Vanilla Ice Cream

This vanilla ice cream recipe makes something that’s as tasty as the old-fashioned homemade classic. And it’s easily adaptable to be obscenely rich or not. And you can make it without an ice cream maker. Here’s how.

This old-fashioned homemade vanilla ice cream offers basic proportions of ingredients but suggests variations that allow you to make it obscenely rich and indulgent or a little less rich but satisfying nonetheless. All you have to do is tweak the number of yolks and the type of milk or cream. (Next time you complain about having extra egg yolks from a meringue or angel food cake, consider this recipe their destination.) Such exquisite brilliance.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Can I make this vanilla ice cream without an ice cream maker?

Until we’d read this recipe, those of us who are bereft of an ice cream maker had always resorted to pouting when we read ice cream recipes. But thanks to author Elsa Petersen-Schepelern, we can do otherwise. Just freeze the ice cream mixture in a stainless-steel bowl until it’s partially frozen, then blend it in a food processor or beat the mixture with a fork until it’s smooth. And then refreeze. The more times you repeat the freezing and processing, the smoother the resulting mixture. (Yes, we tried this. Repeatedly. And yes, it actually works. (Depending on the temperature of your freezer, it may be a little more like a milkshake in terms of texture, but nonetheless life-changing—or at least immensely satiating—in terms of taste.) No ice cream maker? No problem.

Rich Vanilla Ice Cream

A person holding an ice cream cone filled with rich vanilla ice cream.
This vanilla ice cream recipe makes something that’s as tasty as the old-fashioned homemade classic. And it’s easily adaptable to be obscenely rich or not. And you can make it without an ice cream maker. Here’s how.
Elsa Petersen-Schepelern

Prep 30 mins
Total 30 mins
5 / 5 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Soda Fountain Classics cookbook

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  • Ice cream maker


  • 3 large eggs plus 2 to 3 large yolks
  • 4 cups milk or light cream or a combination
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  • Place the eggs and yolks (however many you choose) in a bowl and beat until smooth.
  • Heat the milk or cream and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat to just below boiling.
  • Gradually whisk or stir 1/2 cup of the hot liquid into the beaten eggs, then stir the mixture back into the saucepan. Place over medium-low heat or in the top of a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until the mixture thickens. (Be sure to stir in the same direction.) Do not let the custard boil or it will curdle. When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from the heat, strain into bowl or pitcher and cool. Then cover and refrigerate until chilled through.
  • Gently stir in the vanilla and process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the instructions. This recipe makes ample vanilla ice cream for most machines, so you may need to churn it in batches. Scrape the creamy goodness into a resealable container and freeze for several hours or up to overnight to achieve a proper ice cream consistency. Don't worry, your restraint will be rewarded.
Print RecipeBuy the Soda Fountain Classics cookbook

Want it? Click it.


Flavor Variation

You can fancy up this old-fashioned homemade vanilla ice cream recipe however you deem fit, adding pistachios, crystallized ginger, an extra dose of vanilla, caramel swirls, or countless other flavorings. Simply stir them in just before churning. Here, a couple basic suggestions, just to get your creativity started…
Rich Strawberry Ice Cream
Add 1 cup mashed fresh strawberries or 1/2 cup strawberry sauce and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Rich Chocolate Ice Cream
Melt 4 to 5 squares unsweetened chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Alternatively, microwave at medium in short 30 second bursts (about 2 minutes in all) until melted. Stir a little of the Rich Vanilla Ice Cream mixture into the chocolate, then stir the chocolate back into the custard. If you wish, add 3 extra squares of chocolate, grated by hand or in a blender. Churn according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is a very rich and creamy homemade vanilla ice cream that’s simple to make. I chose to use whole milk and all of the suggested egg yolks. I also added about 1/2 tablespoon more vanilla than suggested plus one vanilla bean that I slit open and  then scraped the seeds of the pod into the custard.

It’s a great accompaniment to cobblers, crisps, or your favorite fruit pie recipe. Can’t wait to try this again with the strawberry variation.

I confess, I don’t like vanilla ice cream to be ridiculously rich. I crave a rich creaminess, yes, but not a frozen custard. I want to taste vanilla, not egg yolks. So although I was skeptical of the bare-bones approach in this recipe, I followed it at its most spare, using just the minimum requisite of egg yolks and whole milk. And it was so lovely that I promptly made a second batch. It was bliss and it smacked of unobfuscated vanilla.

It wasn’t the hard ice cream of my childhood, the kind that makes your shoulder ache as you scoop it up. Instead it had a slight milkshake-y quality to it. But I suspect that has more to do with our freezer, which doesn’t get terribly cold. I’ve since tried it using half milk and half cream and found it to be just as lovely. A keeper, without a doubt.

Originally published June 29, 2020


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  1. 5 stars
    Couldn’t find the ice cream recipe that my mom has made for eons. So in keeping with my promise to the rug rats, I googled up a few and wasn’t caring for what I found. Oh yeah, Leite’s! Can we up front say AMAZING! I changed the recipe a bit to match my former recipe’s egg count. I separated 6 eggs, whipped the yolks with the sugar til ribbony and beat the whites to stiff peaks. I added a pint of cream to the yolks. One addition that I made was a can of condensed milk to the creamy yolks, as I do remember that from mom’s recipe. It was the creamiest and best I have ever eaten! I’ll try again in a week to see if I can replicate this very easy and wonderful recipe.

      1. It was better! The fam also thought it was the best we had ever made. And it stood up against second day crystallization…

  2. 5 stars
    We made this today for a tailgate party. We used our 20-yr-old ice cream freezer. (I say “we” because I do the mixing, my husband does the freezing, and our son does the serving.) We made it exactly as directed. We chose equal parts milk and half & half because that’s what we had on hand, but I misread the measure for vanilla so I used only 1 teaspoon rather than 1 tablespoon. I wouldn’t change a thing next time. We all agree it was rich enough, sweet enough, creamy enough, and had the right amount of vanilla flavor. Thank you for posting a great recipe and giving guidance for alterations. Very helpful! (We doubled the recipe for our 4-quart freezer.)

    1. You are very welcome, Kimberly. We, too, find this recipe to be perfect. (Although yes, clearly the amount of vanilla is negotiable.) So glad to hear that you have a new go-to ice cream recipe. We don’t know what we did before this….

  3. Sorry, I should have been more clear. I used 3 large eggs in addition to the 2 yolks. Again, the flavor was wonderful just not the texture I expected. Was probably because I used straight milk and no cream.

  4. I used 2 egg yolks in addition to 4 cups of whole milk – no cream. I also used a tsp of vanilla extract in addition to seeds from one vanilla bean. The flavor was spot on but I didn’t love the texture. I found it to be more like ice milk than ice cream, even with an ice cream maker.

    1. Hi, Amy. I think using the number of whole eggs as specified, with a boost from a yolk or two, would give you a different texture. There wasn’t enough fat in the two yolks to carry all that milk. Try it again, and tell us what you think.

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