It seems only right to start out National Ice Cream Month by discussing the ever popular, mother of all classic flavors – vanilla ice cream.  As much as I do enjoy rich, over the top flavors of ice cream, I think it’s tough to beat a scoop of really good vanilla bean ice cream.  It is creamy and delicious all on its own, but also makes a wonderful base for fun toppings such as caramel or hot fudge sauces (both recipes to come), and is equally welcome aside a slice of pie or cake.  Since investing in my ice cream maker four years ago, I have not bought a single container of ice cream from the store.  Making your own is easy, fun and the results are so much better, you won’t be tempted to return to store-bought.

If you are new to ice cream making, these two recipes will help you learn some of the basics.  Varieties of ice cream generally fall into two main categories: Philadelphia-style or French-style.  Philadelphia style ice creams are quicker and simpler, with a heavy cream/milk mixture for the base.  French-style ice creams have a custard base, with cooked egg yolks to help achieve a creamy texture and rich flavor.  I recommend Philadelphia-style recipes for first-timers if you are unfamiliar with making custards.  It really isn’t complicated but I think it’s good to start out simple and build from there.  I’ll be completely honest and tell you that I don’t have a favorite between these two versions.  Every time I make one of them I think, “This one is definitely my favorite!” and then I make the other variety and, surprise, I think the same thing about that one too.  I usually decide which one to make based on whether or not I have leftover egg yolks in my fridge and whether or not I have any time constraints.

If you opt for the French-style version, the most important thing is to use an instant-read thermometer while you make the custard base.  It takes all the guesswork out of ice cream making.  Be sure to add the hot cream mixture to the eggs slowly, whisking constantly the whole time.  This is known as tempering the eggs and will prevent them from curdling when you stir in the hot liquid.  The other key point is that the eggs will scramble at about 180˚ F, so you want to aim for 170-175˚ F and then remove the mixture from the heat.  If you overshoot a bit and have a few bits of scrambled eggs, don’t worry – this is why you pour the mixture through a mesh strainer and ensure that it stays completely smooth.

I’m on vacation this week but stay tuned next week for an ice cream-related giveaway as part of our continuing celebration of National Ice Cream Month!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (Philadelphia-Style)
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2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine 1 cup of the cream with the sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and drop in the vanilla pod.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 cup of cream, the milk and the vanilla.

Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is well chilled.  Remove the vanilla bean before churning.  Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (French-Style)
Printer-Friendly Version

1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, divided
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and the salt in a medium saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and drop in the vanilla pod.  Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warmed through.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let the mixture steep for 30 minutes.

Pour the remaining cup of cream into a bowl and set a fine mesh sieve over the top.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth.  Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (about 170˚-175˚ F).  Pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the bowl with the cream.  Stir in the vanilla.  Let cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.  Remove the vanilla bean before churning.  Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

A few more notes on homemade ice cream:
Storage – You can store your ice cream any way you like as long as it is an airtight method in your freezer.  I like to use tupperware-type containers but have also used loaf pans with plastic wrap over the top.

Fat content – Don’t be tempted to substitute a lower-fat component such as reduced fat or skim milk rather than what is called for.  The higher fat content of heavy cream, half-and-half, and whole milk provide a creamy texture and also prevent ice creams from freezing too hard.  A lower-fat substitute will result in a very icy texture because it has more water and less fat.

Hard freezing – Some homemade ice creams may freeze a bit harder than the store bought variety.  David Lebovitz has an excellent and informative post on this topic with good explanations and troubleshooting tips.

Vanilla beans – Buying vanilla beans in ones or twos at the grocery store is very expensive.  Buy vanilla beans in bulk.  It is much more economical, not to mention you’ll have them around for all sorts of other wonderful things like vanilla bean cupcakes, cookies, vanilla extract (recipe to come) and more.  I buy them on Amazon and they last me quite a long time, even with the amount of baking I do.

Ice cream makers – People frequently ask me for ice cream maker recommendations.  I’ve only tried one version so it is the only one I can speak to.  I have the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment and I absolutely love it.  I think if you already have a KitchenAid mixer base, this is the way to go.  If not, I know a lot of people really love the Cuisinart freestanding model.  To me the KitchenAid attachment makes the most sense if you already have a mixer base because it is not an additional piece of equipment taking up valuable real estate in your cabinets (my bowl lives in the freezer so it is ready to go any time the ice cream making mood strikes).

Egg whites – Went with the French-style ice cream and now you have left over egg whites?  Some of my favorite ways to use egg whites include French macarons, Swiss meringue buttercream, semifreddo, or marshmallow frosting.  You can also use them as egg wash for baking bread or as coating for chicken Parmesan.


Source: both recipes barely adapted from The Perfect Scoop (AKA the ice cream bible) by David Lebovitz

  • I’m always a fan of your food photography, but I just wanted to tell you that the one of the Philadelphia style might be my favorite photo of yours – ever! Of course I would be drawn to the one with brightly colored cups and spoons :) Great post!

  • Perfect timing! My fiance and I just received the standing mixer ice cream attachment and are excited about making our own ice cream. We made a first attempt and it turned out well, but we definitely ran into a couple of issues (hard freezing, eggs not quite tempering). Glad to see all of those problems addressed here, and excited to try again. (More ice cream? Twist my arm!)

  • I’ve only made ice cream once so this is definitely helpful! vanilla isn’t my favorite but it is perfect as a component of sundaes or recipes!

  • We love our ice cream maker–even though it’s not necessarily “healthier” in terms of fat/calories…I like knowing what’s in my food!

    We do sometimes use lower fat content for ice cream (if that’s what i have on hand). I haven’t noticed much of a difference using skim milk (if I use that, I make sure to use the whole amount of heavy cream, though.)

  • Thanks so much for the base recipes!! I have been experimenting with my own and my newest flavor is mint chocolate chip oreo blizzard. It was amazing! I LOVE my freestanding Cuisinart! Thank you for all your inspiration in cooking and blogging:)

  • Tricia

    When i looked at the first picture, i thought it looked like Breyers Vanilla – a Philly favorite! To my delight, it was Philadelphia style!

  • Lori

    Thanks Annie. I might have to break down and buy that icecream maker after all!

  • Yum! CAn’t wait for the giveaway! ;)

  • Jackie

    Thanks for this post. I’ve had my KA ice cream attachment for a few months and it is still in its box because I didn’t have room for it in my frezzer. However, this weekend I will finally clean out an area for my ice cream maker and make this vanilla bean ice cream. Thanks again and enjoy your vacation.

  • Alexa

    OMG! How will I choose? So excited to try both!

  • Vanilla bean ice cream is my favorite. I will have to try the Philly style. Thanks for posting!

  • I almost always make mine with the custard base because it seems richer to me – and if I’m going through the work to make homemade ice cream, I want it to be rich! For beginners, though, don’t stress too much about pieces of cooked egg yolk in your mixture – just strain it out through a strainer before you freeze it.

  • I grew up on Philly style and now make the custard-style 99% of the time – I think the difference in the color says it all!

  • Thanks for all the tips Annie. I just got an ice cream maker a few weeks ago and was wondering what to do with the leftover egg whites. Those are great ideas!

  • Raina

    Where did you get the cute bowls and spoons?

  • Liz

    I make the Philly style pretty much every weekend. It is to DIE for and so flippin easy and versatile considering the toppings you can add! I love the way it does not freeze too hard but remains a consistent soft serve. My husband and kids are wild for it as am I. Thanks for another winner, Annie!

  • penandra

    Thanks for the recipes . . . my experience has been similar, whichever home made ice cream I am having at the time happens to be my favorite!

    And for anyone looking for a use for those leftover egg whites, David Lebovitz had a recipe on his blog earlier this week for homemade marshmallows! ;-)

  • This philly style ice cream looks amazing, I am pretty quick to make the french style. But, that is a really rich ice cream. This looks equally delicious with the richness dialed down a bit!

  • I like the vanilla bean in ice cream – it’s so yummy. Both look great though. Thanks for sharing!

  • Adrianne

    oh my goodness, this post is SO. HELPFUL. really cleared up a lot of my problems with getting into making ice cream with my new maker! yes!

  • Annie

    Crate and Barrel.

  • Do you have any tips on how you store your vanilla beans so they don’t dry out?

  • Thanks for giving me a little push to try some basics again. I’ve made ice cream a few times, but never very successfully. I’ve done the scrambled eggs thing and otherwise, it just turns out very icy and not very creamy. I’ll try again after I invest in an instant read thermometer. I can’t wait for your future ice cream posts. I SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM!

  • Nothin’ beats homemade ice cream! Great ice cream making tips and info!

  • Annie

    I just store mine in the resealable bag they come in, and they don’t dry out for me. I would think just keeping them airtight would do it!

  • yumm! I’m so glad to know that you like both flavors because I hoping for an ice cream maker as a birthday present and I was having trouble deciding which to make!

  • marci

    Have you ever made a fat free frozen yogurt in your ice cream maker? My husband and I eat ice cream pretty much every night, so if I don’t start coming up with some healthier ways, my workout program isn’t going to keep up very well!

  • Annie

    I’m not into fat free things, but I do plan on making (low fat) frozen yogurt very soon. I’ll definitely post about it when I do!

  • christyd

    Thanks so much for sharing…I made peach ice cream (which I got from your site) earlier this week for the first time ever! It went well. I truly enjoy your blog…thanks for all your amazing work and inspirations!

  • This is VERY interesting. I’ve always wondered what the difference was between ice cream and frozen custard but have never taken the time to look. The French version is gorgeous.

  • We love vanilla ice cream… simple is best! Well you made me pull out my ice cream machine again!

  • Mary

    Love your blog! I make ice cream regularly and just tried the vanilla ice cream recipe that is in the newest issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It’s a pretty involved recipe. I also made a Martha Stewart Philly style and had a taste test with friends. The Philly style won, which is nice because it’s so easy! I usually prefer a custard style, but in a pinch, Philly style is fast, easy, and tasty.

  • Your notes are really helpful as I’m new to ice cream making and am at a loss as to which recipe to use!

  • Jacqueline

    My ice cream attachment has been sitting in my freezer, unused for almost a year.
    Today we made the Philadelphia style and it was THE best ice cream we’ve had – thanks for making it easy!

    My ice cream maker is cleaned up and back in the freezer for another flavour tomorrow :)

  • Julie

    Thank you for putting up the Philadelphia version! I hadn’t seen that one when searching. It is so much easier than the other and I like the taste alot better as well.

  • Horray for Ice Cream Month! Thanks for these posts :)

  • AJ

    Were did you get the bowls? Too cute!

  • Annie

    Crate and Barrel

  • Another Annie

    I got an ice cream maker for Christmas because I love to cook and I have a not-so-slight obsession with ice cream. But, so far, I haven’t preferred and of my creations over the store-bought kinds yet! Maybe I’ll stick with “Philadelphia-style” recipes until I get the hang of it. Thanks for the informative post!!

  • Kim

    I’ve made the Philadelphia style vanilla a few times from the Perfect Scoop. The taste is great, but I have noticed a film coating my mouth after eating it. Have you had this problem?

  • Annie

    I’ve never had that problem and I’ve made it more times than I can count. Huh.

  • Mmmm. Vanilla bean ice cream is the BEST. I’ve never had Philadelphia style. I’ll been making this over the weekend! :) Thanks for sharing!


  • Jessika

    Strawberry Ice cream!! I would like to be eligible for all 3! Thanks!!

  • Jeanie Shank

    Thanks for offering this contest.
    Last summer my cousin made an awesome coffee ice cream
    using her Cuisinart ice cream maker. I would love to
    make that at home.
    I’d be appreciative of any of the contest offerings.
    But first, I would like the Cuisinart ice cream maker.
    Second I’d like the bowls and spoons from Crate and Barrel.
    And I’d add The Perfect Scoop by Mr. Lebovitz to my recipe
    book collection.
    Thanks again.
    Jeanie Shank

    P.S. My son is now selling some kitchen ware which features
    a dynamite ice cream scoop. How awesome if I won the ice cream
    machine and could use this scoop!

  • Claire

    Thanks for sharing!! You can never go wrong with the classic vanilla. I know many try to turn killer ice cream recipes in low fat ice cream recipes with substitutes, but I always think that it is called “ice cream” for a reason. :) Moderation is the key! Using a vanilla bean makes a night and day difference.

  • MissG

    I just want to make a REALLY, REALLY good chocolate ice cream.

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  • Bridget

    I seen this recipe a few days ago so last night i bought the kitchen aid attachment and made this ice cream today. The family loved it and said i should have made more. I am sure i will be getting a lot of use out of this attachment. Thanks for the recipe and the recommendation. :)

  • Meg

    this is amazing! thanks for the tip to buy the beans in bulk i never thought to do that! i’m just short of smuggling the beans out of the grocery store hah!

  • Ruthi

    How do you store your vanilla beans? I just got some from amazon and I am very excited but I want to keep them good till I can use them all

  • annieseats

    I keep them in the resealable bag they came in.

  • Kendra

    How much does this make? I’m making an ice cream cake, and need half a gallon. Should I double the ice cream recipe?

  • annieseats

    This will be plenty.

  • Suze

    I know this is an older post, but we are going to try our hand at some real good vanilla ice cream! I just ordered some of those vanilla beans on Amazon – I couldn’t justify a half pound worth to start, lol. My first escapade at using real vanilla beans – if I find out I can work with them (I got the 16 pack from the same seller) I will get more next time!
    I just got the Cuisinart ice cream maker and love it! :) My bowl is in the freezer permanently, ready to go, too. I share your thoughts on cabinet space, though. I have a teeny kitchen and this thing is huge. I have very little counter space, too, which nothing else will fit on, period. I don’t have a KitchenAid mixer or I would have gone that route. Maybe someday…

  • Suze

    O.M.G. We made the Philly-style vanilla tonight. It was AWESOME! :D I have never had ice cream with such fabulous vanilla flavor.
    Thank you, Annie. I am 53 years old and split my first vanilla bean tonight. LOL! I wouldn’t call myself fearless in the kitchen (yet!), but I have really come out of my cooking shell since finding you!

  • Judithochoa

    Hi Annie, I made the Philly-style last night, and is delicious, however here in Vancouver I cant find heavy cream so I use whipping cream instead. The ice cream flavor is rich but somehow you can taste somekind of greasy on the cream. Any idea how can I solve this…

  • annieseats

    You can try using more whole milk and less cream – not too much of a change, but play with the proportions a bit and see what you prefer. And to me, heavy cream and whipping cream are the same thing for all practical purposes.

  • Eileenbrennan327


  • Just got an ice cream maker and The Perfect Scoop cookbook for Christmas- can’t wait to finally try it out today.


  • Hi! let me just say all of your recep looks amazing I was wondering is it possibole to make ice cream without ice cream maker?

  • annieseats

    Supposedly you can but I haven’t tried it. You can Google for more information.

  • bwinkler

    I have now made both of these, and you’re right! The best one is the one I’m currently eating. They are both amazing and I can’t pick a favorite.

  • Tiffany Dahle

    We just bought our very first ice cream maker yesterday and made your blackberry ice cream (OMG I’m swooning!) but my kids didn’t like it. So I came back to check for your vanilla. I was already stressing about all the egg whites I’d be wasting, thank you SO much for including ideas of what to do with them right in the post itself! I’m a Wisconsin girl at heart so frozen custard is where it’s at but I think I’ll try the Philadelphia style vanilla first. Thanks for offering both options!

  • Lauren Ochoa

    I made the French vanilla
    Ice cream and we had it over homemade apple pie last night. Now that I know how easy and amazing vanilla ice cream is I don’t see myself ever buying another half gallon again.

  • Aundrea

    I made the recipe for the French Vanilla Ice Cream once and it was a hit. I want to make it again, but I would like to double the recipe. I have a 2 Quart Ice Cream maker and I want to make sure that it will fit.
    Can you please tell me how much the recipe makes.

  • annieseats

    It makes about 1 quart.

  • Anna

    So I’ve made this a few times for my kids and husband and it’s like I’ve created a monster! Annie, thank you for all that you do. You’re absolutely amazing!

  • annieseats

    Aw, so glad it is a hit! Love to hear that :)