What’s so French about French vanilla ice cream? While regular vanilla ice cream can be made with or without eggs, there’s no question that French vanilla is made with a custardy base rich with ample egg yolks, which impart that iconic yellow tint to the ice cream. Plus it’s almost always made with vanilla seeds resulting in those enigmatic and intriguing dark flecks punctuating the creamy ice cream.Renee Schettler Rossi

A white bowl filled with French vanilla ice cream with a blue spoon resting beside.

French Vanilla Ice Cream

4.60 / 5 votes
This French vanilla ice cream is made the old-fashioned way with a rich egg yolk custard, heavy cream, and flecks of vanilla seeds. Pure, simple, and knee-wobbling delicious.
David Leite
Servings8 servings
Calories252 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes


  • Ice cream maker


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (4-inch) piece vanilla bean* (see Variations below), slit lengthwise, seeds removed, pod reserved
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  • In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla seeds and pod, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture registers 175°F (80°C) on a candy or deep-fry thermometer, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, using a stand mixer or a whisk, beat the remaining sugar with the yolks until the mixture turns pale yellow and thickens so that it falls away in ribbons, about 2 minutes with an electric mixer or 4 minutes with a whisk.
  • Slowly whisk 1/2 cup hot milk from pan into the beaten yolks. Then gradually whisk the yolk mixture into the hot milk in the saucepan.
  • Stirring constantly, heat the mixture over medium-low heat until it registers 180°F (82°C), 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain the custard into a plastic or nonreactive metal bowl. Stir in the cream. Retrieve the vanilla pod from the strainer and add it to the custard. Place the bowl of custard in a larger bowl of ice water to quickly bring the custard to room temperature.
  • Cover and refrigerate the custard until it is no more than 40°F, 4 to 8 hours.
  • Remove the vanilla pod and pour the custard into an ice cream machine. Churn according to the manufacturer’s directions until frozen, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately or transfer to a resealable container and freeze for up to several weeks. Originally published April 27, 2000.


What You Need To Know About Substituting Vanilla Extract For The Vanilla Bean

You can swap 2 tablespoons vanilla extract for the vanilla bean. Simply stir it into the chilled custard just before churning.
The Perfect Recipe by Pam Anderson

Adapted From

The Perfect Recipe

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Serving: 0.5 cupCalories: 252 kcalCarbohydrates: 23 gProtein: 5 gFat: 16 gSaturated Fat: 9 gMonounsaturated Fat: 5 gCholesterol: 179 mgSodium: 38 mgSugar: 23 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 1993 Jack Bishop. Photo © 2011 Annie. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

A fabulous creamy texture and rich vanilla flavor even without the vanilla bean. I decided to make this at the last minute and didn’t have a vanilla bean so I followed the directions for adding the vanilla extract just before churning in my ice cream maker. The recipe was easy to follow and the finished ice cream was delicious. It paired perfectly with a warm brownie!

This French vanilla ice cream is a classic with simple ingredients and well thought out techniques. This is exactly what a good vanilla ice cream should taste like and the texture is a dream.

A ceramic bowl with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream in it.

There’s a lot of chemistry at work to ensure a silky smooth ice cream with well proportioned flavors. It is important to follow the instructions and not get in a hurry. You are making a custard and a good custard takes time. A couple of things I want to mention is it really does take 8 to 10 minutes to get the temp back up to 180°F. Mine stalled at 170°F, if yours should don’t be tempted to turn up the heat. It will get there. Also, I used a heat-resistant rubber spatula to keep the custard from sticking to the bottom of the pan. This is not a complicated recipe. From start to finish I had my custard in the refrigerator in less than 30 minutes. It was very well worth it, too.

I enjoyed eating the ice cream as is, but I decided to make this recipe for chocolate cookies and I used a small scoop to get 2 1/2-inch cookies. Once they were cooled, I made miniature ice cream sandwiches. It was a great combination and the small size was perfect for a little treat.

There is nothing better than getting out the ice cream maker for the first in the spring and then being able to indulge in a bowl of icy creamy goodness. This is a simple ice cream to make and with a few steps that result in a delightful scoop of perfection. The eggs give the ice cream a rich flavor, a lovely smooth texture and a scattering of vanilla seeds give it a luxurious taste and scent. So good.

Excellent French vanilla ice cream with lots of vanilla flavor. Even the chocolate lovers enjoyed this ice cream. I also used part of the finished product between chocolate chip cookies to make ice cream sandwiches.

This custard mixture does have to be watched to avoid scrambled eggs. I deviated a little from the recipe, it was only in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours as I needed to save some time to have the ice cream ready for company the same day. It took longer than usual to churn, so the colder the mixture is the better.

Definitely make this French vanilla ice cream! I love an egg custard ice cream, the richness in this vanilla version is spot on.

It’s worth the extra care with tempering and temperature to create this creamy dessert. Keep an eye on the custard so as to not scramble your eggs, as I did my first time through.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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