Here’s how to make the best homemade vanilla ice cream recipe! It’s got the perfect creamy texture and smooth, rich flavor.

Vanilla Ice Cream

The very best vanilla ice cream in the world? Homemade. We set about to create a stellar recipe using the traditional custard method, and let’s just say: this vanilla ice cream recipe rivals any gourmet brand you can find at the store. The frosty custard has a lusciously creamy mouthfeel, with the perfect sweet vanilla notes and rich undertones. The texture stays creamy in the freezer for days (a feat for homemade!), and it’s a bit of heaven dolloped onto a peach crisp or crumble scooped onto a cone. I’ll admit: I’m not much of a vanilla ice cream person. But this one is absolutely transcendental.

Ingredients for vanilla ice cream

This vanilla ice cream recipe uses the classic French-style custard method. That means that in addition to the dairy, it requires eggs to make lusciously thick texture. It’s a bit like a science experiment, where each ingredient has a special purpose. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Whole milk: Whole milk is essential for the creamy texture: the milk fat is what keeps things creamy instead of icy when frozen.
  • Heavy cream: Heavy cream in an equal amount balances the milk: it’s just enough to be creamy but not too rich.
  • Egg yolks: Egg is traditionally used in French-style ice cream to enhance the thick texture.
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch thickens the custard even more and makes a silky, scoop-able texture.
  • Granulated sugar: Granulated sugar is the best sweetener for the job; don’t be tempted to substitute alternate sweeteners here.
  • Salt: Salt enhances and brightens the flavors, much like it does with savory food.
  • Vanilla extract: Often vanilla bean is used in vanilla ice cream recipes, but it can be cost prohibitive. This recipe has just enough flavor using extract.
Vanilla ice cream recipe

Required equipment for vanilla ice cream

You’ll need an ice cream maker for this recipe: but it’s great investment you can use to make sorbetssherbet and ice creams all year round! Other than that, there’s just one more optional equipment item. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Find a quality ice cream maker. Here’s the 2 quart freezer bowl ice cream maker we use. It’s very durable and has held up well over the years. We also have this automatic ice cream maker, which is larger and more expensive but easier to use because it requires no pre-freezing.
  • Food thermometer: It’s not required for this recipe, but a food thermometer is helpful for measuring the temperature of the custard. If you don’t have one, follow the visual and timing cues in the recipe and it works just as well.

Tips for working with an ice cream maker

Ice cream makers are easy to use, but you’ll need to know a few tips if it’s your first time working with them. Here’s what to know:

  • For freezer bowl ice cream makers, freeze the base in advance. Make sure to freeze the base of the ice cream maker overnight before making this recipe. If you forget, try freezing the base for at least 4 hours. Give it a shake and if you still hear liquid inside, it’s not fully frozen: freeze it for another hour or two until solid.
  • Automatic ice cream makers don’t require freezing in advance. They are pretty large and require a bit of storage space. But they make up for it in ease of use: no need to think ahead! You can also make more than one ice cream flavor back to back (whereas with the freezer bowl maker you have to freeze the bowl again).
Vanilla ice cream

Basic steps for a vanilla ice cream recipe

Once you’ve got your required equipment, let’s make vanilla ice cream! You can skip to the recipe below if you’re ready to go. Otherwise, here’s an overview of the basic steps of the ice cream process. This is true for any classic, custard-style ice cream:

  • Make the custard (10 to 15 minutes): Simmer the milk, heavy cream and salt 4 to 5 minutes, taking care that it doesn’t boil. Whisk a bit of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks and sugar, then whisk in cornstarch (previously dissolved into a bit of milk). Add everything back to the milk mixture and heat 6 to 7 minutes until thickened. Stir in the vanilla.
  • Cool the custard (30 minutes, 1 hour or 3 hours): Cool down the custard before churning it. You can do this in a few ways: the quickest is to pour it into a 1-gallon zip-top bag, seal it, and place the bag in ice water for 30 minutes. Or you can transfer the mixture to a large metal or glass bowl and place the bowl in a smaller bowl of ice water for 1 hour. Alternatively, simply place the bowl in the refrigerator and wait for 3 hours or until the temperature drops to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Churn (25 minutes): Then churn the ice cream in the ice cream maker. After 25 minutes, it makes a soft serve texture you can eat immediately.
  • Freeze for hard ice cream texture (at least 2 hours): Or, freeze the ice cream for 2 hours for a scoop-able, hard ice cream texture (as shown in the photos).

Storage for homemade vanilla ice cream

How long can you store homemade vanilla ice cream? Because it has no preservatives or additives, you can’t leave it in the freezer for months. This vanilla ice cream recipe stores for 2 weeks (or more). Place it in a loaf pan with a parchment sheet over the top, or simply scoop it into a sealed container. The texture is lusciously creamy for the entire storage period, not icy like other methods. This is why heating the custard is so important!

Vanilla Ice Cream recipe

More frozen desserts

Want to use your ice cream maker for more treats? Here are some of our favorite ideas:

This vanilla ice cream recipe is…


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Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla Ice Cream

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: About 1 quart 1x


Here’s how to make the best homemade vanilla ice cream recipe! It’s got the perfect creamy texture and smooth, rich flavor.


  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons whole milk, divided
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  1. Mix 2 tablespoons whole milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until fully combined, then stir in the sugar.
  2. In a saucepan, combine the 2 cups whole milk, the heavy cream and salt. Heat for 4 to 5 minutes over medium heat, whisking frequently, until steaming but not bubbling (and the temperature reads 180 degrees on a food thermometer*). Be careful not to let it boil.
  3. Turn off the heat. While whisking, ladle a bit of the milk mixture into the egg yolks and sugar, being careful to go slow so that the egg yolks don’t curdle. Continuing to whisk, add 2 more ladles of the milk mixture slowly. Then whisk in the cornstarch mixture.
  4. Slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the remaining milk and cream in the saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, adjusting the heat so it doesn’t come to a simmer, for 6 to 7 minutes until thickened (don’t let it go above 170 degrees Fahrenheit). Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a large metal or glass bowl. Place the bowl in a smaller bowl of ice water for 1 hour, making sure not to splash any water into the custard (or even quicker, you can pour it into a 1-gallon zip-top bag, seal it, and place the bag in ice water for 30 minutes). Alternatively, simply place the bowl in the refrigerator and wait for 3 hours or until the temperature drops to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  6. Churn according to your ice cream maker instructions, about 25 minutes for soft serve consistency. For hard ice cream texture, transfer to a loaf pan or sealed container and freeze in the freezer for at least 2 hours (or up to 4 hours). Store in a loaf pan with a parchment sheet over the top or a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.


*A food thermometer is not required; use the visual and time cues if you don’t have one. However, it’s helpful to the most precise recipe: use the temperatures provided in parentheses.

  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Frozen
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Vanilla ice cream. vanilla ice cream recipe, homemade vanilla ice cream

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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