This homemade vanilla ice cream uses a custard-style base (with eggs) to make a creamy deliciously scoopable homemade ice cream.
This is honestly the only ice cream recipe I ever use. If you look at our ice cream recipes on this site, you’ll notice that they all have one thing in common – this ice cream base. It’s the start of all great ice creams. Once you’ve got this recipe down, all you have to do is add whatever flavoring you like to change it up in 100s of different ways.
We use our ice cream maker for this recipe, so be sure to put the barrel in the freezer a day ahead so it’s good and frozen by the time you want to use it.
Ingredients You Need
This ice cream uses a custard base, so it has egg yolks in it.
- Half and half or heavy cream – There is a debate out there about how much butterfat the best ice cream has. It can range anywhere from non-fat all the way up to 20%. Using half and half and whole milk results in the best texture and fat level for me. Use heavy whipping cream if you like your ice cream super creamy.
- Whole milk – I always use whole milk – we’re not pretending this is a low-fat dessert
- Egg yolks – Set the eggs and milk out about 15 minutes before you start to get them to room temp
- Sugar – Granulated sugar is fine in this recipe. If you’re going to replace it with a sugar substitute, I recommend using only allulose, because it doesn’t harden like erythritol and the others do. This makes a big difference.
- Vanilla – Use the highest-quality vanilla you can. The flavor of the vanilla is strong and can be a little off-putting if you use a low-quality vanilla. You can also add vanilla bean to this recipe.
- Salt – A little bit of salt helps to balance the sweetness.
How to Make Vanilla Ice Cream
We use this same ice cream base for chocolate chocolate chip ice cream, cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, and any other flavor of ice cream we make. It’s an easy base and it tastes great and very creamy.
The other great part about using this base for everything is that it starts to become second nature to make it. There are quite a few steps to making custard-style ice cream, but it’s not hard, and it’s very much worth the effort.
Step One: Heat the Milk Mixture
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, salt, and half the sugar. Stir the mixture constantly as you bring it just to a simmer. Remove from heat.
Step Two: Temper the Egg Mixture
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar just until combined.
You need to temper the eggs, so they don’t cook. Tempering is just bringing the egg mixture up to a higher heat in a slow way so the egg doesn’t cook from flash heat. It will be easier to temper the eggs if you have allowed the eggs to come to room temperature before you started.
Slowly stir 1/2 cup of the milk mixture in a drizzle into the egg mixture. If you do this slowly enough, the eggs won’t begin to resemble scrambled eggs.
Step Three: Combine and Thicken
Pour that egg mixture back into the saucepan with the milk mixture. Heat over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Do not boil the mixture. If the mixture gets too hot and boils you could end up with scrambled eggs.
Remove the pot from the heat.
Step Four: Chill the Mixture
Pour the mixture into a bowl or container. To avoid putting the hot mixture in the refrigerator, you can chill the mixture over another bowl filled with ice for 10-15 minutes to cool it down first. Just get a second bowl that’s similar size or larger than the one your mixture is in. Fill it with ice and set the bowl with the custard over it. When it’s cooled down a bit, refrigerate it for at least two hours, until it’s cold.
Step Five: Churn the Ice Cream
After the ice cream base mixture has completely cooled, stir in the half and half and vanilla. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Pour into a freezer container or loaf pan and store in the freezer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does this ice cream have to be made in an ice cream maker?
This ice cream recipe is made in the ice cream maker. It’s an easy way to churn the ice cream mixture to make it freeze faster and make it super creamy, so we prefer it.
However you can still make it without an ice cream maker. At the end, mix in only half of the heavy cream and reserve the rest. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze until solid. When ready to eat, add the ice cream cubes to the blender with the remaining heavy cream and blend until smooth.
Do I have to add eggs to the ice cream?
Eggs add flavor, prevent ice crystallization, and create a smooth and creamy texture, so they are an important ingredient for delicious ice cream. You can make ice cream without eggs. Here is a chocolate ice cream recipe that doesn’t include eggs.
Can I add flavoring to the ice cream besides vanilla?
You can use any flavoring or fruit you want in this ice cream. I love the aromatics and flavor of fresh ripe peaches, but you could also use strawberries, blueberry, or mango, plus any other flavoring you like, such as chocolate, peanut butter, Snickers, etc.
What Ice Cream Maker to Use?
If you’re really wanting to make great ice cream at home, you have to invest in an ice cream maker. I’ve had the same one for many years and it’s never made a bad ice cream.
The one I recommend is the Cuisinart 1.5 quart ice cream maker. It comes in a few different colors and it looks neat and tidy. You just have to keep to recipes that are small enough to fit, which shouldn’t be a problem.
The Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker is a slightly more professional model that’s 2 quarts and has an LCD screen and 3 settings plus an improved paddle with faster processing time.
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Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 cups half and half
- 3/4 teaspoon high-quality vanilla
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, salt, and half the sugar. Stir the mixture constantly as you bring it just to a simmer (do not boil). Remove from heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar just until combined.
- To temper the eggs, slowly add 1/2 cup of the milk mixture in a drizzle into the egg mixture. Do this slowly so as not to cook the eggs.
- Pour the entire egg mixture back into the saucepan with the milk mixture. Simmer over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes. Do not boil the mixture.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let cool.
- Pour the cooled custard mixture into a chilled bowl and refrigerate for about two hours until cold. To avoid putting the hot mixture in the refrigerator, you can chill the bowl over another bowl filled with ice for 10-15 minutes to cool it down first.
- When you’re ready to churn the ice cream, add the half and half and vanilla to the custard mixture. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker. Churn until the ice cream is thick, per your ice cream maker’s instructions.
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Laura is a home cook who loves making new recipes and finding new favorite things to eat, whether at home or abroad. She also runs a popular travel blog and spends a lot of her time traveling for food.