How To Make Ice Cream Without a Machine

People have been making ice cream far longer than the invention of electricity so there’s no reason you can’t make ice cream and sorbets at home without a machine.

The advantage to using an electric or hand-cranked machine is that the final result will be smoother and creamier. Freezing anything from liquid-to-solid means you’re creating hard ice crystals, so if you’re making it by hand, as your ice cream or sorbet mixture freezes, you want to break up those ice crystals as much as possible so your final results are as smooth and creamy as possible.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Machines are relatively inexpensive nowadays with models costing less than $50, and yes, I’ve seen the ball, but if I started tossing one of those around the streets here in Paris, I’d probably get even more strange looks than I normally get. (Plus you’ll need to lug some rock salt home as well.)

But not everyone has the space or the budget for a machine, so here’s how you can do your own ice cream at home without a churner. I recommend starting with an ice cream recipe that is custard-based for the smoothest texture possible. You can use my Vanilla Ice Cream or another favorite, or even this Strawberry Frozen Yogurt recipe using Greek-style or drained yogurt. The richer the recipe, the creamier and smoother the results are going to be.

Ice cream made this way is best eaten soon after it’s made—which shouldn’t be a problem.

Cooking Custard


Making Ice Cream Without A Machine

1. Prepare your ice cream mixture, then chill it over an ice bath.

2. Put a deep baking dish, or bowl made of plastic, stainless steel or something durable in the freezer, and pour your custard mixture into it.

Vanilla Ice Cream

3. After forty-five minutes, open the door and check it.

As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a spatula or whisk. Really beat it up and break up any frozen sections. Return to freezer.

4. Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously as it’s freezing. If you have one, you can use a hand-held mixer for best results, or use a stick-blender or hand-held mixer.

But since we’re going low-tech here, you can also use just a spatula or a sturdy whisk along with some modest physical effort.

5. Keep checking periodically and stirring while it freezes (by hand or with the electric mixer) until the ice cream is frozen. It will likely take 2-3 hours to be ready.

Stracciatella

You can easily make Stracciatella ice cream with Italian-style chocolate chips:
Drizzle pure melted dark or milk chocolate (about 5 ounces, 140 g) over the almost-frozen mixture, then stir, breaking up the ribbons of chocolate as they start to freeze, to create little ‘chips’.

Vanilla Stracciatella Ice Cream

Transfer the ice cream to a covered storage container until ready to serve.

perfectscoop.jpg

Other Posts on Ice Cream-making and Recipes

  • The Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream Ever (Recipe-no machine required)

  • What’s Gelato?

  • Vietnamese Coffee Popsicles (Recipe-no machine required)

  • Candied Bacon Ice Cream (Recipe)

  • Making Homemade Ice Cream Softer

  • Roquefort-Honey Ice Cream (Recipe)

  • Real Ice Cream without a Machine (Serious Eats)

  • Meet Your Maker: Buying An Ice Cream Machine

  • White Chocolate Sorbet (recipe)

  • Recommended Tools for Ice Cream Making

  • Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream (Recipe)

  • How Long Does Ice Cream Last?

  • White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream with Nectarines & Berries (Recipe)



  • 83 comments

    • David,

      The step #1 picture shows a copper bowl. Do you prepare your custards on copper bowls? What are the advantages?

      Thanks.

    • That coffee tin within a coffee tin idea is genius, although perhaps it may wrapping in a towel as the ice melts. Now I’m very hungry.

    • ooh, thanks for this post! i’ve long lusted after an ice cream machine, but after a history of ice cream abuse too gruesome to detail in public, as well as zero counter space (studio apartment), it would be a dreadful — nay, FATAL — event to make the purchase. however, a method that involves too much work for casual ice cream production as well as some inherent caloric burning could be the ideal solution!!

    • I have a friend who says she uses her old fashioned blender, she puts the custard in the blender, then transfers the blender jar to the freezer, then about every half an hour she takes it out, blends, and return the blender jar to the freezer. Works beautifully and involves only one dish!

    • N.R.: The sole advantage is that it’s more photogenic, especially when its all polished!
      ; )

      Mercedes: If someone has room in their freezer for a blender jar, I’d like to see that freezer.

      Seriously, that would work up to a point. Once the mixture gets thick, I don’t know how it would work its way down to where the blender blades are to get stirred up. But if it does work, anything that involves less dishes to wash, I say bravo to!

    • My Argentine “mother” (I lived in the San Juan/Mendoza region many years ago) used to make ice cream several times a month using this rustic method. We would barely breathe, waiting for it to be ready. Ice cream never tasted so good. Thanks for the memories!

    • I was all set to try the Ziploc version…thanks for your tips so I can feel a little better experimenting with the creamy recipes I haven’t attempted yet.

    • Great post, David! I just returned my loaned ice cream maker and was wondering how I was going to survive the rest of the summer sans homemade ice cream. How did you read my mind?

    • This is a great write up! I’m surprised you omitted to volunteer the things you can do while waiting to stir every 30 minutes. Do share, please!

    • I’ve actually found that a food processor works even better at blasting away those ice crystals than a stick blender, particularly once the mixture is mostly frozen. On the other hand, I rarely do it that way because I hate washing up my food processor, and we all know that laziness trumps all…

    • Oh, this is so genius. Because I was GOING to reward myself after moving with an ice-cream machine, only to find that our counter space is somewhat limited and my budget even more so. But an immersion blender I have! Yum yum yum. Thank you!

    • My coeditor has been looking for ways to make ice cream without a machine for awhile now! And I find your Stracciatella technique to be awesome! I didn’t know you could do it this way, but it makes so much sense! Thanks for sharing this!

    • for making ice cream without a machine, see the alice b. toklas cookbook for pre-electricty ice cream cecipes — all of her recipes involve whipped egg whites or cream to provide volume. and of course it being miss toklas quite a hefty dose of different alcoholic beveridges.

    • Thank you thank you thank you for this post!

    • fun reading the posts. will adding powdered gelatin (without heating) do the job?

    • Sam: I’m not a fan of using gelatin in ice cream. You can make Philadelphia-style ice cream without heating the mixture if you use superfine sugar (or whiz it in a food processor) so it dissolves without heating.

      Mike: Yes, those are other ways to go for sure. I love her book…next time you pull it out, try A Tender Tart. It’s delicious, although not very boozy. : 0

    • Hello, of course I came to visit your site and thanks for letting me know about it.
      I just read this post and wanted to say it is full of number one resources. Some I am familiar with. For those who don’t know these other sites they are in for a treat as there is a lot to learn there.

    • I came to your site to know more about making ice-cream. Your making of the ice cream is so cool, tell me more-thx!!!!!!

    • I love this! Does it work just as well with ice? I love making thyme or lavender ice for serving between courses as a palette cleanser but loathe to have an appliance just for that. Thanks!

    • i love making ice cream!

    • Hi, my name is Chanel and i like making ice-cream. At school the people were making ice-cream; it tasted so good.They made it with ice a plastic bag and cream and something else, so i was wondering if you know how to make it that way. If you do can you please e-mail me back, thank you bye!

    • Oh David, I love it when you talk ice cream to me!!

    • hey dude!

      my sister and i were really really bored so we looked up “how to make ice cream” and your site popped up,so we followed your directions and it worked out great!

      thanks david!

      peace,

    • Wow your pics look delicious and your web page rocks

    • David, I have made your stracciatella ice cream (got it on Gourmet.com) and it is absolutely amazing. My husband just can’t get enough of it (I’m going home right now and will make it for the 4th time).

      Tks for sharing!

    • I was reading this post for tips on making ice cream without a machine, but remembered as I was reading that I own one of those ice cream balls! It was a housewarming gift, and I think I’ll be bringing it to my friends’ house tonight so we can all participate in making dessert! If the ball doesn’t end up working out, though, at least I know I have your low-tech recipes to try :)

    • Hi David, I just came across this post. You just gave me a good reason to not go out and splurge on an ice cream maker this weekend (that’s a good thing!). I can’t wait to give this technique a try. Thanks for posting it!

    • ohmygoodness thank you thank you so much. i’ve been looking everywhere on the web for making ice cream without a machine!!! genius! thanks!

    • I’m going to try the blender idea. And yes, some people do have room in their freezer for a blender. Thanks, Mercedes.

      If the blender idea doesn’t work, I will try your method. Thanks, David!

    • Hello David! I have recently made a food blog & you are one of my favorite chefs/bloggers (I’m sure you get that alot.

      I just made Green tea frozen yogurt with Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy ‘s recipe who got the basis from you, and I linked you ( i attached the link)

      Thank you so much! And I’m gonna read ur book “The perfect scoop” while eating it, woot woot!

    • Hello,

      Thanks for the info! But as a culinarily-challenged person who is very adept at burning water, please explain in step #1, “chill it over an ice bath.”

      Does that mean pour it over ice? Put the bowl it’s in into another bowl filled with ice and water? Inquiring minds want to know :-)

      Thank you.

    • An ice bath for cooling down a custard is made by filling a large bowl or basin with ice and some water, enough to float the cubes. The you place the bowl of custard in a smaller metal bowl, and submerging the bowl in the icy water which chills the custard.

    • Do you need to cover the baking dish or bowl in the freezer (like with plastic wrap)?

    • No, you should only cover the ice cream once completely frozen, if you don’t plan to eat it right away.

    • Yeah i made a chocolate ice cream and its fantastic! Actually i didnt mixed it every 30 minutes at all. But the result is great!

      I used only milk sugar and chocolate!!!

    • thanks for the hot (cold?) tip! I am trying this right now with a coconut milk version– will report back how that turns out!

    • Hey David,

      Any tips for making ice-cream in the Vita-Mix blender?

      Girls just wanna have ice-cream.

    • Hi David,

      Can you use this method to make gelato as well?

    • Dear David,

      thank you so much for posting this- I just made your vanilla ice cream with this method and it was AMAZING. its all I can do to stop myself from finishing it all by myself! I’m a bit of an ice cream fiend :) I was wondering, do you find that ice cream made this way melts quicker than commercial ice cream?

      Leah

    • Dear David,

      I was trying to make gelato, and I was wondering if the custard base is the same thing as gelato? Also, when you put it in a ice bath, for how long should it be in there? Thanks.

      Maria

    • Maria: Check out my post, What is gelato?.

      As for cooling custards, stir over the ice until they were cold, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled

    • David,
      Can milk and butter to make heavy cream be used instead of using heavy cream? I cannot find heavy cream without carrageenan (allergy). Thank you.

    • Jo: I’ve not done it, but I don’t think so. If you do try it, let us know how it works out.

      Look for a dairy or farmer’s market in your area that sells fresh milk, rather than the supermarket, which usually carry mostly UHT cream, which can have stabilizers.

    • David I tried the butter and milk substitute and it turned out but has an odd texture. Kind of tastes like butter pecan ice cream. I am working on it and will let you know if I improve on it in any way.

      Thanks for the feedback on your experiment. If you’re avoiding cream, there are soy ‘creams’ out there, in natural food stores. I haven’t used them, but hear that they work in ice creams. Happy churning! -dl

    • How do you make “ice cream mixture” Please Help!

    • Hi David,

      Don’t know why my icecream became hard like ice. couldn’t not even scoop it until it’s been taken out for 20 mins from the freezer… Is that normal? if not, what’s wrong with my ice cream? I followed all the steps of your recipe….. thanks!

    • hi ellen: Because the ice cream isn’t churned in the traditional manner, ie: in a machine which incorporates air into the mixture, it’ll be much firmer when frozen. If you use an electric hand mixer, that helps. You may also want to check out the post on making homemade ice cream softer, which is linked at the end of the post.

    • ‘Milk and butter to make heavy cream’
      I have no issues using heavy cream but my mom wants me to make butter pecan ice cream (pecans N/A). How much butter and milk do I need? Will the method change also?

    • I’m in culinary school and, as part of our lesson on custards, made an earl gray tea-infused crème anglaise. I took it home and, using your method, made it into earl gray ice cream…deeeeelicious! :)

    • Can I use an immersion blender to whisk?

      Yes, they work quite well! -dl

    • David,

      All I can say is AWESOME, I am far from a Chef I’m more of a hack armed with a wooden spoon, but even my wife was impressed with the way the ice cream turned out.

      Will be making batch number 2 in a couple of days.

      Thanks again
      Ben

    • Thanks dave! Now i don’t have to blow 400 bucks on a machine. :)
      i have a question, though, when you say

      4. Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously as it’s freezing. If you have one, you can use a hand-held mixer for best results, or use a stick-blender or hand-held mixer.

      won’t it turn to mush if i use a stick-blender?

      and if i use a whisk, won’t that incorporate air into the ice cream?

    • Ilikeicecream: The mixture should be partially-frozen when you use the stick blender, so it will fluff it up a bit. And you do want to incorporate air into the ice cream (which, technically, is called “overrun”). That’s why a machine does a better job; because you’re whipping a bit more air into the ice cream. But this method works for those who don’t have a machine quite nicely.

    • thanks dave :D I’m trying out the chocolate sherbet recipe actually. I know this sounds silly, but do the same rules apply for sherbet making?

    • Hi David,
      I always learn so much from your blogs. I don’t have an ice cream machine and I have no excuses. I can’t wait to try this technique. The banana caramel looks yummy! Thanks.

    • Here’s another way to make ice cream without a machine. It’s especially fun for kids:
      “http://sci-toys.com/scitoys/scitoys/thermo/ice_cream/ice_cream.html”

    • Hi David. I was looking at your frozen yogurt recipe and thinking about all of the different combos I could make. I notice above you add chocolate when almost frozen. I was wondering if I could do the same with lemon curd and try to make a sort of swirl out of it. I guess I kind of want lemon curd swirl frozen yogurt, if that makes sense. Any suggestions would be very much appreciation. Thanks.

    • BB: It sounds great to swirl ice cream with lemon curd. Just make sure it’s on the sweeter side, so it doesn’t freeze too hard. (You can check out Tips for making homemade ice cream softer for more on getting softer textures in ice cream formulas.)

      If you do try it, let me know how it works out.

    • Wow! What an easy way to make ice cream. It looks and sounds delicious :)

    • Hi David,
      I was wondering if you can do a caramel drizzle instead of chocolate, like you did in the Stracciatella? If so, do you have a recipe for the carmel or could I just melt store bought caramels?

      Thanks for the recipe, I can’t wait to try it!
      Elisabeth

    • Elizabeth: I’ve not tried a hard, pure caramel in place of the chocolate, nor have I never melted down caramels, but if you do try them, I’d be interested to know how they work out.

    • Hi David,
      can you give an approximate estimate as to how long the beating of the ice cream should be? I’ve made chocolate ice cream without a machine, and while it’s delicious it doesn’t have the really smooth texture I was going for; there are still some ice crystals. How long should the custard mixture be beaten between freezing?
      Thanks for your help :) I love your blog, keep it up!
      Kristina

    • Kristina: Ice cream made using this method will not have the same creamy texture of ice cream churned in a machine, but if you have an immersion hand (stick) mixer you can eliminate some of the ice crystals using that. Because the size and density of various mixtures, and the temperature of freezers vary, it’s impossible to predict exact times when you should stir it—it’s best just to keep an eye on it and stir it as it freezes.

    • Thank you so much!!! Call me retro if you want but i don’t like to much machinery in my kitchen!! That’s why was looking forward to find one recipe like this! Thank you!

    • Another question about equipment– will it work to take your ice cream recipes and pour the finished custards into popsicle molds? I don’t have an ice cream maker but I do have those, and I like the portion size!

    • Illisa: I don’t know as I haven’t tried to freeze ice cream custard without stirring or churning it in a machine. If you do try it, please let me know how it turns out.

    • I tried your vanilla ice cream using this method and it’s just perfect!!! Delicious, extra super smooth and creamy. I used a whisk and whisked the hell out of it every half hour for about 4 hours until it was set. It’s totally worth it. I divided the recipe and added chocolate to make stracciatella just like you did and added cajeta to the other half…scrumptious.

      Thanks!

    • Hi David!

      I hosted a friend’s birthday party recently and ended up with an absurd excess of egg yolks. I cringed a little at throwing them away… and at the thought of just making pudding and hollandaise sauce.

      One of my friends suggested making ice cream and I was hesitant, being without a churning machine. Then I searched the web and your post came up and now I have a quickly diminishing quart of coffee ice cream in the freezer.

      Thank you for making ice cream and cooking/baking accessible in general. You’re sort of my hero.

      All the Best,

      X M

    • David, have you ever tried the MIDAS maker? I got this a couple of years ago and its worked every time. A pot and lid filled with gel is put into the freezer for 16 hours or more, then the mixture freezes in 15 mins – you whisk it up and freeze it again for 15 mins and then its done! It’s a pretty cool beginners ‘machine’ I think and no storage probs. As I’ve not used anything else apart from the traditional freezer method I can’t compare how life would be with an ice cream machine. Would be interested if you’ve tried this and what you think?

    • lyn: I’ve not seen those machines in either the US or in any stores in France. Only online, and they seem to run out of stock on them. So I haven’t tried one.

    • I made some icecream about a year ago using the hand method (no electric blenders/makers) and it came out beautifully.. just needs a tiny bit of effort… Thanx – you’ve inspired me to try it again! :-)

    • I must say that I’m impressed with this method. It never crossed my mine to try it even though I’ve made sorbets without a machine already. Now I have no excuse to enjoy some ice cream when I want.

      Thank you :-)

    • I know I’m late to the ice cream making party, but I used this technique today and the ice cream came out quite grainy. I used a custard based recipe and an immersion blender. Any tips for reducing the ice crystals? Thanks.

    • Laura: If you have a food processor you can whirl this ice cream in there as well to make it smoother. But as mentioned in the opening, ice cream churned in a machine will have less ice crystals.

    • Hi David,
      I wrote a post on butterscotch ice cream and linked back to this post as a reference to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.

    • the best

    • I use a tebletop mixer with the paddle attachement. First age your ice cream base in the fridge for 24h. The fat in the ice cream base will crystallise around the air bubbles and give them propper structure. This will give your ice cream a bit of overrun. In the tabletop mixer, por in your liquid ice cream base. Switch it to medium speed. Crush dry ice finely in a tea towl. Slowly pour this into your ice cream base. Dry ice is -80 degrees C. The faster you freeze your ice cream, the smaller the ice crystals, as the water has less time to be driven out of the sugar-water solution to form ice crystals. Do not add to much dry ice as you will get fizzy ice cream. Dry ice evaporates in the form of CO2 and can give a funny after taste if you add to much. Stop adding at the point where the ice cream reaches -5 degrees C.

    • Wonderful! Will try it with a honey-chamomile recipe I found somewhere.
      Question:
      Would it be advisable to chill the blender blades in the freezer also, so when you take the ice cream out to mix it, the blades somewhat preserve the cold?

      Regards from El Salvador.

    • I would like to make butter pecan ice ream. Can you please tell me how to do that?
      Thanks so much,
      Cathy

    • Hi,

      I’m a little too lazy to drag my butt to the nearest grocery store but I’m just wondering if I could use 3 cups of cream instead of milk?

    • Cream is much richer than milk but it will work.

    • I am really amazed and well informed when I read through the process involved and it has given me more courage to try making it.

    • can you please tell me how to make a vanilla ice cream?

      Thank you so much

      Engeline