrigerator, then churn the next day according to manufacturer's instructions. In the last minute of churning, add pistachios.

  4. Transfer churned ice cream to airtight container and chill in freezer for at least 4 hours before serving. To serve, top each bowl with 1 to 2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses.

Special equipment

blender, ice cream maker


You can find pomegranate molasses in Middle Eastern groceries, likely near the rose or orange blossom water. It's an optional topping for this ice cream, though highly recommended.