I Scream for Ice Cream! Making Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker

It’s possible that you think homemade ice cream is something that other people do: people who own ice cream stores, or at least people who own ice cream makers. Well, this is simply false: Making ice cream without an ice cream maker is actually quite easy. All you need is a little time and elbow grease. Any ice cream recipe can be adapted to be made without the machinery!

Bowl of Vanilla Ice Cream

Photos and illustrations via CakeSpy

Making ice cream without an ice cream maker is easy, all you need is a little know-how!

So what are you waiting for? Your homemade pie isn’t going to à la mode itself, so let’s put this valuable cooking technique to work.

Believe it or not, there’s not just one method of making ice cream without an ice cream maker. There are methods that call for freezing a custard mixture as cubes and then blending them, and even a creative method that involves putting the ice cream in two nestled cans and kicking it (or having kids kick it) outside. While these both sound fun (and in the case of the latter, a much more exciting form of exercise than a treadmill), we’re going to stick with an easy method that can be done with readily available kitchen tools: a whisk, a spatula and a baking pan or shallow bowl.

Whisk and spatula

We’ll start with a simple vanilla ice cream recipe, but rest assured that any recipe can be used with this method. If you have a different recipe in mind, simply skip to step 4 and continue from there.

Recipe note: This recipe has a fairly small yield of 6 servings, but it can easily be doubled. I like to make a double batch, and then divide it between two containers in step 4. That way, I can add different flavorings to each batch. For a delicious and slightly naughty treat, stir in a heaping scoop of homemade ganache.

Scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream

Simply delicious vanilla ice cream recipe

Makes 6 servings


  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

This recipe can easily be doubled. If you’re looking to convert measurements, refer to our Metric Conversion Guide.

Step 1:

Place the first five ingredients (everything but the vanilla) in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. You can use a whisk, but also reach in with a rubber spatula from time to time to make sure the custard doesn’t set on the bottom of the pan.

Heating heavy cream and half and half for ice cream

Step 2:

Continue to cook until the temperature has reached 160 F (a few degrees over is fine). Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and transfer to an ice bath.

bring ice cream mixture to 160 F

Step 3:

While the mixture is cooling in the ice bath, place a stainless steel bowl (fairly shallow) or baking pan in the freezer to chill.

Cool ice cream base in an ice bath

Now, we’ll begin the part where you go “au natural” rather than using an ice cream maker. If you’ve used a different ice cream recipe than above and are just tuning in for the method, please proceed!

Step 4:

Once the mixture has cooled, gently pour it into the cold pan. Take care that no drops of water from the bottom of the pan get in the mixture.

pour the ice cream base into a metal baking pan

Step 5:

Place the pan in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Remove the pan. Chances are, it has begun to “set” along the sides but is wobbly in the middle. Use a spatula to loosen the edges, and a whisk to break up the partially set ice cream. Stir for about a minute, as vigorously as possible without making the mixture fly. You don’t have to worry about over-stirring, but if the ice cream is starting to turn into liquid, it’s time to return the mixture to the freezer.

Whisk the ice cream base vigorously

Step 6:

Return the mixture to the freezer. Repeat the removing and stirring procedure every 20 minutes for 6 cycles. The mixture will be slightly thicker every time. If at any point it is too thick, place the mixture in the refrigerator to soften slightly before stirring, then do the step and return to the freezer.

If you’d like to stir in any flavorings such as chocolate morsels or a caramel swirl, do it on one of the last mixings to ensure that it doesn’t get too messy looking. Once the ice cream has completely frozen, your ice cream is ready. Be sure to cover it or transfer to a container (an empty plastic ice cream or yogurt container works great).

Now that your ice cream is ready, we can address another important issue: cone or cup?

  • (will not be published)

One Response to “I Scream for Ice Cream! Making Ice Cream Without an Ice Cream Maker”