The Best Homemade Chocolate (or Vanilla!) Ice Cream

The Best Homemade Chocolate (or Vanilla!) Ice Cream
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This ice cream is amazingly creamy, decadent, and spoils you so much that you won’t be able to look at store brand ice cream the same way ever again. If you’re willing to take the risk, read on…

Although Vanilla and Chocolate are explicitly described here, this recipe can be used as the base for just about any ice cream flavor. Steep coffee beans in the milk while heating, blend in fruit before refrigerating or mix in frozen chunks of almost anything after churning. The possibilities are endless and we’ve always eaten it all before the freezer burn gets to it no matter what the flavor.

It started with Alton Brown’s recipe (which is amazing!). But after using it numerous times, I found some areas for improvement. Most importantly, the quantity didn’t work well with the size of our small ice cream machine. I also prefer to use only milk and heavy cream instead of purchasing half and half. (We almost always already have milk and eggs in the fridge so buying one less special item is definitely a win.) And lastly, a little bit more cocoa powder takes the chocolate flavor up to just the right level IMHO.

This recipe makes one quart of ice cream, which fits perfectly in our Cuisinart ICE-20 ice cream maker. (For reference, if you have a different machine, the capacity of our machine is 1 to 1.5 quarts but I find the extra room is necessary during the churning as the ice cream thickens.)

Homemade Ice Cream

A custard ice cream recipe versatile enough to be transformed into endless flavors and sized to work well with small consumer ice cream makers.
Course Dessert
Keyword chocolate, ice cream, vanilla
Servings 1 quart


  • 5 Egg Yolks (Large or Extra Large)
  • 170 grams sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For Chocolate Ice Cream:

  • 40 grams unsweeted cocoa powder


  • Place the milk and heavy cream in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir periodically to prevent a film from forming.
  • If using the cocoa powder, slowly whisk it into the dairy as it warms. {Variations: Add powders and ingredients requiring steeping like coffee beans.}
  • While waiting for the dairy to simmer, separate the egg yolks into a large bowl.
  • Whisk the egg yolks until they lighten in color.
  • Whisk the sugar into the egg yolks, about a 1/4 cup at a time, until it is all combined.
  • Incorporate the simmered dairy into the egg mixture slowly while whisking continuously.
  • Return the mixture to the saucepan. (I like to wipe the saucepan out with a paper towel because sometimes a film or undissolved cocoa is stuck to it, but be careful as it will be very hot.)
  • Heat over medium low heat to 172 degrees F while stirring continuously.
  • Transfer the mixture to a clean container (one with a lid is preferable as it will be covered later) and let sit at room temperature until warm, about 20 minutes in our kitchen.
  • Stir in the vanilla extract and place uncovered in the refrigerator. {Variations: Add extracts or other heat sensitive ingredients and blend in fruit before refrigeration.}
  • Cover the container once condensation stops forming on the lid. (This took about an hour in our fridge.)
  • Once cool, 4-8 hours or overnight, churn according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Then scoop out the churned ice cream with a frozen plastic spatula into a pre-frozen container. {Variations: After churning, layer mix-ins before freezing.}


I like to make the base at night and leave it in the fridge overnight before churning. You can churn the same day, but wait until the mixture is less than 40 degrees. (I’m too impatient and find myself constantly checking the temperature, hence why I’ve switched to leaving it overnight and churning in the morning the next day.)
This also helps with planning since there isn’t usually room to keep the bowl of our ice cream maker in the freezer at all times. When I decide to make ice cream, I put the bowl in the freezer (first covering the inside metal surface with in a layer of plastic wrap to keep off freezer burn, then a layer of foil to keep the plastic wrap in place) and make this ice cream base the same day. Then the next day, the bowl is frozen and the mixture is ready to churn.


Flavor options during the warming of the dairy include coffee: Steep whole coffee beans with the dairy, then strain them out before letting it cool at room temperature. Or cinnamon: Use cinnamon instead of cocoa powder – this was amazing when we tried it, but unfortunately I don’t remember how much cinnamon I used.
Another favorite is to start with the chocolate or vanilla base, but stir in chucks of fudge, brownies, marshmallows or other leftover desserts. Do this after churning but before freezing. Pre-freezing these items will prevent them from melting the ice cream and absorbing too much liquid.
Swirls can be incorporated by layering dabs of a filling while packing the ice cream into the container after churning. (You can “swirl” them together, but I find just spooning small pieces throughout works just as well.) Try a base of crushed graham crackers and a little maple syrup, then add flavorings like cinnamon and brown sugar.
If you have leftover chocolate syrup or caramel sauce, feel free to stir or layer that it too. You can even core out a hole in the center with a canoli mold and fill that hole with more liquid ingredients.
Let us know what you create!