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.

A person holding an ice cream cone filled with rich vanilla ice cream.

Rich Vanilla Ice Cream

5 / 6 votes
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.
David Leite
Servings12 servings
Calories150 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • 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.


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.

Adapted From

Soda Fountain Classics

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Serving: 0.5 cupCalories: 150 kcalCarbohydrates: 25 gProtein: 4 gFat: 4 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gTrans Fat: 0.01 gCholesterol: 56 mgSodium: 49 mgSugar: 25 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2001 Elsa Petersen-Schepelern. Photo © 2014 Elsie Hui. All rights reserved.

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.

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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.

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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Recipe Rating


  1. Made this ice cream today. Yum. I am a little surprised that it came out great though. I did a few things different. I had the wrong kind of cream, used almond milk instead of whole milk, I only used 1.5 yolks cause I dropped it in the sink, accidentally poured some of the cream into the eggs before it had been warmed and didn’t have an ice cream maker. But I went ahead anyway. I used a metal loaf pan and took it out of the freezer and blended it 4 times. It’s very good but seems to melt really quickly.

    1. It looks terrific, despite all of your changes and mishaps, Debbie. Nicely done! Homemade ice cream does tend to melt quickly, particularly if it’s not made with an ice cream maker. The lost egg yolk likely would have helped to stabilize it and slow the melting a bit too.

  2. Can’t wait to try this ice cream recipe. By light cream, do you mean whipping creme or half and half and when you made it did you use a combo of both milk and cream or doesn’t that make a difference in taste?

    Also did you use 2 yolks or 3 or didn’t that have a big difference in flavor either? I want to make it exactly like you did! 🙂


    1. Chris, when I made this, I used light cream. If you search your supermarket’s dairy section, you should see it right next to the heavy cream. And I used three egg yolks. I like richness!