Butter Pecan Ice Cream

The first recipes for “iced cream” are believed to have originated in Paris, where they were carefully guarded secrets within the Louvre or the Royal Palace. More than 100 years before refrigeration was available, freezing techniques often failed, but this didn’t stop Europeans from experimenting with bizarre flavors — including foie gras or puréed asparagus. In the end, they hit on some classics that are still with us today. This recipe, with its distinctive American ingredient of pecans, is a much-requested flavor at Serendipity.–Stephen Bruce

Butter Pecan Ice Cream Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes 1 generous quart


  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves (For a more refined, less chunky version, pecans can be coarsely chopped)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup light cream
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1. Place pecans on a cookie sheet and roast them at 350°F (175°C) for 6 minutes. Turn the sheet once, front to back, for even toasting. Remove baking sheet from the oven when pecans are fragrant, but not blackened.
  • 2. Set aside until pecans are cool.
  • 3. Whisk egg yolks in a medium heat-safe bowl until pale yellow and set aside.
  • 4. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until it begins to brown and smell nutty, stirring constantly. Add brown sugar and stir until melted. Reduce heat to low, add milk and light cream, and bring to a simmer. Add half the milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk until blended.
  • 5. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the remaining milk and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 10 minutes. (Be extremely careful not to overheat, as it is easy to curdle egg yolks. Small lumps will quickly develop, and the correct consistency will be ruined. If testing with a candy thermometer, do not heat past 170°F [76C].)
  • 6. Strain the batter into a clean, large heat-safe bowl. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla extract. Cover and refrigerate the batter until completely cold, preferably overnight.
  • 7. Stir the batter gently and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • 8. Add the toasted pecans to the ice cream in the last 5 minutes of churning and let the machine mix them in. Remove the ice cream with a spatula and store in a plastic container in the freezer.
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