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Want homemade ice cream but don’t have an ice cream machine and no plans to purchase one anytime soon? Your stifled screams for ice cream were heard. There are several ways to make ice cream without any fancy equipment.
Before some of us bought our machines devoted to this dreamy frozen dairy dessert (or non-dairy dessert!), we suffered years, years (oh, the agony!) of drooling over ice cream recipes, only to have our hearts sink at the end of the instructions, which say “add to ice cream maker and follow manufacturer instructions.” So unfair.
Chin up. If you don’t want to buy more stuff—or if you simply don’t have room on your kitchen counter amid the KitchenAid stand mixer, toaster, blender, scale, Instant Pot, air fryer, and coffee maker—you don’t have to. No available areas in the cupboards? No problem. No budget for buying yet another single-purpose kitchen gadget-machine? Yeah, we feel you. Though it is tempting…
But you can resist without missing out. Join the cause for easier, cheaper ice cream and stick it to The Man (In this case, The Man = those gadget manufacturers/merchants and recipe developer/writer types who expect you to have all these tools…oh, wait…) Um, let us redeem ourselves after years of enticing you, inciting envy and self-pity with our more complicated ice cream ideas—which are wonderful if you happen to have an ice cream maker! (Just saying.)
But if you don’t have an ice cream machine, here are eight ways you can make homemade ice cream without one. (We skipped the liquid nitrogen ice cream option because, while certainly nifty, we don’t want anyone shattering off fingertips in the pursuit of dessert.)
The first no-machine method is so simple it’s ridiculous: Blending frozen bananas with add-ins. No planning required. Eat it immediately, if you want. Mixing the bananas in a food processor is ideal, but you can still make perfectly wonderful banana ice cream in a blender if you don’t have a processor—or even just mash them by hand, though the end result won’t be quite as smooth or creamy:
Technically, there is no ice or cream here. But try telling yourself you care after you make this in 10 minutes and experience the sensation of it gliding across your tongue. Our Two-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream recipe (call it nice cream if you like) could really be a 1-ingredient recipe if you want to be as basic as possible—but feel free to add some caramel, Nutella, cinnamon, ginger, peanut butter, cocoa, or whatever else might float your banana boat. As a bonus: Bananas are not only a wunderfruit for lazy ice cream makers, but are also a dream for vegans and people with lactose intolerance.
This takes a bit more patience and vigilance, but ice cream guru David Lebovitz says the freeze-and-stir technique does make good ice cream, and he wrote the book, “The Perfect Scoop.” You make an ice cream base and then freeze it in any old container for 30 to 45 minutes, then give it a stir, freeze some more, stir again, freeze…until you create your desired (almost) ice-crystal-free consistency.
Go with a custard ice cream mix to get the creamiest texture, Lebovitz says, and you’ll do the freeze-stir-freeze-stir method for two to three hours total. Not a bad use of your time among other activities on a chill-at-home weekend day…or any day during quarantine. Since there’s less air churned in, it’s best to eat this type of ice cream ASAP, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Get David Lebovitz’s Freeze-and-Stir Ice Cream recipe.
Some of us don’t want to wait that long or be accountable for all those freeze-and-stir intervals. That’s what creamy popsicles and fro-yo pops are for. Just mix yogurt, fruit, sweetener, and you’re done. We have many tips and recipes for this method, some of which do require a blender for a super-smooth fruit puree—like our Peaches ‘n’ Cream Ice Pops recipe, reminiscent of those Creamsicles from your days of chasing the ice cream truck.
But rather than pumped full of air and artificial ingredients, these are just blended fresh peaches, heavy cream, mascarpone cheese, sugar, and a touch of salt. So easy. And not too bad for you, as these things go. (If you’re a chocoholic, our Chocolate Pudding Pops recipe only requires bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, half-and-half, butter, sugar, and gelatin powder.)
If you’re into the ease of the above method but don’t have any ice pop molds—and you do happen to have a food processor gathering dust in your cupboard—you can use the gadget more commonly called upon for nut butter and pesto to blitz your ice cream base to creamy perfection.
Here’s how to make ice cream in your food processor; basically, it’s the same idea as the mason jar and plastic bag methods below without any of the manual shaking or massaging required. Instead, you just freeze your base in the bag and then use your food processor to fluff it up. (Ice cream adjacent tip: If you’re in the mood for Dole Whip, your food processor also comes in handy!)
If you have glass jars with tight-fitting lids and some decent arm strength, you can shake up some ice cream with nothing else in the way of special equipment. This is similar to the old-fashioned option of making ice cream in a coffee can, which you can kick and roll around—but better suited to small spaces. Per the video above, you can experiment with all sorts of add-ins, from roasted berries and balsamic to mint and chocolate chips, or keep it vanilla. See how to make mason jar ice cream for more tips and tricks.
Similar to the above but a bit more kid-friendly since there’s no risk of dropping (and breaking) glass, the squeeze-and-freeze method simply has you place the ice cream mixture in two quart-sized bags, squeezing out all the air and sealing securely. Then put that in a gallon-sized bag filled with about 4 cups of crushed ice and 4 tablespoons coarse salt. The salt lowers the freezing point of the ice and creates an extra cold environment that absorbs heat, causing the ice cream base to freeze.
Protecting your hands while you massage the bag, you then shake it for about five to eight minutes, or until the ice cream is frozen, says Tessa Arias, a professional cook, author, and blogger of Handle the Heat. “The more vigorously you shake, the smoother your ice cream will be,” she says. Get her Plastic Bag Ice Cream recipe.
Not willing to put in that amount of physical effort? Try adding booze (obviously this one is not for kids). How this works is: Hard liquor doesn’t freeze, so adding it to your frozen treat can be a good way to reduce or eliminate ice crystals without needing to manipulate so much (either manually or in a machine). A few tablespoons of vodka will disappear into the flavor profile of any ice cream, while kirsch can enhance the taste of peaches, berries, plums, and nectarines.
Play around with different flavor combos, and even other types of alcohol. A bit of Champagne or rosé can make a sorbet even better. Speaking of, most sorbets also require an ice cream maker, but not our Pineapple Rum Sorbet recipe shown above. Yay! All you do is toss the ingredients in the blender, and then freeze the mixture for about eight hours.
Fat doesn’t freeze either. “Heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk are key, as they have very little water, which means there won’t be any crystallization, so the ice cream won’t be icy,” says Diane Kometa of Dishin with Di. She offers a decadent No-Churn Oreo Ice Cream recipe, which you can also consider the classic cookies ‘n’ cream flavor.
The ice cream will be super rich and creamy, she promises. She does use a mixer with a whisk attachment, but you can use a handheld electric mixer or just whisk it by hand and give your arms a pre-indulgence workout. (If you’re a coffee fan, try this No-Churn Coffee Oreo Ice Cream recipe that also uses condensed milk and airy whipped cream.)