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.

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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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114 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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!!!

  • 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!

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

    wei-wei
    yum kahlua icecream sounds like a winner!

    thanks alwayslovely

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 :)

  • lau
    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.

    cynthia
    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.

  • 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!

  • caity
    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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    Krista

  • 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!

  • 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 :)

  • 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!

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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Hello!

    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 :)
    ~rL

  • 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
    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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

    sri

  • 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!

  • sri
    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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Hi,
    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
    :)

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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
    Whipping cream is standard cream – about 37% fat – if you can whip it it will be fine. You could make your own icing sugar – just be careful you don’t have any large crystals left or you’ll ruin the smooth texture.
    and either is fine for mixing

  • I just made this ice cream today and it is truly amazing! My husband and I were very, very impressed. No need to get a maker now! I even had to sub in a tiny bit of granulated sugar because I was low on icing sugar. A question, though. Do you have any suggestions for any additional flavours? And with those flavors, how can I be sure that I’m using the correct amount of sugar? Like, what is the absolute minimal amount of sugar one should use with any of the recipes? I get so nervous with experimenting on my own. Thank you for answering my questions!

  • I made this yesterday with 220g sugar (about a 12% reduction) and it was beautifully smooth. I might try with 200g sugar next time. How low your sugar content can go is going to depend quite a lot on the temperature of your freezer, though, and probably where you put it in the freezer as well, since most freezers aren’t terribly even.

    Theoretically there should be a way to calculate the perfect balance for all this, but unfortunately my understanding of the thermodynamic properties of cream isn’t good enough to work it out. I will say that, from my research, adding a little alcohol will lower the freezing point much faster than sugar, so that might be a good avenue to explore.

  • Hi!! Thanks for this super easy and yummy recipe!! I tried it with orange juice and absolutely happy with the result!!! But my family members found this ice-cream way bit oversweet. Is there any way I can reduce the sweetness by a bit?
    Thanks!!

  • Hi Jules
    I tried this recipe with cinnamon (2tsp) and it worked a treat, but I also tried it with honey (1/2 cup) and obviously there’s too much sugar because it doesn’t freeze, just is kind of thick and sticky. Do you have any rescue tips for ice-cream? Perhaps I could add another half cup of cream to this sticky batch and reduce some of the sugar in the next batch since the honey adds a good dose of it?

    Thanks for your advice,
    Sarah

  • Hi Sarah
    Great work experimenting…
    Yes is you whip half a cup of cream and fold through the sticky batch that should do the trick… and next time reduce the sugar as you suggest…
    Let me know how you get on!
    J

  • Hey, thanks for this amazing recipe. My husband is addicted to lemon, I made this for him with a simple change of more lemon juice and the zest of a lemon…..well he considered it to be orgasmic desert.
    SO quick and SO easy – thanks.

  • If you want to use less sugar, you can use Glycerine, I use a tablespoon to every pint of liquid, and it’s great as it no longer freezes to a brick. It is now firm but scopes very well. You don’t need to take it out of the freezer prior to serving etc, and you don’t need to use such large quantities of sugar. Great for the waistline.

    Linda

  • PS this is my favourite recipe:

    Servings: 32
    2 (405g) tins sweetened condensed milk
    1.2L (2 pints) milk
    475ml (16 fl oz) double cream
    2 tablespoons vanilla essence
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Though I half this usually. As you can see it doesn’t need the sugar! To this I add two tablespoons of Glycerine, or one if I half it. It stays lovely and scoopable.. (is that even a word? lol) This is my base recipe then to this I add what ever I want. For instance I made a peach Ice cream last night, by emptying a tin of peaches in their juices into the blender, then mixed it with the above, any thing is fine, just as long as you add the Glycerine. :)

  • Hello,
    I was wondering if this recipe or Linda’s recipe could be modified for pineapple flavour and pineapple chunks? My partner is crazy about pineapple though not so crazy bout overly sweet things, he loves cookies so I was going to make him pineapple cookies but i wanted an ice cream to go with them. So could anyone help me with a recipe please?

  • You read my mind! I have no room for another kitchen machine but have wondered if there is a way to make all natural ice cream without one. Thanks for sharing!

  • @Jenna Penguin: Pineapple doesn’t seem to freeze well without making any base watery, just for the sheer composition of pineapple. (*Though I could be wrong).

    These recipes sound delicious and cannot wait to try the sugarless version, as I have friends are Type 1 diabetics. Thank you so much!

  • PERFECT!!! I tried this recipe and it was amazing, I also made another batch with some modification in the recipe by using 1/4 cup of coffee instead of lemon and 200g of sugar with 50g of cocoa powder and the result was amazing too, smooth & creamy ice cream. Thanks :)

  • Hay jules,,, m sorry but m not satisfied with ur recipe dre is too much sweet content its give only creamy flavour end of the day…..its only kind of twsity recipe…..
    If u have any kulfi recipe share it with me…..i hope u not minded whatever i writened…

    • Hi Aslam
      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! This is a little on the sweet side so not everyone will love it… but the sugar is important for the texture.
      I don’t have a kulfi recipe I’m afraid
      All the best
      Jx

  • Dear Jule,
    I bought the Embork Whipping Cream but no matter how hard I whisked I couldn’t get the curd texture. Did I buy the wrong cream?
    I’m from Singapore.

    • Hi Ewe
      I’m sorry I’m not familiar with Embork cream.. if it’s not whipping for you, sounds like you need to try another cream. It needs to have at least 30% milk fat to whip so any lite creams are a no go.

  • Hi Jules,
    thanks so much for sharing your creation. Overly sweet but its nothing a little tweaking can’t fix. By the way when using glycerine how much would you suggest?
    Thanks in advance

  • Its in the freezer as I type – – first experiment. If its a success I am gonna try the orange and the peach and nectarine too. mmmmm.
    Cheers
    Jan,
    Gozo.

  • Hi Jules! There’s a recipe that I found that uses condensed milk instead of icing sugar, but the method is the same. I’m just wondering how different using condensed milk will be. :) I’m thinking of giving your recipe a go this weekend as I already have all the ingredients. Thanks!

    • HI Pauline
      I’ve made icecream with condensed milk and it’s lovely but tends to be much heavier than this one because it doesn’t have the whipped cream for the air.

  • I stumbled upon this two days ago. After making it last night I can honestly say ABSOLUTE HEAVEN! I used peach nectar instead of lemon. Sooo wonderfully creamy and delicious!

  • I bought an ice cream maker about 2 weeks ago. I gave up after multiple fails. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your recipe. It’s delicious. But, it tastes a little fattening to me though. Do you have any suggestion to substitute the heavy cream with? Thank you again, my ice cream maker now means nothing to me. =D

  • Just made the same recipe, i also chopped up 2 mangos and froze them, whip it up with 2 egg whites till thick and fold it in with the existing recipe, lemon and mango twirl.

  • I am all for this type of ice-cream,,which I made quite a lot of over the years.I never measure anything, taste as you go along…A favourite was a bird’s eye custard ice-cream, but living in the west indian island if Trinidad where goat’s milk is the best milk to use…..some times we would make ice cream cubes…you must try these…enjoy, Querino

  • Hello Jules

    I think this recipe looks good, but I would like to see a recipe for vanilla ice cream – could you give me your thoughts?

    At the moment, I make one with 2x tins condensed milk, 300ml single cream and 200g creme fraiche, with 1 tbsp vanilla flavouring – I mix it up, then 3 hours later mix it again and freeze until solid. This is usually a bit hard to scoop so I have to take it out half an hour before serving! It is lovely though.

    Also, what do you mean when you say that metal conducts the heat better? I didn’t know it used heat!

    I’d be glad of your thoughts please…

  • I love ice cream, and I don’t have an ice cream maker, so seeing that you can make ice cream without one, really caught my attention. I would definitely like a virtual class on it…Thanks … can’t wait to try this lemon ice cream…Lemon is my favorite flavor!!

  • What would you suggest for a peach ice cream recipe? My Daddy has requested I make it and it needs to be special as my mother used to make it for him and she passed last Feb. I can’t find her recipe! Any advice you might give would be very much appreciated! Joyfully, philippa

    • I’d Puree fresh peaches (nice and ripe) and use in place of the lemon juice (maybe leave a few tablespoons lemon in to keep the flavours fresh. Sorry to hear about your Mother Philippa :)

  • My sister made this lemon ice cream to go with a lemon raspberry cake I made for our mothers birthday last week. It was an absolute hit with all who ate it!!! I loved it so much I just got done making a batch instead of buying icing!! One thing my sister did that I loved, was adding lemon and lime zest!!! Thank you so for this lovely recipe, we will make it over and over!!!

  • Hi,

    So basically you mean that whichever flavor we are targetting, just whip the flavor with cream along with other side ingredients and that’s it?

    I wana try Butterscotch and blueberry ice creams.

    Thanks for the easy steps :):)

    • Create a gelato. See my comment below. The lack of air makes a much easier freeze, with less air making less ice crystals. It thus does not need as much sugar and is much more diabetic friendly.
      Make a milk gelato as your base then add flavouring.
      As said. Worried about ice cream cookery schools, if this is this not known, and i claim I know next to nothing about cooking.

    • I don’t know if this will be useful but I was watching food network the other day and heard some chef say that “fat” makes ice cream smoother, I’d suggest using cream with high fat content or adding egg yolk as it contains enough fat.

  • Your missing facts that make me think, What a waste of time reading.
    You talk a lot , quite arrogantly about ‘discovering the secrets ‘ of this and , ‘I’ve worked this secret out’ , but frankly , I claim I absolutely near nothing about cooking , but even I know air creates larger ice crystals in an ice cream. And I suspect you don’t know what gelato is nor why it forms fewer ice crystals over an ‘ice cream’.
    For home cooking with no ice maker, a gelato milk base recipie is the route to use. I know this, and I say I know little count cooking, so what’s going on with cookery classes and courses if you don’t?!

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