Learn how to make a classic homemade French vanilla ice cream recipe that only requires 5 ingredients. This recipe is super easy to customize by mixing in any toppings you desire.
Want To Save This Article?
Enter your email below and we'll send it straight to your inbox. Plus, you'll receive new weekly recipe inspiration.
Anyone who loves ice cream is going to love this recipe. With a handful of ingredients and a little bit of time, this recipe will teach you how to create a creamy homemade ice cream.
This recipe is unique because of the high ratio of egg yolks, just like the classic French-style custard ice cream.
This recipe can be made using an ice cream machine from any of the major brands such as Breville, Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Pampered Chef, or Whynter.
Don't forget to check out my other favorite 30+ ice cream maker recipes.
What You'll Learn In This Recipe
- What makes vanilla ice cream unique from other types of ice cream.
- How to properly temper eggs and cook an ice cream base.
- How to change up this recipe to achieve new and unique flavor combinations.
Don’t forget to sign up for my weekly emails if you enjoy learning about tips to grow and improve in the kitchen.
What Makes French Vanilla Ice Cream Unique?
French vanilla bean ice cream is unique because it is a custard-base ice cream. Custard-base ice creams use significantly more egg yolks than traditional ice cream, or Philadelphia-style ice cream which doesn’t use any eggs at all.
Because custard ice creams use egg products, the mixture has to be heated before churning and there are a few more steps involved in the ice cream making process.
So, why add egg yolks? The end result is a much richer and creamier ice cream and is definitely worth the extra effort involved.
Ingredients You Need
You'll only need five simple ingredients to make the best French vanilla ice cream.
Whole Milk: For this ice cream recipe, it's crucial that you’re using whole milk and not 2% or skim or any other variety of milk. The fat percentage in whole milk is what gives this ice cream the creaminess we desire. Additionally, milk helps add water to the ice cream mix, which helps the ice cream properly freeze when added to the machine.
Heavy Cream: Cream has an even higher percentage of butterfat than milk. The reason we use both whole milk and heavy cream is that the balance of butterfat will give us the perfect creaminess without it having a fatty, greasy mouthfeel.
Egg Yolks: This is the ingredient that makes this type ice cream unique. The high percentage of egg yolks and cream is important for gaining the proper French-style consistency. Eggs help provide a silky, rich texture to the ice cream.
All custard recipes use eggs. Because of this, the base must be heated to kill off any potentially harmful bacteria found in the raw eggs.
Granulated Sugar: To sweeten our ice cream, we have to add sugar to it. Beyond being a sweetening agent, sugar also helps lower the freezing point of the mixture which keeps the ice cream from turning into an ice block.
Vanilla extract: This is added for the vanilla flavor that takes the recipe from a generic French custard to French vanilla ice cream. If you desire, you can also use vanilla bean paste if you want to see pretty vanilla bean specks in your ice cream.
Mix-Ins: Mix-ins are optional, but they are definitely a fun way of changing up the flavor of your ice cream. For mix-ins, simply add them in in the last few minutes of the churning process. Be sure the mix-ins are bite-sized so eat in your ice cream.
Here are some of my personal favorite mix-in ingredients:
- Oreo cookies
- Cookie dough
- Chocolate chips
- Fresh fruit or dried fruit
- Caramel M&Ms
- Peanut Butter
How To Make This Recipe
Let's walk through how to make this delicious French vanilla ice cream recipe. I'll show you some of my favorite tips along the way to ensure your ice cream turns out perfectly the first time.
1. Before mixing anything, fill a large bowl with ice to use later as an ice bath. Place another empty bowl on top of the ice and set this aside.
Ideally, use either glass or stainless steel bowls for this, because these will cool much better than plastic bowls.
To begin making your ice cream, add the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla into a heavy-bottom saucepan. On medium heat, slowly heat this mixture until you start to see small bubbles forming around the edges and steam rising from the mixture. This typically takes about 8 minutes, but be sure to keep an eye on the mixture, so it does not boil.
2. While you let the cream and milk mixture heat, mix your egg yolks and granulated sugar.
3. After the cream and milk mixture is steaming, grab a whisk and a ladle. Gradually ladle the hot mixture into the egg yolks and sugar.
4. Be sure to whisk vigorously after adding the hot cream and milk.
Known as tempering, this technique slowly mixes two things at two different temperatures to ensure the cold mix is not shocked by adding all the heat in at once. This technique is especially important with eggs, if you shock an egg mixture you’ll end up with scrambled eggs instead of a nice velvety egg custard.
5. Once your eggs are tempered, add them back into the saucepan and continue to whisk. Keep whisking until the whole mixture is thoroughly combined and homogenized (mixed together).
6. With the mixture combined properly, keep cooking it while whisking, until the ice cream base reaches 180°F (82°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
7. Once you hit that temperature, place a bowl covered with a fine mesh strainer into your ice bath from earlier. Strain the ice cream base to catch any large chunks of eggs that may have gotten scrambled while you were in the tempering process.
8. Leave your ice cream base in the ice bath until it stops steaming.
Then, remove the top bowl from the ice, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 - 8 hours, or up to overnight. The temperature of your French vanilla ice cream base should reach somewhere between 40°F - 42°F (4.4°C - 5.6°C).
Be sure you do not rush this step, or the ice cream base will not freeze properly when churning in the ice cream machine.
9. Now, for the home stretch of your ice cream-making process. Pour your properly cooled mixture into an ice cream machine (I use a Whynter machine with a built-in compressor).
If you have an ice cream machine with a bowl that needs to pre-freeze, place the bowl in the freezer 24 hours before you plan to churn.
It is very important that you do not fill the ice cream base all the way to the top of the ice cream maker. If you fill the ice cream maker too high, as the air incorporates into the mix, your ice cream will overflow. In the world of ice cream and frozen desserts, the process I just described is known as overrun.
10. Churn according to the directions of the machine's manufacturer. For my machine, it takes about 20-25 minutes to fully churn. When done, the ice cream should have the consistency of soft serve.
You can eat this right away or place it in the freezer to harden for a couple of hours if you don't want the soft serve consistency.
To store your ice cream, keep it in an airtight container in the freezer where it will last for 2-3 weeks.
- It is very important to let your ice cream mixture completely cool before you churn it. For the ice cream to properly freeze it must be around 40°F - 42°F (4.4°C - 5.6°C). If you attempt to churn the mixture while it's still hot, you will just end up with a soupy mess.
- Make sure you remember to put your ice cream machine bowl in the freezer 24 hours before churning if you don't have a machine with a built-in compressor. I like to set an alarm reminder for this.
- Proper storage is essential to prevent the ice cream from becoming icy and grainy. Anytime the ice cream temperature increases after it's been churned, the ice crystals will melt. When you re-freeze the ice cream after the temperature has increased, you’ll be left with an undesirable icy consistency.
To properly regulate temperatures, store your ice cream in a long, plastic Tupperware. This helps the ice cream freeze quicker after churning it. Additionally, keep the ice cream stored towards the back of the freezer, as opposed to the door, to ensure it's in the coldest environment possible. The simplest but most practical tip for avoiding grainy ice cream is to keep it out of the freezer for as little time as possible.
To learn more, check out this ice cream storage post with helpful tips and tricks.
- When heating your ice cream base, keep an eye on it at all times. If you accidentally burn or boil your milk, you’ll have to throw out the mix and start over.
- When tempering the eggs for the ice cream base, it is essential to whisk forcefully to minimize the chance of scrambling your eggs.
French vanilla ice cream is made of milk, cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla flavoring.
If there aren’t too many bits of eggs, then yes, it is okay to use this. Just be sure you’re straining the mix with a fine mesh strainer before you churn it.
French-style ice creams are unique because of the high percentage of cream and egg yolks used in the base. If you were to buy an ice cream labeled as just ‘vanilla’ and not ‘French vanilla’, you could be getting an ice cream with no eggs.
French vanilla custard is typically more creamy and rich due to the high amount of egg yolks.
Unfortunately, this French vanilla ice cream recipe is designed for an ice cream maker. The machine is the only way to properly freeze this base to get a creamy end product.
Absolutely, you can make the ice cream base ahead of time. Simply store it tightly covered in plastic wrap for 24 - 48 hours ahead of churning.
This is the best French vanilla ice cream because it works with an endless amount of pairings. Some of my favorites include caramel sauce, hot fudge, peanut butter, berry compote, or Oreo cookies. This is also the perfect ice cream for an ice cream cookie sandwich!
More Ice Cream Recipes
French Vanilla lce Cream (5 Ingredients)
- Fill a large bowl with ice to use later as an ice bath. Place an empty bowl on top of the ice. Set aside.
- In a heavy bottom saucepan combine heavy cream, milk, and vanilla. Cook over medium heat until mixture is steaming and small bubbles start to form around the edge of the pot, around 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Once the milk and cream mixture is steaming, stream a ladle full of the hot mixture over the eggs while quickly whisking.
- Add the egg mixture back into the saucepan with milk and cream. Whisk to combine. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the ice cream base reaches 180°F (82°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
- Place a fine mesh strainer over the empty bowl on top of the ice bath. Strain ice cream base. Chill ice cream base until it has stopped steaming. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the custard base and refrigerate for 4 - 8 hours, or up to overnight. The temperature should reach 40 - 42°F (4.4 - 5.6°C) during this time in the refrigerator.
- Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process for about 20-25 minutes, or according to the manufacturer's directions.
- The ice cream will be on the soft side but can be eaten right away or put into the freezer to "cure" or harden for a couple of hours. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 - 3 weeks.