Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

This vanilla bean ice cream is a classic, perfected. Yes, we know, you’ve been promised this before by others. But we mean it.

A plastic container filled with vanilla bean ice cream with a metal ice cream scoop resting in it.

Those of us who crave vanilla ice cream know that sometimes you don’t need a lot of bling. Sometimes it’s nice to just let your spoon sink into something that tastes pure as the driven snow. Okay, vanilla-enhanced snow. Indulgently rich, creamy, sigh-inducing, vanilla-enhanced snow. This vanilla bean ice cream recipe is for those times. Of course, if you wish to stir in whatever at the end–some crushed black raspberries still warm from the garden, a package of chopped peanut butter cups, a swirl of fig preserves, a handful of chopped nougat–we’re not going to stop you. Not even going to try.–Renee Schettler

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

A plastic container filled with vanilla bean ice cream with a metal ice cream scoop resting in it.
This ice cream is made with a custard base which can be adapted and flavored with fruit purees, chocolate, or coffee. It keeps for up to 1 month in the freezer.
Alison Walker

Prep 15 mins
Chill 1 d
Total 1 d 1 hr
328 kcal
5 / 6 votes
Print RecipeBuy the A Country Cook’s Kitchen cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • Ice cream maker (optional)


  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream


  • Split the bean lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape out the seeds. Place the vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan along with the milk. Place over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and let infuse for 30 minutes.
  • Mix the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Remove and discard the vanilla bean from the infused milk. Gradually blend the infused milk into the yolk mixture, using a wooden spoon or a whisk, then set aside while you wash and dry the saucepan you used to infuse the milk.
  • Return the milk mixture to the clean saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard has thickened sufficiently to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle.
  • Strain the mixture into a bowl and let it cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, gently pressing the wrap directly against the surface of the custard to prevent a film from forming, then refrigerate until chilled through, maybe 4 to 6 hours if you’re impatient or, preferably, 24 hours if you're the sort who can tolerate a little anticipation. (Here's the thing. The longer the custard stands in the refrigerator, the more flavor will develop.)
  • Stir the cream into the custard.
    If using an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer’s directions.
    If using your own devices, transfer the mixture into a shallow freezer-proof container, such as a roasting pan, and freeze until ice crystals form at the edges, about 2 hours. Turn it into a bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer or a whisk. Pour the mixture back into the container and return to the freezer. Repeat every 2 hours until the ice cream is completely frozen.
Print RecipeBuy the A Country Cook’s Kitchen cookbook

Want it? Click it.


Can I vary this vanilla bean ice cream?

Here's just a handful of the infinite number of variations you can conjure...
Honey Ice Cream: Stir in 2 tablespoons of honey when you add the cream.
Nutmeg Ice Cream: Stir in 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg when you add the cream. This is also very, very good with cinnamon. 
Fruit Swirl Ice Cream: Stir in a couple of spoonfuls of fig jam or strawberry compote after taking it out of the ice cream maker. 

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1half-cupCalories: 328kcal (16%)Carbohydrates: 27g (9%)Protein: 4g (8%)Fat: 23g (35%)Saturated Fat: 13g (81%)Cholesterol: 203mg (68%)Sodium: 46mg (2%)Potassium: 116mg (3%)Sugar: 25g (28%)Vitamin A: 982IU (20%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 104mg (10%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Vanilla bean is my favorite ice cream flavor. This version is pretty great. I’m a big texture person and I love the rich creamy base and the crunch of the seeds from the vanilla bean. I can see making the custard in the morning (or even the night before) and mixing in the cream and churning when we’re ready for dinner...I mean dessert. The ice cream doesn’t need to be hardened–it’s perfect to eat just out of the ice cream maker. However, I might decrease the sugar just a bit and add a pinch of salt as it’s a bit on the sweet side for me.

I LOVE ice cream. I’m not one of those fair-weather ice cream eaters, who only indulges in a cone when it’s a perfect, say, 80°F day on the boardwalk. I am a harsh critic, and, to be honest, vanilla doesn’t usually jazz me too much. I’m much more a chocolate gal. But this rich, creamy, easy-to-make ice cream is fantastic. It’s no more labor-intensive than any other ice cream and tastes just fine without superfine sugar (I didn’t even blitz my granulated sugar in the blender and the ice cream came out fine). It takes about five hours to be completely chilled. I will say, as is the case with most homemade ice creams, that it's best the day you make it. This isn’t uncommon, though.

Originally published May 25, 2012


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. I am just about to indulge in this SPECTACULAR treat. I used regular, granulated sugar, as I could not locate superfine on short notice. I also used nothing more than a wooden spoon and, the results are PERFECTION!

  2. Finally! A recipe for my favourite flavour of ice cream…and I don’t even need to get an ice cream maker for my KitchenAid…life just doesn’t get any better! Can’t wait to make it and try it…thanks so much!

    1. P.R. Bain, you’re welcome. We’re happy to see so many vanilla-lovers in the crowd today. Enjoy it!

  3. Yep. It’s official. I’m TOTALLY making this ice cream. I have 12 egg yolks just begging to be used so I’ll be sure to make this recipe right away! Sorry I have to rush away, now. I have to get to the store for all the missing ingredients!

  4. Oh, the irony! The ad that I’m looking at right now that appeared at the end of this post….after I’ve lusted for your Vanilla Bean ice cream….is for TreadClimber: get to your goal weight fast–just walking. This proves my theory that I gain weight from looking at food. I’ve always known that. Apparently, the ad world knows it, too.

    1. Dear Lindsay,

      There is a chasm that exists between your and my definition of “indulgence.” Just a little taste does not an indulgence make, in my estimation. My “indulgence” would involve the entire container shown above. And now the ad that’s showing is Drumstick ice cream. Somebody’s out to get me! 🙂

      1. Fair enough, Jackie, fair enough! And now that you mention it, those ads do sound especially nefarious…and they’re ice-cream-themed, to boot!

  5. When Renee says in the LC note that this recipe is pure, she’s right. It’s absolutely virginal. Last week The One and I bought a new electric ice cream maker in preparation for the summer, and we had to christen it with this recipe. Now, I’m not a vanilla fan in the least, and if it ain’t chocolate, it ain’t for The One. We tend to think of vanilla as a default flavor as it usually tastes bland, artificial, or like it’s been sitting in the freezer for months.

    But this recipe is voluptuous, creamy, and powerful. We used a Tahitian vanilla bean, and instead of ditching it after steeping it in the milk for 30 minutes, we kept it in the mixture until the very last minute–right before we started churning. The color of our booty was more yellow than the ice cream in the picture, and I loved the nearly imperceptible crunch of the seeds, as they gave off a tiny pop of extra vanilla flavor.

    Being us, we made two quarts of the stuff—two pints were snow-driven pure vanilla, two were caramel swirl. I made a batch of homemade caramel (I just cooked sugar and water until it turned the color of a copper penny, then poured in some cream and added a pinch of salt). When I tested the caramel by freezing some in a dish, it was as hard as brittle candy, and I wanted flowing, seductive, luscious caramel oozing from the vanilla ice cream. I wrote David Lebovitz, the king of ice cream, and he said to add some vodka to the caramel. It’s tasteless and doesn’t freeze, so it prevents the caramel from hardening.

    Well. I added about 1/4 cup to a pint of caramel, and swirled the gooey mess into the two remaining pints of ice cream. Holy go to war. It was truly the best ice cream I’ve ever made–and I say this having spent years perfecting my pistachio gelato.

    We had our friends Carlotta and Ed over for a summer supper of ribs, potato salad, and ice cream. For a few years now Carlotta has prattled on about how fabulous the ice cream is from some dairy in Nowhereville, Connecticut. I just waited and watched her face. Spoonful one, surprise. Spoonful two, a check to make sure taste one wasn’t wrong. Spoonful three, all memories of that godforsaken dairy were wiped away.

    I urge anyone who has even the most remote interest in ice cream to make this. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

    [Confession: I cheated. I didn’t bother to wait 4 to 6 hours for the custard to chill through. I just poured it into a metal bowl and set that in a larger metal bowl filled with ice and water. Thirty minutes later I was churning, baby.]

    1. David, your ice cream sounds AMAZING! I couldn’t resist chiming in because reading that you turned to DL while in the grips of a caramel conundrum sounds like something I’d do (and I am not a friend of his).

      However, I was once making his banana cake and had a serious icing question. I wrote to him on his blog as I set off for work, and by the time I arrived at my desk, he’d responded. And I live half a world away from his home in Paris! He’s the guy you turn to in a fix! Maybe it’s a David thing. You guys are both awesome. A toast to caramel ice cream. Salted, of course.

      1. Darling Jacqui, the ice cream is amazing. That caramel was killer. I’m going to bottle it and sell it as body lotion.

        David Lebovitz is a great guy. He’s very thoughtful with his readers and very careful with his recipes. The One and I will have the distinct pleasure of cooking and dining with him at his Paris apartment next week. (Yes, I’ll take lots of pictures and go to the bathroom often to tweet!)

        1. WOW! To me, this feels like the equivalent of when Laverne and Shirley would pop up on an episode of “Happy Days.” Double joy! I can only imagine how much fun you’re going to have. Please make public all the details/photos/tidbits you can share. Have a great trip!

          (….so, did I do an all right job of sounding only happy for you and not insanely jealous?)

          1. Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time I’ve been likened to Laverne and Shirley. If technology wills it, I’ll send lots of details. (And, yes, I admire your acting job immensely!)

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish