This pumpkin ice cream recipe is so simple and foolproof, all you need to worry about is how to have sufficient self-restraint so as not to demolish the entire batch before guests arrive. Or before fall even arrives. An inspired and gluten-free alternative to pumpkin pie.
Yes, pumpkin ice cream. Even though the pumpkin spice everything craze has left some of us less than enthusiastic about pumpkin spice anything, this pumpkin ice cream recipe has swayed us. It’s spiced with ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and sweetened with molasses and brown sugar. Perfectly so, we might add. It’s gluten-free, natch, so it’s a holiday dessert that everyone can belly up to at the table. And it’s so darn lovely, it may make you forget all about the pie.–Renee Schettler
Pumpkin Ice Cream
- 1-quart (or larger) ice cream maker
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar*
- 2 tablespoons light molasses (do NOT substitute blackstrap molasses)
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin purée
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a saucepan off the heat, combine 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces/375 milliliters) cream, brown sugar, and molasses and stir to blend.
- In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and the remaining 1/2 cup (4 ounces/125 milliliters) of cream until well blended.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, just until bubbles form around the edges and the sugar dissolves, 4 to 5 minutes. Don't allow the mixture to come to a boil.
- Immediately remove from the heat and, whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. When almost all of the hot liquid has been incorporated, slowly pour the warmed yolk mixture back into the saucepan, still whisking constantly. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard [Editor's Note: Congratulations! You just made a custard!] is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Pour the hot custard through a strainer into a clean bowl, gently pressing the liquid through the sieve with the back of the spoon. Stir the pumpkin purée and vanilla into the custard just until blended.
- Place the bowl with the custard into a larger bowl filled halfway with ice water and let cool for 30 to 45 minutes. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Prepare an ice cream maker with at least a 1 quart (1 liter) capacity according to the manufacturer’s directions. Pour the custard into the ice cream maker and churn until the custard reaches the consistency of thick whipped cream. Transfer to a plastic freezer container, cover tightly, and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.
*How do I soften brown sugar?Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added, which adds a caramel flavor and a little bit of chewiness to baking. But, unlike white sugar, it starts to dry out as soon as you open up that sealed bag. It has quite a bit more moisture than white sugar so you notice the dryness that much more quickly, especially once it hits that rock-hard state. So what to do? First, store it properly so that it doesn’t get too dried out in the first place. A plastic zippered bag with all the air squeezed out works really well for this. For extra protection, popping a slice of white bread or a big squishy marshmallow in there will help, too. If you missed that storage step and now have a sweet brown rock, you’re still ok. Put some sugar into a glass bowl and top it with a folded square of damp paper towel, pop it into the microwave, and heat it once or twice in increments of 20 seconds. You can also just add a fresh slice of bread, a couple of apple slices, or a sugar bear to your bag of sugar if you’re not in a hurry to get baking.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I have tried pumpkin ice cream before and it always seems to just be vanilla with some nutmeg to flavor. This version takes it to a whole new level. So rich and packed with more deep complex flavor than any store-bought version. I didn’t have any problems with the recipe, it went exactly as written.
After pouring the ice cream into the frozen base of my ice cream maker, I started doing other things. After 40 minutes I checked on it and it was already ready to put in the freezer, maybe thicker than whipped cream consistency so probably ready even before this. I tasted it as I scooped it into a container for freezing and knew this was going to be a hit!
About 6 hours later, we finally tried the final product. So rich you only need a small amount but so good you want to eat more! This could definitely go with or replace your traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. I even wondered if pouring this into a crust and having a pumpkin ice cream pie would work?
Just lovely! This pumpkin ice cream is earthy and rich with real pumpkin flavor. It’s another great reason to make your own ice cream and a really nice way to use the abundance of fresh sugar pumpkins this time of year.
It took great discipline to give the finished ice cream the suggested 3-hour wait in the freezer before serving. The spicing was just right—I like that it didn’t have allspice or clove, and I may have been slightly more generous in measuring the ginger. I only had dark molasses on hand, but I had several choices that are generally acceptable substitutes for light molasses, including Lyle’s Golden Syrup, a German sugar-beet syrup, and maple syrup. Using dark molasses would have darkened the appearance and might have dominated the flavor. The most appealing substitute was actually maple syrup, so I chose that. The texture of the cream and brown sugar blend had a lovely silken look and sheen, similar to a nice caramel sauce.
If you are careful and slow in drizzling in the hot cream and brown sugar mixture into the egg mixture, you will temper it while whisking slowly but continuously and have no problem at all with curdling. Still, make sure to strain it before chilling. An easy make-ahead recipe. I’m already plotting how to include this in a holiday dessert selection. Now, on to make something fun with those egg whites.
It’s a good thing that you need to remove this pumpkin ice cream from your freezer a full half-hour before you plan to serve it so that it can soften; otherwise, I’d be sneakily dipping into it, spoonful by spoonful, until it’s all gone. Rich and creamy, with deep caramel undertones from the brown sugar, it’s more like a custard than ice cream.
The timing was accurate on cooking the custard, but be extremely vigilant; mine turned thick instantly at the 4-minute mark when the thermometer read 190°F. I didn’t see any reason to fuss with an ice bath to cool the custard down, especially since I was planning to chill it overnight anyway. The custard was quite thick, and I had to scrape it into the ice cream maker. It took about 20 minutes with my machine and made a little over 1 quart.
This time of year, everything has a version of “pumpkin spice.” Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice candy corn, even pumpkin spice cereal! So why not pumpkin spice ice cream? (and I love that it wasn’t called Pumpkin Spice!) Since ice cream is an absolute favorite of mine, especially new and interesting flavors. I couldn’t resist making this recipe specifically for those reasons.
The recipe had all the familiar ingredients of traditional pumpkin pie: cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. On the ice cream side, it was a rich mixture of egg yolks and heavy cream. Sometimes I feel that a combination of heavy cream and half-and-half or whole milk helps with excessive richness, especially with a lot of egg yolks. I stayed true to the recipe and the custard came together nicely. It took about 5 to 6 minutes for the custard to thicken.
I strained the custard through a sieve, with no problem with curdling, and only a few grainy solids remaining. I stirred in the pumpkin puree and vanilla and set the bowl in an ice bath to cool. It did thicken a bit while cooling in the ice bath. I then refrigerated the mixture, with a piece of plastic wrap clinging to the surface, for about 5 hours.
The custard was thicker still when I took it out to put it in the ice cream maker. I poured it in and set the timer to 30 minutes. It took about 24 minutes for the mixture to become the texture of thick whipped cream. I spooned it into an ice cream freezer container and put it in the freezer to set. I left the ice cream in the freezer for 24 hours. At this point, it was very, hard. I let it set out for about 15 minutes before trying to scoop it, and it was still very hard, but I was able to scoop out a serving.
The ice cream is gorgeous to look at, the color of caramel and smells like pumpkin pie. The flavor of the ice cream didn’t disappoint, it was delicious. It reminded me of a frozen pumpkin pie filling. It was creamy and brought back my earliest memories of my Mom’s pumpkin pie (which I only ate the filling, not the crust!).
The ice cream was well worth making, very delicious, and surprisingly easy to put together for the complex flavor that came out of it. I could really taste the richness of the molasses and the combination of the spices was really perfect. My only hesitation was the texture. The texture was just like the canned pumpkin. Even though it was only a cup, the texture of the ice cream was like eating the pumpkin by itself, that squash-like feeling on your palette, if that makes sense. My family felt the same way. It was also very rich, a very small scoop or two was the most they could eat. I don’t know how to solve the texture question, it’s not a deal-breaker, just something to note.
Originally published November 23, 2015
Irene Seales or Anyone; Did you make your own fresh sugar pie filling as you stated in you review or use the canned? The canned stuff is not made from pumpkins at all so I`m guessing the fresh would A) taste different B) have a different texture. What gives?
lowandslow, I’ll get Irene to confirm with you, but I suspect she made her own pureed pumpkin. You can buy canned pureed pumpkin as called for in the recipe, which is different from pumpkin pie filling.
OK thanks for clearing this up,definitely going to purchase the canned for ease of preparation.
You’re welcome, lowandslow. Yes, the canned pure pumpkin means a lot less work for you!
This was delicious (gone already) but it froze to a super state so we were thinking of adding some vodka to soften it up. Any suggestions for flavored alcohol like Bailey`s or something? Thanks for the recipe.
lowandslow, adding a little vodka will help to keep the ice cream from becoming quite so frozen. Since there isn’t any real flavor in regular vodka, it is a good choice because it won’t alter the flavor of the ice cream. Choosing something flavored will change the taste of the ice cream, so then it becomes a personal preference as to what flavor combinations you enjoy.
lowandslow, yes, I did roast some sugar pumpkins since they were so plentiful (and easy), but absolutely you can use canned — just make sure that you are using pure pumpkin puree and NOT pie filling, because you will be spicing this yourself as well as adding your own sweetener. Cheers – hope you enjoy it. I can imagine perfect little ice cream sandwiches made with a crisp molasses cookie and this ice cream.