10 Ways to Make Your Own Ice Cream (and Other Frozen Treats)


When I was in elementary school, the last day of school was always exciting. Not just because of the whole end-of-the-school-year thing, but because we got to do two things: One, have a squirt gun fight on the bus, and two, get a soft-serve ice cream at the local ice cream spot, Mr. Pizza.

Since those young years, ice cream has always been one of my favorite summer treats. But seeing as I live by myself and I try (although don't necessarily succeed) to not eat too many sweets, I'm not one to keep a pint or quart of the stuff in my freezer. Recently, however, I have become obsessed with making my own ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet. I get to control what goes into my frozen treats, make exactly what I'm craving, and choose between going whole hog with an elaborate recipe or just whipping up an easy, one-ingredient stand-in. (See also: 5 Awesome, Easy-to-Freeze Meals)

When the weather's hot (or you're just craving a frozen treat), follow one of these 10 methods to reach homemade ice cream bliss.

1. With an Ice-Cream Maker

I'll start with the most obvious of options. If you eat ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt, or sherbet regularly, an ice-cream maker might be worth it. I purchased a mid-range Cuisinart ice-cream maker a couple of years ago, and it has served me well through several batches. All you need to do is add the ingredients and let it spin for a bit.

2. In a Plastic Bag

While many modern ice-cream makers use containers that you keep in the freezer, old-style ice-cream makers use a combination of ice and rock salt to get your cream good and cold. But you don't need an ice cream maker to follow the rock-salt method — a couple of Ziploc-style bags can work as well. Check out this ice cream in a bag recipe from About.com's Guide to Chemistry, Anne Marie Helmenstine. Not only does she tell you how to make the ice cream, but she explains the science behind it as well.

3. Crafting a Freezer Sorbet

Sorbet — the frozen fruit treat that doesn't feature any dairy products — can easily be made by blending together a few ingredients, putting them in the fridge, and stirring occasionally. PJ Hamel at King Arthur Flour has great step-by-step instructions for freezer sorbet, including a store-bought vs. homemade cost comparison (homemade is less than half the price!).

4. Making a Semifreddo

This frozen Italian dessert (the name means "half-cold" or "half-frozen") includes several of the same ingredients as ice cream — sugar, heavy cream, etc. — but is simply mixed and frozen until it sets. I'm particularly entranced by this recipe on Epicurious for Meyer lemon semifreddo with summer berries, as well as the even easier (and very elegant looking) raspberry semifreddo torte.

5. With Bananas

This awesome post from The Kitchn about making ice cream with just one ingredient — bananas — has been linked around the web again and again, and with good reason. Creamy, sweet, and easy to add to (chocolate chips, anyone?), this frozen treat is also super-healthy. Just don't leave the bananas in the freezer too long.

6. Adding to Existing Ice Cream

If you don't want to make your own base, consider buying an inexpensive chocolate or vanilla ice cream and adding your favorite mix-ins like cherries, pretzels, chocolate syrup, brownie bits, and so on.

7. Making Your Own Ice Cream "Novelties"

Similar to adding ingredients to existing ice cream, you can use homemade or store-bought ice cream to make your own versions of ice cream "novelties" (I always thought that was a ridiculous name for them). Check out recipes for homemade Drumsticks, ice cream bars, and ice cream sandwiches.

8. Putting Yogurt in the Freezer

It seems almost too simple to be true, but making frozen yogurt can be as easy as...well, freezing yogurt. Put a single serving of your favorite yogurt in the freezer for approximately two hours. Then simply open, stir, and enjoy. Just be careful not to let this sit for too long — as with the bananas, it's best when it hasn't quite reached a deep freeze.

9. Making a Raw Key Lime Pie

For a while, one of my very good friends was eating a raw diet, and I joined in on her raw adventures. One of my favorite recipes was raw key lime pie. The filling ingredients — avocado, lime juice and zest, agave, and coconut oil — might not sound like what you want for dessert. But trust me, this treat is cooling, sweet, and rich all at once.

10. Throwing Together 5-Minute Ice Cream

Frozen fruit, cream, sugar, vanilla, and a blender or food processor are all you need for a quick ice-cream fix with this fast ice cream recipe.

Do you make your own ice cream or other frozen treats? If so, what method(s) do you use? Share in the comments!

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Guest's picture

I've got two more suggestions. Our blog has videos for the recipes, so I included the links.
1) Use a coffee can to make ice cream, but do not substitute tupperware for the container. http://blog.mangomoney.com/cheap-fun/make-your-own-ice-cream-float
2) Make popsicles out of thick, all-natural juices like Odwalla or Naked. The texture is really nice! http://blog.mangomoney.com/cheap-fun/make-your-own-popsicles

The worst part about making frozen treats is the waiting period. I definitely want to try your 5-minute blender method!

Guest's picture

These are all great tips and really timely for me. We've been considering buying an ice cream maker and making our own but I think we'll try some of the simpler versions first. My kids will be over the moon and I'm sure they will fall in love with homemade ice cream as quickly as they did homemade pizza!

Guest's picture

It's not something the average homemaker can do, but at Summer Camp we have a science center where we make some ice cream with liquid nitrogen.

Takes patience to get it right (and not get an ice block), but it made some really good ice cream. It helps that you stir the liquid air into the cream.

Guest's picture

1. Get milk, vanilla, sugar, salt, ice
2. In a sandwich bag, put in the milk (1/2 cup) vanilla ( 1/2 teaspoon) and sugar (1 tablespoon)
3. Put ice cubes(4-5 cups) and salt (5 tablespoons) into a gallon bag or a grocery plastic bag. Put the sandwich bag full of the ice cream mix
4. Shake or just freeze with no salt and ice cubes.
Shake till frozen.