2 simple secrets to making luscious ice cream without a machine
[5 ingredients]

lemon ice cream lemon ice cream

Smooth, creamy, luscious home made ice cream. The holy grail of desserts, to me at least.

my quest for the holy-grail of ice cream
Those of you that have been following stonesoup for a while will know of my love affair with ice cream. You’ll also know about my search for the holy grail of desserts: A recipe for super creamy home made ice cream that doesn’t require an ice cream machine.

You see a few years ago, before my minimalist days, I got so frustrated with seeing tempting ice cream recipes in my favourite food magazines. The creamy desserts always sounded so inviting but inevitablly the final instruction would be to ‘freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions’.

Each time I read those words my heart would sink a little more. Until one day I decided to fork out a large amount of cash for an appliance that could barely fit in my tiny kitchen. But an ice cream machine I wanted, and an ice cream machine I would have. And a proper one, with an internal compressor so I could happily make batch after batch of cool creamy goodness.

To be fair, my ice cream machine and I have had some good times together. As a quick perusal of the list of my pre-minimalist ice cream and gelato recipes in the stonesoup gelato recipe index will attest. But since embracing minimalism, I’ve been searching for a good ice cream recipe that doesn’t need a one-trick-pony piece of equipment. Basically I’ve been looking for a good reason to get rid of my beginning-to-rust ice cream machine.

And the brilliant news is that I’ve unlocked the secrets to making ice cream at home with just a simple whisk and your home freezer. And not only does it not need special equipment, it also isn’t based on an egg custard like most ice cream recipes. So the prep work is even more simple still. Yay!

secret 1. use lots of sugar
Traditional ice cream making uses mechanical means to prevent large ice crystals forming. First the mixture is continually stirred or churned to break up ice crystals as they form. Secondly, better quality ice cream manufacturers freeze the custard base as quickly as possible, to further promote only fine ice crystals.

But as I’ve discovered, the real secret is to make conditions difficult for the ice crystals to form at all. And the simplest way to do that is add lots of sugar. This decreases the freezing point of the overall mixture so that even when it gets to the temperature inside your freezer, big ice crystals just aren’t able to form. Instead the mixture remains creamy and smooth and pretty much everything you’d want in an iced dessert.

I’m so excited about this, the simple ideas really are the best. Alcohol will also decrease the freezing point – a whole new area to explore another day.

secret 2. incorporate air
This second secret isn’t critical for achieving creaminess over icyiness. But if you’ve ever wondered why your home made ice cream feels heavy compared to commercial brands, it’s all about the air. Since ice cream is sold by volume and air is much cheaper than every other ingredient, ice cream manufacturers tend to whip their ice cream to incorporate as much air as possible.

Before you start getting upset about this, I actually prefer my ice cream to be lighter and fluffier. It feels more moussy in your mouth AND air is much kinder to the waistline. Win-win!

watch lemon ice cream video on YouTube,

lemon ice cream

[5 ingredients]
creamy lemon ice cream

makes about 2 cups

I first made this for my Thanksgiving dinner last month and served it with my pumpkin cheesecake (that you could learn how to make this weekend). And while the cheesecake was getting rave reviews, I was secretly more impressed with my ice cream making skills.

Feel free to play around with the cirtus, lime would be lovely, if a little more expensive. This recipe has quite a lemony tang, if you’d prefer your lemon to be a little more subtle, you could easily reduce the juice down to 1/4 cup.

If you’re in a hurry, a metal container will conduct the heat much more quickly and get you there in half the time. Shallow containers with lots of surface area will also freeze more rapidly than deeper ones.

1/3 cup lemon juice
250g (9oz) icing (powdered or confectioners) sugar
300mL (1+1/4cups) whipping cream, approx 35% milk fat

1. Combine lemon juice and icing sugar in a small bowl.

2. Using a whisk, whip cream until soft peaks just start to form and the cream has thickened slightly.

3. Whisk the lemon mixture in with the cream and whisk until the texture is back to the soft peaks.

4. Place in a freezer-proof container and freeze for at least 6 hours or until lovely and ice-creamy.


I’m planning to run a short masterclass at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School on making ice cream without an ice cream machine next year. Is this something that sounds interesting to you? Or do you have another more pressing cooking challenge you’d prefer to learn to overcome? I love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Or drop me a quick email: jules@thestonesoup.com.

lemon ice cream


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Cynthia December 9, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Can’t wait for the shops to open up tomorrow so that I can try it out!
Thank you for sharing.

Michelle December 9, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I’m on a mission this summer to turn cream liqueurs into ice-cream (Amarula Cream, Cape Velvet, Hot Sex, you name it). With another hot Xmas due in the Southern Hemisphere I reckon those will go down a treat with the traditional fruitcake and mince pies! No ice-cream maker in sight, so your post is a life-saver.

Wei-Wei December 9, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I can’t wait for the liquor experimentations ;) (Yes, I know, I’m underage, but the thought of Kahlua coffee ice cream excites me.)

alwayslovely December 9, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Thanks for sharing! Love this video. Simple and really look nice. You really blow my mind & change my view on cooking!
Awesome. Keep it up!!!

joana December 9, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I really wanted to know how to make a chocolate ice cream without an ice cream machine…
But I´ll try this lemon one first!

Hsinya December 10, 2010 at 3:58 am

Hi Jules, I’m so excited for this ice cream recipe! I don’t have an ice cream machine and don’t plan on getting one. I’ll try this recipe when I get some whipping cream on hand. Thanks!

jules December 10, 2010 at 6:40 am

love the way your mind works – let us know how you get on with your experiments.

yum kahlua icecream sounds like a winner!

thanks alwayslovely

I actually have mastered the chocolate icecream thing a while ago – cocoa powder helps retard ice crystals: http://thestonesoup.com/blog/2008/09/we-have-the-technology/
this was before I discovered 5 ingredients – think this recipe could do with an update!

yay! I’m really excited about it too. Enjoy

Lau@Corridor Kitchen December 10, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Brilliant! I’ve struggled with this too.

A friend of mine who has an ice cream machine reckons sorbets work well if you don’t have an ice cream maker, especially if you freeze the fruit first. Then you can blend or process it and chuck it in the freezer, whisking every half hour or so.

Cynthia December 10, 2010 at 1:04 pm

OK – So now it is just a waiting game! (6hrs to go)
It was so easy to make and batter tastes delicious.
Will let you know how it turns out.

Hannah December 10, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Thank you thank you! I don’t have an ice cream maker nor the kitchen space for one and, like you, frequently sigh then pass over ice cream blog posts. It’s wonderful to find some tips for making it by hand!

Plus, lemon? Only one of the best dessert flavours ever :)

jules December 10, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I find the best sorbet method is to start with frozen fruit then puree it in the food processor with a little sugar until you have instant sorbet… much easier than having to whisk regularly.

you don’t waste any time – I’m impressed! Look forward to hearing what you think of the finished product.

pleasure hannah
I’m hearing you about lemon..so good.

Caity December 10, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Even though I have an ice cream machine, it (embarrassingly) has been sitting, unused, in my kitchen after I HAD to have it several Christmases ago. I’m going to try the lemon ice cream recipe as soon as I can get some cream, though!

jules December 10, 2010 at 6:03 pm

we’ve all been there… good of you to admit it!
actually if you use your icecream machine to freeze this mixture it should freeze faster than just using the freezer…

Cynthia December 10, 2010 at 7:44 pm

6 1/2 hours later and I couldn’t wait any longer. It is just delicious and so super creamy.
Thank you so much jules for sharing this with us – it is seriously good.

jules December 10, 2010 at 8:55 pm

awesome cynthia
so glad you liked it ;)

Vu December 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm

WOW I never knew ice cream was so ridiculously easy to make!! Homemade ice cream here I come! Thanks Jules you’re the BEST!!

Fouad @ The Food Blog December 11, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Hi Jules

Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I made roasted pistachio paste a few days ago and was going to do a traditional custard based ice cream with it. I saw your recipe and I decided to give it a go. It really exceeded my expectations. The texture is like a semifreddo, which I love, and it’s great that it has no eggs or thickeners. Wonderful. I’ll be blogging about my pistachio ice cream and will certainly give you the credit you so deserve.

Krista Van Veen December 12, 2010 at 4:02 am

Ice cream is my weakness :-) I’ve never made it but after reading this I’m going to do it!! The pictures are extra tempting. I also shared the love with another foodie friend.

Thank you, Jules ~ nomnom


PatF in Tacoma, USA December 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

Hi Jules and friends,
I was hoping for a sugarless ice cream because my family is rife with people allergic to that processed stuff. However, my son has started using agave as a sweetener all of us can tolerate, and produces seriously good whipped cream with it. I suspect he can make some great ice cream with your method. Enjoy the year-end holidays — we’ll be skiing, you’ll be swimming. What a wonderful world!

Cat December 13, 2010 at 8:31 am

Ever since making your ‘machine-free honey icecream’ I’ve been thinking about making a red wine icecream, but wasn’t sure about the chemistry of alcohol and whether it might hinder my icecream from turning out. And then in this entry you’ve mentioned that alcohol actually helps!

So… yesterday, following this recipe (so much lighter than the honey icecream – amazing!), I reduced the sugar a little, to 230g, and threw in about 3/4 cup of a cabernet saivignon, and voila! Served with a couple of choc-dipped strawberries it blew my mind – and was a real hit with the guests. Yet another wonderful recipe idea from the stonesoup :)

Ross December 13, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Hey Jules,

I made the ice cream for a dinner party last night. It was a big hit. And so easy. Thanks.

jules December 13, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Awesome Ross
glad you enjoyes

Wow Cat
I would never have thought of red wine icecream – now I’m going to have to try it!

look forward to hearing how the agave syrup turns out – enjoy the snow!

Jay Shortshanks December 15, 2010 at 7:24 am

I tried this out and it was sooooo good. Thanks so much, my family absolutely loved it.

Freeze Dried Foods
Daily Bread
Food Storage

sheri December 16, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Never did I think I could make ice cream without a machine! Thank you for this, it came out deliciously. Now I shall try out the other suggestions in the comments. Here’s to a winter of ice cream!

Deven December 17, 2010 at 11:02 am

OMG! Did I ever tell you I love you? I do you know. Very much so! Even more now! I L-O-V-E ice cream and don’t have the room for a machine either. This is perfect and I’m copying all the wonderful tips from your readers too! I can’t wait to try it!

Maya @ Stories from Emona December 17, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Jules, you are the best!! I can’t thank you enough for sharing all this with us. I’ve already made your honey ice cream a few months ago and it was splendid. I’m going to try this one in the coming week as well. Can’t wait! :)

llauren December 20, 2010 at 3:11 am


Amazing recipie. I’m really keen on trying it out! How much would you say a third of an Australian cup is in european measures (ml)? Also, is the sugar you’re using of that kind that is as fine as potato (or wheat) flour? English cooking terminology really isn’t my strong side.

Regards from Finland, where we really could leave the mix outside overnight to have it freeze :)

jules December 20, 2010 at 12:36 pm

hey RL
1/3 cup is about 83mL & yes the sugar needs to be as fine as flour.
keep warm!

Zo @ Two Spoons December 20, 2010 at 6:36 pm

So excited, this is in the freezer as I type. A question about the lemon juice: can you use any other liquid, or does the acid in the lemon perform some vital function? Was thinking of doing chambord ice cream with raspberry compote rippled throughout. Or espresso, etc. Can you sub the lemon juice for most liquids, including plain water?

Zo @ Two Spoons December 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm

WOW I thought it would be too good to be true, but this was truly wonderful, even in the big freezer which makes ice cream normally way too solid. You are a legend! Thank you thank you thank you.

jules December 22, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Great question!
The lemon just flavours and balances the sweetness of all that sugar. You could easily substitute in coffee or a raspberry puree – the possibilities are endless. I’ve even main a vanilla and it was lovely, although quite sweet.
Do let me know if you experiment.

Ana Rita Lebreiro December 23, 2010 at 2:57 am

Love this post and thank you for the useful tips :)

Kasey December 23, 2010 at 5:45 am

I love lemon ice cream but I hardly ever see it sold in stores. Since I got my ice cream maker a few years ago, I experiment with all sorts of flavors. It’s good to know this is even simpler!

Sri Ramkrishna December 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I’m thinking of making a fig and honey ice cream! I’ve had it before in India and it was just so superb. If I used honey instead of sugar do you think this will still work? As for the fig, I was thinking of using boiling hot water to break down the fig and then make it into a paste and then mix it with honey and perhaps some orange blossom flavoring (or rose) alternatively, I could use rose hips or maybe dried hibiscus? I just want to put a herbal or flowery scent into the mix.

Gosh, I’m so eager to try it now. Thank you for sharing, Jules. Best wishes!


ACH December 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I, of course, would love to see a vegan ice cream…with five ingredients or less…that tastes as delicious as this recipe looked! That would be a feat!

jules December 28, 2010 at 10:46 pm

good question on the honey – as long as you get enough sugar to retard the ice crystals it should work – I guess the difficulty would be getting the honey evenly distributed with the cream – maybe you’d need to heat them together then cool and whip?? I think little chunks of fig would be lovely.

yes vegan icecream would be a feat – can’t imagine how you’d do it to be honest.

Sharon January 20, 2011 at 5:58 am

I will have to give this a try. One of my kids is allergic to egg so most home made icecream recipes we can’t make even if we did have a machine. I will definitely give this a go. I LOVE lemon.

jules January 20, 2011 at 8:59 pm

yay sharon
it’s perfect for people with egg allergies like my dad!

dining room table January 24, 2011 at 11:35 am

Wow! This is really something so helpful to me. I have been thinking of some ways since I don’t have a machine.

maria January 25, 2011 at 11:14 am

My favorite dessert is ice cream/I can eat it all the time/love to travel just to try different ice cream shops. TIA

jules January 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Watch this space for a class at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School starting in a few weeks all about ice cream!

me too maria
travel and ice cream are favourites of mine too!

Adrienne February 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

I’m really excited to try this, but I’d like to substitute vanilla instead of lemon. How much vanilla should I use?

jules February 24, 2011 at 7:16 pm

hi adrienne
I’ve got a vanilla recipe in my ice cream class at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School http://stonesoupvirtualcookeryschool.com/2011/01/make-ice-cream-without-a-machine-course-information/

I generally use 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or you could use the same of vanilla extract or the scraped seeds of one vanilla bean pod.. you’ll need to reduce the amount of sugar to compensate for not having the lemon juice as well

Samantha Walton April 20, 2011 at 4:44 pm

I absolutely love your recipe for this and your blog, I have recently been looking at cooking blogs here there and everywhere and fell completely in love with yours. I added a link on my blog to this recipe and also to your blog in general I hope you dont mind.
Thanks for the excellent food tips and recipe’s

Casey May 29, 2011 at 7:23 am

This recipe looks lovely! I can’t wait to try it. Any suggestions on how I could incorporate rhubarb as opposed to or in addition to lemon? I am desperate to make a rhubarb ice cream, but alas, don’t have a machine.

jules May 31, 2011 at 5:08 pm

I love rhubarb Casey!

My first guess would be to make the icecream as above but skip the lemon juice. Freeze overnight. Then I’d cook rhubarb with a little sugar (either roast or in a pot) until it’s all falling apart. Then puree the rhubarb and stir into the ice cream. It shouldn’t need sugar because the icecream is quite sweet.

Do let me know how you get on if you try it!

Patricia June 25, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Made this yesterday and it is so smooth and delicious, cant wait to try different flavours.

jules June 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

yay trish! so glad you liked it

Swapna July 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I love your photographs, they make me drool even when I’m just full from a meal! I love the ideas behind your recipes, but I haven’t yet tried any of them. I want to try the ice cream, but a few questions. What is whipping cream exactly? Here in India we get tetra packs (cardboard boxes?) of cream and as far as I know, it’s just the one sort (and one brand). It tends to be fairly fluid, but can get more solid in the fridge. Also, can I just run ordinary sugar through the mixer down until it gets powdery and use that instead of the icing sugar sold in stores?
I can’t wait to taste the lemon, I love the idea. Then if that’s a success (so far I only get icy ice cream and I blame it on the milk) I have ideas for coffee, chocolate, cashew, orange, honey…

Swapna July 25, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Oh, and I forgot, can I use a motorised hand mixer to whisk?

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